WBB: Size Over Skill

In an article published for Full Court, Your Ticket Inside Women's Basketball, and entitled "Winning strategy equals boring (if not bad basketball)", Clay Kallam wrote "Athleticism erases skill-unfortunately".

After providing some excerpts from the above referenced article, an examination will be undertaken of the starting guards and major substitute(s) for one of these guards for the N.C. State women's basketball team over the last four years to see if what is written by Kallam applies.

Kallam noted that a

6-1 superior athlete with a minimal offensive arsenal can completely dominate a 5-9 player with great skills and court vision. Even if the 5-9 player is a three-point sharpshooter, she’ll very likely get outscored by the 6-1 athlete, who will get a few layups, a putback and shoot some free throws.

Rebounds? It’s obvious who gets more. Blocked shots? Steals? Same answer.

Kallan further noted that

what today’s women’s basketball comes down (to) are games like that awful 42-40 Georgia-South Carolina display ..., which featured 11 more turnovers than made shots. And despite that woeful one-for-20 three-point shooting, both of these SEC teams are in the top 20, and are likely to remain there all season.

Why? Because coaches know that the best way to win is have the taller, faster, stronger players, even if they can’t shoot and have only an average basketball IQ (or lower). In the end, the athlete overwhelms the canny wing player who can shoot threes and handle the ball well enough to make a YouTube video. To do either of those things, though, requires space, and that taller, faster, stronger defender is going to pin the lesser athlete into a smaller and smaller box until she can basically do nothing at all.

Kallan concluded that

this does more than make for unwatchable games, or allow Stanford to dare Cal’s entire roster to make shots by pretty much standing in the paint for 40 minutes,

it allows coaches to keep the paychecks coming with wins. Coaches

can recruit shooters and clever point guards if they want, but when the shooters and passers are faced with defenders who have nowhere near the level of skill but long arms, tall bodies, great leaping ability, incredible quickness and lots of speed, who’s going to be more effective?

Coach Kellie Harper's first recruiting class included five-four Myisha Goodwin-Coleman, a top fifty Hoopgurlz point guard; however, the remainder of the guards she recruited absent five-five transfer Le'Nique Brown included five-eleven Breezy Williams, five-nine Krystal Barrett, five-eleven Erica Donovan (who transferred after her freshman year), five-eleven Ashley Eli and five-eight point guard Miah Spencer. Coach Wes Moore has added five-eight Dominique Wilson who transferred from Arkansas. As shown by the preceding statistics, the trend for State women's basketball is for taller guards, if not taller and more athletic guards.

In 2009-2010 the women's basketball team for State had an overall record of 20-14 and a conference record of 7-7 finishing sixth in the standings. Mid-season Coach Harper moved five-nine Marissa Kastanek to the point guard position. With Kastanek at the point and five-eight Nakita Gartrell at the other guard position, State played for the ACC tournament championship and received a bid to the NCAA tournament. Five-eight Emili Tassler was the main substitute for either Kastanek or Gartrell. As such State's main guards were five-eight, five-nine and five-eight.

In 2010-2011, the State women's basketball team had an overall record of 14-17 and a conference record of 4-10 finishing tenth in the standings. The starting guards were five-four Myisha Goodwin Coleman and five-six Amber White, a McDonald's All American out of high school. Despite White having her best year for State, State had a losing season and did not get invited to either the WNIT tournament or NCAA tournament. Due to injury, five-eight Emili Tassler played in only 13 games.

In 2011-2012, the women's basketball team for N.C. State finished 19-16 overall and 5-11 in conference for a ninth place finish. The starting guards were five-four Myisha Goodwin Coleman and five-eight Emili Tassler. Five-nine Krystal Barrett substituted at the guard position along with five-eleven Erica Donovan. This team received a WNIT bid and went 1-1 in that tournament.

In 2012-2013, Harper's last year, State women's basketball had an overall record of 17-17, went 7-11 in conference and received a WNIT bid going 1-1 in that tournament. State finished eight in the conference. For most of the season five-four Myisha Goodwin-Coleman started at the point with five-nine Krystal Barrett starting at the shooting guard. Five-five Le'Nique Brown moved to the starting point guard late in the year. As such the guards were five-four Goodwin-Coleman, five-five Brown and five-nine Barrett.

From the above, State, in the last four years had their best record and second best record when the guards were taller and their two worst records when the guards were the smallest. Of course, athleticism plays a major part in this discussion and Nakita Gartrell in 2009-2010 while not a particularly good shooter (0.312) was very fast and a very good athlete. One thing for sure: small, slow guards hurt. Is Kallam right? Maybe so.

A final point is if one counts five-nine Marissa Kastanek, who played the three during the last three years of the four years in question, as a guard for 2011-2012, the 2011-2012 guards were the most athletic and tallest. This group included the aforementioned Kastanek, five-eight Emili Tassler, five-four Goodwin-Coleman, five-nine Krystal Barrett and five-eleven Erica Donovan. This team went 19-16 with wins over all three SEC teams that they played (South Carolina, Alabama and number 20 at the time Vanderbilt) plus a win over number 6 Duke in the ACC tournament.

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