Zone Press? Oh, yeah!


Eventually it was going to happen.  We all knew it, but have been to afraid to say something out loud that might somehow jinx the undefeated Jayhawks. At times, it seemed like Bill Self was the lone voice shouting into a hurricane,  with statements to the effect that this team thought it could outscore anybody, and that was frightening to him.  Sooner or later, this team was going to have to show they could play defense, too.

Last night, the defense finally showed up, and Kansas strung two superb halves together for the first time all year.  After so many games that have been played far too close for comfort, last night’s victory didn’t seem like it was played from a movie script, designed to wring every last bit of drama from it.  While all of Kansas’ opponents this year have been outclassed by the Jayhawks athleticism and offensive talent, the UMKC game was the first to feature defense as the key ingredient in the win.  After only practicing the zone press defense for ‘a couple of days,’ according to Tyshawn Taylor, the Jayhawks seemed to have mastered it in short order.

Even though the zone press has been around nearly as long as basketball itself…

As great as Wooden’s press was, as Jayhawk fans who certainly appreciated him pouring the concrete for Memorial stadium while becoming friends with Dr. Naismith & Phog Allen while he was here for a summer, we must also remember where the full court press started….

Right here in Lawrence. Assistant Coach Harp (previously a KU player) got that ball rolling during a practice one day with head coach Phog Allen reeling with frustration at other teams attempting to burn the entire clock while plodding the ball up the court.

Coach Harp said to Phog….

“Why not try this?”

And he sent four of his defenders into backcourt against two of Kansas’ offensive players, simulating an inbounds play. Harp’s strategy wreaked havoc on the Kansas starters in practice. And on the opposing teams starters during games. And suddenly our offense, thanks to this practice, became very adept at moving the ball up the court quickly if need be. We became “The Jayhawk Machine, version VII”!!!

Wooden has always given Coach Harp at Kansas credit for this beautiful invention.

…there are very few teams that have had the depth to institute it full time.  This Jayhawk team, even playing without Thomas Robinson, due to a death in his family, showed that they just might be that special team who can apply a full court press throughout an entire game, without over-tiring.  With the limited minutes that the players are competing for, we’ve hardly seen anyone, beyond the twins, break a sweat on the court.

Perhaps this was a one-game punishment by Bill Self for his team’s lack of focus on the defensive side of the ball, maybe it was just an experiment… either way, with the results last night, it is hard to argue against implementing a full court press full time.  Kansas certainly has the athletes to do it.

Tags: Bill Self Coaching Kansas Kansas Jayhawks Marcus Morris Phog Allen Tyshawn Taylor University Of Missouri–Kansas City

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