Morning ritual involves coffee and a thorough reading of the Star Tribune front page and related articles with  special attention to the opinion page. Scanning the sports pages  follows with small expectation of finding engaging material. Just keeping tabs on my favored teams.  Recently a sports article caught my attention: “POINT TAKEN:  we’re blessed with four of the best point guards in the country at any level.  Here’s what makes them tick.”  Point guards mentioned are Ricky Rubio of the NBA Timberwolves, Lindsay Whalen of the champion WNBA Lynx,  Tyrus Jones of the Apple Valley High School Eagles, and Rachel Banham of the Minnesota University Gophers.  All four point guards answer eight questions relevant for success. Their answers will be briefly quoted  or paraphrased. One response by a point guard for a particular question. Note that all questions demand both skill and intelligence for success.

But first some musings. Why my attention to this article? As a lad seventy-five years ago and later as a high school and junior college young man I was a point guard on the high school and college varsity. As a prof  kid at Concordia College in Milwaukee and being friends with the coach’s sons we spent countless hours in the gym.  As a grade school lad I frequently announced “I’m going to be a coach”.  Nothing, including books, were in mind except athletics and basketball. Interestingly that desire became reality coaching basketball as an academy instructor at Concordia in St. Paul.  Hindsight indicates my approach was far too aggressive lacking in pace and finesse.  Rather athletic and still so as an octogenarian my point guard career was average. One game of glory in college is savored in memory. The development and skills displayed in development of the game over seven decades is dramatic.  Seven decade ago long shots were dispatched underhand,  free throws as well, the push shot in initial stage of development, rare the player who could dribble with right or left hand, hook shots rare. My grandson William in sixth grade  in Syracuse is a powerful pitcher and skilled basketball point guard. He sports a flashy colorful jersey with excelllent coaching a member on a travel team. Having professional one-on-one coaching he dribbles two basketballs at a time, sophisticated in fundamentals,  he excels as a point guard. His grandpa was nicknamed “Backboard Charlie” for lofting a long shot high over the backboard.  So much for skill. But then a grandson as my genetic heir will make good grandpa’s deficiencies.

LEAD BY EXAMPLE   Point guards must direct everything on the court. Rubio stresses the need to be  a “winner”  and be there for the team and  have their trust. Unselfish play is to.”put all of  the guys in the right spot”.

SHARE THE BALL  Banham  asserts the guard’s task is to find teammates and make every player better, “not just yourself”.

HANDLE THE ROCK  Whalen advises that constant practice  in ball-handling is fundamental  when  playing the point.  If  right-handed, as she is,  be proficient in use of the left hand to make defenses guard your left hand as well.

SEE THE FLOOR  Jones  states that “to make the right play, the right pass”  demands seeing the whole floor and anticipate what will happen. The guard determines  flow of the game.

DIFFERENT STYLES, DIFFERENT STRENGTHS  Whalen observes  it is very important that from the point drive to the basket to draw the defense.  Finish early or, if not possible,  kick out the ball. Drives to the basket will come later,  meanwhile develop mid-range and three-point shots.

COACH ON THE FLOOR   Rubio  says as a point guard you are the extension of the coach who trusts you on the floor. The point guard guides teammates where to go. “You call the plays”.

POSITIVE INFLUENCES  Jones watches carefully  the play of the best professional point guards. Watch how he or she “sets up the offense” and decides what type of pass makes the easiest play.

BOUNCE OR SKIP PASS?  Banham prefers the faster skip pass because of its speed. The bounce pass, on the other hand, “is hard to defend”.  Know when to use what type of pass most effectively.

The article is headlined: UNSELFISHNESS .  COURT VISION .   LEADERSHIP  .  FIRE. This is a succinct summarizing of the skills coupled with intelligence essential to being  an effective point guard. Learning these character attributes and skills as an athlete when applied intelligently also has general application for success in life for anyone.

Published by profbartling1

Retired professor Concordia University, St. Paul, Mn. Taught mainly American History. Also taught in other areas of history, philosophy, and theology,


  1. This article remind sme why I don;pt care about basketball anymore, especially at the professional level. The narcissism of the average pro player, along with the advent of the three-point shot, which even further discourages passing and working the ball under the basket, has led to poor and uninteresting play.

  2. Your omment that “leadership is also about the person who comes off the bench” is well taken. Certainly a reflection of your role in teaching the art and craft of effective leadership. After all it takes a team effort of individuals sharing leadership qualities in achieving a joint goal. Many were the times “I came off the bench” to play my role in achieving a a joint team goal. But I must confess I loved more the Point Guard’s leadership role.

  3. I enjoyed reading your thoughts on leadership and the importance of bringing the ball up court. In sports its always the marquee players who get the press. The quarterback, the point guard and so on are designated as the true leaders and the other players have a lesser, more of a satellite role.
    Though I love the flash and leadership of these players and as I reflect on my own leadership I tend to move to a less obvious but also salient point. Leadership is also about the person who comes off the bench; it’s about the right tackle; it’s about the individuals who don’t get the attention or do not have the exposure.
    The true gift is to fill your life with leaders who will come off the bench, that prepare and engage. Give me the person who tirelessly watches game tapes at the back of the room knowing they may not play and if they do it will be only to rest the starters. But they stay ready, have fun and enjoy the moments.Personally, for the right leaders and the greater good of a well-founded vision I am always willing to come off the bench to support and add. I don’t have to be around for the post-game interviews.

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