ACC Rookies Of The Week, and A Perfectly Unconventional Motion Offense
By Austin Tedesco / Asst. Sports Editor
The best freshmen in the country, guys like Michigan’s Trey Burke, the wunderkinds at Kentucky, and that Duke guard who torched Boston College Sunday night, have all struggled with consistency this season. They’ve played incredibly for long stretches, but it’s impossible for even the most elite rookies to always be on their game the same way more mature and experienced players can. Although the young guns may carry more talent, upperclassmen better understand how to achieve consistent play especially on the offensive end.
Steve Donahue’s unconventional motion offense has mainly struggled this season because his freshmen haven’t been able to achieve that greatly desired consistent play. Back in December, shooting guard Lonnie Jackson was named ACC Rookie of the Week after having a few huge scoring nights, finding an unconscious touch from beyond the arc. Last month, center Dennis Clifford dropped 19 on Clemson and then followed it up with impressive offensive performances against Virginia Tech and NC State to gain BC’s second Rookie of the Week honors. Power forward Ryan Anderson grabbed the award this week, after two straight games with at least 20 points. Point guard Jordan Daniels has played well enough to earn his own share of the honor, but a lot of times his games don’t transfer well to box scores.
The unfortunate, although unsurprising, thing for the Eagles is that rarely do all of these guys have solid offensive performances on the same night. This isn’t because they can’t play well together or because there aren’t enough shots to go around, because they can and there are, but simply because as inexperienced players, each one of them is bound to have some rough nights. It’s exciting to think of what Donahue’s system could look like at its best though, something that likely won’t occur until next year but will be a beautiful sight when it happens. Here’s a sneak peek:
Daniels has probably had the streakiest season of any BC player this year. Against some teams he’s in complete control and puts his teammates in position to score while creating looks on his own coming off ball screens. Against other teams he can become turnover-prone and look out of sync with the other guys on the court. When Daniels cements himself as a true point guard, the offense should flow through him with ease. He can kick to the wing and cut through the lane, allowing someone else to create the offense, or he can initiate it himself in a pick-and-roll with Clifford or Anderson. Both of the big men have the potential to roll to the rim to force a 2-on-1 or to pop and drain a three pointer. Daniels also does a great job of starting the fast break, allowing the Eagles to score in transition, especially when it comes to finding Jackson in rhythm for a quick three. As the season has gone on, Daniels has started to figure out how every guy needs to be set up in order to thrive. Once he completely figures them out he’ll be a dangerous point guard.
The most recent Rookie of the Week is likely the best and most dynamic scoring threat the Eagles have. He’s a better three-point shooter than fellow big man Clifford. He finishes at the rim better than any other BC player while having little trouble there despite his size. He can attack from the elbow or from the block. His turnaround jumper is slowly becoming a staple that will be tough to defend. Time after time, he’s come inches away from finishing breath-taking dunks. He’s also a competent screener and has a good connection with Daniels when running pick-and-roll. I would be surprised if anyone else leads BC in scoring next year.
While I firmly believe Clifford can knock down some 3-pointers if left open, his offense is going to come camped out on the low block. Clifford’s scoring early in conference play came from turning around and shooting over shorter defenders. Eventually, teams caught on to this strategy and took it away from Clifford, leading to the center’s recent struggles. Right now he looks a little awkward trying to make post moves. His up-and-under doesn’t have the right flow yet and his pump-fake isn’t as believable as Anderson’s. With a little more muscle and some work on his agility he should be able to finesse and power his way through any big man in the ACC. When he begins commanding more attention and double teams down low, it’ll open up scoring opportunities for the rest of the Eagles.
While Jackson has proven at times he can create his own shots, I think he’s most successful as a guy that plays directly off of what his teammates create. When the ball goes inside, he repositions on the arc and can hit an open three better than anyone on the roster. If the defender closes out too hard, he has the ability to pump fake and drive past him. In transition, he is becoming a guaranteed three points if a defender doesn’t pick him up quick enough. Jackson’s offense is best suited filling up the in between spaces left by the rest of his teammates.
Matt Humphrey seems comfortable in his role as a reliable defender, rebounder, and three-point shooter. As the younger players come into their own, he won’t need to create on his own nearly as much as he does right now. Patrick Heckmann should be able to step right in as an excellent sixth man at the start of next season, providing little drop off in offensive production whenever he subs in. Donahue is bringing in some promising recruits, while guys like Eddie Odio and John Cain Carney have gotten time this season, preparing them to provide spurts of relief when necessary. When all of these players can combine to become a consistent offensive unit, they are going to be really tough to stop and should pack Conte with fans ready to see their explosive play, rather than big names in a light or dark shade of blue.