During his tenure as head coach, Coach Self and his staff have proven themselves to be extremely capable at recruiting and developing players, but one area that disappoints me is the recruitment and development of elite ball handling guards. I can't recall many shooting guards or small forwards in recent memory that have been really elite off the bounce. Most of our top shooting guards and small forwards have been one-two dribble guys when they enter the program and leave with about the same level of ball handling ability. Some recent examples of this are Brandon Rush, Andrew Wiggins, Ben McLemore, Mario Little, and J.R. Giddens. While they were all very talented basketball players, I never felt comfortable watching them create their own shot.
To be fair, evaluating the staff’s ability to develop this skill is difficult to do as of late. Many of the elite wing players (Wiggins, McLemore, Henry, Selby, Giddens, Little) have not spent a lot of time in the program for one reason or another, and this makes assessing development challenging.
The question that needs to be asked is, why do our recruits lack high level ball skills? Is this representative of the type of player that our staff recruits? Do they put a premium on other skill sets such as defending? Is ball handling now viewed as a secondary or tertiary skill set? Are the KU offensive sets and schemes not attractive to an elite dribble drive guy?
In my opinion, the biggest contributing factor to this situation is our offensive identity. It is not a secret that the coaches like to go through the bigs and get the ball to the 2nd and 3rd side of the floor. I don’t think this style of offense attracts the player that looks to create his own shot off the dribble, and it likely doesn’t help the guys that are here develop that ability.
Perhaps this isn’t solely a KU problem. It’s hard not to notice the lack of players who are truly fundamentally sound these days. I believe this is a systemic issue that starts at the grass roots level. I fear training at an early age has strayed away from the key fundamentals. I also believe we are seeing a symptom of elite recruits. These young men possess such superior athletic ability and body control that they don't feel the need to focus on fundamentals to succeed at the high school and AAU levels. The truth is, a guy like Wiggins didn't need much more than a dribble or two to get the rim in high school or the AAU circuit. If I could have gotten to the rim with one dribble and a jump in high school, I probably wouldn't have dribbled either.
I have to think these issues dilute the talent pool with less fundamentally sound stars. It is very possible that you'll find more fundamentally sound players falling somewhere in the middle of the recruiting rankings where some of the less naturally talented players may hide.
Is this an issue you have noticed over the years? If so, why do you think this is the case and, if not, I want to hear where my observation is flawed.