Watch Dukeâs Josh McRoberts in action just once, watch him thread a pass across
the lane to an open teammate while dribbling at speed through traffic, or dish accurately
behind his back in a half court setting, and it becomes evident he is an unusual
passer, not only for a big man but for any player. He is the most reliable passer
among the Blue Devils, if not the best.
Coach Mike Krzyzewski said the other day that the 6-10 McRoberts is "a great passer"
who sees the game "like a point guard on stilts." When the sophomore asserts himself,
displaying a formidable arsenal of shots, itâs difficult not to wish Dukeâs second-leading
scorer would look more for the basket. "He wants to pass the ball," Krzyzewski said
earlier this season. "Probably to a fault."
We should all have such faults.
McRoberts had 55 assists in his first 14 outings this season, an average of 3.9
assists per game. He ranks among the top 10 players in the league in assists. Project
21 more games this season, and McRoberts would finish with 138 assists, virtually
tied for the third-best total by a Duke frontcourt player since 1969, when the school
began recording the stat consistently.
The ability to share the ball to good effect puts McRoberts in Danny Ferryâs elite
company. Ferry was one of the premier ACC players of the 1980s, and ranks among
the leagueâs forgotten modern greats.
The versatile Duke forward, now general manager of the Cleveland Cavaliers, was
twice voted ACC player of the year (1988, 1989) and twice voted unanimously to the
All-ACC first team (1988, 1989).
Ferry played on three squads that reached the Final Four (1986, 1988, 1989) and
twice led the ACC in scoring. He also finished among the leagueâs top 10 in assists
in both 1988 and 1989. McRoberts promises to be the first ACC player 6-9 or taller
to pass the ball comparably well in a decade.
Ferry and now McRoberts are further distinguished as passers by their ability to
create shots for themselves and others without excessively turning over the ball.
Players who initiate offense tend to spawn turnovers. Aggressors understandably
increase the chances they will trip, slip, slide, stumble, charge, underestimate
defenders, commit themselves prematurely, get tangled in double teams, and so forth.
Yet Ferry, a singularly intelligent player, managed to routinely produce more assists
than turnovers even as he led three of his teams in scoring and rebounding (1987,
McRoberts, Dukeâs top rebounder, has yet to go through the â07 ACC schedule, which
presumably will present heightened difficulty. Still, projecting his totals forward
from the Temple game of January 2, he may finish the season with the fourth-most
assists by a Duke big man under Krzyzewski -- or any other Duke coach -- and with
a very handsome ratio of nearly two assists for every turnover.
This may be the price of eschewing some shots, but thatâs hardly worth choking
MORE THAN A PASSING FANCY
Top Assist Totals By ACC Players 6-9 And Taller, Since 1987 Season
|Asts.||Player, School||Year||Gs||Mins.||Per. Game|| Min.
|166||Danny Ferry, D*||1989||35||1162||4.7||7.0||1.44|
|141||Danny Ferry, D*||1987||33||1096||4.3||7.8||1.26|
|139||Danny Ferry, D*||1988||35||1138||4.0||8.2||1.39|
|99||Joe Wolf, NC||1987||34||1005||2.9||10.2||1.74|
|98||Tim Duncan, WF*||1997||31||1137||3.2||11.6||0.99|
|96||Ademola Okulaja, NC||1997||35||1131||2.7||11.8||1.43|
|93||Tim Duncan, WF*||1996||32||1194||2.9||12.8||0.89|
|92||Tom Gugliotta, NCS*||1992||30||1107||3.1||12.0||0.84|
|91||Doug Edwards, FSU||1993||31||1085||2.9||11.9||1.08|
|* Led team in scoring same season.|
Only Okulaja among recent 90-assist big men was not selected in the first round
of a subsequent NBA draft.
Top Assist Totals By Duke Big Men, Statistic Recorded 1952, 1969-Present
|Asts.||Blue Devil, Year||Gs||Mins.||Per.Game|| Min.
|166||Danny Ferry, 1989||35||1162||4.7||7.0||1.44|
|141||Danny Ferry, 1987||33||1096||4.3||7.8||1.26|
|139||Danny Ferry, 1988||35||1138||4.0||8.2||1.39|
|138||Josh McRoberts, 2007||35||1173||3.9||8.5||1.97|
|84||Christian Laettner, 1990||38||1135||2.2||13.5||0.82|
|76||Christian Laettner, 1991||39||1178||1.9||15.5||0.63|
|72||Shane Battier, 2001||39||1363||1.9||18.9||1.20|
|72||Shane Battier, 2000||34||1206||2.1||16.8||1.64|
|69||Christian Laettner, 1992||35||1128||2.0||16.3||0.59|
|69||Danny Ferry, 1986||40||912||1.7||13.2||0.87|
Shane Battier (1998-2001) was 6-8, the same size as Grant Hill and Mike Dunleavy.
But Hill (134 assists in 1992, 176 in 1994) and Dunleavy (103 assists in 2001) routinely
played farther from the basket while racking up impressive assist totals.
Of course one might argue that Battier, and to a descending degree Ferry, Laettner
and McRoberts, also moved to the perimeter to shoot 3-pointers and to take advantage
of other skills. Large fellows who can score and pass are exactly the mold-breakers
to whom Krzyzewski refers when he balks at categorizing players by position.