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Sunday, December 16, 2007

Keegan

Keegan: Robinson cuts off the head

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2007-08 Dec. 15 KU-Ohio Basketball

— Late great Marquette basketball coach and color commentator Al McGuire was noted for his descriptive quotes, delivered with a thick New York accent. Based on one of his most famous lines and on the defense-first philosophy he brought to the bench, McGuire would have loved Kansas University's senior point guard Russell Robinson.

"Cut off the head, and the body dies," McGuire was fond of saying.

Robinson specializes in two things for the unbeaten and third-ranked Jayhawks. He cuts off the head of the opposing team by shutting down its point guard, and he makes sure KU keeps its head on its shoulders.

Kansas plays in-your-face defense, and it all starts with Robinson hounding the opposing ballhandler all the way up the court. He keeps him in front of him and picks his spots to stab at the ball. As a result, he puts the other team's offense in a defensive posture. The goal shifts from scoring to not turning the ball over, from thriving to surviving.

Robinson forces the point guard to pick up the ball prematurely. Mario Chalmers snipes in the passing lanes. Darnell Jackson, Sasha Kaun and Darrell Arthur trap ball screens on the perimeter and block shots down low. It all adds up to a defense so relentlessly focused, and it all starts with Robinson.

KU coach Bill Self often talks about how he doesn't care about Robinson's statistics, least of all his shooting. He only cares that his point guard puts his team in a position to win.

Robinson's an unselfish player, yet he still cares about his numbers. You know why? Because he's human. Who wouldn't care?

"My thing is, as long as you look at the stat sheet and can say I did something, whether it's six or seven steals, I just want to be able to say when the game's over I contributed to the team in some form," he said. "I'm probably the most unselfish I've been in my career. It's all about winning now."

The stat sheet reflected well on Robinson in Saturday's 88-51 beheading of Ohio University. He scored six points on three field-goal attempts. He was the only starter not in double figures, an indication he kept teammates happy by getting them shots. He had a career-high 11 assists, numerical proof he did so. Robinson also had three steals. The past two games, Robinson has 20 assists and three turnovers, Chalmers 12 assists and 11 steals.

"Russell's better on the ball, and Mario's the best off the ball of anyone I've ever coached," Self said after the DePaul game.

Mix in Sherron Collins, coming off of foot surgery and not yet playing with his normal explosiveness, and Kansas has a guard rotation that can play with any in the nation. It's not a stretch to project this as Self's best team, and he has been to the Elite Eight four times at three schools.

"I think we're a little more mature than the teams (he has played on) in the past, and we've got a lot of guys," Robinson said. "I think we're 10-deep this year, more so than in the past, and we've got a lot of tools inside."

The depth allows KU to maintain intensity.

"We can get out there and pressure, get in the passing lanes, get up and running," Robinson said. "We get tired and know we have subs who can control the game."

Nobody controls it better for KU than Robinson.

Comments

jaybate 12 years, 6 months ago

Colin Powell is famous for "Cut off the head..."

I can't find a single example of Al saying this quote.

Al did reputedly say this though: "You know what pressure is? It's when the cheerleaders are jumping and you don't notice their breasts."

mcoan 12 years, 6 months ago

Al McGuire never saw a KU team he liked. He always had negative things to say about us. Good riddance.

Robert Brock 12 years, 6 months ago

"Russell's better on the ball, and Mario's the best off the ball of anyone I've ever coached," Self said after the DePaul game.

Ummmm. Dee Brown and Deron Williams weren't bad.

Brock

b_asinbeer 12 years, 6 months ago

"Ummmm. Dee Brown and Deron Williams weren't bad."

Self did coach both pairs. I would like to think he'll know better than YOU.

Tom Pritchard 12 years, 6 months ago

Not only coached them he recruited them,and that is why the dummy grin face coach they have now went to the Final Four...

Jonathan Andrews 12 years, 6 months ago

Luther, Dee and Deron are all quality defenders, but Self is right; none are quite at the level of Russell and Mario.

LAJayhawk 12 years, 6 months ago

I said in a different post that Russell and Mario may be the most underrated 2 guard combination in the country. Solid all around. And that doesn't include what most of the outside media call our best offensive threat in Collins. This team has to be scary on anyone's schedule.

By the way, since Sasha has been slammed consistently on here (myself not discluded), I want to point out how he has lifted his game recently. He has started rebounding, has maintained his ridiculous 78% from the field, and has an uncanny sense for the ball on defense. May be the best shot blocker on the team.

Anyone realize that he's never attempted a 3 in his entire college career? Obvious stat, but I still find it interesting. Sticks to his game.

Mike Young 12 years, 6 months ago

Sasha neededs to hit foul shoots though

justanotherfan 12 years, 6 months ago

As far as Sasha is concerned, I think both he and Darnell have benefitted from DJack taking over as a starter.

As a starter, KU would often try to pound the ball in to Sasha early in the game. Sasha would get off to a quick start at times, scoring on the first two or three possessions, but other times, he would struggle and end up having a pretty rough game. It was like he would be pressing himself as a starter.

As a reserve, though, he comes in and we don't try to force feed him as a scorer. If you think about it, Sasha really isn't a natural scorer. He's a good rebounder and defender, and he finishes well at the rim when the guards set him up, but he isn't a back to the basket scorer. He doesn't have a go-to move like Simien's turn around, or Drew Gooden's quickness off the drop step. He doesn't have Nick Collison's baseline jumper. He can turn and power though guys, but that's not always there, and when we started games forcing the ball down to him, he felt obligated to score.

Now that he's a backup, that burden has been lifted, and he can do Sasha type things - Rebound, Block shots, Bang the other team's bigs, Get trash buckets on offense. This switch may end up being the key to strong years for both guys.

smitty33 12 years, 6 months ago

very well stated justafan... Sasha has been a big mystery to me and this team. We really don't NEED him to score. We should be able to feed him and let the defense collapse. He should concentrate on his passing game down low like Julian. Go CHaka kaun!! I loved it when the announcer said that.

Steve Day 12 years, 6 months ago

I thought Lorena Bobbitt coined that phrase about Cutting off the Head. Maybe I'm wrong!! Maybe LJW can call John Wayne (Stubby) to verify.

KUFan90 12 years, 6 months ago

LAJayhawk - not sure how you can claim our backcourt is underrated when they have been ranked the #1 backcourt in the country by several publications.

LAJayhawk 12 years, 6 months ago

Because I wasn't talking about our backcourt, I was talking specifically of Russell and Mario. A huge reason why our backcourt is considered #1 by those publications you speak of is because many feel Collins is one of the top point guards around (I wouldn't disagree). However, while he was out and now with him not quite back to 100%, RR and Chalmers have subtly dominated the floor in many aspects of the game. They don't score as well as Collins, but most of KU's power is based around the action they create at both ends. They do get some ink, but I feel like they don't get as much credit as I think they should because they aren't averaging 20 a game.

Certainly, KUfan90, I'm not looking to squabble over symantics. I was just complimenting those two for playing great ball.

Keep it up boys.

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