Having watched Andrea Bargnani improve so much over the last three months, I'm struck that the biggest key to the Toronto Raptor's improvement might very well be his new-found ability to pull up on the drive and hoist up a pretty deadly 10-footer.
Look around the NBA. It's not the most common capability out there. Often, players just continue the drive and get called for charging. Others, including Bargnani as recently as the fall, would stop and then throw up some wild under-handed scoop shot ... when not continuing on into the offensive foul. And others still, have perfected the clank, as their shot turns into a slingshot boomeranging into the backcourt. Like I said, it's a talent.
It also made me think back to my days covering high school basketball in town. The best coaches at the time were Gerry Thompson at my alma mater, Bramalea, and Sandy Roland, who bopped around, but came to the forefront at Central Peel. I won't settle the arguement as to who was best. Even in their 70's, I would expect a spirited battle from the one whom I didn't choose. Suffice it to say, both were very good coaches. (I didn't play for Thompson. Doug Patterson was senior coach during my time at BSS. And Patterson's biggest compliment to a player was, "Good hit!" He was a former semi-pro football player [G])
But I wonder if maybe I'm overlooking the man who might have been the actual best coach in town. Al Brown, the principal at J.A. Turner also coached girls' basketball. His squads frequently were in the girls' finals and they weren't always the most athletic team in the division. One of his drills that seemed silly at the time, now makes more sense through the lens of time. He'd have his lay-up line almost never do lay-ups. Instead, the girl would run pell-mell for a spot on the lane just a couple of feet in front of the foul line. Then she'd jump straight up and hoist up a jump shot. Once in a while, they'd actually practice with a player holding a broom stick if they were about to play a team with a tall centre. The girls subsequently made a LOT of those shots come game time. And they didn't get called for charging all that often. He might have been as polite a guy as was ever born, but Brown proved gentlemen made good coaches too. (Again, not to suggest Roland and Thompson weren't gentlemen, they were just a little more competitively demonstrative, if you know what I mean).
We don't see the pull-up jumper on the run all that often anymore. Just like the old-fashioned hook shot, as compared to the running hook in vogue today. It's all dunks (layups for the girls) and three-point shots. Some of these other skills, like making short jump shots without charging, are seemingly forgotten.
Guess it takes an old coot like me to remember when doing like Bargnani's been doing, wasn't all that remarkable.