The mental game counts for everything in high-level competitive sports. The mind, after all, controls the body. Think of the brain as the computer system and your belief system as the software. Luguentz Dort is gifted with natural athletic talent and has a smart head on his shoulders. But the software has a “mental virus.” Dort is thinking too much, hesitating, and forcing play rather than allowing the game to come to him.
The Brain Said: “I am the smartest organ in the body.”
The Heart Replied: “Who told you?”
Dort is all heart. His natural instincts are, perhaps, too sharp and come to him faster than his current capabilities can handle. His potential is limitless, but his performance is erratic. Arizona State is not talented enough to compensate for Dort’s volume of missed shots. Don’t think I’m not a Luguentz Dort fan. I am. He is simply an offensive liability at this point in the season, and we still have a shot at a tournament run.
Human beings can be energetic, well-conditioned and intelligent. But if the mind functions to counter these gifts, it’s impossible to realize any level of physical potential. When good basketball players train to shoot, they do so with an elevated heart rate at “game speed.” Dort needs a shooting coach who can teach him how to naturally explode through his jump shot. He needs to push his hips back without thinking, start low and end tall with a great “middle-to-middle” follow-through. In basketball jargon, that means aligning the middle finger with the middle net-loop on the rim from whatever angle on the floor.
Any trained eye can see Luguentz Dort’s mind working. It’s a subtle hesitation when he collects himself to throw up the majority of his 93 three-point attempts this season. Of those, he made only 27. To look at it another way, our starting guard and top scorer, has missed 66 of 93 shots. That’s 29% from behind the arc. Ouch!
Next, Dort’s mechanics do not honor the pace at which he plays. Fundamentally, if you stand around in the gym draining set shots, it does not translate into sprinting up and down the court for 40 minutes with defenders chasing you.
Thinking can fail a basketball player. That’s why we use the term “unconscious” for a great scorer. The 6’4″ 215-pound freshman is not a great scorer yet. He struggles with layups as well as three-pointers. It’s a mechanics issue, not his athleticism or heart.
So the question is at this critical point in the Sun Devil Men’s Basketball campaign, does Head Coach Bobby Hurley have the luxury of letting Luguentz learn on the fly? He’s been playing him substantial minutes and, despite Dort’s effectiveness on defense, it is hurting the team.
The Sun Devils need Dort for what we all see in him, but potential doesn’t win us basketball games today. On the job performance does. Does ASU have time to wait? I don’t think so.
The Sun Devils need to win seven of the next ten games to earn an automatic NCAA Tournament Birth. They are not going to do this with a guard swallowing up a ton of minutes who can’t shoot. A sobering fact from the last two games is that Dort, who plays mostly point guard, has had just one assist and ten turnovers.
If Bobby Hurley is listening, platoon Luguentz on and off the floor in spurts letting Remy Martin run the point and Taeshon Cherry on the wing with Edwards. Run the offense inside then back out to those three guards for better looks. Kimani Lawrence has played with some confidence and swagger recently making him a great one-two punch with Dort to spell Remy and Taeshon.
Sun Devil Elias Valtonen looks fundamentally sound. He should get some of Dort’s minutes, and, dare I say, one or two of Dort’s 167 missed shots this season. For any Detroit Piston’s fan from the 1980s, right now Luguentz Dort can be a sparkplug off the bench very much like Vinnie “the microwave” Johnson was.
Alright, it’s almost time to eat some kitties for dinner.