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Saturday, May 21, 2011

International Trapezoid - Recruiting Post Players

I was listening to some NBA "experts" discussing Dirk Nowitzki's skill set the other day.  They discussed how his touches on offense typically occur well outside the lane.  Dirk is not alone.  It seems that the overwhelming majority of International big men play in this manner.  They rely on their ball handling and shooting ability rather then using their size to be dominant in the low post.  I think the reason for the lack of dominant foreign post players can be attributed to the design of the International Basketball Federation's (FIBA) court.

The court's design has two glaring differences then what most of us are used to seeing, the three point line is much shorter and the key is much different.  The key is going to be what I focus on right now.  From 1950 up until 2010 the international basketball courts featured a painted key area in the shape of a trapezoid.  This trapezoid would widen out more and more the closer it got to the basket.  At the baseline, the trapezoid makes the key 6.0 meters wide (19.68 feet).  In contrast, the NBA key is only 16 feet.  That is only a difference of about 22 inches on either side of the rim. This difference, however minute it may seem, has proven to be a deterrent for international teams and how the develop and implement big guys in the post.

The trapezoid has forced these international teams to become more guard centered, and the big men have been forced to learn better perimeter skills.  With the big men being pushed further away from the hoop, the other players on the team also get pushed out further due to the necessary need for spacing. The number of international players is growing quickly in the NBA and the first mock draft for 2011 has seven international guys going in round 1.  Several of these guys are listed as C or PF, but these should be considered as exceptions (if they are back to the basketball guys like Enes Kanter) to the rule as they are the best of the best at what they do.

So what was the point of this post?  With the Valpo typically bringing in guys from overseas (5 on the roster last season, and probably that many again this coming year) or with international experience I think it's important to understand why we might be lacking an inside presence.  They just aren't there for recruiting.  Sure we have Kevin Van Wijk, but I don't think anyone would say he arrived at Valpo with a solid post game.  This isn't to say these players can't be taught how to play a traditional post position, but more so that we shouldn't expect to find that international big man who can make an instant impact on the inside.

Now FIBA has just recently (October of last year I believe) gone away from the trapezoid for the more recognizable rectangle.  Over time this should help teams like Valpo who recruit heavily in foreign countries find those big post players who have been developed to play with their backs to the basket.  For the next few years however, I would look for Coach Drew and his staff to look for post players in the States if that is what the new VU Coach's game plan calls for.

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  1. Interesting! I hadn't heard that FIBA was moving away from the trapezoid.

    You only briefly mentioned the three-point line. But, your comment confused me.

    >the [FIBA]three point line is much shorter

    The NCAA recently (was it two seasons ago now?) moved their line back to about the FIBA distance. And now FIBA's in the process of moving their line back out towards the NBA line.

    So, most of the time the FIBA line was/will be further back than the NCAA line.

  2. I meant to add one thought on the size of the key.

    According to wikpedia, FIBA's new rectangle is NBA-width, so a bit wider than the NCAA. (But, should we believe them? They also say that the length of the FIBA rectangle is 5.8 meters?! Surely it can't go past the free-throw line. And surely they wouldn't move the free-throw line.)

  3. They probably mean 5.8 meters wide. Also, the three point arc on the FIBA court used to be only 20.5 feet. It looks like they scooted it back to just over 22ft (still over 1.5ft shorter then the NBA) about the same time they adjusted the key. I really wasn't focusing on the three point line, but the fact that it was so short probably only enticed the big guys further from the hoop as well.

    Thanks for reading.

  4. Ah, I think I see my problem.

    The length of the (FIBA) key is 5.8 meters. Which is presumably unchanged, but this is the length to the endline. The free-throw line is sometimes quoted as 15 feet, 4.57 meters, but that's the distance to the _backboard_.

    The width of the new FIBA key really is the same as the NBA, about 4.9 m/16 feet - so 4 feet wider than the NCAA.