Virginia Tech’s reliance on Erick Green didn’t hurt his chances at an NBA career

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Leading the country in scoring is not an easy thing to do.

It’s even more difficult when playing in one of the Power Six conferences.

In fact, prior to Virginia Tech point guard Erick Green leading the nation in scoring at 25.0 ppg in 2012-2013, the last player to be college basketball’s top point producer while playing in one of the Power Six conferences was the Big Dog, Purdue forward Glenn Robinson. That was back in the 1993-1994 season. To put that in perspective, Glenn Robinson III, the Big Dog’s son, was a freshman at Michigan this season.

That alone should give you a sense of the kind of year that Green had as a senior.

But that number certainly doesn’t tell the whole story.

Green played on one of the worst high-major teams in the country. The Hokies finished 4-14 in a weak ACC. They were 13-19 on the season despite winning their first seven games as teams adjusted to their new style of play. He was the focal point of every defense that Virginia Tech faced this season. And somehow, he still managed to be one of the top ten most efficient major contributors (players with a usage rate of higher than 24%) in the country.

The numbers? Green shot 47.5% from the field and 38.9% from three with an assist rate of 27.0% and a turnover rate of just 11.0%, an extremely low number considering that he used 31.7% of the possessions that he was on the floor. Put it all together, and Green’s offensive rating was 120.0, which more or less put him on par with Trey Burke and Doug McDermott.

In layman’s terms, Green’s season was defined by high efficiency on an even higher volume despite being the focal point of every defense he faced. Yeah, he earned every bit of his spot on NBCSports.com’s All-America third team as well as his ACC Player of the Year award.

All while playing on a team that lost 19 of their last 25 games.

“It was hard,” Green told NBCSports.com in a phone interview, “trying to stay focused when you’re losing, but I had to go out there every night and perform. So I just stayed in the gym, that was the only thing that was important for me, staying in the gym, keep getting better and better.”

Green had always been a good player, taking advantage of an injury to Dorenzo Hudson when Green was a sophomore that allowed him to get more minutes and emerge as a breakout performer. After Malcolm Delaney’s graduation in 2011, Green became the go-to guy for Virginia Tech as a junior. And while first-year head coach James Johnson — he spent years as an assistant on Seth Greenberg’s staff — had always thought Green would have a chance at the pros by the time he left Blacksburg, he said that there was one noticeable change to Green prior to his senior year.

“He always worked on his game,” Johnson told NBCSports.com, “but he went from being a guy working on his game to living in the gym and being a student of the game. Studying tape, wanting to come upstairs and study opponents, coming into coaches offices and studying himself.”

According to Green, there was a change in him, and he can trace back to a moment the summer before his senior year.

“I went to Chris Paul’s camp and I had a good showing there,” Green said. “I thought in my head, ‘man, if these are the best, than I can be one of the best, too’. I took that mentality back.”

“My mentality changed. Everything that I did, I wanted to be the best. I wanted to win every drill, I wanted to show everybody that I’m trying to get ready for the next level.”

The question now becomes whether or not Green’s mentality has to change again. He just proved himself an all-american, but he can’t dominate the offense and be an effective point guard at the NBA level. According to Green, the question that he’s heard the most from NBA teams is whether he thinks he’ll be able to run a team when he’s not being asked to score 25 points a night, when his role requires more than hunting the best shot for himself.

Green believes that he can, comparing himself to George Hill and Devin Harris, two other bigger point guards that were known more for their scoring ability at the collegiate level.

But according to Jonathan Givony, the brainchild between Draft Express, Green’s ability to score should help his chances to land a spot in a rotation as an NBA point guard.

“I think one of the things that we overrate more than anything is this ‘pure point guard’ idea,” Givony said. “In the NBA, a point guard has to be able to score, and if you can’t score, that almost eliminates you entirely from the conversation. I think that it’s much easier for a guy like Erick Green, who is a good ball-handler and who’s unselfish and very smart and great in the pick-and-roll.”

“I would put my money on the so-called combo-guard like Erick Green over just a non-scorer.”

One of the reasons, Givony says, that it’s so important for a point guard to be able to create is the shorter shot clock in the NBA. At the college level, the 35 second shot clock allows a team to try to run a couple of different sets without feeling rushed; in the NBA, that 24 second clock expires in a hurry.

Green can score, and he can do it in an efficient manner. We saw that this season, as he routinely shredded defenses that were geared entirely towards stopping him. “He’s like a quarterback that’s seen every type of blitz coming at him,” Johnson said. He’s become quite a lethal shooter as well — whether it’s of the pull-up or the spot-up variety — which is not something that he considered a strength heading into this season.

There are plenty of question marks regarding Green’s future as a pro. Is he athletic enough and strong enough to defend NBA point guards? Will his struggles finishing around the rim in college follow him to the NBA? Will he be able to draw as many fouls in the NBA as he did in college?

All those are fair concerns.

What isn’t fair, however, is punishing Green for the fact that he had to carry the overwhelming majority of the load as a college senior.

Green is an efficient point guard that can really shoot the ball and has an understanding of how to attack and how to execute in the pick-and-roll. That matters.

And it may matter more than the fact that he had to take 17 shots per game as a college senior.

You can find Rob on twitter @RobDauster.

Lawson, Moore carry No. 1 KU to 89-53 rout of South Dakota

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LAWRENCE, Kan. — Dedric Lawson had 16 points and 14 rebounds, Charlie Moore made six 3-pointers en route to 18 points, and top-ranked Kansas pulled away in the second half for an 89-53 victory over plucky but overmatched South Dakota on Tuesday night.

Freshman forward David McCormack added a career-best 12 points off the bench for the Jayhawks (10-0), helping to soak up minutes while Udoka Azubuike is sidelined with a sprained ankle.

Kansas has won 40 consecutive games in Allen Fieldhouse as the nation’s No. 1 team.

Stanley Umude scored a game-high 28 points to lead the Coyotes (6-6), who have never defeated a ranked team in seven tries. Tyler Peterson added 15 points, and leading scorer Trey Burch-Manning was held to two points on 1-for-5 shooting before fouling out.

Neither team was particularly good in the first half.

The Jayhawks struggled to stop South Dakota’s relentless backdoor cuts, and eventually Kansas coach Bill Self was so fed up with their defensive execution he started to burn timeouts.

Not that the Coyotes did much with all those easy looks. They committed 12 first-half turnovers, allowing the Jayhawks to slowly pull out to a 37-27 advantage at the break.

Most of the work was done without Lawson, who was forced to the bench with two fouls.

The Jayhawks’ dominant point forward joined Moore in helping the Jayhawks pull away in the second half. Lawson scored in the paint, Moore hit a 3-pointer and Lawson added a pair of foul shots to turn a 49-40 lead into a 56-40 lead with about 12 minutes to go.

The undersized Coyotes answered with a run of their own, but Moore and Lawson provided one more answer. Moore curled in his fifth 3-pointer, this time from the wing, and then took a run-out to the rim before dropping a pass to Lawson for an easy layup and a 66-47 lead.

The advantage only grew from there as Moore, a transfer from California who once scored 38 in a game as a freshman, and the massive McCormack continued to put together breakout games.

BIG PICTURE

South Dakota hung around long enough to keep Kansas on the edge, but the Jayhawks’ superior athleticism was evident. They were quicker in transition, better on the boards and were able to pull away when the Coyotes went cold from beyond the arc.

Kansas finally got an easy win after surviving nail-biters against everyone from New Mexico State and Stanford to Villanova and Tennessee. It was the first time all season that the Jayhawks put away a game in time to empty the bench in the final minutes.

UP NEXT

South Dakota hosts Southern Miss on Friday night.

Kansas visits No. 18 Arizona State on Saturday night.

Kevin Ollie alleges racial discrimination in new civil action against UConn

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Former UConn head coach Kevin Ollie is heading to court with the school over alleged racial discrimination. In a report from the Hartford Courant, Ollie has filed a civil action alleging that the school illegally attempted to deter him from filing a racial discrimination complaint.

Submitted on Tuesday in U.S. District Court, Ollie is claiming he was treated differently from predecessor Jim Calhoun, because Calhoun kept his job after receiving comparable recruiting violations.

Ollie was fired for those violations earlier this year as he’s been in a contentious back-and-forth battle with the school that has gone to court. The former head coach claims he informed UConn of his intention to file the complaint but the school said it would refuse to have a contractual-grievance arbitration process that would give Ollie the final $10 million on his contract.

Seeking an emergency injunction that would allow him to file the complaint while proceeding with an arbitration process.

UConn responded to the Courant on Tuesday through a spokesperson as they disputed Ollie’s account that race played a role in his firing.

“As UConn has stated from the outset, the university terminated Kevin Ollie’s employment due to violations of NCAA rules, pursuant to his employment agreement,” UConn spokesperson Stephanie Reitz said. “Any claim to the contrary is without merit.”

Ollie’s attorney told the Courant that the hope is to file and stay with a racial discrimination complaint, which could be addressed after the arbitration.

From the sound of it, UConn and Ollie are going to be in court for quite a bit of time as this whole firing process has been difficult from the start.

No. 15 Buckeyes overcome slow start, rout Youngstown State

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COLUMBUS, Ohio — Kaleb Wesson had a career-high 31 points as No. 15 Ohio State overcame a terrible start and beat Youngstown State 75-56 on Tuesday night.

Wesson was dominating in the second half, scoring 26 points as the Buckeyes were again forced to win in come-from-behind fashion. The sophomore topped his previous career-best 22 points, achieved in Saturday’s game against Bucknell.

The Buckeyes (10-1, 2-0 Big Ten) shot poorly in the first half and were forced to rally against a mid-major opponent they should have handled easily from the beginning.

Ohio State trailed 25-22 at the half, but took the lead with a Wesson put-back three minutes into the second half and took control from there.

Luther Muhammad and C.J. Jackson each had 11 points for Ohio State, which has won three in a row after losing their only game of the season Nov. 28.

Darius Quisenberry had 17 points, and Naz Bohannon added 11 for the Penguins (5-9), who have lost five of their last six.

The first half was a nightmare for Ohio State. The Penguins went on a 14-2 run to open the game as the Buckeyes missed shot after shot. Ohio State shot 24 percent from the floor and 1 for 11 from beyond the 3-point line before intermission. The score was so close mostly because Youngstown State wasn’t much better, hitting just 33 percent of its shots.

Wesson took a seat with 5:40 left in the first half when he picked up his second foul and got his third early in the second half before going on a scoring tear.

BIG PICTURE:

Youngstown State: Took advantage of Ohio State’s poor shooting to lead the entire first half, but couldn’t keep up once Wesson and the Buckeyes got themselves unglued.

Ohio State: After nearly losing to Bucknell on Saturday, the Buckeyes took another opponent too lightly and were getting stung for a while. They are making too many mistakes against teams they should be dominating.

UP NEXT:

Youngstown State: Hosts Detroit Mercy on Dec. 28.

Ohio State: At UCLA on Saturday.

No. 2 Duke emerges from exam break to beat Princeton 101-50

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DURHAM, N.C. — A cold offensive start for second-ranked Duke on Tuesday night turned out to be a good sign for coach Mike Krzyzewski. That’s because his Blue Devils never let all those missed shots infect the team’s defensive focus.

RJ Barrett continued his rookie-season scoring rush, finishing with 27 points to help second-ranked Duke beat Princeton 101-50. Meanwhile, as the offense got rolling to hand Princeton its most lopsided loss in its program history, the defense finished with a bevy of steals, blocks and deflections to earn the approval of the Hall of Fame coach.

“We kept telling them: `Just don’t be down about the offense, you’re doing a good job, just keep shooting, keep doing it and don’t let it affect the defense,” Krzyzewski said.

“And they did. So that’s good.”

Consider it a lesson learned and applied for the freshman-led Blue Devils (10-1), whose high-flying offense has the potential to run past just about anybody. Yet this group has shown the ability to be a get-after-’em defensive team, too, with freshman point guard Tre Jones pressuring the ball surrounded by plenty of length and athleticism on the wings.

Krzyzewski wants his players to focus on the latter, knowing it’s likely a matter of time before any off-target shooting corrects itself. And that was obvious Tuesday as Duke opened its first game in more than a week due to an exam break by missing its first eight shots and falling behind 8-0.

Even more unusual of a sight on its famously hostile home court, the Blue Devils didn’t take their first lead until more than 14 minutes in.

“We were getting good shots,” Barrett said. “We just couldn’t make them.”

But after a steady start from the Tigers — who caught Duke with some early backdoor cuts — the Blue Devils scored on 10-of-11 possessions to close the first half, then on four more out of the break to take a 48-28 lead. Duke shot 64 percent after halftime as the game turned into a rout.

“Boy, that’s a really good team,” Princeton coach Mitch Henderson said. “They’re even better in person.”

Myles Stephens had 19 points for Princeton (5-5), which led 18-16 before Duke put together an 11-0 run to take over. Princeton shot just 30 percent for the game, including 8 of 36 (22 percent) after halftime.

BIG PICTURE

Princeton: Those opening few minutes had to be encouraging for the Tigers. They just didn’t have an answer once Duke’s shots started falling to pair with that defensive aggression.

“They got so many deflections, just stuff we hadn’t seen before,” Henderson said. “It’s a great lesson, that when you’re playing against the best, you have to be absolutely sharper than you’ve ever been.”

Duke: The Blue Devils hadn’t played since beating Yale here on Dec. 8, and it took a while for the offense to get into gear. Things went to script once that happened. Barrett came in averaging an Atlantic Coast Conference-best 24.2 points and finished 11 of 21 from the field while fellow rookie Zion Williamson (17 points, 10 rebounds) had another big game. Meanwhile, Duke’s defense had 12 steals, 14 blocks and 23 points off turnovers to go with a 50-25 rebounding advantage.

NEW RECORD

The 51-point margin surpassed Princeton’s previous worst margin of defeat of 45 points, set against Penn in December 1908.

CLOSING THE (BACK)DOOR

Duke quickly did a better job of closing off those backdoor lanes after Princeton got loose inside for easy early layups.

“Really that was just something we hadn’t worked on as much coming in,” said Duke forward Javin DeLaurier, who had six points and three rebounds. “Once we realized that was something they were going to try and hurt us with, guys did a good job of just making the adjustment, not contesting as much. And as soon as a guy was dribbling at you, expect the back door.”

UP NEXT

Princeton: The Tigers visit Lafayette on Friday.

Duke: The Blue Devils face No. 12 Texas Tech in New York’s Madison Square Garden on Thursday.

More AP college basketball: https://apnews.com/Collegebasketball and http://www.twitter.com/AP-Top25

VIDEO: Backboard nearly takes out Zion Williamson on blocked shot

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Zion Williamson was almost taken out by a backboard as Duke played Princeton at home on Tuesday night. Playing at home, Williamson went for a block as his arm and face appeared hit the backboard and caused him to fall to the ground.

Williamson was okay, but the startling block is yet another freakish play that the freshman forward has made on the defensive end this season. Although mostly known for his dunks, Williamson is showing himself to be one of the scariest shot blockers in college hoops this season.

No. 2 Duke ran past Princeton for the easy home win.