Friday, March 10, 2006

Mother Chuckers (or "64 Busloads of B.S.")

Like many Americans, I still vividly recall when Jerry and George had completed a basketball workout at the gym (George called a ballhog “a chucker”) and, while B.S.-ing in the locker room, Jerry noticed that, stretching nearby, was Keith Hernandez.
After Jerry introduced himself to Keith, their conversation was interrupted by the dumpy little guy holding a basketball -- George.
Keith gave the little fella a look-over, sneered a little, and asked Jerry, “Who’s this chucker?”

Well, for those Americans who have followed closely the Gerry McNamara controversy during the past few days, the Hernandez-esque question has become, “Is G-Mac an over-chucker or and under-chucker?”
Dude's definitely a chucker, so don’t be alarmed by Boeheim’s F-bombs during his press conferences (although he apologized to America, through Jay Bilas, saying, “I never shoulda swore” following the win over #1 UConn on Thursday).
Now, we should hug.

The dust-up, apparently, revolved around some articles in the campus newspaper, the Daily Orange, and the local Sorrycuse Post Standard re: G-Mac’s overratedness.
Moreover, I saw an tidbit on the matter Thurs. and while it pointed out that a recent S.I. poll addressed the matter, it forgot to reveal that, in the Big East voting, McNamara “tied” for “most overrated” with UConn’s Rudy Gay.
Oh … and McNamara was voted the conference’s “biggest crybaby.”

OK, then … who exactly is this chucker?
Well, he’s Scranton’s beloved chucker, for one thing. In case you missed it last Sunday, the citizens of Scranton, Pa. (McNamara’s hometown) filled more than five-dozen buses with 3,000 fans for the pilgrimage up I-81 to see G-Mac’s final home game (the attendance of 33,633 was an NCAA, on-campus record).

For the first time since the Carrier Dome opened in 1980, a Sorrycuse b-ball game was sold out in advance – which, surprises me, given the tremendous charisma of Howard Triche nearly 20 years ago and the popularity of my boy, Reafsnyder (I can’t remember his first name), from the national finalist team of 10 years ago.
Note: NBC’s Al Trautwig, moments after the Arena League contest last Sunday, reported that it was 64 buses … the AP story from the same day reported that it was “over 60 buses” (AP style, though, should have told the reader that proper usage is “more than” instead of “over”) … and Sean McDonough reported that it was 65 buses during the ‘Cuse-Cincy game.

We may never get to the bottom of how many busloads of Scrantonites are hard-core McNamara worshippers. What we do know is that they live in Scranton Pa. … and, seeing how they reside in the Philly half of the Keystone State, their brains get pretty scrambled with Phillies-Eagles-Sixers-Flyers as their pro options (hey, who do ya think phoned in the anti-Steelers bomb threat to the Loew’s Theater in West Homestead last week?)
That mental imbalance notwithstanding, they love their chucker.
Any why shouldn’t they? He’s very remiscent, in a swashbuckling sense, of a Luke Recker, the former Indiana/Iowa starlet.
He’s so resilient … like when he goes 0 of 10 on 3-balls vs. Cornell, you know it’s just a matter of time before he explodes.
Like when he goes 5 of 9 on 3-balls against The ‘Nati and finishes with 29, one week later against ‘Nova, he’ll play 37 minutes and not attempt a three (though he’d averaged nine 3-point atts. per game to that point).

Any time I was thinking of labelling him as an erratic, poorly-coached performer, I referred to the “souting report”:
“A chameleon who adapts to team needs … can be a scorer or merely a distributor if need be … great shooter … moves well of (sic) the ball for spot-up jumpers from beyond the arc … gets his feet under him and releases at the highest point of elevation …”

Well, ya sold me, Andy Katz or Joe Lunardi or whichever EspyTime got-cut-from-the-JV-team, dot-commer wrote that.
Me? I would’ve included “Gerry singlehandedly won the national championship game as a freshman in the ’02-’03 season because Coach taught him how to defend the 3-pointer (causing Kansas to shoot 4 of 20 from beyond the arc) and Coach taught him how to defend the free throw (causing Kansas to go 12 of 30 from the foul line).”
Just to be thorough.
And, for good measure, I’d’ve also added the always-famous: “… makes everyone around him better.”
Y’know … like when Carmelo couldn’t seem to find a Baltimore high school to suit his needs, Coach and Gerry and a cutting-edge counseling staff got ‘Melo to remain “eligible” (wink wink) for an entire semester.
That’s teamwork.

So, is our chucker overrated? Like I said, he’s Luke Recker Jr. You can rave all ya want about his 13 assists from Thurs., but he also had five turnovers. He knocked down the big trey to send the game to OT, but he was 3 of 14 shootin’ the ball – and when G-Mac misses, he misses the proverbial broadside of the barn.
He plays hard, sure … but who doesn’t?
Since he’s a VERY impressive foul shooter (91 percent), why doesn’t Coach Genius work on gettin’ him more ways to get to the stripe?
True, it might require structuring an offense which is predicated on more than, "Here, you guys chuck it at the rim and, anyone who's not chucking it at the rim, see about using your pogo-stick athleticism for the follow jam, okay?" -- but G-Mac had played 18 games this season when he’s attempted three or fewer foul shots, which means that he’s had 18 games in which he got to the line ONCE (likely) to shoot two.

Now, when Andy Katz refers to G-Mac as “a great shooter,” is that greatness reflected in a 34 percent average from beyond the arc or is that greatness measured in how many feet beyond the arc a player is when he spots up?
A 20-footer off the back iron is a lot less glamorous than the 25-footer which barely grazes the rim.
A career % of 37 or 38 percent ... big deal.

I definitely don’t blame G-Mac for any of his shortcomings. He didn’t appreciably improve since his freshman year because he didn’t receive much quality coaching. However, with that pencil-thin beard which extends from ear to ear, you can see the impact it’s had on freshman teammate Eric DevenDORK, who actually has a better pencil-thin, ear-to-ear beard.
By his senior year, The Dork is gonna be all tricked out with a more-mature beard to go along with those gnarly tatts.
Mark my words.

I’m not gonna be around to see it because, thanks to the Big Least playing some bad rec-league b-ball on Weds. and Thurs., I think it’s time for me to hang it up and call it a career with "college b-ball as a real, tangible concept."
Not that this is a painful estrangement. I mean, we all make voluntary decisions to walk away from unwatchable sports such as moto-cross and rhythmic gymnastics at some point in our lives.
Besides, college b-ball is on the verge of receiving a lifetime ban in my household anyway once the official announcement comes down on Final Four weekend that Dickie V. has been elected to the Baketball Hall of Fame.
Dip-seeeee doooooo, dunk-a-rooooo!

In theory, a “hall of fame” should be about “accomplishment” and “professionalism,” not about a bald head spouting the same ol’ re-hash of Team A has to shoot well, play good defense, rebound well and avoid turnovers (spoken seven different ways) and Team B must counter that by shooting well and playing good D and rebounding well and avoiding turnovers.

So, Smitty asks me, “You’re gonna miss the Sweet 16, the Elite Eight AND the Final Four?”
Riiiiiiiiight ... I really wanna see that two-legged, pile of camel dung named Mike Nardi goin' three of 13 on 3-balls and Vitale moaning that Nardi was a little off today and ...
No sh**, Sherlock.
The only thing worse than watching guys brick threes all day long is having Vitale explain it to me all night long.
That is, after Joe Lunardi and that beaver pelt atop his head tell me why this bracket was seeded this way and why that bracker was seeded that way.
Tell ya what, Smitty ... YOU watch it.
And tell me if Lunardi's beaver pelt moves, okay?

West Virginia ... now, there's a textbook example of "Trifecters In Action."
That's a fun team to watch.
Watch melt down, that is -- which is why they're known as "the Meltdowneers" in some circles.
It was funny last night when I wasn't paying attention to their loss to Georgeclown -- and when Beilein's kid nailed a three late, I think I heard Len Elmore spazzing out a little over the kid's range.
Here's the deal: Beilein’s kid has made 13 of 49 treys in his past eight games and, worse than that 27 percent is the 17 percent that Frank Young is knockin' down in his past nine games.
They shoot from three.
They don't make it from three.
Big diff.

In a smarter, more-structured, b-ball paradigm, 3-point "makers" would be the ones attempting the 3-pointers and 3-point "brickshit chuckers" would be required to do "other things," such as, oh ... setting screens, fine-tuning pick-and-roll moves, sharpening the jump-stop and the pump-fake ... improving court awareness and recognizing what's a passing lane and what is not ... bodying an oponent away from the basket on a box-out.
Aw, F it ... let's chuck it from threeeeee!

You can’t blame Beilein's kid and Frank Young for being chuckers. What’s the worst that can happen? Beilein’s not gonna bench those two and pull a Jimmy Serrano and say, “You and that other dummy had better get more personally-involved in your work or I'm gonna stab you through the heart with a (frickin') pencil."
So, they'll just keep chuckin' because, well ... they really aren't talented enough to do much else.
And, they aren't obedient enough to follow Coach's plan-of-attack if, in fact, Coach actually had one.

Remember that Elite 8 game last year when the Meltdowneers went 3 crazy against Lousyville?
With 5:27 remaining in the game, WVU was a staggering 17 of 22 on 3-balls.
But then it all went wrong. During the next 10:27 (regulation and OT), WVU was 1 of 5 on treys. They were 1 of 8 on two-point attempts during the final 13:38.
The Meltdowneers had four offensive rebounds the entire game, thus eliminating what Overstater Of The Obvious Digger Phelps would call “second-chance points.”

Hey … here’s an update for my lunch break: Ten minutes into the Duke-Miami game, the Dukies are 4 of 15 on 3-balls (y’know, if Duke misses 4 of its next 6 threes, its percentage from beyond the arc will go from 26 percent to 28 percent, so … keep chucking, Melchionni, ya big piece o’ crap … )
Oh, and, 11 minutes into the Ohio State-Penn State game, the hoping-for-a-No.-1-seed-which-they-definitely-don’t-deserve Blackeyes have seven points (0 of 6 on threes).
I had to click away from ABC’s Big Ten tourney before Steve Lavin’s axle-greased hair tried to tell me how PSU’s 2-3 zone was stymying the Blackeyes.

Note to Lavs: In his past 10 games, Matt Sylvester is 8 of 36 on treys. You could put two beanbag chairs, a file cabinet and a potted plant out on the floor and Matt's still gonna clank it from 3-land, my man!
Addendum to the Note to Lavs: Going into today, in the seven games that Jekel Foster has played since he had that 3-game hot streak where he was 21 of 27 "from distance," he's 7 of 38 (18 percent) from that same "distance."
And, he's 0 of 5 today, which makes him 7 of 43 ... which means that if he misses 14 of his next 17 treys (which I predict he will), he can raise his recent 8-game, 3-point shooting percentage from 16.27906 percent to 16.66666 percent.
Go for it, J-Fost!
Keep me posted, Lavs!

Wait! Here's another fun one recently unearthered ... in the 10 games that Duke won between the loss to Georgeclown and the loss to Fla. St., Lee Melchionni was 4 of 26 on three balls. Although he found his stroke against FSU and UNC (5 of 9), he started off today's game against Miami by clanking two in the game's first 30 seconds.
My fave chucker of ’05-’06, however, HAS to be Colin Falls of Notre Dame. That guy doesn’t even pretend to be anything but a chucker. The other night against Georgeclown, Falls scored nine points on two threes and by sinking three foul shots after getting fouled while shooting a three.
At that point, ND led, 11-0 as Georgeclown was 0 of 12 from the floor (0 of 6 from downtown).
At 13:18, Falls hit another 3 (to go 3 for 3), but, then after missing a trey at the 8:40 mark, he went the next 11:41 without attempting a shot.

Falls drained three 3’s in the span of 1:47 (he was 6 of 9 on threes at that point) … but then he missed a three at 11:26 … and then he missed another at 8:07 … and then he didn’t attempt another shot for the next 8:04, missing a three with :03 to play (when the Irish were down by four).

That’s the new math … make three 3’s, miss three 3’s, make three 3’s, miss three 3’s, don’t take a shot for stretches of 11:41 and 8:04, don’t rebound, don’t pass, maybe get back on D, maybe not, maybe commit a reach-in foul, whatever …
In 28 games this season, Falls attempted almost 9 treys per game and two 2-pointers per game.
In the three games leading up to the Georgeclown defeat, Falls had made 3 of 16 threes. And, in his final four games, he averaged 31 minutes and totalled 2 rebounds.
Talk about being bolted to the 3-point line.

If Falls doesn’t turn pro, Mike Brey should have an open competition at the shooting guard between Falls and the incoming freshman … Jason McElwain of Greece Athena High in suburban Rochester, NY.
Because of McElwain's autism, he might not equal his career high 6-of-10 from 3-point range in that 4-minute span vs. Southport, but, then again, McElwain is considered "highly functioning" (even though he was benched for the playoffs).
If we're going to mainstream the kid, we need to create autism awareness by working him into the Notre Dame backcourt mix.

I'm out.
I'm gonna check it out and see if there's an all-night Yahtzee tournament or a "Nash Bridges" marathon ...

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