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.