LOOKING UP: Digna Strautmane’s indecisiveness prevents her from becoming the player SU thinks she can be

first_img Published on November 2, 2018 at 11:24 am Contact Nick: nialvare@syr.edu | @nick_a_alvarez,Cancel replyYou must be logged in to post a comment. Quentin Hillsman and Adeniyi Amadou spent the summer of 2017 scouting the FIBA U20 European Championship, waiting. The pair tuned in to further evaluate five-star Latvian-forward Digna Strautmane, the gem of Syracuse’s 2017 recruiting class. Hillsman and Amadou saw games trickle into the fourth quarter with the score tight, expecting Strautmane to rise above feeble competition. She was usually the best player on the court. ESPN’s HoopGurlz ranked her the fifth best forward in the 2017 class. Yet, in crunch time, Strautmane passed instead of shot. She involved her teammates, forgoing one-on-one matchups. She finished the tournament averaging 18.7 points, 7.4 boards and 2.1 assists. She performed well, Amadou remembers, but she never took over. Without knowing it, Strautmane confirmed the suspicions of her soon-to-be coaches: She’s selfless, maybe to a fault.“I understand what they want,” Strautmane said, “but when the game comes it’s some misunderstanding.” AdvertisementThis is placeholder textStrautmane, one of SU’s five returning starters, is the representation of the “balance” that Hillsman will strive to create in his 3-point shooting, post presence offense. With the exception of center Amaya Finklea-Guity, each member of the frontcourt will be expected to attack the paint and shoot 3s, both areas in which Strautmane’s indecisiveness plagued her last season. The dichotomy of her game reveals itself whenever she holds the ball: her help-everyone mindset distinguishes her as a leader off the court, but an inefficient scorer on it. Realizing her potential could lead Syracuse to a deep NCAA tournament run. Her coaches think the 2018-19 campaign could be Strautmane’s time, but it remains uncertain. “We’ve known that all along that it would be her (decision-making) she has to work and develop,” Amadou, SU’s assistant and frontcourt coach, said. “It might be a three-year process, we don’t know.”,Strautmane developed in an environment where her selflessness was rewarded. In her hometown of Riga, Latvia, Strautmane’s sister, Paula, called her an “artsy kid.” Strautmane sung and danced before she stepped on the basketball court. She only gave up when her dance teacher told her she was too uncoordinated. Anda Pauliņa, her neighbor, dragged an eight-year-old Strautmane to a basketball practice months later.One game, players rotated in based on their placement on the bench. Whoever exited the game took a seat at the end of the bench. Everyone else slid over one seat. When Strautmane reached the seat next to Inita Eglite, her coach, Eglite stared at her youngest, least-talented athlete and picked someone else. The next time a player came off the floor, Strautmane dropped to her knees and begged for minutes. Lanky and two years younger than her teammates, Strautmane couldn’t find the court. When she did, Strautmane executed the right passes and kept the ball moving, fearful she’d return to the bench if she made a mistake.By the end of her ninth-grade season, Strautmane’s ability caught up with her frame, and coaches in the United States called. BlueStar Europe, a third-party recruiting service for international athletes and American high schools, invited Strautmane to a showcase in Denmark. Dan Bowmaker, the head of BSE, sold Strautmane on the dream of top-end athletic gear and competitive basketball. A few years earlier, not able to afford new basketball shoes, Strautmane attended 100-straight basketball practices to get a free pair of Reeboks. Strautmane saw a future in the US, like her sister did when she committed to Quinnipiac two years prior.Ainārs Čukste, Strautmane’s coach at the time, threatened to fight Bowmaker if he came to a practice to actively recruit Strautmane. She stayed in Latvia and committed to SU three years later. “There, you will play at the same level as all the other girls,” Strautmane recalled Čukste saying. “(In Latvia), you can improve better.”Her early days laid the foundation for the pass-first mentality the Orange spent last season eradicating. The Orange, down in the fourth quarter en route to its first home loss of the year against Virginia Tech on Feb. 1, ran the offense through Strautmane. She finished with a team-high 20 points, but it wasn’t good enough. In the fourth, Strautmane caught the ball on the right block and pivoted her feet. Her eyes swung around the court, searching for a white jersey. Hillsman nearly charged the court as Strautmane passed up a one-on-one opportunity. She wants her teammates to impact the game, sometimes at her, and SU’s, expense. Her worst performances coincided with the team’s worst losses. In Miami on Jan.18, SU lost by five with Strautmane scoring three points on 1-for-11 shooting. Versus Oklahoma State in the NCAA Tournament, she tied a season-low in minutes, knocking down one shot in the 84-57 season-ending blowout. “She’s so unselfish, she always wants to make the right basketball play,” Amadou said, “but there are times where the right basketball play requires you to be selfish. It’s hard to get her to understand the message sometimes because she has to step outside of her comfort zone as a human-being, almost.” Strautmane’s passiveness clashed with the defining principles of Hillsman’s offense: running the floor and shooting 3s. Syracuse called plays to generate open shots for its swing-four and watched her pass the ball immediately. Last season, Hillsman simply “guessed” what the then-freshman would do when open with the ball.Amadou recognized her footwork from behind-the-arc. She rarely caught the ball with the intention to shoot. Strautmane always looked for the open pass, neglecting her own free space. When she realized she had a shot, she rushed her footwork and the ball clanked off the rim time and again. Five Orange shooters totaled more than 100 3-point attempts. Of them, Strautmane posted the worst shooting percentage (21.3 percent on 29-for-136 tries). Coaches said Strautmane put in extra work, entering the gym at 5:30 a.m., but come tip-off she reverts back. “When she was decisive,” Hillsman said, “she was consistent. It’s about being more decisive in what she’s doing. She catches it, she’s open, she needs to shoot it.”Her international teammates warned her that the game speed in the U.S would be an adjustment. During SU’s first non-conditioning practice last season, Strautmane said she was overwhelmed. Mistakes piled up, and she turned to Amadou for one-on-one assistance. The training helped, allowing Strautmane to have a 67-point three-game stretch in conference play. When she rejoined her national team last September, she felt faster and stronger. Every summer, each player leaves with a list of things they can improve upon, Hillsman said. Shooting was at the top of Strautmane’s list. “She’s been great since she came back for her national team,” Hillsman said. “She’s been a different player. She’s shooting the ball well. She’s not hesitating when the ball hits her hands.”Strautmane was a rotation piece on Latvia’s FIBA World Cup team. She averaged 10 minutes in the squad’s three games and ceded shots to older, more-established shooters. On Sept. 22 against China, Latvia’s first game, Strautmane whipped the ball inside. The defense collapsed as she shifted to the left wing. She caught the ball with her feet squared toward the basket, eyes locked on the rim and swished it. For that one shot, she was the player Syracuse thinks she can be. Cover photo by Josh Shub-Seltzer | Staff Photographer Commentslast_img read more

Clippers can’t slow Jimmy Butler down stretch in loss to Timberwolves

first_img Newsroom GuidelinesNews TipsContact UsReport an Error “The miscommunication, the awareness, we’re talking to each other and they’re racing the ball up the floor,” he said of several breakdowns that led to easy Clippers baskets in the fourth quarter. “The fourth quarter is so different, and we have a lot to do in that area.”The Wolves overcame a season-high 30 points from Austin Rivers, who matched his career best with seven 3-pointers. Rivers’ final 3-pointer gave the Clippers a 92-91 lead with 6:54 to play before Butler scored nine in a row to send them to their third straight loss.Minnesota led for most of the game but couldn’t manage a serious run, mostly due to Rivers’ shooting. Rivers hit three 3-pointers in the final five minutes of the first half to keep the Clippers close. He had a career-high 20 points in the half.“I just got good looks early and once you see a couple go in, it goes from there,” Rivers said. “Once you make a couple, even the tough ones seem easy, or at least in my mind.”The back and forth continued for most of the second half, and a couple of Minnesota defensive lapses led to easy layups and a wide-open dunk by Montrezl Harrell to give the Clippers an 84-83 lead with 9:12 to go. PreviousTimberwolves forward Karl-Anthony Towns battles for a rebound with the Clippers’ Montrezl Harrell during the second quarter of Sunday’s game in Minneapolis. (AP Photo/Andy Clayton-King)Los Angeles Clippers guard Austin Rivers (25) drives on Minnesota Timberwolves guard Andrew Wiggins (22) with Los Angeles Clippers forward DeAndre Jordan (6) setting a pick in the first quarter of an NBA basketball game on Sunday, Dec. 3, 2017, in Minneapolis. (AP Photo/Andy Clayton-King)Minnesota Timberwolves guard forward Jimmy Butler (23) shoots against the Los Angeles Clippers in the first quarter of an NBA basketball game on Sunday, Dec. 3, 2017, in Minneapolis. (AP Photo/Andy Clayton-King) SoundThe gallery will resume insecondsMinnesota Timberwolves guard Jamal Crawford (11) fouls Los Angeles Clippers guard Sam Dekker (7) in the first quarter of an NBA basketball game on Sunday, Dec. 3, 2017, in Minneapolis. (AP Photo/Andy Clayton-King)Minnesota Timberwolves guard Tyus Jones (1) drives around Los Angeles Clippers guard Jawun Evans (1) in the first quarter of an NBA basketball game on Sunday, Dec. 3, 2017, in Minneapolis. (AP Photo/Andy Clayton-King)Minnesota Timberwolves forward Karl-Anthony Towns fights for a rebound with Los Angeles Clippers Montrezl Harrell (5) in the second quarter of an NBA basketball game on Sunday, Dec. 3, 2017, in Minneapolis. (AP Photo/Andy Clayton-King)Minnesota Timberwolves guard Tyus Jones (1) drives around Los Angeles Clippers guard Jawun Evans (1) in the first quarter of an NBA basketball game on Sunday, Dec. 3, 2017, in Minneapolis. (AP Photo/Andy Clayton-King)Minnesota Timberwolves guard Jamal Crawford (11) shoots over Los Angeles Clippers guard Lou Williams (23) in the first quarter of an NBA basketball game on Sunday, Dec. 3, 2017, in Minneapolis. (AP Photo/Andy Clayton-King)Minnesota Timberwolves forward Jimmy Butler (23) is congratulated by Timberwolves guard Andrew Wiggins (22) after scoring on the Los Angeles Clippers in the fourth quarter of an NBA basketball game on Sunday, Dec. 3, 2017, in Minneapolis. The Timberwolves defeated the Clippers 112-106. (AP Photo/Andy Clayton-King)Minnesota Timberwolves forward Jimmy Butler (23) is congratulated by Timberwolves guard Andrew Wiggins (22) after scoring on the Los Angeles Clippers in the fourth quarter of an NBA basketball game on Sunday, Dec. 3, 2017, in Minneapolis. The Timberwolves defeated the Clippers 112-106. (AP Photo/Andy Clayton-King)Los Angeles Clippers guard Lou Williams (23) shoots over Minnesota Timberwolves center Taj Gibson (67) in the fourth quarter of an NBA basketball game on Sunday, Dec. 3, 2017, in Minneapolis. The Timberwolves defeated the Clippers 112-106. (AP Photo/Andy Clayton-King)Los Angeles Clippers guard Austin Rivers (25) drives through a pick by Clippers center DeAndre (6) while Minnesota Timberwolves forward Jimmy Butler (23) and Timberwolves center Taj Gibson (67) defend in the fourth quarter of an NBA basketball game on Sunday, Dec. 3, 2017, in Minneapolis. The Timberwolves defeated the Clippers 112-106. (AP Photo/Andy Clayton-King)Los Angeles Clippers guard Austin Rivers (25) shoots against the Minnesota Timberwolves in the third quarter of an NBA basketball game on Sunday, Dec. 3, 2017, in Minneapolis. The Timberwolves defeated the Clippers 112-106. (AP Photo/Andy Clayton-King)Los Angeles Clippers guard Lou Williams (23) has the ball stolen by Minnesota Timberwolves center Gorgui Dieng (5) in the third quarter of a NBA basketball game on Sunday, Dec. 3, 2017, in Minneapolis. The Timberwolves defeated the Clippers 112-106. (AP Photo/Andy Clayton-King)Minnesota Timberwolves forward Andrew Wiggins (22) shoots in front of Los Angeles Clippers forward Jamil Wilson (13) in the third quarter of an NBA basketball game on Sunday, Dec. 3, 2017, in Minneapolis. The Timberwolves defeated the Clippers 112-106. (AP Photo/Andy Clayton-King)Minnesota Timberwolves forward Jimmy Butler (23) passes to Timberwolves center Taj Gibson (67) over Los Angeles Clippers guard Austin Rivers (25) in the third quarter of an NBA basketball game on Sunday, Dec. 3, 2017, in Minneapolis. The Timberwolves defeated the Clippers 112-106. (AP Photo/Andy Clayton-King)Los Angeles Clippers forward Montrezl Harrell is fouled by Minnesota Timberwolves guard Jamal Crawford (11) in the third quarter of an NBA basketball game on Sunday, Dec. 3, 2017, in Minneapolis. The Timberwolves defeated the Clippers 112-106. (AP Photo/Andy Clayton-King)Minnesota Timberwolves forward Karl-Anthony Towns (32) shoots in front of Los Angeles Clippers guard Austin Rivers (25) and Los Angeles Clippers center DeAndre Jordan (6) in the second quarter of an NBA basketball game on Sunday, Dec. 3, 2017, in Minneapolis. The Timberwolves defeated the Clippers 112-106. (AP Photo/Andy Clayton-King)Los Angeles Clippers Doc Rivers yells during a timeout against the Minnesota Timberwolves in the third quarter of an NBA basketball game on Sunday, Dec. 3, 2017, in Minneapolis. The Timberwolves defeated the Clippers 112-106. (AP Photo/Andy Clayton-King)Minnesota Timberwolves head coach Tom Thibodeau argues a call against the Los Angeles Clippers in the third quarter of an NBA basketball game on Sunday, Dec. 3, 2017, in Minneapolis. The Timberwolves defeated the Clippers 112-106. (AP Photo/Andy Clayton-King)Minnesota Timberwolves guard Jeff Teague against the Los Angeles Clippers during a NBA basketball game on Sunday, Dec. 3, 2017, in Minneapolis. (AP Photo/Andy Clayton-King)Timberwolves forward Karl-Anthony Towns battles for a rebound with the Clippers’ Montrezl Harrell during the second quarter of Sunday’s game in Minneapolis. (AP Photo/Andy Clayton-King)Los Angeles Clippers guard Austin Rivers (25) drives on Minnesota Timberwolves guard Andrew Wiggins (22) with Los Angeles Clippers forward DeAndre Jordan (6) setting a pick in the first quarter of an NBA basketball game on Sunday, Dec. 3, 2017, in Minneapolis. (AP Photo/Andy Clayton-King)NextShow Caption1 of 21Los Angeles Clippers guard Austin Rivers (25) drives on Minnesota Timberwolves guard Andrew Wiggins (22) with Los Angeles Clippers forward DeAndre Jordan (6) setting a pick in the first quarter of an NBA basketball game on Sunday, Dec. 3, 2017, in Minneapolis. (AP Photo/Andy Clayton-King)ExpandMINNEAPOLIS — Austin Rivers had his best game of the season, but that wasn’t enough to offset a heavy dose of Jimmy Butler on Sunday night.Butler scored 20 of his 33 points in the fourth quarter to help Minnesota outlast the short-handed Clippers 112-106. After the game, though, Butler spent more time bemoaning his team’s efensive breakdowns — a common sight in these parts for the past several years.“We’ve got to start guarding somebody,” Butler said. “It’s really bad, it’s really noticeable, and everybody capitalizes on it. But lucky enough, if your shot’s falling you can still win. But good gracious, if it’s not, I’d hate to see which way this game could’ve went.”Sounds an awful lot like his defensive-minded coach, Tom Thibodeau, who’s trying to solve Minnesota’s defensive woes as it looks to turn around a culture of losing. Thibodeau looked and sounded just as downcast as he has after losses.center_img Rivers’ seventh 3-pointer gave the Clippers a one-point lead, but Butler took over from there, hitting a free throw, 3-pointer and short jumper before converting a 3-point play to give the Wolves some breathing room.“I mean, if I make a couple shots,” Butler said, “why not keep shooting the ball?”His teammates certainly didn’t mind.“That shows you why he’s such an elite player in this league,” Karl-Anthony Towns said. “I was glad to have the popcorn right there and have a front row seat for it because it was amazing.”GROWING PAINSRookies Jamil Wilson and C.J. Williams made their first career starts. Wilson finished with nine points and Williams five. The Clippers were again missing four of their opening-night starters, but it wasn’t obvious from the close score. And the Clippers’ bench outscored Minnesota’s 43-23.“Overall, I’m upset,” Clippers coach Doc Rivers said. “I mean, you want to win the game. But I loved how we played. It’s amazing how much better we got in one night. That’s what I would take.”TIP-INSClippers: Doc Rivers said forward Danilo Gallinari (strained left glute) would play 3-on-3 and could be close to returning. “He’ll play in the next couple, two to three games will be my guess,” Rivers said. Gallinari, who is averaging 12.8 points, missed his 13th game due to the injury. … Lou Williams had 23 points off the bench, and DeAndre Jordan had 17, including some big dunks in the fourth. … The Clippers face Minnesota again on Wednesday, this time at Staples Center.Timberwolves: Thibodeau reached 300 career victories. He’s 300-200. … Former USC standout Taj Gibson had 20 points, and Towns had 15 points and 12 rebounds for his NBA-leading 19th double-double. … Forward Nemanja Bjelica missed his sixth straight game since spraining his left foot. He’s dressed for the last four games. … Jamal Crawford scored 12 points in his first game against his old team. Crawford played five seasons for the Clippers. … The Wolves have beaten the Clippers three straight times.last_img read more