The Danger of Playing Small and Thin

  • When I was in high school, my team was undersized, like a lot of high school teams end up being. We had only one player over 6-2 when I was a senior, and he was only about 6-4 or 6-5. We were not big.

    On top of that, we really only had a couple of guys on the team that were more than 200 pounds.

    We mostly had a lot of lanky, athletic type guards. We had some shooters, a few slashers and some random wing athletes (myself included).

    We shot a lot of threes, we pressed quite a bit and we went nine deep. That was the only way we could survive. We couldn’t slug it out in the half court. We were never going to win a war of attrition, so we had to dial up pressure from everywhere.

    That required a lot of energy. Not just conditioning, but actual energy. When you have to pressure the ball 70 feet from the basket on every possession, you need depth. When you have to pressure every pass and catch on the perimeter to make sure there’s never an easy post entry angle because every post matchup is a MUA for the other side, that takes effort.

    We would pressure catches all the way out to about 30 feet just to make sure entry angles were long, and we did that Every. Single. Possession.

    I thought about that watching KU play Tech last week, specifically watching Vick. He looked worn down. Not a loss of focus. Just worn down from having to battle bigger guys off and on on defense, then try and get out and run, crash the glass on offense. That’s exhausting.

    I remember we used to rotate who had to match up with post guys just to keep each other fresh. I’d spend a few possessions on the other team’s PF, then switch with someone to guard their PG. That just limited the amount of physical wear and tear that each of us had to take in a given game.

    KU has a problem though. They aren’t 9 deep. They only play 7 right now. That means that at all times their five perimeter guys (Graham, Vick, Svi, Newman and Garrett) are working, and typically either Vick or Svi is battling a bigger guy. That’s not workable over an entire season.

    We need to be stealing some minutes with Clay Young. He showed that he was passable early in the season. He won’t be a star, but he can play 4-5 minutes each half. He’s got enough bulk and strength to face off with bigger guys, and if he does that, it saves Svi or Vick from the physical beating you take doing that.

    We also need to be saving Lightfoot. He’s still developing, and we can’t stunt his growth by having him get too worn down to help us come March.

    Now obviously, if Preston and De Sousa come available, this is all irrelevant - we add two big guys and go nine deep.

    But until then, we have to protect what we have. That means adding at least one more person to this rotation, even if its only a few minutes each half. Young can go out there for a few minutes and play with energy, while Vick and Svi save their legs, both for now, and come March.

  • Sam is our new guard depth. He gets better and better, with each minute on the floor! He has his mind right about defense. He takes defense personal!

    Right now… I see our team anchor players as Mitch and Sam is coming up. These guys have made “hustle” their calling card.

    I’ve been wondering what is up with Vick. In my head, he shouldn’t be worn out at his age and his condition. But I said this long ago… that NONE of us have played at the intensity these guys have. Their athleticism is at another level than most of us. And that means it carries it’s own drain when put to the test. I learned that when playing at the highest level I played at… far, far below D1! And a million miles away from Kansas basketball! I learned what exhaustion was when I did that. But these guys are at a different level… and I don’t know the level of exhaustion they go through. It surely must be extreme even though they make it look easy out there.

    I hope we see more and more of Sam. He already does some things better than all of our other guys. He’s probably the only player we have that has used a hedge against the drive.

    When we decide we want to get serious about winning… we will scout our opponents well, and we will use tools (like hedging) to DISRUPT the strengths of our opponents. That means… hedging and playing tight on players we want to deny the ball… hedging against left or right side drives of driving threats (related to which side they primarily use)…

    This may sound like I’m being critical about Self and his coaching. No. He can’t teach these things if our players aren’t up to that level yet. Until we get our guys really focused on defense… forgetaboutit!