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WSU Basketball: Using the Next Six Games to Fix Next Year, Part II

Kyle Sherwood looks at changes WSU Basketball should make now in preparation for next season.

William Mancebo

(Sherwood's edit: Hey guys, So it turns out the team actually did this one on Saturday, so this might read a little crazy since the column is theoretically "asking" them to try this. I wrote this last Thursday the same day as the Longrus column, but held on to it until today because I figured you didn't want to read 700 words about Royce Woolridge right after 1,100 on Junior. So my goal here now is to publish this today in hopes of explaining WHY this worked on Saturday and should continue going forward.)


I've been harping about how much this team misses its point guard since October, and I'll spare you what I believe Reggie Moore would have brought to this team in lieu of discussing something we rarely mention: Royce Woolridge is a natural shooting guard who is being forced to play out of position.

The point guard in this offense's role is primarily to set up the offense first and look for your shot second. While a playmaker like Moore embraced this type of role, Woolridge has struggled with it. That's not to say I believe Moore is a more talented player than Woolridge, as much as it's a completely different skill set. Royce is also a victim of this shallow roster and is forced to play 35 minutes out of position. By moving Woolridge to the Point Guard position, you are moving the one player on your roster who can consistently beat his man off the dribble to a position where he isn't able to force a defense into a poor rotation.

Here's an example that we've seen all year: When Royce is bringing the ball up the court and is positioned at the top of the key, he has shown he has a powerful enough rock-step to get his man off balance. While getting past the first line of defense, the defender assigned to Dexter Kernich-Drew is able to sag enough to alter Royce's lane, slowing him up for just a split second. That split-second is just enough for whoever is in the low-block to step in and either alter or block Woolridge's shot. If you're reading that scenario and are wondering why Reggie Moore didn't have this problem last year, Abe Lodwick was enough of a threat to keep his defender close, so Moore was able to get to the block in time to either get off a layup or drop a pass into the opposite block past the off-balanced defender who wasn't able to get there in time.

My line of thinking is Woolridge may be a better fit for this team (and next year's team) in a scoring role rather than distribution. Putting Woolridge on the wing allows him to have one less defender to worry about. If Woolridge beats his man to the baseline, the only person he has to worry about is the defender in the low post and when the onus is on the defender whether or not to rotate, Woolridge has an easy bucket or at the very least has knocked the defense off balance enough that someone is wide open, usually either whoever is running the low block or the weakside wing/stretch 4.

With the influx of guard talent coming eligible next season, I don't believe Royce Woolridge is the Point Guard of the future for this team, so it's time Coach Bone stopped forcing him to play out of position now that WSU doesn't have anything to play for. To execute this, I would have suggested moving Ladd to the PG position, but since he is hurt I think it may actually help if WSU gave more playing time to one/both of its walk-on PGs in Bryce Leavitt and Dominic Ballard. Collapse and Distribute is something Point Guards learn in high school, so if their role is limited to that, I really believe WSU can score points in droves relying on Woolridge and DaVonte Lacy to create from opposite wings (which, in turn, should leave Brock Motum and DJ Shelton open for opportunities when defenses rotate as well).

Again, WSU doesn't have much to lose here. Let's see what sort of scoring weapon Woolridge can be if we give him that role. It can only help the coach to know what he has going forward. (Edited: Hey, it worked! Do it again in Tempe!)