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Red Storm in Review 2011-12: Phil Greene

"Like Coach Dunlap says, each day we gotta get better and better." - Phil Greene after the 87-81 victory over DePaul in his hometown Chicago. We delve into Greene and his mid-range game in this latest installment of Red Storm in Review.

courtesy Robert Kowal

In raw numbers, Phil Greene's game both thrills and chills. Nurideen Lindsey, brought in to be the creative lead guard, stormed away from the program after the Detroit game. The departure of the over-aggressive Lindsey left a number of shots for Greene.

And so Phil dribbled into the role of the team's third scorer, looking for his offense in transition off of the bounce, taking a number of mid-range jump shots to get points for the often scoring-starved Red Storm.

Sometimes it worked well. For example, the regular season loss at Pittsburgh, where Moe Harkless sat out much of the game with an ankle injury. Phil Greene was a huge chunk of the offense, scoring 18 points with 7 assists with a quick dribble in transition against the mediocre Pitt perimeter defense. He was a solid passer in that game - not spectacular, but at times was looking to make the good pass, which is what one wants in an attacking lead guard (as opposed to a probing, "quarterbacking" lead guard).

In the next game against Pittsburgh, of course, Greene went 0/7 from the floor as Harkless showcased himself for the NBA scouts in the audience and D`Angelo Harrison hungrily attacked the Pitt defense (and missed shots). The game before, vs. Rutgers, Greene went 1/7 and scored on a three-pointer.

He drew 2 foul shots combined in those games.

Therein lies the need for development. In wide open games where he could easily snake into the lane, Greene had some nice moments getting shots off and putting defenses on their heels.

But whether he's having a good game or a bad one, there is one constant - he loves the mid-range game, taking over 50% of his shots in Big East play in that area in between the three-point line and the rim, the place where old school purists' laments permeate the air above the floorboards.

When those shots are falling, it's easy to remark on the creativity and savvy.

When they're not, it's easy to remark that fouls are drawn deep in the paint, and that three-pointers are worth, well, three points. The Big East in-conference average on shots away from the rim is just under 33%. Shots at the rim connected at just under 60%; three pointers at 32%.

It's a commonly held perception that the mid-range game is a dying art, one that should return like the bean bag chair, the muscle car, and retro clothing/ jewelry. But there is a reason that smart defensive teams (such as Duke) often work to force opposing teams to take the low-percentage mid-range shot as a matter of scheme.

That's not to say being a mid-range specialist can't work. In the Big East, freshman Anthony Collins of South Florida killed with the deft floater, shooting 48% in the mid-range and taking half of his shots from there. Ashton Gibbs also appreciated the mid-range shot. Cincinnati's Dion Dixon accepts a jump shot opportunity wherever he can get one off, as did Virginia Tech's Dorenzo Hudson.

It can work. But each of those players supplements their jump shot with fouls drawn.

Along with getting to the line, Greene has to hit more of the mid-range shots he chooses to take. His work with Rico Hines made him smooth off the bounce, but he has to complete more of those shots. Greene has to extend his range out to the three-point line to score more efficiently. And he needs to draw more than 15 free throws in 19 games of conference play.

To his credit, Greene has reportedly gained some muscle, which should help him drive for contact. It may also help him extend his range and endurance. Of note: Phil Greene took a 23 shots within a long stride of the three-point arc - and he hit 48% of those shots.

The range may be there. It just needs a step-back.

Phil Greene Essential Stats

The positives: smooth and offensively active.

Rumble_icon_x-small_copy_mediumGetting shots is a skill. Phil Greene can get shots off. But he needs to improve the shot-taking into shot-making, especially with a much larger roster of players hungry for minutes. Greene is the kind of player who can (like Harrison) be a scoring sparkplug/ "microwave" type that jump starts a bad offensive day.

Rumble_icon_x-small_copy_mediumAnd taking shots was just what St. John's needed, given a roster with one other constantly attacking player (Harrison) and a player who was a focal point but had to find spots where he could display his scoring skill set (Harkless). What Greene was able to do was set the tone for the Johnnies. Much of the team struggled to score - and a lack of good passing could have been an issue. But in that environment, Greene managed to get all but a quarter of his shots off in Big East play without help of an assist.

The negatives: more, more, more.

Rumble_icon_x-small_copy_mediumGreene has to score more if he plans to play in this attacking manner. It's a great style, it fits with what seems to be Steve Lavin's style. But a player who isn't hitting at least 40% of his twos and isn't hitting 33% of his threes can feel like a liability unless he brings other skills to the court.

Rumble_icon_x-small_copy_mediumOther skills are needed. Phil Greene's defense was solid, he was engaged. And his passing had some strong moments. But he has to continue to look for opportunities to make plays as opposed to making shots. Some of his shot selection has to be attributed to a desire to have a team that wasn't afraid to shoot, a team that needed someone to step up and score.


Phil Greene may find himself struggling to find the same playing time that he did last year, especially once Jamal Branch comes on board. Branch brings a different mentality to the position - passing, probing. Coach Lavin is already on record as saying that D`Angelo Harrison will play some point guard, much as Dwight Hardy did for the Johnnies.

We know how well Hardy shone with the ball in his hands.

With a lot of talent on the floor, Greene will have to develop into a similarly dangerous player to carve out a significant role this year.

Headline photo courtesy Robert Kowal.

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