March Madness is the busiest time of year at The Shadow League. While we love to see young men and women make their childhood dreams come true while cutting down the nets, it is the opportunity to speak with some of the game’s most accomplished sports analysts that ranks particularly high for me. I have personally interviewed college basketball analyst Len Elmore multiple times over the years, and did so once again recently.
He has a trove of knowledge on basketball and life. Very few people can discuss the game within the game on the low blocks like Elmore. So, every year I dive right in with questions about the constantly evolving state of centers and power forwards in the professional and collegiate games. The jewels he drops are high quality, Grade A certified fresh. Sometimes, you gotta let a teacher teach and just fall back. Here is what he told me during our recent sit-down.
On College Basketball Post Players:
“I wouldn’t go as far as saying big men are useless. I think that the unfortunate part about it is there aren’t enough teachers of quality post play out there. Therefore, we have a lot of bigs with a lot of talent but aren’t polished. They come out as unfinished products. The other element would be that there are a lot of copycats and a lot of euro players coming in.
Euro bigs like to stand outside and shoot threes to spread the floor, if you will. There are more people who can teach that face up kind of game than there are people who know how to teach back-to-the-basket. But, I will say this, for every outstanding guard whose team does something positive, and when I say positive I mean getting in the tournament and going someplace, most of them, not all of them, but most of them have serviceable big men.
You look at one of the top candidates for player of the year, (Kansas) Frank Mason. But they’ve got Landen Lucas in the middle and a couple of other guys who are really good on the frontline. Look at (Kentucky) De’Aaron Fox, Edrice Adebayo is his guy. Look at Florida State with Dwayne Bacon and others. They’ve all got decent frontline players. You can go up and down the list of the nation’s best teams and find this. Also, it’s vice versa; quality big men have good guards.
Purdue big man Caleb Swanigan wouldn’t be able to get the looks he does unless his guards are able to get him the ball and play with him. My point is there aren’t enough quality teachers. So, you’re not going to have the dominance of big men per se. But, I wouldn’t say that they’re useless. When you look at those top four teams, with the exception of Villanova, a lot of them do have guys who can get the job done. They’re just not dominant.”
On the Lack of Qualified Coaches of Big Man Fundamentals:
“You’ve got a couple guys, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Patrick Ewing, but they haven’t gotten the opportunities. I’m not sure why not, and maybe that’s the interpersonal relationships with other coaches who were former players at one time. Maybe that’s why.
But, I think on the college level, there’s no real excuse for that not to happen. I think basketball is a copycat sport. People look at some of these things that are successful and try to model their team’s personnel structure and strategic tactics after a particular team.”
On Recruiting Young Post Players:
“Every coach will tell you, if you got a quality big man they would want him. But there aren’t enough of them to go around. The point that I’m making about college actually filters back to high school. That’s where it all begins.
Now, there’s some good basketball players coming up as big men, there’s a young man in New York out of Archbishop Molloy (Moses Brown) who’s a quality big man. There are also a few other guys across the country. But they are few and far between because they lack the tutelage.”
On Not Coaching Despite Being Beyond Qualified:
“It’s too late for me to do that now. The closest thing that I get to doing that now is what I do on television and hopefully I can use that as a bully pulpit.”
We’ll have more from Len Elmore to coincide with our extensive NCAA college basketball coverage here at The Shadow League over the next few weeks.