“Ice! Ice! Ice!”
Chris Walker wasn’t ordering a drink with this command during Texas Tech’s season-opening win against Prairie View A&M last Friday. The Tech coach was calling a play. More accurately, he was calling for one of his guys to make a play.
The “ice” call refers to “isolation,” in which one of Tech’s guards takes the ball at the top of the key with the other four players spread out near or beyond the 3-point line. From there, it’s up to the guy with the ball in his hand to make something happen.
“We have four to five guys who can create their own shot,” Walker said. “That’s a luxury. Usually, there’s only one guy. It makes you a tougher team to defend if you have those guys that can get to the rim.”
Walker called for a handful of isolation plays against Prairie View, with guards Daylen Robinson, Jamal Williams and Josh Gray taking command at different times. Like good jazz music, the plays offer room for improvisation. They also illustrate the freedom the Red Raiders have inside Walker’s offense.
“He gives us all a chance to go make plays, to attack and get other players open shots,” said Robinson, who scored 14 points against Prairie View. “It keeps you from being nervous or worried about making mistakes. You can just go out there and play your game.”
Freedom will continue to be granted when Tech (1-0) hosts Nebraska-Omaha (1-1) at 7 p.m. today inside United Spirit Arena, but that approach isn’t just about giving players the confidence that comes with a green light. It’s also about keeping teams off balance defensively.
“We have guys that can create their own shot, and we give them the freedom to do that,” Walker said. “We want them to create for other guys. That makes you unpredictable. I believe in unpredictable actions. I think if you call a play every time down, people can start to scout you and say, ‘They’re going to do this, or they’re going to do that.’”
The style isn’t devoid of drawbacks. The Red Raiders, one of college basketball’s most mistake-prone teams last season, turned the ball over 17 times in the opener, 10 in the second half as Prairie View trimmed a once 20-point lead down to eight. Some of that can be attributed to young players still trying to learn each other’s tendencies in a system that has been installed for little more than a month.
Still, the Red Raiders know moving fast and freely on offense doesn’t mean they can be careless with the ball.
“I think we’re doing much better this year,” guard Toddrick Gotcher said, “but we need to protect the ball better. We’re very young, so people are getting used to the college game, getting a feel for it.”
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