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Film Room: Coach Ewing’s Playbook Part I (Iverson Series)

NCAA Basketball: Georgetown at Butler Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

Patrick Ewing came to Georgetown as the new men’s head basketball coach with a vision of playing an NBA style. At times we were given a look into the future of how he envisions his program, but the roster of the past year often limited how much he could explore .

In what I hope to make into a series of dives into his playbook for the 2017-2018 - we’ll examine what actions and sets the Hoyas utilized under Coach Ewing’s guidance.

It is worth stating that Ewing played to his strengths - and that centered around Jessie Govan and Marcus Derrickson. The most common actions were pick and pops with Derrickson (and Govan to a degree) and straight post ups for the two of them.

One of the more recognizable sets that could be seen last year was a twist on an ‘Iverson Cut’ leading to a post up for one of his bigs. An ‘Iverson Cut’ named aptly after Allen Iverson - is a cut across two players (generally bigs) at the elbows.

Ewing placed his wings at the elbows and sent them scattering to open up the bottom half of the floor where his big man (mostly Govan) could attempt to seal his man or gain good positioning for a post entry. The closet to the correct verbiage on this set I could find would be “Iverson Punch” - as a ‘punch’ is a post up.

When timed and positioned correctly you get this:

Pickett cuts and curls around, while Derrickson sets a screen to set Johnson free for a pass and a clean entry pass. Govan and Mulmore are responsible for reading each other and choosing which side the ball is going to go to. Govan does his work early and catches Tariq Owens playing on the high side and he seals him for a layup.

Here’s the play coming to Pickett’s side of the floor:

With the defense lifted higher than usual - a double or backside help was not readily available for the defense - one of the best benefits of this set, allowing Govan to quickly work when it was correctly executed:

Of course, with a young team under a new coach and system, things could go haywire from time to time. If the timing is off, a set can snuffed out pretty quickly, especially deeper into the season when teams know what is coming. Sometimes freshman will be freshman:

It’s also a look that could run into a strong post defender that wouldn’t allow Govan to establish necessary position as seen here by Angel Delgado and Sean O’Mara:

There wasn’t much of a counter if the post touch wasn’t available. The idea of the other big who screened at the elbow flashing to initiate a high-low is there, but was perhaps a bit beyond the capabilities last season of those involved. The biggest thing this group has to do moving forward is move without the ball to help their bigs out - cut, screen away - just keep moving, like Blair does here:

It’s a nice set (btw this version via the Atlanta Hawks was the closet facsimile I could find) and one that often caught more inexperienced and weaker bigs off-guard. With Govan (fingers crossed) returning it should remain a staple for next year’s team.

A look that I’d hope to see more of is Pickett utilizing a similar formation to work off of into floppy or curls/pindowns- ‘floppy’ is generally a wing play coming up from the baseline with his choice of screens set on either side. It wasn’t seen often but here a couple of sequences of Pickett starting at the elbows and working off his bigs:

Lastly as far as ‘Iverson’ sets go is a set called AI Knicks - which could become more common with a talent upgrade in the back court. There are plenty of clips on YouTube of teams like Portland and Brad Steven’s Celtics running the same set:

A wing completes the Iverson cut and receives the ball, the ball is pitched back to the lead guard who then utilizes a ball screen coming from the weak side post player.

As we all know, there wasn’t a whole to work with in the back court and Ewing didn’t put much responsibility on the guards or cater the offense towards them. That is likely to change, if not next year then certainly the year after with James Akinjo and Mac McClung. It’s pretty easy to picture McClung making a hard cut across the elbows and pitching it back to Akinjo to attack. The results when this was attempted (sparingly) this season weren’t there (each of the possessions it was attempted are in this one clip):

That was about it in regards to utilizing any Iverson cuts from this past year. Which makes sense considering it’s generally trying to free a talented guard to operate in space and attack - certainly not a strong suit of last year’s roster. If you’d like to waste 5 minutes, I did compile every ‘AI Punch’ I could find from Big East play:

In the next part of this series, I hope to focus on another seldom used look in year one, that being Ewing’s use of ‘Horns’, the most common NBA staple.