Thursday, November 30, 2006

Keegan: Defense Rush’s strength


Ink-stained arms. Wanted to go straight to the pros. Never stayed at one high school for long. Came out of a prep school known far more for its basketball program than its academics.

Given those sketchy details, it wasn't difficult to formulate a guess as to what sort of player Kansas University was getting when the NCAA clearinghouse finally gave Brandon Rush the green light: A ballhog of a scoring machine who would carry himself in arrogant fashion, distance himself from teammates and do the bare minimum defensively in order to stay on the court.

Wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong and wrong.

Rush isn't a ballhog. KU coach Bill Self made him ride the treadmill throughout his freshman season every time he passed up a good shot.

He doesn't walk around as if he's better than anybody else. He's extremely approachable. It's obvious teammates enjoy hanging out with him.

The most off-target forecast was the one about what sort of defensive player Rush would make. His length and quick feet gave him potential to play well defensively. His decision to sign on with a big-time program coached by a man who insists on intense defensive effort from players increased the chances of him reaching that potential. But it's Rush who deserves the most credit for making defense a priority and taking advantage of the instruction he's getting.

Early in his KU career, Rush repeatedly ran into screens and was taken out of plays defensively. He got better in a hurry and hasn't stopped improving. Most talk about KU's versatile roster centers on Julian Wright, a slick ballhandler and fancy passer as well as an explosive inside threat.

Defensively, there isn't a more versatile player on the team than Rush. When Self needed somebody to shut down Oklahoma guard Terrell Everett last season in Allen Fieldhouse, he turned to Rush, and the freshman took the senior right out of the game, completely shut him down. Rush also had a hand in slowing down Florida power forward Joakim Noah. Rush started and finished the game on Corey Brewer, but for a long stretch of the second-half, Self had him check Noah. Accustomed to using his quickness advantage against opposing power forwards, Noah couldn't figure out what to do with Rush.

Averaging 13.6 points, second to Darrell Arthur's 15.9, and 6.0 rebounds, Rush hasn't performed like a first-team All-American, but that's no slam at him. After all, he never said he was one. It's not as if he selected himself to the preseason team. He didn't have a vote. Last season, Rush averaged an almost identical 13.5 points and 5.9 rebounds.

"We have talked about it a lot," Self said on his weekly radio show of Rush's scoring. "A lot is his mindset is such he doesn't want to step on toes. He has a different mindset you'd anticipate him having. He just wants to fit in. That's no good. The biggest thing is we need guys looking for him, too. ... knowing where he shoots from. ... Against Florida, he was more aggressive. He got in the paint several times. ... He will not get 25 a night. He'll average 17 to 18 over time. We need him to get more aggressive. We want him to shoot whenever he's open. He's one of those guys, when he misses a couple he defers. That won't get it done."

If his scoring could just catch up to his defending.


hppychieffan 15 years, 1 month ago

Geez...sounds like the Jayhawk Chamber of Commerce is out in force today.

Defensively I would agree with the two of you regarding Brandon; CC members Mitch and Keegan. "Solid all around"? Maybe like a brick hitting the rim.

Rush is good for this team and BS is very good for Rush. And BS has done a great job of integrating Brandon into his system. As Mitch says, I too am glad Rush is a Jayhawk.

Now if we can get Julian to permanently put his transmission into Drive. I may want to join the Jayhawk Chamber of Commerce.

mitch 15 years, 1 month ago

It's too bad that the only defensive stats are for steals & blocked shots. Rush does a great job of taking opponents out of their game. On offense he also helps to free up his teammates as the other teams know better than to leave him open. Just as in the Florida game, he's there when you need him. With Julian stepping it up a couple of notches, the light may not shine as brightly on Rush at the moment. Forget the hype. Rush is a solid all around player; definitely someone we want on our side. If he were playing for another Big 12 team, the same naysayers that criticize him would be the first to complain nonstop about how good we could be if only Rush were a Jayhawk. The grass is always greener on the other side. Appreciate Rush for what he does and stop slamming him for what he could be. Go Rush! Go 'Hawks!!

Alan Halvorsen 15 years, 1 month ago

I like Brandon Rush, but so far this year he has looked a lot like J.R. Giddens (Dont get me wrong, he's not playing THAT bad.) But lately he gets the ball at the arc and shoots, or takes one drive step, and shoots. Last year when he was his hottest, he would drive and do it all. I hope he picks it up.

Saad Saifeddine 15 years, 1 month ago

I definitely appreciate Brandon's work ethic and his respect for the team. He's a team player , and everyone respects him for that. I wish, however, that he'd be more daring on the court. Last year he did for a while and everybody was praising him for being an aggressive creative scorer. Unfortunately, late in the season, he took a step backward for some reason, maybe due to the pressure, and it looks like he hasn't re-gained that swagger he had early last season. I hope he can re-gain his confidence, because when he does, he will be amazing, and ku will be unbeatable. Rock Chalk

rockchalkjayhawkku 15 years, 1 month ago

It seems that Brandon Rush has been in a shooting slump since the blowout loss to TX last year. Since that game, he doesn't make 3 pointers as consistently as he used to.

brahl 15 years, 1 month ago

Brandon Rush....GET IN THE PAINT!!! Look at the end of the Florida game, makes a cut while a guard is penetrating, all of a sudden he's open within 3 feet of the bucket. Easy points for a guy as athletic and lengthy as he is, more often than not he'll get fouled too by big idiots like Noah. If he would stay down low, as a guard, he could get easy rebounds and easy points. that way he could average 25 a night.

shocks 15 years, 1 month ago

Pretty bad comparing him to JR. Personally, I couldn't be happier with Brandon's play. Such a team player and nothing what I expected he would be. Sure hope he sticks around like Julian said he's going to. This team is awesome now, just think what they would be next year if everyone stays and add Aldrich and Reed into the mix. KU rocks.

jamestoo 15 years, 1 month ago

yes rush is doing alright now,but he needs to step it up a notch on the offense end. if he,wright.chalmer and darrell all hitting this team will be super. wright and darrell have step up it's time for the other two to do the same.

jaybate 15 years, 1 month ago

Rush was an exceptional offensive threat last year even without a left hand. His left hand, though still noticeably less deft, is improved enough that he could really give opponents a headache in a hurry. So: why isn't he? Everyone is missing the obvious. Last year Self's big men couldn't score consistently and it wasn't until the second half of the season that Chalmers became a significant scoring presense in the back court. So last year Self gave the apple to Brandon and said carrry this team on your back offensively, will ya? And Brandon did it, despite being a frosh.

What's happened this year is that:

1) the trio of RR, Collins and Chalmer have scored more from the start; and

2) the big men--Wright, Arthur and Jackson--have scored more from the beginning.

Quite simply, the ball is going in the hole more frequently before it gets to Brandon this year, so Brandon doesn't have to carry this team on his back. He can just shoot threes and work the weakside more often like a more typical small forward. In short he looks more like J.R. Gidden, because, like J.R., he's got more scoring in front court and back court now. But he only "looks" like J.R. to people who don't watch Rush's defense on the other end of the floor.

With our true centers effectively gone--Giles dismissed and Kaun moving so poorly he does little--Bill Self is stuck trying to figure out how to stop opponents without any great defenders in the middle. Basically, what he's done is ask Rush to become the stopper on the perimeter AND double team and check off with Wright and the frosh Arthur. Make no mistake, Wright and Arthur, though they have good tools, good ball sense, and good anticipation, are not yet great post defenders. They are largely getting by because Brandon is working in the background to cover their lapses. It allows them to play more recklessly and look more impressive than they actually are yet, had they really had to handle the likes of Noah and Horford straight up.

The thing that is going to be AWESOME to watch is when Wright and Arthur ARE able to handle their opponents on their own. This is going to free Brandon up to help the guards and become more of a scorer in his own right again.

But Coach Self is right: this team has too many guns for Brandon to average more than 17-18 ppg. But at the end of the season and in the tourney, when someone can stop Wright and Arthur one night, or stop the guards, you're going to see Brandon Rush light up the score board for a ton of points.

He doesn't have to put this team on his back for a season. But he will three or four nights during the year. And it could be awesome to watch.

mr_lawrence 15 years, 1 month ago

Exactly. You nailed it, Jaybate. Now let us never speak of JR Giddens again.

lee3022 15 years, 1 month ago

Good points here. I disagree with characterizing Noah as an idiot. He came back to school. He has loyalty to his teammates. And he is known as a good student. The idiots go to the NBA out of high school and then get dragged down by their posse. Some that go to the NBA do well but many are just not mature either in their games or their lives to do well. Three years in college is a big commitment and it is mostly a commitment to themselves.

As for Brandon we are blessed. I remember Paul Pierce did not score as much at KU and now he scores whenever he wants. Brandon will grow in confidence. I will not be surprised if every player this years wants to come back next year. This team has much more potential to grow into throughout the roster.

John Brown 15 years, 1 month ago

I think that Rush is developing his game fine. College ball is the opportunity for him to prepare for the pro level game. Self is right in his game plan that offense will take care of itself but defense makes the difference on a bad offensive night. People put to much emphasis on offensive stats and forget that taking the opponent out of their game can have a greater impact on the outcome of the game. Dennis Rodman never scored many points but you can never say that he did not impact the game. The effect is not a point for point match because the psychology of the other team is affected as well. If they can't rely on thier go-to-guy then they get confused.

Robin Smith 15 years, 1 month ago

I'm very pleased with the constructive points being made on the tail of this article.

Rush is a fantastic and integral part of the team. I'm glad he is a Jayhawk. Some fans have been spoiled by seeing glimpses of where Rush may peak and then expecting him to just finish his growth toward that peak. Hopefully he'll stick around and become the type of player who not only gets drafted but starts and stays in the league.

Commenting has been disabled for this item.