Don’t dismiss our backcourt players

By Shawn Ma

0Los Angeles Times sportswriter Eric Sondheimer recently blasted our basketball team for not having a “competent guard” to complement our talented front line. According to Sondheimer, our guards struggle to “make a shot or dribble the ball without making a turnover.”

I guess it’s true that we currently don’t have a great “true” point guard. Many of our guards are score-first and pass-second players, but Jordan Butler ’11, Nicky Firestone ’11, Josh Hearlihy ’12, and newcomer Danilo Dragovic ’11 can all successfully run the point.

Butler, the current starter at point guard, is a better fit as a shooting guard but is trying to make a permanent transition to the point. He has the quickness, handles and shot to be a quality point guard this year.

However, he’s still unpolished as a true point. Butler can usually break down his defender and get to the paint but needs to work on his decision making and passing once he gets there. Throughout the fall league games, he’s been working on improving as a distributor. His development has been highlighted by an impressive fall league game in which he threw three perfect lobs for buckets and catalyzed countless other plays.

Many fans remember what Firestone did during his sophomore season. He was integral to our CIF championship and deep run in the state playoffs in 2008. His defense, slashing and three-point shooting were nearly the best on the squad. Injuries sidelined him last year when he suffered several shoulder injuries and then an ACL tear.

He’s already returned to football practice and hopes to be at full strength once Mission League begins. He’s a proven three-point shooter (40 percent in 2008-09) and can break a press single-handedly. If he can return to his pre-injury form, Firestone will be the reliable point guard Sondheimer is looking for.

Both 6’7″ Hearlihy and 6’5″ Dragovic also take turns running the point and both present huge mismatches for opposing point guards. Dragovic, viewed as a three-point specialist, proved he was capable of running the point during a fall league game against Price High School, one of the best teams in California. Hearlihy’s improving all-around game makes him a threat as a distributor and a scorer.

We might not have the prototypical point guard, but to say we don’t have guards with handles and a good shot is absurd.

Our guards won’t slow us down. The talent at all the positions is there. We need to improve our team chemistry, focus and experience that comes with playing stogether. Hopefully we’ll resolve all this by the time league and playoffs roll around.