25 May 2016

Bolts Try To Overcome Having "Undersized" Centers

Meralco Bolts
The Philippine Basketball League (PBA) is made up of players of all shapes, sizes and skill sets that set them apart on their respective teams and within the league. At the forward/center position, there have been some absolute mismatches in size throughout PBA history, perhaps none greater than 6-foot-11 skilled center Junemar Fajardo. Conversely, a 6-foot-3 post player like Alvin Patrimonio can still find a way to become MVP.

Everyone knows about the prototypical post players who excel in the league like Greg Slaughter, Sonny Thoss and Asi Taulava. What about the outliers on who aren't as vertically gifted? How is it that they are able to match up and/or thrive in the league dominated by a "type" of all-around big man?

From several observations, the typical PBA power forward’s ideal height is 6-foot-7 +/- 1 (give or take an inch) and is around 205 lbs. +/- 15 lb.s. The typical PBA center stands about 6-foot-9 +/- 2 and 240 lb. +/- 15 lbs. Meaning if a power forward stands just under 6-foot-6 or a center is under 6-foot-8, they are technically "undersized" relative to PBA competition at their position.

However, being undersized is not an overwhelming hindrance or dooming factor on a player’s career. Conversely and true to Darwin’s natural selection of "only the strong survive," it allows players to utilize their gifts and adapt to play the game in a different way that puts pressure and forces those "prototypical size post players" to adjust their styles.

Here's a closer look at the stronger contributing factors for Bolts undersized big men to perform well in the league.

Strength, Grit and Physical Play
While the Bolts may not have the biggest player on the court, if they are willing to play physical and their ground in the post, they can have success. Some undersized bigs possess brute strength and raw power they can yield to battle for boards and D up with. With that strength and willingness to use their physicality to show some added grit, battling for the boards and bodying up on D becomes manageable.

A perfect example of an undersized post player demonstrating that extra ounce of grit necessary to succeed is Reynel Hugnatan. While only 6-foot-4, the coach Norman Black is willing to play him at power forward and center without hesitation because of his raw strength, fortitude and toughness. Hugnatan is one of the most physical post players in the league and has to be at his size to succeed, averaging 11.6 points and 4.8 rebounds per game in the semifinal series last conference.

Big Body and Positioning
Being smaller comes with its advantages in the paint, including a lower center of gravity and being able to use the big body as base leverage to jockey for position. Being able to establish as an immovable object around the basket gives an edge in rebounding the ball and defensively, because it prevents the offensive player from getting prime position.

Ken Bono does an excellent job of wedging himself deep in the paint and hanging in there with his big body. He does a great job of using that body as an asset to box out the opposition on the boards and keep his man from backing him down at svelte 270 lbs.

Another prime example of a big body becoming an asset is 6-foot-4 veteran John Ferriols. While lacking in height, he certainly doesn’t lack in the width department and yields his body as a source of unparalleled power on the floor.

Post Moves and Craftiness
If the player can’t go over or through them, they can always go around them. Utilizing a quick drop step, spin move, up and under play, or pump fake demonstrates some post savvy that can make it tough for the opposition to hang with them. If they have patience and skill handling the ball, then out-maneuvering the defense shouldn't be a problem for talented yet undersized post scorers.

Rabeh Al-Hussaini is a center capable of playing on the perimeter and in the post but displays an array of moves in his game to score in the post. While only 6-foot-7, Al-Hussaini is a shifty and savvy player that has great quickness and patience playing around the paint. He just needs to improve his confidence and work ethics.

Bryan Faundo has also found a unique way to excel with his play, becoming a master of the jump shot at the perimeter. While built like more of a perimeter forward at 6-foot-6, 200 lb., Faundo has always been a unique post scorer in the paint with some crafty back to the basket play.

If a player want it more than the other guy and are routinely willing to sacrifice their body to make the play, then they have an edge in their ability to pursue rebounds relentlessly and stay focused on shutting down their man defensively. In doing so, players develop a reputation as having a strong motor with their unyielding ability to never give up on a play and constantly play with a high level of energy on the floor. These are the playmakers whose persistent play and ability come up with the ball while the other players are resting and complacency going through the motions.

Kelly Nabong is a natural small forward who routinely plays center because of his unrelenting desire and drive on the court. Nabong does the "dirty work" at a high level for an undersized player and always remains focused throughout the entire game. He had a career average of 4.7 rebounds and 4.8 points since being picked 17th overall in the 2012 draft by the Bolts.

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