Billy D on three guards

0
241

Last season, with limited options, Florida started Jai Lucas, Walter Hodge and Nick Calathes in what was essentially a three-guard starting lineup. Granted, Nick Calathes had the size (between 6-foot-5, 6-6) to play the wing but often played at the point because of his court-vision skills, leaving smaller guard Walter Hodge (6-1) and Jai Lucas (5-11) off the ball.

I asked Billy what he felt about the three-guard starting lineup last season. Here’s his response:

“I really evaluate more from a defensive standpoint. Jai, Walter and Nick are all going to be fine offensively but what happens when you play against a team that had JaJuan Smith, Lofton and they moved Tyler Smith back to the three it was hard to play with three small guys back there.

Then you take a team like Alabama and they’ve got a couple of guys in the backcourt and they’re playing Alonzo Gee at the small forward spot and that was difficult to match up.

“We thought Walter being an older player could match up with some of the better players in this league but we had two freshmen in there with Walter and so defensively we went into games sometime scratching our heads and asking ourselves how are we going to be able to stop that team? You saw us play a lot of zone and other things last year. A lot of that is predicated on do we as a coaching staff have a comfort level that the defensive intensity of those guys can be enough to offset their size. Last year for most of the year we were not able to do that. That’s an area that these guys are trying to improve on greatly.”

I then followed up by asking if Billy could envision starting a bigger lineup next season (e.g. starting 6-9 Chandler Parsons, 6-8 Allan Chaney or 6-6 Ray Shipman on the wing).

“It’s not necessarily starting bigger or smaller. You’re obviously going to have two guards back there but you could start Ray Shipman to the small forward spot. You could play Jai Lucas, Nick and Chandler back there. You could go with Nick at the point and you could play Ray Shipman and Chandler or you could play Jai Lucas there with Walter and Chandler. There are different options there and what becomes difficult is to play with two small guards on the floor and Nick at the small forward spot. There is going to have to be some significant growth defensively for us to be caught with that kind of lineup. If Ray Shipman doesn’t continue to grow and develop and get better and he’s not ready to play, time will tell.

“If we have a situation where Chandler, foot-speed-wise, quickness-wise is having a real difficult time handling quicker people, those are things that come into play that could make you go back to playing small because one thing about Jai, Walter and Nick is all three of them played a lot of minutes last year.

“The one thing they have going for them is they have experience. So we have to find out if Chandler can prove he can guard a bigger and quicker person on the perimeter? Can Ray Shipman as a freshman prove that he can be reliable and dependable? Those are questions that have to be answered.”

At this point, Florida could throw a number of different starting lineups out for their exhibition opener Nov. 3 against Warner-Southern

Some possible combinations include:

C — Kenny Kadji
F — Dan Werner
F — Chandler Parsons
G — Jai Lucas
G — Nick Calathes

C — Alex Tyus
F — Dan Werner
G/F — Ray Shipman
G — Nick Calathes
G — Walter Hodge

C — Kenny Kadji
F — Dan Werner
G — Ray Shipman
G — Jai Lucas
G — Nick Calathes

Reading into Billy’s comments, it’s quite possible that either Hodge or Lucas could get bumped from the starting lineup. I think they will both get good minutes regardless, but how will their egos take it? Jonathan Mitchell didn’t start as a sophomore and transferred by the end of the season. Lucas is a sophomore and former McDonald’s All-American. Jai is selfless, but deep down all players want to play, and starters generally command more minutes. Hodge is your most experienced player, fastest player and with the 3-point line moved back a foot, might be your best deep shooter. It’s an interesting dilemma, but a dilemma that’s better than Billy faced last season, when he had limited options.