How Short is Too Short?

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With Miles Overton (wrist) out for the season and Kari Jonsson (knee) out indefinitely, the Dragons have four guards left for three spots (apologies to Sam Green).  Three of those guards have been playing the point at parts of the season, leaving Sammy Mojica as the one pure wing on the team.  In the game versus Elon, the Phoenix saw the Dragons with Kurk Lee at the point, Sammy Mojica at the three and a rotation of John Moran and Major Canady filling Kari Jonsson’s old spot at the two.   Those two combined to go 1 of 14 from the field in the contest, a cold shooting night that was an anchor on what was an otherwise solid effort from the patchwork Dragons.

That game was a microcosm.  In the four games without Overton and Jonsson, Canady and Moran have shot 0/8 from inside the arc (0% for you non-Drexel grads), and 7/27 (26%) from behind the arc.  In the game against Towson where Kari got hurt, they took an 0-fer.  In the five games before Kari’s injury, the team the team had been clicking, and not only had they been averaging 1.14 points per possession, the best output Drexel has seen in years, but they didn’t have one game below 1.12 points per possession.  In the Towson game and the four games since, they’ve averaged just .94 points per possession, a season low for any five game stretch, and they haven’t come close to hitting 1.12 ppp in any of the contest.  It’s night and day.

This is a team that’s not going to win games with its defense.  They have to score, and they’re currently not doing that.  When playing like they were prior to the injury, they were a 10 seed that had bite and was probably under seeded.  Playing as they have down the stretch, they are every bit deserving of that 10 seed.

Major Canady has grinded (not a word) through this season.  He’s been fearless no matter how many braces and sleeves are on his body, he’s shown the heart of a champion and the given the team much needed minutes when asked.  He’s shown a handle on the ball, the ability to break the press and to run his team’s offense.  What he hasn’t shown is shooting prowess, and the cause is simple: He’s not a shooter.  But against an aggressive pressing team like James Madison, he’s a great asset to have on the court.  He gives the offense calm, and he ensures a steady hand when he’s at the point.

On the flip side, Kirk Lee has struggled against James Madison.  While the 9 turnovers in the first meeting stick out like a sore thumb, it’s the 5 total assists that are sneaky.  That’s the least number of assist he’s had against any CAA opponent.  However, Lee has shot the ball just fine against JMU, and in the last 5 games Lee is shooting 10/31 (32%) from inside the arc but 17/40 (43%) from outside.  Kurk has moved himself into the top 10 in the entire league in three point shooting, joining one other teammate – Kari Jonsson.

The scoring decrease showed it’s ugly face suddenly when Jonsson left.  And while fans will hope for Kari’s return in the tournament, it’s imperative that the Dragons fill his shoes if they want to compete in a pillow fight Friday game.  Giving those shots to Moran and Canady is not a plan for success, this seems abundantly clear.  Taking Kurk Lee off the ball and letting a shooter play the shooter – is an aggressive, and perhaps overly aggressive play.  The team might not be playing for this year and maybe the staff is OK taking an L in return for getting Lee key experience at his natural position.  But if they do want to win in South Carolina, maybe it’s time to let Major Canady play where he belongs, while putting the teams best shooter where the best shooter belongs, size be damned.

There is an inkling that something is changing.  Against James Madison in the home finale fans saw Kurk Lee receive a pass at the top of the key, ready to shoot an open look three.  That was a drawn up play and a sign that the coaching staff may laugh at a move as drastic as a position change, but still acknowledges the need to adapt.  There can be a middle ground here but one thing is clear: something needs to change and at this time of year it needs to be done right – there’s no second chances.

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3 Comments

  1. So do you think that Sam Green won’t contribute much if Kari isn’t back? From what limited action we’ve seen from him, he seems to have a good shot and does provide some size on the wing. It is not like he is going to be a superstar (or he would have been playing before) but maybe he can have a Kennel Sanchez-like breakout.

  2. This is a little crazy, but I like it as a temporary measure in this situation. There’s way more value to both Lee and the team to take your best shot at winning and moving on than the small amount of personal development that may occur by giving Lee a few more minutes at his natural position. This isn’t soccer where playing a wildly new formation disrupts the entire team. Spend this week getting Lee comfortable with at least a few plays where he’s making things happen off of the ball, and then give it a try. Nothing says that you have to stick with that adjustment if it’s not working. (But I’d argue there’s nowhere for the offense to go but up, so there’s little risk.)

  3. WB, I’m not sure what to make of Sam Green. We’ll talk about this when we get to the DU tourney preview, but playing Green last week was either a move of desperation and to take some minutes off of Sammy in a week that they took their foot off the gas to tourney prep, or a headfake to get other programs planning for a guy who won’t play. I don’t believe the staff thinks Green is ready and I believe they don’t want to use him unless forced. Now, if Kari is out and they want to keep Lee at the 1, then there may be no other choice, as indicated in the article. And in that case this is a different discussion.

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