Insightful observations from coach Lorenzo Romar during his weekly radio show tonight.
He explained the difference between Washington’s old motion offense and the high-post schemes. He said the new offensive attack is ideally suited for tweaners, guys between 6-4 and 6-10 who don’t really have a position.
Romar credits assistant Brad Jackson for helping Aziz N’Diaye improve his free throw shooting. After shooting, 39.7 percent last season, the goal is to get the big guy shooting 50 percent at the line.
Romar said he has “the most teachable” group since he’s been at Washington, but hinted he wished the players had a bit of a maverick personality like Nate Robinson and Isaiah Thomas.
(On sweeping in the Bay Area for the first time since 1985) “We’ve had some opportunities that we weren’t able to capitalize on, but fortunately this time we were able to do it.”
(On being worried late in the Stanford game) “I wouldn’t say worried as much as anxious who they were going to get the ball to. … You’re just wondering when are these guys (Aaron Bright and Chasson Randle) are going to break loose and hit some threes because they are more than capable of doing it. They had a few wide-open looks that they weren’t able to knock down. We were fortunate down the stretch.”
(Difference with defense) “I keep saying – not trying to whine, I’m not trying to make excuses – but facts are facts. When you don’t have enough players to rotate and give guys rest, you can’t play the type of defense that we demand from out team. It requires a lot of effort. When 4-5 guys are playing 36-37 minutes a game, it wears you down and you subconciously begin to pace yourself.”
— Romar also said UW’s starters had been role players in the past. He said: “No one has ever really carried the torch. Someone else has been paying the bills for them. They’d just come home and eat. Someone would cook for them. This time they had to do that. And they had to find out how much hard work and how much high level of concentration was required to be able to do some of that stuff.”
(On who has stepped up to be a leader) “What I think has happened, whether they’ve been a leader or not, they’ve been a great example. Desmond Simmons has really embraced what he brings to the table. … He goes out and says I’m going to be the toughest, hardest-working player on this floor and see where that takes us. That’s what he done and I think that’s helped our team. Early on he wasn’t quite sure what his niche was. There were games when Scott Suggs was out against Colorado State we played him at a perimeter position and he had to guard a perimeter guy. He wasn’t as comfortable with that. We had to try all kinds of things. Now he’s settled in. And Aziz N’Diaye has settled in and has become a pretty decent low-post scorer for us that we can count on. Andrew Andrews given us a big life. He’s come into games. He’s played hard. He’s been fearless and he’s given us some of that pit bull mentality that we need. I think guys have settled into roles and that has helped us defensively.”
(On what he learned about the team during the three-game winning streak) “Our goals have not changed. We want to go out – I know it sounds cliche and simple – but be the best team we can be every day and every drill and wherever that lands us, that’s where we are. As John Wooden would say, there’s no such thing as overachievement. You can underachieve. But overachieve no. You can only reach your potential. You can’t get any more after that. That’s what we strive to do. This team because of the chemistry and comraderie that we knew (was) there all along, I think now it’s become very valuable in that our guys are beginning to pull for each other and play and have each other’s back on the floor. Sometimes you watch offenses and say that team really plays together because they’re passing the ball to one another. That is equally important on the defensive end.”
(On the growth from European tour to today) — Romar attributed the early struggles to players thinking too much and psychologically getting depressed if the ball doesn’t go in the basket. The combination can knock teams out of rhythm. He said UW is more functional with the high-post offense now.
(On bad shooting night at Cal, but dominated the game) — Romar said outrebounding Cal was a pleasant surprise. He said rebounding is an improvement from earlier in the season. Romar said: “We need to play in such a manner that if we’re not putting the ball in the basket, we still need to give ourselves a chance to win because of the way we defend and rebound.”
(On is defense and rebounding fun) — Romar said fun is going out working on the floor and seeing the results come out in a positive fashion.
(On players figuring out the high-post offense) — Romar said UW ran the high-post offense with a two-guard front his first year with the Huskies. He said they’ve dabbled with it a little bit the past few years, but the Huskies primary attack was a motion offense. He talked to his mentor Jim Harrick about making the switch full time to the high post. Washington made the switch last spring and used it for the first time in on the foreign tour. Romar said players are finally starting to get the hang of it.
(On the difference between the motion and high-post offense) — “There’s different kinds of motions. Bobby Knight was one of the first to make motion famous and there were five players cutting and screening for each other and reading the screens. The dribble-drive motion that Kentucky tries to use. There are four guys out and they catch the ball and basically space and stay out of each other’s way to give each other room to drive the ball. If the defense helps, they pass it to whoever helps. That’s kind of what they do.
“The motion that we had, we had three guards out front. One one at the top and two on the wings. We created space at the top of the floor for those guys to drive and make plays. Our big guys would read them and screen. Our guards would not screen for each other. Only the big men would screen for the guards. You avoided teams being able to switch because they would not want to switch with a guard and a big. We had guys like Nate Robinson, Isaiah Thomas, Tre Simmons, Brandon Roy, Justin Dentmon and on and on and on. Those guys could really beat you off the dribble and make plays in our motion. It was effective that way. We got it from Lute Olson. Lute Olson was the one when I was an assistant at UCLA and we played against him we just found it so difficult to stop. When I became a head coach (I said) alright what are you doing. What is this? And he explained and it was very simple and I thought we had the personnel to do it. That’s kind of what the motion was.
“Well now we’ve switched to the high post. The high post has a little bit more structure to it, but it puts guys in position just to play basketball. It’s a a read-and-react offense. If the ball is passed to the wing, everybody does one thing. If it’s passed to the high-post in the 1-4 – four guys across the free throw line – you do another thing. If you pass to the wing and the first guard cuts off to the high post and it’s not open, there’s another option. There’s 13 options that you don’t have to call. You just read how is the defense playing it. One team may play it one way. Cal played it one way and we scored baskets that we didn’t score in other games because how they defended it. Stanford played it a different way and we got other baskets off of it. It takes time for the guys to learn how to read and react.
“In the motion it was structured in terms of we knew what each other was doing. It looked like you’re just playing on the playground and dribbling around, but you weren’t. Everyone knew where everyone was supposed to be. The high post looks like it has more structure, but you have two-man games in it. You have flare screens in it. You have single screens. You have double screens in it. You have post ducks. You have ball screens on the side. You just have all kinds of things that are in there.”
(On being able to recruit for the high-post offense) “The leading scorer in the history of UCLA basketball was Don MacLean. He was a forward. The leading scorer in the history of Pepperdine is Dave Suttle. He was a guard. It doesn’t matter who you have. You can put them in there. Once your team has a basic understanding of it, … what it does is it gives tweaners - you know what the tweaner is? He doesn’t really have a position. He doesn’t really handle the ball that well, but he can really score around the basket. Or the guy that is 6-10, but is not really good inside because he’s thin and he can really pass. It’s a home for everyone that fits in in the high-post offense.”
(On recruits wanting to play in the motion offense because it was high scoring) — Romar said the Huskies are still trying to push the ball, run and score in transition. He said UW is scoring less points because it hasn’t been able to force turnovers and get easy baskets from turnovers.
(On high-post offense generationg shots for players ) “It’s putting you in situations to allow you to make basketball plays. The offense generates those situations. In the motion, the players generate those situations.”
(On N’Diaye free-throw shooting) “I’ve always maintained in terms of foul shooting, if you can’t shoot then you can’t shoot. A lot of people take the opinion, mostly people who haven’t really played, that you can change that. I don’t think you can go from 30 percent to 90 percent. I jsut don’t think that happens. I haven’t seen very many. In that case Shaq would have become a (good free-throw shooter). The NBA has the experts. I do believe you can improve if you spend a lot of time doing it and Aziz does that.
“Coach Brad Jackson from Day 1 has taken Aziz. Every day Aziz goes with Coach Jackson and they shoot free throws. Coach Jackson has worked with him. He’s talked about his rhythm. He’s talked about maintaining his confidence and focus. He’s even made tapes with music on them and it’s mimicking him to make a foul shot. It’s been good. The other day we’re shootaround shooting free throws and you got to make 10 at a time different players before you’re done. Nine and 10 are coming up and Aziz cuts to the head of the line so he can make 9 and 10. He takes the risk and you know that’s been great. His free throws over time has improved. He’s up to 47 percent now. The goal was to get him to 50. He was 37 percent last year. Get him to 50 and see what happens from there.
“This wrist was in a cast this summer. So he really couldn’t play and really couldn’t shoot a whole lot. Coach (Jim) Shaw worked with him. You can work two hours (a day) in the summer. He worked with him with a chair. He’d have to sit in chair and grab the ball and rise out of the chair and make a move and pivot. That really helped him with his balance.”
(On N’Diaye being consistent) — Romar said N’Diaye caught difficult passes against Cal and Stanford. He said the 7-foot center is “dialed in and focused.”
(On N’Diaye handling the ball in the high-post offense and losing it against Stanford) — Romar said Stanford was playing when N’Diaye came out to set a ball screen. The guard threw him the ball, but the Huskies don’t want N’Diaye handling the ball at the top against zones.
(On UW being teachable) — Romar said: “Maybe the most teachable group we’ve had since we’ve been here.”
(On the ideal team) — “Nick Van Exel, I don’t know if there’s any coach he every listened to other than Bob Huggins. I told him one time if I had your attitude, I would have played longer in the NBA. what I mean by that is as a player I was too coachable. I would do everything by the book. I think those that are successful at a high, high rate whether it’s business, athletics or wherever it is – you take risks. I like players that – I hope none of our players are listening – sometimes just say: ‘Coach is good, I respect him, he’s my man, but he’s not out here with his ball right now. There’s an opening that he can’t see.’ And they go at it.
“The two players that were the best at that. Nate Robinson was one. And Isaiah (Thomas) was the other. Brandon Roy as good as a player as he was, Brandon would try to do what your structure suggested. Those two guys. Isaiah would look me in the eye sometimes and go ‘Yeah coach.’ He’d even go the next step and point like I should have been around the other side. Then he’d smile and say watch the next time I get it I’m going to do the same thing. And for him sometimes you can be stubborn in a good way. So you want a little bit of that on your team. But this group is very, very coachable.”
(On Andrews) — Romar called him a daredevil and thrill seeker. He said he’s a highly intelligent and confident basketball player. “There’s not a circumstance or environment that intimidates him,” Romar said.
(On scolding Andrews after a wild shot at Cal) — Romar said he doesn’t like to take away a players’ initiative or aggressiveness. He wasn’t upset with Andrews’ shot, but rather Andrews’ response when confronted by Romar. “It was one of those blow-me-off deals,” Romar said. “That’s what made me more upset. It’s what you learn when you know it all that counts. All that was was us growing together as player and coach.”
(On last week’s travel and making two trips to the Bay Area) — Romar said they’ll do it again next week at Oregon, but not when they play at Arizona.