Maine didn’t use Fraser effectively; ex-post player Rassi believes position facing extinction

After another basketball season of watching and officiating games, I see fewer back-to-the-basket post players being utilized, let alone being used correctly.

This has been reinforced by  Louisville winning this year’s NCAA title and the Miami Heat winning the NBA title last year. Both did it without a true post man.

Ali Fraser, the 6-foot-7 post player for the University of Maine men’s basketball team, is considering leaving the program. Maybe one of the reasons he is doing this is because he did not get enough offensive touches during his three years at Maine.

He averaged 13 points per game, shot 49 percent from the floor, only got 11.7 field goal attempts per game and got to the foul line just 2.5 times per game. He led the team in minutes played with 33.3 minutes and started all 30 games. He was under utilized.

He was an effective back-to-the-basket player when he got the ball. If  he wasn’t double teamed he could score one-on-one on the block. When he was double teamed, he was capable of finding the open teammate.

This brought back memories of a happy high school post player who became unhappy playing college basketball so that he looked to transfer, too.

Post players have to run rim-to-rim on shots at either basket and then before they get set in the offensive end at the low block , many times a perimeter player who only has to run foul line to foul line, jacks up a 3-pointer. The post player then has to turn around and run right back to the other rim.

So, I called a former back-to-the-basket player, Ken Rassi, who was the last real dominant high school back-to-the-basket player in Maine since he played for a team I coached, John Bapst, and led the Crusaders to a 22-0 season and state Class B title in 1993.

The 7-foot-1, 250-pound Rassi now lives in Texas. I asked him about his college experience from 1994-98. He had more than 30 Division I scholarship offers. He was one of the three finalists for Mr. Basketball in Maine, was selected as the Maine Gatorade Player of the year, and was a first-team BDN All-Maine selection.

He went to Fresno State in California, which was ranked in the top 50 teams in the country. He got some playing time there, but he did not see the ball much as a back-to-the-basket player in a West Coast run-and-gun offense..

So he transferred to the University of New Hampshire where coach Gib Chapman, a friend of mine with Maine hoop connections, who had recruited him hard, and told Ken there was always a scholarship available for him at UNH if he ever wanted to transfer back to New England.

After sitting out the transfer year, Ken had a very good sophomore season under Gib, but Chapman left the position and an assistant coach under Chapman, who came from Stanford, was named the head coach. Ironically, Ken was then playing in a West Coast style of offense again and did so for three of his four collegiate seasons.

If post payers are not rewarded with the ball  for running the court, then they become frustrated and stop defending and start fouling..

They do all the dirty work and rarely get rewarded unless they reward themselves by going hard to the offensive boards.

Ken feels that the post player is becoming extinct. Very few teams at the DI and NBA levels have great post players.

Teams are eliminating post players and here are some of the reasons Ken and I believe this is occurring:

1. The 3-point line and the emphasis on perimeter shooting.

2. It is hard work to develop a good big man.

3. Most coaches do not know how or do not want to take the time to develop a big man from scratch.

4. When coaches have an adequate post player many do not use the correct offensive alignment.

5. Perimeter players do not want to and are not forced to look inside first before shooting.

6. Coaches may tell their perimeter players to pass the ball four times and if they don’t get it to the post player, then they can take the shot  – and that is exactly what they get, four passes and a perimeter shot.

Ken said that he received more touches in his 22 high school game schedule in his senior year then he did in his four-year college career of 100 plus games.

I have heard the following old coaches adage: “You can’t make big men.” What they really meant was “that you can’t grow big men,” but Ken believes today that post players are becoming extinct because coaches “don’t coach big men.” I agree.

The way things are going, I agree with with Ken who believes that it will take just a few more seasons and all five players will be playing facing the basket and the big skilled back-to-the-basket-player will no longer exist.