Tweaks To Fit Players

West Virginia's newly-installed dribble-drive tweak to its motion offense had some success against Eastern Kentucky. How does it fit WVU's personnel, and what do the players themselves think of it?

The Dribble Drive Motion offense was installed during the week between the Radford and Eastern Kentucky games, and is designed to allow better penetration, more shots at the rim, and increased opportunities to get to the line. Given West Virginia's struggles to maintain continuity on offense, the hope is that it will allow the Mountaineer guards to utilize one of their strengths – driving to the basket – to help them get more shot opportunities and create more chances to score. In the first part of our look at the DDM, we examined those options and how it worked (and didn't work) against EKU. In this article, we hear from some of the players themselves.

The player that likely stands to benefit the most from the addition is Juwan Staten, who is the team's most consistent ballhandler and penetrator. Staten had already shown the ability to drive and keep his head up to find open teammates, and the DDM, which creates more floor space if executed properly, should only enhance that. Staten agrees with that assessment.

"I feel like our dribble-drive gives the guards a lot of chances to make plays," he said after the EKU win. "With the ball in my hands I can find shooters, and if the bigs don't help up I can get to the rim and get fouled. [If they do help], I can dump it down to one of the big men, so I think it opens the court up a lot and helps with our decisions."

Staten has proven proficient at catching on to things quickly (he is one of the Mountaineers who assimilate teaching the best), and he didn't take long to see the differences in the DDM. Other than the positioning of teammates (wings are deep in the corners while the post plays opposite the side of the drive) and the decisions to be made once a drive is underway, there are many similarities between the DDM and the standard motion offense Huggins teaches.

"It still is a motion-type offense, and when teams fall asleep you can still back cut them. There are dribble drive handoffs and all of that," Staten listed. "It is a little different, but it allows our guards to get into the paint, draw defenders or finish at the rim and get fouled."

That's just what happened when West Virginia ran the DDM efficiently, as Staten and Gary Browne combined to make 19 of 20 free throws. Browne agreed with the fit of the change to his skillset.

"It definitely fits my game better," he confirmed. "Coach put the offense in for us and we need to take advantage of the good looks we get out of it. We worked on it for about half of practice. We could have done a better job with it in the game, but we just need to keep working on it. It wasn't hard to put in."

The dribble-drive is definitely guard-friendly, but it should also help post players get shots – and ones where they aren't posting up or having to work for position. Instead of posting up on the side where the ball is (strong side), the post player usually starts out on the opposite (weak side). If a drive ends up coming to the side where he is, the post slides to the opposite side. If a baseline drive is uncorked, then the post moves up the lane to the bottom of the circle. In all cases, the idea is to move away from the ball and force the post defender to make a choice. He can either stay with the post and allow the driver to continue, or help on the drive, thus freeing the post player for a pass and an open shot.

West Virginia's problem in executing this part of the DDM has been two-fold. At times, the posts haven't gotten away from the drive, thus causing congestion, and they have also not caught the ball and scored cleanly on what should be uncontested or easy shots. If those aspects of the game are improved, then WVU might be able to build a more consistent offense around the DDM.

For his part, Deniz Kilicli likes the addition.

"It's the same like motion, where you have to think two passes away. The ball is on the wing, comes to the top of the key, now what do I have to do? In this, it's more dribbling, but it's just offense, and I like offense. It was pretty good in practice, and I think it will get better."

Kilicli didn't evaluate his own play in the DDM, noting that it was more important to ascertain what head coach Bob Huggins thought about it than what he believed. Huggins was critical of West Virginia's three-point shooting -- the third, but perhaps most important weapon in the DDM – but there's no denying the fact that WVU got better shots and got to the free throw line out of the set routinely.

The next challenge, of course, is to see how it works against Big 12 opponents. Can Staten, Browne (and hopefully Jabarie Hinds) get past or level with defenders to force the help decision? Can West Virginia's wings hit enough threes to make that part of the offense viable, and also execute baseline drives to make the DDM a threat from more than one angle? And can the big men make the right reads and find open spaces to receive passes, then finish when they do get them? Those are the next steps in the progression, and the ones that will determine the ultimate success or failure of the change.

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