Our culture likes to focus on high scoring in sports. The NHL tried to change the rules in its game to allow for more goal-scoring in order to attract fans. Soccer is considered a boring sport because their games usually end with a score no higher than 2-1, but in contrast, we are highly entertained by a 121-119 NBA basketball game.
This culture of high-scoring has permeated sports so much that people tend to forget the other important aspect of a game: defense. People have admired strong defensive teams such as the Pittsburgh Steelers and their “Steel Curtain” days, but typically, defense is not the sexiest part of a sport.
The issue of the lack of defensive knowledge seemed to affect the AU women’s basketball team, so I spoke with two players, Raven Harris and Ashley Yencho, and their head coach Matt Corkery. In discussing their upcoming season, I tried to find out where they were when they came in terms of defensive talent and knowledge.
Sophomore point guard Raven Harris is certainly one of the better players on the team, coming from a strong high school basketball program at Princess Anne High School, who were champions every year she was on the team. Harris was also able to score over 1000 points during her high school career. She clearly had the type of offensive talent that can win games.
However, once she got on the AU team, Harris had difficulty adjusting to basketball at the college level.
“I was a couple steps behind,” Harris said about her struggles learning defense. When I asked her what she had to work on, she gave me a look and laughed, saying, “A lot.”
Junior point and shooting guard Ashley Yencho gave a similar response when asked what she needed to improve on defensively. She further explained that high schools (just like us sometimes) do not particularly care for defensive concepts.
“In high school,” said Yencho, “you only play a 2-3 zone or you play man.”
Nonetheless, both players feel as though they have improved immensely between the beginning of last season and this season. “Getting yelled at and reinforced really helped me out a lot,” Yencho said with regards to Corkery’s influence on her play.
Harris also added that she was getting better at defense, as Corkery has worked with her.
According to what I found then, players go through years of playing basketball, and no matter how well their program did, a player is still unprepared for the defensive responsibilities at the next level. That seems a little unfair. Of course, Coach Corkery agreed.
“Without sound defense, a team’s chances to win are greatly diminished. They don’t know when to be and where to be. They don’t know ‘come here’ from ‘sick ‘em.’”
Corkery seems baffled at the fact that high school coaches do not demand enough from their players on defense. I was too. So I asked him why he thought that was the case.
“A lot of coaches aren’t well-versed in defensive fundamentals of the game.” Corkery said. “It may be because they themselves just weren’t exposed to it, or it may be that they’re not taking the time to study the game.”
However, as previously mentioned, the issue is being dealt with, as players feel more confident in their defensive skills going into this season with Corkery as their head coach for now a second season. We will see how well the players have improved then, as Corkery implemented a stronger and more aggressive defensive style for this season.
Other aspects of the team should also be able to help them in their quest to top the Patriot League. The Lady Eagles’ players are riding on much improved team chemistry, and as the season goes on, they feel like that will carry them to better skill development through working together.
If the NCAA Tournament is the ultimate goal for the season for the Eagles, developing a strong defense might be their best bet in winning. After all, Drake says it best, "You gotta take that D!"
*horrible I know LOL!*...
And big ups to The U, Swagger U, the University of Miami, or however you'd like to address them for the 52-17 crushing of UVA. Made me quite pleased...
I refuse to make mention of the Capitals as well. I'm going to let that one ride out until they consistently perform the way they played last night against the Panthers, winning last night against the division opponent 4-1