Feb 23, 2013; Tucson, AZ, USA; Washington State Cougars guard Royce Woolridge (22) dribbles the ball as Arizona Wildcats guard Nick Johnson (13) defends during the second half at McKale Center. Arizona beat Washington Sate 73-56. Mandatory Credit: Casey Sapio-USA TODAY Sports
Danny Lawhorn’s National Letter of Intent signed earlier this morning is far from the “best kept secret” today, as Cougar outlets have been all over the newcomer’s arrival. Just reading about it gets me excited for what Cougar basketball could look like with a true point guard back at the helm.
The rotation in the “1” role for the Cougar basketball team last season was fairly successful at times, for the guys manning the position. However overall the team suffered an inability to truly run an offense for most of the year. The key reason for that lies in the fact that the shooting guard (generally the primary perimeter scorer on any team) had the ball in his hands on 95% of the offensive possessions (guess-timation). In this case it was manned by Mike Ladd and Royce Woolridge throughout the year. The problem with that is that shooting guards are natural scorers and creative shot takers, it played out that way for the most part, as the ball ended up becoming stagnant far too often.
CF.c finished a piece earlier talking about why the Cougar jump shooters are rejoicing today, but I don’t think that’s the biggest part of the story. In no way am I insinuating that it’s not the case, but Lawhorn does something more than that from the point guard position. The Cougars already shot 39% of their shots from beyond the 3-point arc, so it’s not as if this team is lacking the ability to find (or simply hoist) a shot from out there. Part of that is due to the earlier point that the “2” is actually handling the ball a majority of the time, but another major factor is that there was no penetration due to the layout of the team, at least most of the time. It led to a lot of perimeter ball movement, and with little back-to-the-basket post up presence (Brock Motum and D.J. Shelton were both stretch 4’s at times playing the 5) the Cougars simply didn’t have the opportunity to just dump it in and let a guy go to work.
While there may, in theory, be a bigger post-up presence in 2013 for Washington State in the form of Jordan Railey and Josh Hawkinson adding to the swing abilities of D.J. Shelton and Junior Longrus (more on that in a second), the Cougs will presumably look to push the tempo a little bit more. The added ball handling ability and decision-making ability will allow this to happen naturally, but I expect it’s kind of what Bone would rather do anyway, so it may be emphasized as well. When attacking in that manner the number one goal is getting to the basket, while the second option becomes a kick-out in transition and of course the third becomes pulling the ball and setting up a set. Without a true point guard bad shots and decisions become a more distinct possibility in the fast-break game. Again, the guy that’s supposed to be filling for an advantage dump to the basket or the kick-out is likely making the ball-handling decisions instead and you can begin to see the ramifications of not having him in his natural role.
All that is good, but a greater value with the incoming Lawhorn will be his ability to break down a defense in the half-court and force help. Coug fans may remember the efficiency with which guys like Reggie Moore, Taylor Rochestie, Derek Lowe and others have done this in years past. Help generally help is going to come from a big which would leave Lawhorn in position to do what he does best, snap it off to an open teammate for a dunk or generally uncontested shot from close to medium range. The teammates figure to be (in order of interior role) the aforementioned Railey, Longrus, Shelton and possibly Hawkinson if he can add a good 15 lbs to his frame and become quicker before his arrival on campus.
We’ve seen it time and time again when good distributing point guards have been in the program, the WSU big’s making a momentous impact on a basketball game. With the proven quickness and unselfishness of Mr. Lawhorn, I’d say we’ll see it again as early as next season. That’s the higher value that Cougar fans (and big men) can look forward to.
In case you haven’t seen it yet, here a Lawhorn highlight tape