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Has Larranaga found the right spot for Isaiah Tate?

George Mason Basketball: Has Larranaga found the right spot for Isaiah Tate?

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Has Larranaga found the right spot for Isaiah Tate?

At the beginning of the season it was difficult to expect what kind of contributions we would see from Isaiah Tate. With the influx of new talent all over the roster and the fact that Tate never had a season averaging more than 2 points a game, one would have thought he would be the odd man out in the guard rotation. In the Villanova game in Puerto Rico, freshmen Rashad Whack got the start over him for the rule-breaking Andre Cornelius and was a game he picked up a DNP.

Then Tate got the start against UNCW, which may have been the result of an unhappy camper in senior Louis Birdsong, who recently has been airing out his frustrations with the situation on twitter. Be that as it may Tate played 32 minutes in that game and collected 4 steals, contributing to a solid defensive effort on the road for the Patriots. He has since started against Dayton and last week's game against Creighton. While his stats might not wow you, I feel he is finally being used to the best to his abilities and here is why:
  • Tate is best used a spot-up shooter. He's never had great ball handling skills so playing him at the 2 spot was always a risk. While he was brought in to be a Lamar Butler type guy because of his three-point shooting ability he never was used the same way as Butler. Now you often see him in the line-up at the 3 spot which was previously being held by Birdsong. At 6'4" Tate has the size to play there and is given the opportunity to play a more catch and shoot role, which worked out pretty nicely while he was in the game against Creighton.
  • He still plays better defense than the freshmen. If you watch the games closely Tate is never wildly out of position on defense like Sherrod Wright and Luke Hancock have been caught doing. It's not a knock on those guys it is just Tate's experience in Larranaga's system, something those guys can't pick-up over night.
  • He doesn't turn over the ball. This season he has played 120 minutes and has only 1 turnover. By contrast Vertrail Vaughns has played 40 minutes and has 10. Sherrod Wright has played only 29 more minutes than Tate and has turned the ball over 10 times. as well. Late in a close game, who would rather have on the court?
I'm curious to see how this plays out, will Tate's minutes increase and will he continue to start or is this just a temporary experiment? It's difficult to think Hancock or Wright won't take over as a starter at some point down the road but for now their rookie miscues might be Tate's gain and may be better for the team at this point.

[photo credit Off wing Opinion via Flickr]


Blogger C Hirsch said...

Link to Birdsong's Twitter? Would be curious to see what he has been saying.

5:28 PM  
Blogger's good for you. said...

Louis just needs to be silent. He's shown little in THREE years so far...I don't know what makes him think he deserves any more minutes than he's getting.

5:31 AM  
Blogger Stephen Brooks said...

Birdsong's Twitter:

Go ahead, he craves followers.

8:56 AM  
Blogger Ryan said...

He deleted the tweets I was referring to, but the jist of it was him calling GMU a hell hole and he couldn't wait to graduate.

9:10 AM  
Blogger Robert W said...

I know there are some Tate-haters out there, but I'm personally excited to see him doing well in the starting position. Tate must be doing the little things right, which is an important lesson to teach younger guys like Hancock and Wright.

I always felt Louis was one of the better jump shooters on the team. In the past he's done a great job within the 15 ft range. Whether it was Larranaga's idea or his own, he's tried to stretch his game out further and it hasn't worked as well. In my opinion, if it ain't broke, don't fix it! Tough to keep up with the talent we have now, Birdsong is the last recruit of the "pre-final 4" era.

Overall great post Ryan.

9:14 AM  
Blogger mooky_l3d said...

With Birdsong it is kind of a love hate relationship. I believe it was last year that he came out on fire, and even led Mason in scoring a couple of games. He does have a nice shot and you can tell that he worked on the long shot the offseason before last. I will give him credit for that, infact when everyone else on the team (big men) would struggle with the 15 ft. jumper Birdsong actually excelled. As far as this year goes I think that the talent level and desire are to much for him to complain about anything. It is almost as if he stopped working on what he was good at. He was one of the leaders in blocks, and rebounds a couple of years in a row. Now with what Mason has he has gone into a shell of selfishness. He almost seems lost at times when he is playing.

With Tate I don't see a lot of offense coming from him game to game. At this point in the season (still early) the team should be starting to gell and other teams know who will be able to hurt them or who they can leave open. If he develops a consistant shot and still rebounds then he might be the piece this team needs. Defensively he has done a fair job creating turnovers and making steals. I think if there is a small forward with post abilities Tate will suffer. But if he continues to guard out on the wing he should be fine.

1:55 PM  
Blogger Christopher said...

It may not seem like it from what Birdsong posted on Twitter, but his displeasures are warranted (in my opinion). I spoke with him shortly after reading his posts. He feels that his eagerness to become a better player is outweighing the coaching staffs' dedication to committing their time outside of practice. Frustrating for him to say the least.

He isn't complaining about the minutes he's been receiving thus far, in fact he's keen on improving his game for the betterment of the team. I actually don't think he's done a terrible job for the minutes he's gotten so far this season. Albeit his shooting % is dismal (22%, 15% from 3), I think the team benefits from his defensive presence and hustle. The Patriots were actually +13 with Louis on court against Dayton while Pearson was out with the hand injury.

All in all, you can't blame the kid for venting his frustrations. Also, it seems as if the perimeter experiment is nearing its end and Louis will be back at his natural position of the 4 for the majority of the time he's on the floor. Hopefully his production (numbers wise) will spike once that move is completed.

1:02 AM  
Blogger Beach Dreams said...

I have nothing negative to say about Birdsong. He boards, shoots a good % and plays interior defense well. Re: Tate.... if he can protect the ball as he does and play the solid d., he will stay in. Too many players don't treasure the ball possession. So many people look at points and moves, but look at the shooting percentage and the number of turnovers. As Moses Malone once said... "if you don't have the ball, you can't score." Ball protection.

3:54 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Whatever he's doing with Tate, he shouldn't stop. I'm glad to see he's getting the minutes and points.

5:44 AM  

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