Developing Our Guard Situation

  • Kansas is not known as a guard-oriented school. We’ve certainly had several top notch guards over the past decade, but our reputation is that we are a big man school.

    I think we’ve built our reputation as a big man school over the past few decades… maybe going back even further because we were fortunate to have the very best big man ever to play the game, Wilt Chamberlain.

    Danny Manning took the torch from Chamberlain and brought us national acclaim by leading us to a National Championship in 1988. Danny extended his impact on Kansas big man basketball from 2007 to 2012 as an assistant coach and big man specialty coach.

    Bill Self’s offensive strategy is based first on a hi/lo set. The focus of the hi/lo is to make the post players the center of where the offense runs. On a typical possession running the hi/lo at least one post player will touch the ball several times, often leading to the shot coming from the post, or the assist coming from out of the post. The offensive focus of Kansas basketball goes through our big men.

    But today, we can’t help but look at teams like UCONN and admire their performance and reputation for being the best March team for the past decade or so. As competitors we should always stay open minded for improving our methods for developing competitive teams in March.

    UCONN has proven the importance of a “guard first” strategy going into March. UCONN is known as a guard school. They typically bring a team to the tournament every year that has tough, scrappy, capable guards at both the 1 and 2 spots. This year, the tandem of Napier and Boatright helped propel them over a dominant all star Kentucky team.

    So how can Kansas become more competitive at the guard position?

    We need to stir the pot and make some changes that will build our reputation as a good choice for quality guards.

    The first big change would be to shuffle in one more assistant coach. This assistant won’t be hired strictly for what recruiting territory he is good in. This assistant will be recruited for his skills developing guard play. A new feature we need to offer moving forward.

    I have my ideas of a good candidate for this position. He is an assistant now at UCONN. Let’s not forget Andrew Hudy was from UCONN before we lured her away.

    I have to admit not being the best source on guard coaching… but he seems to be a qualified guard coach with a reputation working with great guards.

    Then… I’m not saying we should abandon the hi/lo… but what about running more of a combo offense? It sort of seems we do that now, but in the future put more focus on developing a combo offense that utilizes both the hi/lo and maybe some kind of motion offense like dribble drive. We should be able to just veer slightly off our traditional hi/lo to make this work. Opponents shouldn’t know on any particular possession if we will finish the play through a hi/lo creation, or from whatever twist we are running with it, like a dribble drive. Granted, dribble drive usually puts 4 players out away from the basket, but we could at least run 3 players out and sometimes 4 if we have the right big man who can absorb that much defensive intensity by himself.

    I’m not sure exactly what I am trying to convey here, except to open up for change that will encourage more finishes for our guards. Something that we can sell to quality guard recruits.

    We have to take on a healthy amount of change if we want to gain a reputation for also being a guard school. We shouldn’t have to sacrifice our reputation for being a big man school in the process… just diversify a bit.

  • Are you speaking of Hudy’s twin brother?

  • I don’t have the hoops IQ to describe how to make Self’s offense more guard-oriented, but I agree with you. KU is definitely “Big Man U.” I wonder what other factors, outside the current post-heavy offense, are keeping Self from expanding KU’s rep to “Big Man/Point Guard U.”

    He’s certainly tried to recruit top guards in the past, without much luck. Maybe you’re right and another assistant coach would help. What else?

    I love the great post players, but I’d be even more thrilled to see a blue chip PG arrive in Lawrence.

  • @drgnslayr

    Since the NCAA allows only 3 assistant coaches which one of the current staff do you suggest is let gof?

  • @JayHawkFanToo

    That’s the tough question. I believe Kurtis was recently named as the top assistant coach in the nation. Norm is a recruiting genius. And now Jerrance brings his territorial powers for Chicago recruiting and is supposed to be a good communicator with the players.

    Maybe we sit back and do nothing and wait for a position to open. It seems we have an opening every few years…

  • KU may be Big Man U, but without DMan, that BMU is fading fast. I do agree that bigs seem to favor KU based on past performance. Self loves his biggins. Self still needs smart guards to execute and lead. He still needs guards to pass into the bigs.

    Being a guard on Self’s squad is bigger than being a big. Guards learn how to make your bigs look good. Also, inside/out is important to drain or drive too. We lack guard leadership, particularly pg leadership. Mason should fill this gap or close it his soph year. Tharpe blew it.

  • I read on KUSports today that we are looking into Devonte Graham still and that he has cut teams off his list and we are still on. Also, apparently Self is looking at a guard from Independence Community College. Is it just me or do these kids not sound like the answer? I know we are all disappointed with the play of Tharpe (he may not even start his Senior year) and that we don’t know if Mason and CF are going to make a big leap their sophomore years…but this seems desperate. Mason and CF were top 100 guys coming out of school and both showed flashed of being able to get it done last year. I think we are in better shape this year as they will be older and Selden is going to be a beast as the 2 guard spot which will help balance out the back court.

    If Bill lands a fabulous pure PG I would be thrilled. A Tyler Ennis type would be nice to see in Lawrence. I’m sure the kids from Appalachian St. and Independence Community are good players but are they somehow better than what we have? I seriously doubt it. Let’s develop what we have in Mason and CF and hopefully land a 10 top PG for the future.

  • @truehawk93

    “Guards learn how to make your bigs look good.”

    Exactly… Look how good Napier and Boatright made DeAndre Daniels look!

    I think we need to look real hard at what UCONN did this year.

    They did it not just with a premiere PG. Their 1 and 2 guards (Napier and Boatright) made it happen. Imagine being trapped by these two? Both have insane speed and intensity.

    I am a big fan of Wayne. But I’d like to see him firm his body up this summer. No more baby fat and drop 10 lbs. He has good athleticism, and dropping just a few excess pounds might make him a speed dynamo. Then, we have 1/2 of the puzzle figured out. Wayne showed us this year that he needs help on quickening his first step. I’m not coming down on Wayne… he has incredible talent and we have only enjoyed a taste of what he can do.

    What really stinks is that Naadir has the right athleticism. He has super jet speed and athleticism. But his wiring is short-circuited and we can’t piss away another season on hope.

  • @drgnslayr those uconn guards could steal some balls too. Quick hands, haven’t seen that lately, other than the other way around! Love their D!

  • @joeloveshawks I have the same question about the PG we are pursuing…I posted this on the other thread. They seem like lower ranked PGs pursued by non-power schools. Like Tharpe?

  • @drgnslayr

    Exactly… Look how good Napier and Boatright made DeAndre Daniels look!

    Not on the last game, he went 4-14 for 8 points and had arguably his worst game of the tournament. He was actually pretty uneven the entire tournament alternating very good with not so good games.

  • Interesting subject. Glad you bring up UConn here because UConn’s system is also a version of the 3 out 2 in Hi/Lo offense run with 2 pgs in the back court, just like Self’s. The over-simplified difference between UConn and KU has been that recently UConn has had tough, heady guards who could get to the paint, collapse the D, kick out, feed the post/lob, and create for themselves when necessary. Pretty much like Self’s best teams.Ty and EJ worked really well together. RussRob, Chalmers, Rush, and Collins is of course the greatest back court of all time.

    The past two years, we haven’t had a veteran guard duo like that. When EJ was at the helm, he didn’t have another ball handler to play off as BMac could barely dribble and Relly wasn’t much of a slasher in the half court. Tharpe can’t reliably touch the paint, Wigs had loose handles (not nearly as bad as BMac, but consistently got stripped in traffic), and Selden settled for 3s or passed back to the point too often this season. Mason can get to the paint but doesn’t pass nor does he have a mid-range game. Frankamp isn’t very quick and probably won’t finish at the rim often, but he is heady and has a very nice pull up J and floater.

    If KU is going to be back on the road to glory next season, our three frosh guards need to develop or we need to bring in a ringer. I kind of hate to say it about any KU player, but I’ve totally given up on Tharpe. There is no reason to believe he’ll evolve beyond being easily rattled and inconsistent. Even during the worst days of TT, he had upside and phenomenal tools. If he ever could get his brain to work at the same speed as his body, he’d be Rondo. Tharpe, on the other hand, is at best a back up. If Mason will pass off drives and shoot the open 3, he’ll be the guy to start. Aside: (Mason had the 3 biggest mistakes of the Stanford game: 1. Passing up a base-line 3 off a press steal to drive into the trees and miss at the rim. 2. making a nice drive off a screen by bam bam and shooting a floater over 3 defenders when he had Selden at the wing wide open for 3. 3. Pulling back the hand-off to Wigs during the chop play to give it to Frankamp, who was shooting better, but had a worse angle and was unable to put up a decent shot. Wigs would have been wide open). As for Frankamp, mostly he just needs to get stronger. He’s clearly the highest BBIQ of the trio. If he can become a guard that gets to the rim and finishes, even though he’s not very fast, his old-man game can be punishing. Finally, Selden just needs to put the ball on the floor more often. If there’s a guard I want to get the ball in his hands when the shot clock dips below 10, it’s going to be him. He doesn’t have the tightest handle, but he can improve (and will). He didn’t chronically get stripped in traffic the way Wigs did. He has a bad habit of throwing passes that guys aren’t ready for and overthrowing lobs (he throws to the rim instead of to the corner of the board, but that’s correctable), but he is overall the best passer of the guards.

  • @joeloveshawks I have the same question about the PG we are pursuing…I posted this on the other thread. They seem like lower ranked PGs pursued by non-power schools. Like Tharpe?

    That’s true of Napier, but Boatwright was a top 60is player and both Walker (a McD’s AA) and Lamb were highly rated.

  • @konkeyDong 100% spot-on comment about Self’s system needing/requiring 2+ combo guards at all times. Similar system to UConn. I’ve been saying this non-stop to those that think our system is “bad”. System is not bad, just the recent execution of it has been very spotty and lackluster (people are correct that the personnel are at issue lately). Self’s 2 best KU achievements, including Tournament performances are: 2008Champs (RussRob, Chalmers, Sherron) and 2012 NatlRunnerUp (Tyshawn & EJ). When the athleticism is high, the mental swagger is high, and Self’s principles are executed competently, we can get far if we have multiple combo guards. “Combo” because, yes, they need to be able to score. When the guards can feed the post well, defend excellently, yet have the ability to throw lob dunks to each other…we are hitting on all cylinders.

    Throw-it-in-to-the-bigs MUST have its alternative complement, to keep other teams guessing and off-balance. Recall Thomas Robinson at the top of key throwing a lob dunk to Tyshawn or smilingEJ. Look at the end of the Purdue game and the OhioState and UNC games (all in 2012, our last “deep” Tourney run): It was driven by the dynamic duo of TT and EJ. Our guardplay was better than now.

    And the other complement to set/halfcourt offense is transition offense…cant do that if you cannot defend or get rbds at the defensive end.

    Y’all saw Self’s system “break down” precisely because the players couldnt get it done for a variety of solvable and not-solvable reasons.

    So, like a broken record: We need high-swagger, quick, big, athletic combo guards. Who also have high bball-IQ. Coach Self, please keep recruit such types as best you can, we need em…

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