Mike DeCourcy's SportingBlog
Pepperdine's offense is a recruiting tool, too
August 20, 2007
Pepperdine's Vance Walberg can't talk about the recruits, because that would be against NCAA rules. He is allowed to talk about recruiting, of course, though not without an unnecessary display of modesty.
First, he gives credit to his assistant coaches "doing a great job." Fair enough. There's almost always a terrific assistant coach behind a big recruiting win.
Then he starts talking about Pepperdine's beautiful campus and directly asks, "Have you ever been out here?" Indeed, the campus is so spectacular it ought to sell itself. But if it did, the otherwise capable Paul Westphal wouldn't have failed with the Waves and Walberg still might be coaching junior college in Fresno.
Foremost, Walberg is getting players such as elite 2008 wing Brad Tinsley and underexposed point guard prospect Paul McCoy because of the promise of the system he labels AASAA: Attack, Attack, Skip, Attack, Attack.
We can only hope it becomes more famous and popular than the Princeton offense.
"If I'm a kid, do I want to pass-pass-pass?" Walberg said. "I think the style that we play is a recruiting tool."
The AASAA offense -- I won't call it an "attack," because that would be redundant -- is mostly about driving the ball into the defense and kicking it back out to open 3-point shooters. Or, if the defense is uncommonly cooperative, driving the ball into the defense and all the way to the rim. The way Walberg prefers it -- combining it with fullcourt pressure defense the way he did it at California's Clovis West High and Fresno City College -- things happen so quickly opponents can't manage to catch their breath.
He needs players to make it work, though, and last season just didn't have enough to get it going. Pepperdine added three key recruits for 2008, including 6-6 forward Mychel Thompson (son of former Minnesota great Mychal Thompson) and 6-6 forward Tyrone Shelley. Tinsley and McCoy will take the talent up another couple notches, and it'll get even better if the Waves land either 6-7 Klay Thompson or 6-8 Renaldo Woolridge (son of former Notre Dame great Orlando Woolridge) for this class.
By the time Pepperdine fields the sort of team Walberg imagines, we'll have seen Memphis play three seasons with this offense and pursue the 2008 NCAA championship. Memphis doesn't move quite as fast with its version, but the Tigers certainly are playing at a tempo most teams find discomfiting.
John Calipari very openly borrowed the AASAA from Walberg when he was ringing up 100-point games at Fresno City College and probably helped get him noticed for the Pepperdine job. Now, when Calipari watches typical low-post entry type offenses he finds himself itching for more action on the court. He also has a different name for his scheme: the Dribble Drive Motion offense. It's catchier, which is no surprise, because Calipari is a born promoter.
Calipari and Walberg met when Walberg was making his annual preseason trip to scout other coaches' practices. When he was at Clovis High, Walberg hit on the idea to visit one great coach annually for a week of observation. He'd take time off from teaching and pay for the trips himself and go get a look at Bob Knight at work, or Rick Pitino, or Denny Crum. Year after year. A few years back, he was in Memphis to watch the Grizzlies and was introduced to Calipari, and soon enough Cal was rearranging his entire approach to the game of basketball. It worked well enough to get the Tigers to the Elite Eight in consecutive seasons, and perhaps will push them even farther this year.
Calipari and Walberg will work together for one weekend, presenting a clinic focused on the AASAA offense at the Grand Casino Resort in Tunica, Miss., which is near Memphis. So this time, Walberg will be the coach others are coming to see. The guy who used to go and watch all the gurus of the game has become one. But not like all the others.
"I know when I first started coaching, I used to call a play every time down the court," Walberg said. "Now, I don't want them looking at me. I want them playing."