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Philly Street Ball – Villanova


Philly Street Ball

OK, here is a disclaimer. NeighborDave learned ball in Detroit in the 70s. He had the jones bad and ended up playing wherever he found himself. That included NY City (Manhattan), Chicago, out in the sticks, down in Florida, Kentucky, Venice Beach, etc. Here is one thing that I learned in the process. If you play D all the time, and every point on the court, and your teammates are with you in the process, you will surprise those that have not faced that before.

That is what Villanova does. Philly is like Detroit when it comes to street ball. They play hard D in the street. NY was surprised when NeighborDave played hard D in the cage down in the Village or up in the park. However, and here is an important point, if you play straight up D, without fouling but beating people to the space they need to make their move, there is little that can be said by way of legitimate complaint. If I am not fouling you, then what complaint do you have? Once, early in my venture into the street game in Detroit, I got the ball very cleanly, and the guy went down because our bodies met, he popped up and squared off. I asked him what his problem was, that is the way “we” play here. Others chimed in that it was kind of the way we played and that was the end of that. Philly street ball is apparently the same.

When you take your game to a new court, if it is that game, you will quickly be challenged, then accepted, once you show that it is all legit – clean and hard. What can they say? Finding the spot that is needed by the other guy, and beating him to that spot ends it all. Now, in the street game, a good player will give up the ball to another player. Here’s the thing, in the street game, many guys will not give it up, so you can stop them time and time again and frustrate the hell out of them.

For Villanova, when the entire team is playing that game (and they probably don’t even know that they are doing it). By the way, not a single commentator has identified this aspect of their game as clearly as I am doing it right now. Why? Because defense is not well appreciated except by the players that do it. Ask D Rodman. You know he averaged over 20 points in college? But when he got to the pros he saw that D and rebounding would keep him in the game. Ask Rasheed Wallace, the best weak side defender ever. Each of the Villanova guys gets it. Maybe they learned it when they played in the street or on campus in the gym that constant D was expected and was successful.

One of the products of playing constant D is learning what footwork is necessary to do that. Many players learn footwork for offense. Coaches work on that all the time. Look at Labron before and after he worked with Olajuwon, his footwork changed and he improved. He should have worked with Rasheed on defensive foot work. In the Dallas final he was killed twice, at the end of the game, but not playing good off side defenses, yes twice he should have slid over on Dirk, but wasn’t even in the picture. In the V game against Kansas, K tried to step up their D, and they got close, but if you watch close in the second half, they had bad footwork 3 distinct times, which resulted in a missed opportunity to steal or stop the play and that was essentially the difference. Oklahoma, was just overwhelmed and never got it.

People talk about the offense of V in the O game, but realize that when you are stopping someone at will, all across the floor at each position, the level of confidence goes way up. In fact, you take your head out of the game and rely upon instinct such that you are in another world. One reason that Villanova gets so many charge calls is that they each play the spacing in coordination with each other. You can only teach so much of that. Most of it comes from playing together a lot, and playing with others who do the same thing such that it is instinctive across the board. When one guy take a space, the next guy has to recognize what space is left, then take that space. Charge is the result. If you don’t play against this all the time, it will surprise you. I could go on, but, hopefully, someone else will get this. Give me a shout if you do.

V will beat NC if they surprise NC and NC cannot adjust. (The footwork is the key, and if you have only played against regular D, and not full team, all the time, everywhere D, then to learn the footwork in the course of a game is tough.) I am not sure what will happen, but the D from V will be there in any event. That is what NeighborDave always carried with him to every court upon which he found himself, such that he was always valued in the pick of teams. It may be that they didn’t want me on the other team. If you are from Philly, and you recognize this, let me know. I played a little in Jersey, but never actually in Philly. Of course, I never knew any of this then, as I was just doing what came naturally.

Spike Lee and Jalen Rose might get some of this.



  1. Barry Bonds permalink

    Neighbor Dave says “If you don’t play D, let it be!”

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