WSU Basketball: Ken Bone’s Clearest Stategic Failure Rests on the Misuse of D.J. Shelton

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Feb 23, 2014; Eugene, OR, USA; Oregon Ducks guard Johnathan Loyd (10) defends against Washington State Cougars guard DaVonte Lacy (25) as Washington State Cougars forward D.J. Shelton (23) raises his hand under the basket as Oregon Ducks Mike Moser (0) defends at Matthew Knight Arena. Mandatory Credit: Scott Olmos-USA TODAY Sports

The most baffling strategy I have watched these past five seasons has unfolded game in and game out, as our beloved team’s ‘power’ forward continually attempted to “stretch the floor” with mostly improbable shots that occurred outside the ring that constitutes a three point attempt. It was completely, mind-numbingly baffling… but after reading this article by CF.C after Washington’s blowout of WSU last Friday, it’s all become clear. The article begins this way:

"In the aftermath of a 72-49 drubbing to cross-state rival Washington, Ken Bone stood in a dim tunnel inside Hec Edmundson Pavilion and apologized. He shouldn’t have told D.J. Shelton to keep shooting 3-pointers, he said. After all, the senior forward missed all 10 of his attempts and went 3 of 14 from the field during a Friday game in which Washington State never led. “We kept encouraging him,” Bone said. “It’s my fault. I kept encouraging him to shoot the three.“I kept saying, ‘Hey look, you’re a great shooter. We’re getting you the ball. Don’t think about it. Just shoot it’.”"

Yup, all of my most intermediate questions about D.J.’s unbelievably stubborn efforts from out there — not just against Washington, not just this season, but throughout his WSU career — all answered with one epic statement from the head coach; “it’s my fault“! Ya know I figured that was the case when D.J. was still throwing em up after opening up the year like 2-32 or something like that.

The article goes on to say that when Reggie Moore got booted to begin last season, Bone felt he had to move D.J. to a ‘stretch-four’ because he realized the Cougs were in desperate need of more ball handlers. Thus, not only did D.J. become one of the most inconsistent (and mostly ineffective) 3-point weapons this conference has to offer, he also became a primary ball-handler (insert laughing emoticon here) in Bone’s elaborate and incredulous scheme.

This is just one prime example of Bone’s epic failure to coach to his team’s strengths, but it’s probably the most recognizable and gives you everything you need to know about his time in Pullman. Here’s the rub, since his arrival in 2010, Shelton has always been one of the more intriguing raw talents in the Pac-12 Conference, not just at the 4, but probably from any position from 3 to 5. He is actually a decent (notice I said decent, not great, not good… decent) and occasionally hot shooter when he is decidedly involved in attacking the basket and really being a force in the paint. But the real quandary has been that even when D.J. was shooting out of his mind, the Cougars were losing ball games and losing them handily.

So my first question becomes; why are you in desperate need of a stretch-four when you have a guy in D.J. that can so clearly affect the game from 8 to 15 feet? My second; what evidence was there to support your team as more competitive with Shelton shooting well?

Because it always seemed to me like the Cougs won when they dominated the paint (which they could only do with Shelton down in it) and shot well with the guards on the outside. After all, this wasn’t Brock Motum shooting 40% from 3 folks. Not coincidentally, when Shelton played big offensively, the Cougs also ended up out-shooting their opponents by attempt, which is always a great barometer to start with if you’re going to be a winning program.

But wait, there’s more…

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