A tip of the cap to the Cardinal Football team for making the start of basketball season so irrelevant by going "historic" on the Trojans on Saturday. For fun I watched the weather report for LA Saturday night and it said that Palos Verdes was covered in a tear-induced fog of despair. A huge effort by Matt Masifilo in showing the Cardinal basketball big men what it means to "want the ball," of course he was actually having an illusion and thought that was a pork chop flying through the air. But, it allows a nifty segue to basketball season and what will be, I think, the most important aspect of the game for the Stanford Cardinal if they are to rise up and put the pundits down - defensive rebounding. However, my responsibility here is to talk about the guards, not the big fellas. Unfortunately, that means no Landry, who is really improved and really good.
Hey, basketball season is here again and the hardest thing to figure out so far is who the hell are these guys? And after watching USD on the Internet and watching PolySlo with about 200 of my closest friends at Maples last night (the list of people not there is longer than the list of people there, McGrath and Poly81 and Teejers and Lars and Angstrom and TMF79 and so on), I am still trying to figure out who these guys are and what they do well. And I think, the players and coaches are doing the same thing. Foremost, we have a chemistry issue to work through. By this I mean these guys have to get used to playing games together because they haven't done it before. Plays don't work in games like they do in practice and guys don't always play like they practice, particularly early in their careers as starters. There is a "lights, cameras, action" thing going on. Games will help with this, cheap and easy dates boys, lets head back to someone's place early…
Drew Shiller started at the point in both the USD and the PolySlo game. Last spring, I said that Drew needed to really work on his jump shooting footwork, primarily in preparation before the ball arrived, and shoot when open every single time. Well, Drew ain't going down the pipe and house calling on anyone and he isn't "The Glove" on defense. But, early on this season it is apparent that Drew went to work this off-season and considerably improved those things. His footwork was fantastic in both games and consequently (and I mean that) his shot looks easy, the ball releases soft and smooth, and we are looking at 5-9 from deep and all nine were good looking shots. Drew is right at three assists and 10 points with just one turnover so far. His ball security has been good so far, but it hasn't been tested yet either. Defensively, I am not going to throw Drew under any buses here, because none of our guards looked good against the Torreros' Johnson, Jackson, and McCollum, but that backcourt is going to score a lot of points against everyone they play this year. They can get you off the bounce, off screens, in the paint, or shooting threes. It is one of the better backcourts on the West Coast. Conversely, against SLO I thought Drew very solid and read the floor defensively very well as he was in the right spot help side all the time, which is why he picked off five rebounds. Of course, SLO's guards were some of the worst I have ever seen in our gym.
Jarrett Mann is sort of the other half of the three-headed point guard we have going. But, I really think Mann and Shiller are the guys we are going to rely on here. Shiller is getting 30 minutes and Mann 28 so far this year. Against USD, I thought Mann struggled defensively, trying to do too much at times on that end of the floor. On offense, please make your free throws. Point guards don't get to go 1-4. However, I thought Mann, in both games, did a solid job of distributing the ball and getting in to the paint do so. He pushes well in the open court and his chemistry finding Landry moving without the ball is our strength. I thought against USD that he penetrated soft and without enough purpose. He cured that against SLO. Against SLO, he also went on some safaris and they worked out well for the most part. He needs to trust ability and continue to just put the head down and go the rack. Finally, his shooting mechanics are much improved as well and his confidence in his jumper will grow as the year goes along. His three against Poly, which came on an inside-out pass from Trotter (I think), was mechanically "wowsville," a huge improvement.
Da'Veed Dildy is running some one and two right now. He and Mann give Stanford some really solid physical presence defensively. Da'Veed needs to be more aggressive pushing the ball up the court and he needs to run his lane on the wing harder. He and Green both need to run the wing harder. He needs to attack off the bounce more in mixed court situations and trust his body on the finish. He is looking to shoot a bit, but needs to get his feet set and mimic a shooter from three-point land better. He may not knock many down, but he needs to look like a shooter. His mechanics look better also. My one significant issue with Da'Veed right now is the glass - 2 rebounds in 2 games - is not going to feed the Tree. With that wing span and that body, lets go chase the ball on the glass.
Jeremy Green – let's see…horrible shot selection so far, and selfish about it, too. But, he missed a lot of practice and he clearly doesn't have his lungs or his legs or his rhythm yet. So, like any guy who loves to shoot and knows he can, he is forcing the issue a bit. We needed his selfishness against USD because a lot of our guys were just locked up by the Torreros and he had an advantage physically there. A few more go down for him and we might have had a real chance down the stretch. We didn't need the points against SLO, but he just wasn't crisp. He caught a lot of passes and deliberated before taking action. Several times I thought he wasn't running the floor on semi-breaks fast enough so that he could compress the defense and then bounce back out to the line. You have to give your point guards angles to get the ball to you somehow. Running too slow is rarely the answer. Several times in both games he drove and then just didn't seem to have the timing or legs or both to blast off and finish. With the uptick in our next few games athletically, I look for him to get more minutes and get a lot more comfortable and explosive. In fairness, though, he had some great rebounds against the Mustangs.
Overall, USD is a pretty solid team. SLO is as bad a team shooting the ball as I think I have ever seen play D-1 basketball. But, we needed a win against SLO and they were competent defensively. In the next few games, I am looking for us to push the ball harder on the break and the semi-break and find an offensive rhythm. We need a little less looking and thinking and a bit more "Know Your Personnel" ball movement. Too many passes going to guys that look like they are in scoring position, but aren't because they can't. For instance, Drew Shiller had a great first half pump fake and drive down the pipe and dished nicely to Daian or Bullock and it just bounced off the guy's chest out of bounds. "Know Your Personnel," Drew. The right play is not always what it seems to be. But it was a sweet pump fake and drive--just take the floater and let the big fella try to clean up.
Final Thought and epic pet peeve: I am already getting serious flopping fatigue from watching our big guys fall down when hit with a feather by a penetrating guard. Don't flop! If your name is Trotter, Daian or Bullock or even Zimmerman, stand there like a huge guy and bounce those little guys off you. Nine times out of 10, they are going to call you for the foul either way - be physical! You can be physical and still make 16-footers.
Please email Lars with your Oral Roberts jokes!
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