The Four Generals
For Bobby Hurley and his three talented point guards, working together is mutually beneficial
Published: Tuesday, February 4, 2014
Updated: Tuesday, February 4, 2014 22:02
Not all sports clichés are true. Ever heard this one? “The point guard must be the most unselfish player on his team.”
See, with unselfishness comes meekness, and the greatest floor generals are far from meek. Russell Westbrook, Stephen Curry, Chris Paul? Those guys are confident.
Quite contrary to the cliché, the point guard must be the most brazen player on his team. He does not deny his own scoring numbers and get others involved because he is unselfish. He does it because he has figured out the truth that at a certain level, anyone can make an open layup or jumper; not anyone can call the right offense, engage multiple defenders and get his teammate an open shot – and a smart shot.
A point guard needs to understand that a good shot for one teammate could be a terrible shot for another, and that the way he calls an offense and creates off the dribble influences who gets what shot. He needs to know his teammates so well he adjusts every idiosyncrasy of his game to their tendencies. He needs to want the rock in his hands, period.
And to do this, he cannot be unselfish. He must, above all, have an unwavering belief in himself.
Confidence is the most defining characteristic of the University at Buffalo’s three point guards. When the athletic department inked coach Bobby Hurley in March 2013, it added one of the most legendary collegiate point guards of all time – the once-undersized Duke star who was defined by an unwavering belief in himself.
Hurley does not need to teach confidence to UB’s three floor generals; they’ve got that down. What he is trying to teach them, however, is what is necessary to become a champion.
“Leadership is important, in terms of taking command of the team, how much you’re looked upon as the glue that holds everything together,” Hurley said. “I always played with a lot of fire and a lot of intensity, and I would expect that from my point guard: You’ve got to be the heart and soul of your team. At the same time, you’ve got to play with composure and poise.”
Fire and intensity, composure and poise: It’s a torturous balance, and truly mastering it requires a learned professor.
Past the midway point of the season, Bobby Hurley’s Class of Point Guard Study is in full swing. Each of his three pupils has made strides.
Though Hurley inherited a talented bevy of point guards, it’s not their aptitude on the court that makes them fascinating. It’s the life experience they brought into this season.
Andre Jones, a star guard at Winthrop University, would often return to his high school’s gym in the offseason. There was always this short, skinny kid in the gym. “I really look up to you,” the wide-eyed 11-year-old would constantly tell Jones.
Jones came home from college one summer and couldn’t believe what he discovered: Back in that gym, the boy was now dunking with ease. He had grown a few inches, and his game had developed exponentially.
Man, this kid reminds me of a miniature me when I was in high school, Jones thought. He remembered how he looked up to older guys when he was a young player and how they were a little too cool to hang out with a kid, how they had gotten caught up in basketball’s perpetual curse – thinking you’re bigger than the game – and dismissed their young fan.
Jones made a resolution when he saw Shannon Evans that summer day: He was going to set an example for this young man.
In Evans’ eyes, Jones could do no wrong. He was the pride and joy of Suffolk, Va., their hometown. Both players brag about the area. Jones calls it “a basketball Mecca” and estimates 10-12 Suffolk natives in the past five years have gone on to start at a Division I school.
There are only three high schools in that region, but it has produced players like Jones (who is in his first year playing for the Erie Bay Hawks of the NBA Development League), Marquette’s Davante Gardner and former Cincinnati standout JaQuon Parker. Evans was always the youngest in their pickup games.
“Where I’m from, there were a lot of ballers coming up, a lot of good players coming up,” Evans said. “So we had the competition. We had to work hard. If you didn’t work hard, you didn’t get exposed.”
Jones was a perfect role model for Evans. Jones had accomplished things Evans dreamed of – he had come up in Suffolk, earned a scholarship to a Division I school, made it to an NCAA Tournament and started since his freshman year (Jones would lead the Eagles in scoring with 16.0 points per game his senior year, 2011-12).
Evans was determined, enthusiastic and confident from a young age. He needed those characteristics to overcome what he lacked in height (the UB roster generously lists him at 6-foot-1). Athleticism can only take you so far in this game. He has ups like Nate Robinson, but he also has an aura reminiscent of Kobe.
Jones said that mentality is something he saw develop in Evans’ game during the years the two worked together.
“As a player, he’s a killer now,” Jones said. “It doesn’t matter if he’s playing at Buffalo, I don’t care if he’s playing at Duke – he’s going to get into that starting lineup, or he’s going to get minutes or be in practice and the coach is going to say, ‘Man, I don’t have a choice but to play this kid.’”
Evans, a freshman, has come off the bench this year but is averaging 25.6 minutes per game. He has shown flashes of brilliance that have fans believing the UB program will be all right if it’s in his hands for the next few years.