One Bright Shining Star -

One Bright Shining Star


by Andy Force
Senior Writer,
December 10, 2003


"Give me the ball!" It is the call permeating college barns this winter. Sometimes it is, "OK, give me the ball." Either way the words come from the mouth of one phenom, one star player…alone. He is the only legit talent featured and his help is non-existent. Several teams have this situation in place and their success utterly hinges on one guy. It is not a new phenomenon by any means, as teams have long struggled with building a team with one player so clearly head and shoulders above his peers. Team does not mean that everyone scores 10 points and gets 5 rebounds. A team is a group that includes players who each know their role. Some teams have one guy who scores while everyone else crashes the glass. The shot charts reflect his forced selfishness. Let's take a look at some examples across the land.

Marcus Moore handles point guard for Washington State. He plays scoring guard. Moore runs the offense and rebounds. Marcus Moore is Washington State. You will not hear a word about Washington State this season unless Marcus scores 40 points. Last season he dropped in 24% of their scoring, and this year Moore posts 22% of the Cougar output. Moore has had one eye on the draft for two years now, and with the abysmal play of his Cougars (58 ppg against the fluffs) there is no reason to keep the other eye on Washington State. Player: B-, Team: D-.

Darius Rice leads Miami (FL) in ppg, rebounds per game (6.2), and nearly leads the team in blocks (1.4 per) and steals (1 per). From the forward spot Rice does everything well and some things great. Looking at a Miami statsheet brings to mind a new cartoon to pitch, Darius and Friends. Like "Garfield and Friends," there will be other characters in the show; you just wont know their names. Darius Rice does not run the offense though as the ball begins elsewhere. That said all the big shots come his way, and the Hurricanes go to great lengths to give him every important heave. His skill level far surpasses his teammates and he belongs just below first team All Big East. Player: B+, Team: C-.

Ike Diogu leads the Arizona State Sun Devils into battle. As a freshman in 2002-2003, Diogu collected Pac-10 Freshman of the Year and AP All-American (honorable mention) honors. Like his favorite athlete Ben Wallace, Diogu bangs like a warrior. He pounds the glass but offers an uncanny soft touch for a player of his girth. Slimmed down to 250 lb's this year, Ike has a wide array of post moves at his disposal. Diogu bears the weight of ASU's expectations, which are at a 10-year high following his sparkling debut season. His numbers soar skywards as he now posts 23 points, 8 boards, and 3 blocks a game. With a good win over Temple, 70-66, Arizona State should enter Pac-10 play at 7-1. How they fare in-conference is entirely reliant on Diogu's ability to smash inside. He can and will make opponents look like a 6th grade gym class. The guy is a mammoth yet refined. Player: A, Team: C+.

These three teams are clearly dependent on their star. There are reasons why one great player does not often equate to success. Teams will go to a zone without hesitation. A cramped zone can smother a great player out of the game and change the entire focus of an offense. In college, the gap between the star and the rest is smaller than it is in high school. The talent base is raised while the stars are pulled slightly towards the pack. Another shortcoming of star-based teams in the college ranks is players' lack of court awareness. Frequently a player will hit three shots in a row and simply not get the ball for five minutes. It is partly the coach's fault, but the teammates have to feed the hot hand. NBA players understand this principle better.

College hoops is about the team, the coach, the crowd, the band, and the passion. Stars have a place, but the team concept includes them rather than revolves around them.