clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Some unsolicited advice to the UK coaching staff -- Play Joe down low

New, comments

It seems counterintuitive to suggest that a guard is a better with his back to the basket than facing it, and fortunately, I'm not actually suggesting that.  What I am suggesting is that for 3+ years, we have refused to take advantage of one of Joe Crawford's most unique capabilities -- as a low post player.

I know that Crawford is only 6'4" tall, and that playing him on the low block seems a little nuts.  But when Crawford was making his statement for inclusion in the McDonald's all-American game lo these 4 years ago, one of the things he did best was finish around the rim.  Yes, he could run, jump, dunk and shoot 3's, but he was great at taking the ball to the hole and finishing among the trees.  He still does that very well, and it is an underutilized skill in his considerable offensive arsenal.

Let's face it -- Crawford is never going to think "pass first," nor should he.  His job is to score, and although he is a good 3-point shooter, he is even better at putting the ball in the basket from the painted area.  He does it by using his lower body strength and overall quickness to get around shot blockers and disadvantage defenders.  What I would like to see is Joe Crawford setting up on the left block about 30% of the time.  No team is going to double team a little guy down there, they will count on help to rotate if he gets open, but Crawford is strong and athletic enough to score on anybody not 4 inches taller than he is.  Rotate Patterson or Stevenson out to the foul line and you have real offensive options -- help rotation frees up either big, and I don't think there are any guards in the SEC that can handle Crawford down low one-on-one.

Of course, Crawford will frequently try to drive to the basket, and that works as well, but it increases the likelihood of a turnover.  Crawford has good hands, and getting it to him with the pass frees him up to concentrate on scoring or finding the open big man.  We used to do this a bit with Tony Delk during the Pitino era to good effect.  Delk had that same finishing ability near the rim, and Pitino would often post up Delk on less athletic guards, and it worked very well.  But despite Delk's long arms and considerable athleticism, he was neither as tall nor as strong as Joe Crawford.  Crawford is a power guard, and we haven't been using that part of his game as effectively as we might.

I think that trying to make a pure two or small three out of Crawford and having him stay on the wing doesn't permit him to utilize his strength and size to its greatest potential, as well as his uncanny knack for finding the basket among taller players.  We have seen many "how did he do that?" scores from Crawford close to the basket.  I'd like to give him a chance to do it a lot more often.