Sunday, November 18, 2012

Growing Pains

NCC 70-ALMA 67
76 Shot Attempts (Goal-90)
48 Threes (Goal- Get half our shots from the arc)
38 Turnovers forced (Goal-33)
33% ORB (Goal- Rebound 40% of our missed shots)
-12 Shot Differential (Goal- Get 15 more shots than our opponent)

My first year with the System in 2004 was a roller coaster ride.  We started out respectably, then had two blowout losses to strong opponents.  It was at that point that I was confronted with a choice:  stick with it, or revert to "safe" basketball.  Let me tell you, when you are down 52-12 at halftime, as we were in our fourth game of the System Era back in '04, you do some real soul searching about the wisdom of your approach. 

To quote the great Paul Harvey, "And now you know the rest of the story."  We did stay with the System and eventually made it work.  By Christmas we were 8-8, and finished the year something like 21-11, winning a conference title. 

There were two reasons we didn't go back to ball-control basketball.  The first was that I knew the System would work, because Coach Arseneault had done it Grinnell (as had my friend Bunky Harkleroad with his women's team at Berea College in Kentucky).  That's one big reason I have such respect for Coach A.  He developed the System without a safety net. 

The second was that I didn't want to rob our players of the opportunity of becoming a great team.  It didn't look pretty early in the season, but I was trusting that if we stuck with it, we'd have a chance to do something special, to go beyond the norm in pursuit of our dream about how the game could be played, if only we were able tolerate the growing pains.

And yes, it was painful at times.  The growth process always is.  And it is painful at NCC this season.  We are playing shorthanded, with 8 freshmen and sophomores playing big minutes right now until we get everyone healthy.  And we are thinking, which is a bad thing, because players who are thinking are not reacting.  They are mentally processing what to do, instead of just doing it.  Those millisecond differences are huge in a System based on reaction and anticipation, differences made even bigger by the fatigue factor.

"But," you might be thinking to yourself,  "you won your first game!"  True. But it wasn't a particularly good game from System standpoint.  We did have our moments, but the "minus 12" shot differential is a telling number.  Our offensive rebounding is deficient right now.  We aren't getting enough second shots to meet our FGA goal of 90. Admittedly, one reason we only got up 76 shots was the other team was beating the snot out of us every time we drove to the basket (Note: We shot 40 free throws in each of our first two games!) 

On the bright side, we are shooting that many FTs because we are actually a pretty good driving team, and once we learn to shoot threes while playing at System pace, our scoring will go up dramatically.   But right now our early season perimenter shooting is not good, something that is absolutely predictable for a System team...  until it gets comfortable playing at System pace. So, we don't get overly concerned with 3FG%, but going 7-48 from the arc isn't going to win many games. That's going to take time, but it will happen.

Meanwhile, we just have to grit our teeth and hang on until we "get it."  Or, we can put in the Flex.

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