Watching B-ball

Published 8:56am Thursday, January 20, 2011

Column: Jon Laging, Talking Sports

One of the pleasures of following basketball teams is watching them improve. That is almost a certainty. Seldom does a sports team go the opposite way and get worse. Our football Minnesota Vikings almost achieved that, but Coach Frazier pulled them out of their funk.

Jon Laging

I would think that watching your team improve plays a huge role in coaching. Especially on the high school and college level. It involves physical skills to be sure. The old adage, “Practice makes perfect,” is nice to say, but impossible to attain. The majority of time spent by athletes is devoted to practicing. When you play basketball, the fundamentals must be learned and then improved upon. How to dribble, (don’t look at the ball, look up!). Non-basketball players would be amazed at the amount of time spent on the mechanics of passing, lay-ups and free throw shooting. You never become perfect. Even Magic Johnson threw a bad pass occasionally, but you become better and that is the object.

Not only physical skills improve, but mental ones as well. Learning the plays, how to defend, etc. The coaches strive to improve your basketball sense. What are the passing lanes, the tendencies of the opposing players. All done to make you a complete basketball player. It’s fun to watch as you sit on the sidelines or in your easy chair in front of the sports channel. Sometimes you see a player learn something and it’s like a light bulb going on. “Good play,” you say, as one takes advantage of new knowledge.

In addition, coaches have to meld five individuals with different skills into a team. The timid player with the good shot, the aggressive player with a good floor game, but poor shot, etc. All five individuals come together and form a team. And the team wins or loses, not only based on individual play, but how the team’s pluses and minuses balance that particular game.

This year’s Gopher team has the potential to become one of the top teams in the nation. It depends on them and Tubby Smith as to how they fare while we watch them. They have an NBA type rebounder in Trevor Mbakwe. A future NBA shooter with a good floor game in Blake Hoffarber and perhaps the toughest to find, a fine floor general in Al Nolen. These three players are ready to bond together and bring the Gophers to championship heights. But a great basketball team needs five members and there are two starters that lag behind and have not found their niche on the Gopher team. Ralph Sampson the lll and Rodney Williams are just as good athletes, perhaps better, but they need to contribute on a higher level. And until they or their substitutes do, the Gophers can be beaten by a top caliber team. It’s up to them and their coach.