Lefty Guards

by Andrew Force | January 4th, 2009

In the cutthroat world of playground basketball, any advantage helps, no matter how small. An unorthodox shot or awkward dribble can be of real benefit. For a defender to block a shot they need to know the release point.

A few left-handed guards are exploiting their most natural gift. They didn’t choose to be left-handed. It chose them.

Nevertheless it is working out to their benefit now.

Three lefties in the Midwest are thriving.

Joe Jakubowski opted out of his verbal commitment to Rice once he heard Louis Orr was taking over the Bowling Green program. A Toledo native, Jakubowski chose the closer college and the chance to learn under former pro Orr. Though Bowling Green is still green, Jakubowski has a matured game.

His best asset is his court vision. Because the guard rifles passes off his left hip, retreating defenders rarely deflect them.

In the MAC, Jakubowski should force the issue as he did in the pre-conference campaign.

After a slaughter of Wayne State, Orr opined, “I have been really pleased how we have been running.” He was talking about Jakubowski. Running means nothing without a heady outlet pass. Five times he provided at least five assists in a game.

“I think he is growing in terms of his decision-making,” said Orr. “He is one of the fastest guys with the ball from 3-point line to 3-point line.”

The guard-driven league will be a welcome challenge for the sophomore. More important than penetration will be the ability to make solid post feeds.

Bowling Green has a couple of lane lurkers. Nate Miller, Marc Larson, and Otis Polk rely on Jakubowski’s unselfish play.

The MAC has good guards and tends to lack significant post players. JJ can give his team an edge simply by putting the aforementioned in positions to succeed.

Another lefty, Jermaine Dixon of Pittsburgh stepped right into a veteran backcourt, essentially leapfrogging sophomores Gilbert Brown and Brad Wannamaker. None of the three shoot as well as Ronald Ramon did, but Dixon provides Pitt with a second ball-handler. He also locks up average offensive players with ease.

This southpaw dribbler serves as a safety valve on the press break. A second reliable guard should be helpful when Seton Hall, Louisville, and Cincinnati deny Levance Fields the ball.

Against tight man defense Dixon can get in the lane with regularity. So pretty and delicate, his floaters fall as if kissed by an angel.

An all-around athlete, Dixon knows the value of tough defense. If he didn’t, Pitt coach Jamie Dixon would have beat it into his head.

Unlike Jakubowski, Dixon is not guaranteed playing time. Pitt has big dreams and no one player is bigger than that. If his production slips, then his minutes will drop off dramatically.

When it comes to the dramatic, there is no lefty who lives for the moment more than Minnesota’s Blake Hoffarber. His story has been told and relived, warming the hearts of the frozen Gopher state faithful.

In the Minnesota state high school championship game, a rebound found Blake, who just happened to be lying on his butt. He made a horse-quality shot from 15-feet out to tie the game.

In the Big 10 Tournament last March, the serendipitous Hoffarber stunned Indiana with a turnaround leaner that could only be regarded as hopeful.

To defeat Louisville, Hoffarber’s holster held the magic bullets once more. His four made three-pointers equaled the entire Cardinals’ team.

For this unfathomable Gopher turnaround to continue deep into the Big Ten campaign, the lefty Hoffarber has to keep making the unbelievable factual.

Beyond Jakubowski, Dixon, and Hoffarber, college basketball is fortunate enough to be inhabited by more than a handful of left-handers.

Other outstanding southpaw guards include Daniel Hackett (USC), Curtis Jerrells (Baylor), and Tyrese Rice (Boston College).

Arizona State sophomore James Harden might be the best of the bunch. The 6’5” wing has been integral in the resurgence, perhaps appropriately dubbed “surgence” of ASU hoops. When Head Coach Herb Sendek brought in the All-American Harden, the Sun Devils’ fate changed.

In a down Pac-10, the desert warriors have a very real chance of capturing the title.

Interestingly each lefthander plays for a team that aspires to finish in the upper tier of its respective conference.

The unorthodox nature of the lefty is worth watching. Few shots look more aesthetically pleasing than the left-handed jumper. Pure, soft and smooth.

A conference near you undoubtedly has a lefty with unique skills worthy of TiVo. Jakubowski, Dixon, and Hoffarber are each playing for ascending clubs. Pitt, coached by a Dixon as well, believes this is finally the year they move past the Sweet 16 roadblock.

Check out these three left-handed, midwestern guards soon, as they are some of the few basketball players in their right mind.

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  1. dave oremland Says:

    What a great topic. Lefties. How true. After playing against righties again and again and again, lefties mess you up. I played pick up for years against a talented friend who was a leftie. I finally started to get it…but it was difficult making the adjustment. Nice commentary.

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