Fundamental Work Paying Dividends For Knapper, WVU
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — West Virginia guard Brandon Knapper has been playing basketball for a long time — just as the vast majority of his teammates have been. They play basketball at a very advanced level, and it’s one that most of us can only marvel at. That doesn’t mean, however, that refresher courses in some of the basics aren’t needed.
While observers tend to think of improvements needing to be developed in learning the offense, understanding defensive schemes, making appropriate reads and the like, there’s just as much work to be done on fundamental skills as there is on advanced topics.
This might drag up old-school memories of setting up chairs for dribbling drills or lining up two-by-two to work on different sorts of passes, but the drills themselves aren’t important. It’s the reinforcement, the resharpening of those skills that carries weight.
“Everybody has to get better at something,” Knapper said as he recapped the Mountaineers’ practice emphasis to date. “Even if you have been working on [the basics] since you were young, you can get better every day.”
If that doesn’t resonate, think shooting. It’s one of the three fundamentals of the offensive game, and everyone knows how to do it. Yet, players still work on it (or should) religiously. Why should passing, cutting and other basic skills be any different?
The effects of this work has been showing in WVU’s assist and turnover totals as the season has progressed. Seemingly unable to throw a basic pass into the post in early games, the Mountaineers had a hideous 59 giveaways in their first three games. That number has steadily dropped, with WVU averaging just more than ten per contest over the last four.
Connected to that, assist totals have risen. In games two and three there were just 24 total, but over the last four contests 77 have been dished out.
Knapper has been part of that improvement, racking up five and seven in games against St. Joseph’s and Valparaiso while cutting his turnover total to three.
He agrees that the reinforcement work has helped, but also believes that getting more court time with teammates has helped.
“I think it was just team chemistry. We hadn’t played with each other a lot due to injury and guys not getting to play in the summer. It took us a couple of games to get our confidence with each other,” he detailed.
That education process will continue, especially as the Mountaineers continue to tinker with other lineups. WVU has played smaller rotations at times, and it won’t be a surprise to see three guards on the court in some situations. At one point in a recent game, Jermaine Haley was the tallest Mountaineer on the court.
Also helping in the recent game against Youngstown State was a look at some zone defense, including the 1-3-1,
“We got a chance to run a different type of offense going against the zone,” Knapper said. “That should help.”