On Saturday, Rekalin Sims was a perfect 3-3 from the field, including a three point shot. But he played 29 minutes. I wondered why Sims had not shot the ball more, "Coach really wants us to pass the ball more," Sims said, rather tentatively.
Well, yeah... I can see that. But three shots? All made shots. Don't you think that coach wants to score points too?
"Coach has really been on us about shot selection and being a team player," Sims added, again rather tentatively, in my opinion, "so I have been thinking pass first and shot second."
But isn't 3-3 pretty darn good? Wouldn't he want you to shoot more if you were hitting your shots?
"That's the way coach wants us to play," Sims replied.
Years ago I remember seeing an interview with Derrick Hord, a former UK basketball standout in the coach Joe B. Hall era. It was after his career at Kentucky was over but he was talking about a time when the Cats were ranked in the top ten but had lost four of the previous seven games.
Derrick talked about the pressure he felt as a player to not make a mistake. Coach Hall had been concerned about ball movement, team play and shot selection. I don't have the exact quotes from that interview but to paraphrase, Hord relayed the pressure he felt to not take a bad shot or not make a mistake. Hord had added that there were times that he and his teammates would play "tight" and sometimes pass up open shots in an effort to not make a mistake. My impression of that interview was that Hord felt that any transgression, no matter how slight, would result in the offending player being yanked from the game where he would find himself cooling his heels on the bench for quite the while. He said that there was a time when his confidence was shot.
The comments made by Rekalin Sims caused me to flash back to that Derrick Hord interview. My impression is that some of the Wildcats, notably Rekalin Sims, have been playing more to not make a mistake, rather than to win. And it seems to have worsened the past couple of games. As I interviewed Rekalin after Friday's coach's press conference and then again after the game, my mind took me back to that Derrick Hord interview.
In the first five games of the season, Rekalin took 8, 6, 15, 7, and 9 shots. Against High Point, Sims takes just four shots. Against North Carolina, he takes only three shots. He also pulls down a whopping two rebounds. Against Georgia St. last night he took just 3 shots in 22 minutes. Has Rekalin lost some confidence in his play? Is he playing to not make a mistake?
The Rekalin Sims I saw on Saturday against North Carolina and last Tuesday against High Point seems like a different player from the one that scored 22 points against iowa. This team will not succeed without a spirited, confident Rekalin Sims, in my opinion.
Now I don't think that Sims' confidence is shot, but I have heard him, Bradley, Rondo, Sparks and Perry all refer to a heavy emphasis on team play, good shot selection and not too much "one on one" play. All of this is sound coaching, of course. But on Saturday I also saw a team of players that seemed to be playing without much confidence.
So the question is, whether or not it is possible or likely that the pressure Tubby is putting on the players to play more as a team has backfired and instead manifested itself into a "play to not make a mistake" mentality?