Four Things to Watch at the TO2015 Parapan Am Games
Ask Team Canada – Patrick Anderson
“I’ll mostly be writing about the men’s side here, particularly Canada and the USA. Write what you know, they say. Best of luck to the Canadian women and all of the teams.
1 – The Three-Point Line
In 2010, FIBA moved the three-point line back 0.5 metres, or a little more than a foot and a half (from 6.25 metres to 6.75 metres). The new line is not quite as far as the NBA line, but it’s closer to that line than the old FIBA one. With respect to the able-bodied game, it amounted to a smart tweak. The old three was too easy.
For the wheelchair game though? The jury is still out. 0.5 metres is a big jump when you’re sitting down.
Here’s a case study: the MVP at the last major qualifier hosted in Canada was American Jay Nelms. Scouting report on him circa 2009 – absolutely terrifying from the three-point line. You simply couldn’t leave him alone out there, especially on the move in transition. And he had the handles and vision to punish teams that overcommitted.
Back to 2015. Who is that scary from the new three-point line? Anyone? Will we find out at this tournament? Will teams jump out on shooters or stay home and make them prove it from the (still) new line?
(Self-rebuttal – ask the Canadian women about the harried finish to their semi-final win versus the Dutch at last summer’s World’s. Beware the three.)
2 – The Press (not the papers)
The Americans are kings of the press. Or are they? The roster certainly boasts a LOT of speed as usual. Of particular note are Aaron Gouge, a 2.0 who pushes like a 3.0, and the return of still-quick Jermell Pennie, a 1.5. Both guys push above their weight, meaning the U.S. could press with lineups in which they win all five speed match-ups on the court. Now that’s scary.
However, when it comes to beating the best teams in the world, the U.S. has sometimes shown more promise when they reign in all that speed, and pull back into a force-field-like half-court defence.
On the Canadian side, it’s no secret that the team has gone all-in on the press over the past several years. The Canadians are quick, but don’t have the same raw team speed. They hope to make up for it in preparation and smarts. It’s a high risk, high reward strategy. Intriguing? Definitely. Successful? We’ll see.
3 – Elite Tweeners (not big guys, not little guys)
Americans Steve Serio and Brian Bell are two of the best in the game. Watch them because they’re world-class talents and athletes, members of a younger generation hitting its prime.
But watch them also as models for Canada’s even younger crop of promising tweeners, like Nik Goncin and Liam Hickey. Neither Serio (3.5) nor Bell (4.5) has great size for his classification/position. But they both make the most of what height and length they do have, handle the ball incredibly well, and possess blow-by, chair-stopping quickness, which they use to keep opposing bigs from accessing their sweet spots in and around the paint.
I play one-on-one with Serio when he comes home to New York City, and it’s a game of inches: I give him one, he takes six. That control of space is what makes an elite tweener.
Argentina’s Adolfo Berdrum is another tweener to watch. His elite midrange game might be passé in NBA basketball, but it works just fine in wheelchair ball.
4 – The Status Quo: No able-bodied players allowed
Shout out to Max (Poulin), Carl (Pelletier), Jesse (McNalley), the Palmers (Benjamin and Nicolas), et al. These guys are household names in Canada’s wheelchair basketball community, and unknowns on the international scene. Might one of them have cracked the Canadian roster if given a fair chance? Several? How would disabled athletes respond to the challenge of competing against able-bodied athletes?
When will we get to find out?”
– Patrick Anderson, Senior Men’s National Team (1998-2012)