Says Seattle coach Anne Donovan of players like Texas power forward Tiffany Jackson, "They can go down low and back-to-the-basket you or they can face up and create some things. They’ll ... be great because of their diversity and versatility."
CLEVELAND, March 30, 2007 -- Several big post players really stood out in the morning session on Friday at Cleveland State's Woodling Gym. Why? Well, because they're big. But also because they're good. Your Gillian Gorings, your Antoinette Wellses, your Nare Diawaras.
Several other bigs, like Ohio State's Jessica Davenport and Duke's Alison Bales, are projected to go near the top of the first round in Wednesday's WNBA Draft.
But there's another breed of big. One perhaps a bit smaller. One that can dribble, pass, shoot, take its opponents to the hoop and play all over the court. One that fits the Lisa Leslie, Lauren Jackson, Tina Thompson sort of mold.
"Most post players are known for just posting up, but a versatile post is harder to guard," says Bernice Mosby of Baylor, a projected first-round pick, and a 6-1 forward capable of playing all over the court. "You don't know what they're going to do."
Jillian Robbins of Tulsa, another 6-1 forward comfortable both on the wing and the low post, agrees. "It makes you hard to guard if you're the type of post player who can actually hit your teammates with a pass when they're open."
Washington Mystics coach Richie Adubato sees the trend toward versatility becoming more widespread in the sport.
"It's like what's happening in the NBA now. Your centers are (becoming) outside shooters. You don't find too many centers like Shaquille O'Neal, who I had down in Orlando, these days: the big, strong, inside guys who play with their backs to the basket. Most of the centers now are more versatile than they were before."
"Basketball has really changed into a more diverse game," Seattle Storm coach Anne Donovan concurs. "People who can play multiple positions are far more valuable than just a one-position player. Tiffany Jackson (of Texas) and Bernice Mosby are both great examples of that. They can go down low and back-to-the-basket you or they can face up and create. They'll both be great because of their diversity and versatility."
Phoenix Mercury coach Paul Westhead agrees. "Everybody wants to be a point guard," he says, "because if you have the ball, you're in control. But the big players have improved their skills. They can pass, cut and dribble. They don't like being segmented as just a post player."
Some onlookers had a different perspective.
"I'm in the opposite camp," deadpans Detroit Shock coach and GM Bill Laimbeer. "I want big and strong and fast and able to dominate in the low box, rather than a perimeter center like, say, a Phoenix would want. I'm on a different page. I want to play power basketball. I want size, strength and speed."
Laimbeer isn't alone. "Versatility is always useful," states San Antonio Silver Stars coach/GM Dan Hughes, "but I look for something that I know they're going to be successful with in our league. If they have that one thing, that's more important to me than having versatility to do a lot of things reasonably well.
New Houston Comets coach and GM Karleen Thompson chimed in as well. "I like the old-fashioned fives that like to get down low and get dirty and bang in the paint. We have some versatile post players on our team, so I need the opposite: someone who's going to be all big and rebound."
Some coaches and teams want versatile big and some want big big. Fine. Just a difference of opinion. A difference of philosophy.
But is a versatile post player good for the sport? Adubato ponders the potential harm of becoming too versatile. "Now they start at a young age at camps and they indoctrinate them on the outside, and many don't develop their inside game," he points out.
"They should be experts at that, because the game is still played inside-out. The shots are still down inside… the inside players should be shooting from 55-60%. Versatility is important, but inside should be the focus."
And despite the importance placed on versatility, especially with Donovan's up-tempo, fast-paced team in Seattle, there's still something special about big, powerful, strong centers.
"Players like Bales and Davenport are special bigs," she says. "And we'll always be attracted to that kind of size."