The current era in sports is one of specialization. A baseball team has a closer, a righty setup man, a lefty specialist, a designated lefthanded pinch hitter and more. In football there are “in the box” run stuffing safeties and over the top cover guys. There are field goal specialist while others handle kickoffs and passing down running backs.
A passing down running back is a player whose only job it is to participate in plays where the team won’t be running.
Oddly, this era of specialization hasn’t intruded far into the basketball space yet. There’s the occasional three point specialist (Kari “Iceman” Jonsson says hello) and in the games closing minutes one might see some offense/defense substitutions, but that’s about it. Coaches don’t have a point guard for when he wants to run uptempo and another for slowing things down. Nor does any coach have a set of forwards for defense and another set for offense. Some of that is due to the fact that fouls are limited, and substitution opportunities don’t come as often as they do in football, but some of this is also just inefficiency. The 11th, 12th, and 13th guys on a college roster can play a role and in the future they will need to play a role. Not every player needs to be an All-CAA player, but in an era of specialization, contributions need to come from every roster spot.
For some teams, that may mean carrying two end of the bench shooters who aren’t athletic and can’t defend particularly well. When that team is down 3 late and needs to spread the floor, that is their time. Alternatively, perhaps a coach carries an undersized ballhandler and free throw specialist for press breaking when leading late. The day of only playing 7-8 guys will become a thing of the past. The best teams will be able to get contributions out of 1-13.
The reader may ask why this Isn’t an offseason recruiting story? Why write this during the season?
Miles Overton has not been a world beater this year. The turnover production competes with only the largest of bakeries. The shooting success is rivaled only by montages of “The A-Team” and yet the shots keep coming. Confidence is not a concern. The coaching staff may consider taking advantage of that confidence, because Overton also has, by far, the greatest combination of size, strength and athleticism of the Drexel guards. He has been the teams best free throw shooter in the early season, and at High Point the ball went to him when the Panthers were intentionally fouling late in the game.
When a player has God given gifts that can make him an elite defender, and the discipline that it takes to be an elite free throw shooter, he becomes a player that a coach loves to have on the court late in games. He is basketball’s version of the closer. In that role, Miles Overton could be elite, and a pioneer in this area of specialization. It may mean a moderate decrease in his minutes over the course of the game – he can’t get into foul trouble – but with a late lead, Zach Spiker can add a lockdown defender and elite free throw shooter to the game in place of an undersized three point specialist, or another guard who is in foul trouble. What a weapon that can be.
Coach Spiker is still working on roles, and fans are seeing minutes move around the team as he continues to tinker early. But in bringing Overton off the bench and feeding him the ball late at High Point he may have finalized one role.