From our trusty news service comes the bulletin that the there is a shortage of qualified exorcists in the Catholic church, which is beginning the active training of same.
Amazingly, we cannot recall this being suggested at large as a coaching strategy in the case of Gonzaga point guard Demetri Goodson, whose shortcomings seem to multiply in the public perception at the same rate as his Facebook friends.
But it’s probably coming. Haven’t checked the e-mail in a couple of hours.
It is the unfortunate lot of some players to be a magnet for either disparagement or, uh, helpful tips in programs whose devotees figure the average score should always be 10 under par. Quarterbacks routinely get the treatment. Point guards, too. Especially those who inherit the gig from the likes of Matt Santangelo, Dan Dickau and Blake Stepp, to say nothing of the guy who defined the job and now sits a few rows up at midcourt.
Jeremy Pargo was once West Coast Conference player of the year and a central figure in 105 wins here, which calmed his critics not at all.
Meech Goodson motors on mostly unaware of any public debate, which is best, but not unmindful of the urgings of his coaches, who are always looking for more – sometimes with a capital M.
And sometimes not. The Goodson the Bulldogs got in an 86-56 wipeout of IUPUI on Sunday was a reasonable representation of what’s needed, even when inadequately quantified by his statistical line: eight points on seven shots, six assists, a couple of rebounds.
“Solid,” coach Mark Few said. “He got in the lane, made some plays and pushed the ball. That’s all I’m looking for.”
The greening of Goodson is forever a hot topic, but especially this Gonzaga season when the backcourt beyond senior Steven Gray is so far undistinguished. Goodson’s fitful sophomore year, when teams ran away from him defensively and the Zags turned over a large hunk of the ballhandling to senior Matt Bouldin, created no little angst.
For Goodson, too.
“Last year was a struggle,” he admitted. “I think it was the hardest season of basketball I’ve ever had to deal with. Everything before came so easy for me.
“It was kind of Matt’s team and I wasn’t aggressive enough at the offensive end. I don’t think they trusted me. This year Coach told me this team is only going to go as far as I take them.”
If that sounds a little strong, let Few elaborate.
“There are plenty of point guards out there that don’t really shoot the ball that great who have had phenomenal careers,” Few reasoned. “Jacque Vaughn at Kansas. Even (Rajon) Rondo with the Celtics right now. If you can make other people better and there’s a palpable sense of energy and leadership that guys are feeding off of, that’s all that matters.
“And if he’s knocking down shots, great.”
Ah, yes. Well. It was instructive Sunday that IUPUI – before November’s actual midpoint – came out in a box-and-one defense designed to confound Gray and sagged off Goodson mightily. When he made a 17-foot jumper for the game’s first points, it was a hint that things may have changed.
No, neither of his actual 3s would find the mark. But the consensus among Goodson, Few and others around the program is that this is a confidence issue more than a fundamental one.
“If you come to practice and see me shoot, you wouldn’t expect teams to sag off me,” Goodson said, “but I haven’t made them pay. You can’t really shoot it every time, but you can’t just catch it and stare. You have to penetrate and hit a couple of floaters, make people help, move it around.”
But the shooting is almost the least of it. The things Goodson did Sunday – pushing the ball with his remarkable speed, the heady defense that saw him take a pair of early charges to take IUPUI’s Alex Young out of the game, making good decisions with the ball – are more valued than him being just another perimeter threat.
“You know he’s going to defend and his toughness is always evident,” Few said. “If you’re helping the team make plays or making a difference with your energy or leadership, it’s no different than the guy who makes a lot of shots and doesn’t play defense, or doesn’t rebound.”
In other words, all contributions accepted. But mixing in a 3 now and then wouldn’t hurt, either.
“Yeah, they’ll keep sagging off because that’s the scouting report,” Goodson said, “and I have to prove it wrong.”
Can you exorcise a scouting report? We’ll see.