By Dave Mast
Putting the kibosh on lightening-quick guards who can work magic with a basketball in their hands has often been a task requiring a defender to be, shall we say, hands on.
In the upcoming 2014-2015 basketball season, that will be a big no-no, and will draw the whistle of one of the friendly officials who have been tutored to eliminate hand-checking on the defensive end of the floor.
Hand-checking has been a long-time favorite of defensive players, allowing them to not only keep an offensive player in front of them, but often times slowing down penetration and the rhythm of their opponent.
This season, the Ohio High School Athletic Association has said no more to those hand-checking perpetrators, meaning they will have to work doubly hard in finding new and inventive ways to keep people from blowing by them.
That may include an inordinate number of foul calls.
While it has yet to be seen, with the OHSAA cracking down on the art of hand-checking, teams may well have to change their teaching tactics on defense, and it could even lead to a change in defensive philosophy, according to Hiland coach Mark Schlabach.
“We always have focused on our depth, but I think this year it becomes even more key because you are going to see teams getting into foul trouble because of the new rules,” said Schlabach.
Schlabach said that referees have already been calling things closely to try to eliminate hand-checking this preseason, and he believes that will continue into the regular season. He also fully expects fouls to rack up quickly, sending more than a few players to the bench.
The new ruling has already forced the Hiland coaching staff to alter its practices. Schlabach said that they have always encouraged their players to be very physical in practice sessions by letting them play without calling fouls. The coaching staff now call all kinds of fouls in practice in order to gain a better understanding of what they need to do on defense to adapt.
In addition to the elimination of playing one-on-one hands-on defense, Schlabach said the rule will also be a factor in which styles of defense teams choose to implement to stay out of foul trouble.
“To try to limit the fouling as much as possible, I think you will see a lot of teams moving away from hard man-to-man defens and moving more toward zone defenses,” said Schlabach. “You’ll probably see less man-to-man full court pressing and more zone presses. It is going to change the landscape of how team set up defensively. We all have to learn to deal with it.”
While Schlabach will continue to preach hard-nosed, in your face defense, the Hawks, like every other team in the OHSAA, will have to learn to do so without the time-honored art of hand-checking.
Because of the new rules, Schlabach said offensively they are trying to attack the basket more rather than sitting outside waiting for a 3-pointer.