Guarding hoops even in a suit and tie.
Although he gets a lot of people talking about his offensive scheme, the Dribble Drive Motion, Calipari is really a defense-first coach. Good defense leads to easy offense, and over the last few years, the defensive efficiency of his Wildcat teams has been overwhelming. One of the big story lines for last year’s championship team was that the offense was actually better than the defense, which came as something of a surprise, especially considering Anthony Davis’s propensity to clean up the inside.
Great defensive teams often need that catalyst player to spark the other four guys on the floor to hustle on every single play and not take possessions “off.” Under Cal’s tenure, the two guys that stand out as defensive stoppers are DeAndre Liggins and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist. Both were pretty capable offensively (I don’t think you could get drafted into the NBA otherwise), but they really buttered their bread with defense. There was little better than watching Liggins get ready to guard a team’s best player with that signature defensive pose. Earlier this summer, our own Ally Tucker wondered if this year’s team would have a “stopper” of the same quality as Liggins or MKG, and if so, who it would be. Alex Poythress and Archie Goodwin were two of the guys that stood out, just based on their size and athleticism alone.
But according to CoachCal.com, a surprising player has decided it’s time for him to step up and make it his job to make the other team miserable. Apparently, second-year ‘Cat Twany Beckham is ready to wreak havoc.
“That’s the role I think I can fill,” Beckham said in an exclusive interview with CoachCal.com. “That’s the role I want to take. I love to play defense. I’m fierce and aggressive. Just anything to help my team, I’m going to go out there and do it.”
If offseason practices and individual skill instruction sessions are any indication, Calipari is both hoping and believing that Beckham can be a go-to defensive player. In workouts with Harrow, Calipari has called on Beckham to guard Harrow and make life uneasy for the projected starter.
Beckham has responded with unrelenting physical defense. He’s forced Harrow to adjust his game and play to his strengths, exactly what the coaching staff was hoping would materialize from the matchup.
Beckham, at 6’5″, 200 lbs., has the size to be a great defender at the guard position, especially at the college level. But good defense isn’t just size. The “defensive stopper” is a unique job: it’s a mindset as much as it is a physical attribute. You have to get inside heads and frustrate other players. That’s why guys like Ron Artest and Dennis Rodman (one of my favorite players ever) were so good on the defensive end. Does Twany have what it takes to not just play, but talk like Liggins did? To hustle and sacrifice like MKG did? He believes he does.
“I’ve got to take everything I’ve learned the last two years I’ve been here. … Now I’ve just got to work hard and jell with my teammates and have a good season.”
If Cal is your coach, being a good defender is one of the surest ways to make sure you see the floor. It looks like Twany knows that, and is trying to earn himself some minutes. I love it. Twenty-nine days until Big Blue Madness.