Who’s got next?
Point guard? Check. Stat sheet stuffer? Check. With a couple of “projects” completed, what needs to be next on Calipari’s to-do list? You could make an argument for a few different things, but personally, I think it’s time for Calipari to designate a perimeter defender on this team.
During the Elston Turner show yesterday, there were five times in the second half that the Cats had the lead and the chance to close out the game, yet each time, an Aggie (typically Turner) answered and effectively killed our momentum. Calipari has talked at length about how the Cats don’t know how to “stop the bleeding,” and a perimeter defender, a la DeAndre Liggins and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, would be the most effective way to put a halt to a team on a run while simultaneously getting the Cats hyped enough to close out a game.
So who’s the best candidate for the position? Alex Poythress could cause matchup problems because of his size (6-7, same as MKG), and Ryan Harrow has shown signs of thievery-potential recently, with four steals against Eastern Michigan and at least one in eight out of eleven games he’s played in. However, Archie Goodwin should be Calipari’s target for the Kentucky Wildcat’s version of “Made”- and here’s why.
Length. At 6-5, Archie is a good size to guard the opposing ball-handler. With a 6-10 wingspan, he’s not quite as long as MKG or Liggins, but he still has the ability to aggravate his man and wear him down until the dribbler makes a mistake. And when he does, Archie has great…
Breakaway speed. Archie is the quickest player on the team, with or without the ball. Once he elicits a fumble from the other team’s guard, he’ll be off quicker than you can say “burrr.” His incredible athleticism and ability to finish at the rim in a variety of breathtaking ways greatly increase the “points off turnovers” column of the stats sheet. Nerlens may lead the team in steals, but he’s not the one we want barreling down the court with the ball (remember the collective gasp when he hit the goalpost in Saturday’s game? Yikes). Archie Gonzales gets it done.
Edge. Alternatively known as the Liggins Factor. Archie is probably a perfectly nice young gentleman off the court, but while he’s playing, I’m scared of him. Maybe it’s the tattoos. Maybe it’s the complete lack of even a hint of a smile on his face. Regardless, Archie has the ability to intimidate his opponent and as sports psychologists are fond of saying, 90% of the game is mental (something I think we’re all realizing from watching this team play so far).
So if Archie already has all of the above qualities, what will Calipari need to coach him on? Patience. Archie tends to get overexcited. On the offensive end, that’s manifested in wild circus shots that hit the shot clock. Defensively, if he lunges for a ball too soon or missteps off the dribble, the team gets scored on. Archie needs to learn how to outlast a defender by staying in front of him and not falling for any fakes until the opportunity arises to go for the right steal. After Camp Cal, Archie should be in good enough shape to match any other player’s endurance; he’ll need to learn the art of waiting for the other player to mess up before becoming our go-to perimeter defender.
Calipari likes aggressive, up-tempo defense to supplement his dribble-drive offense. Archie Goodwin could be the key to this team achieving that defensive tenacity we’ve come to know and love from Cal’s teams. Archie, it’s time to go to work.