If Brangers operates as a Curry-Thompson hybrid, Steve Green has shaped Jahlil Tripp, his starting power forward, into a facsimile of the Warriors’ Draymond Green: a versatile player who can handle the ball, shoot with range and defend multiple positions. Tripp, a product of Lincoln High in Brooklyn, was averaging 10.9 points and 6.3 rebounds a game going into Thursday’s contest. He said he would prefer to be known as a college version of the Cavaliers’ LeBron James, his favorite player.
“But Coach wants me to be Draymond,” said Tripp, who has scholarship offers from schools like Hofstra, Indiana State and the University of the Pacific. “So I’m Draymond.”
And there is Josh Webster, the starting point guard, who tries to emulate Livingston, a lanky and efficient playmaker. Like Livingston, Webster is perpetually searching for driving lanes as teammates drag defenders to the 3-point line. Webster, who is bound for Texas Tech with Brangers next season, was shooting 63.2 percent from the field, which goes to the core of Green’s revamped approach.
“I just want guys who can shoot now,” he said. “If you have somebody on the floor who can’t score, you’re playing four against five. They just don’t guard them.”
Green, in his 17th season at South Plains, is a decorated coach. He guided his team to national championships in 2008 and 2012, and it was the runner-up in 2015. But last season was a relative struggle. South Plains finished 21-9 and out of the playoff picture. Something was amiss.
Green had already been thinking about how the game was evolving. As a young coach, he said, he was schooled on the importance of defense. In fact, his first college job was as a graduate assistant to Eddie Sutton at Arkansas, back when the Razorbacks were a grind-it-out, roll-up-your-sleeves squad of sturdy defenders.
But in recent years, Green had seen how players were becoming more skilled on offense: power forwards who could put the ball on the floor and shoot 3-pointers, guards who could stretch defenders like rubber bands by pulling up from 25 feet. He had one such player, Marshall Henderson, who led South Plains to its national title in 2012.
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