When scanning the Synergy stats for the Wichita State basketball team from last season, it’s difficult to pick out just one thing the team did really well. The Shockers did a lot of things at a very high level compared to other teams in the country as they finished with a 31-5 record and another NCAA tournament appearance.
But when looking at the individual statistics, something kept popping out: Shaq Morris’ dominance in post-up situations.
As a team, Wichita State was among the country’s best with post-ups last season. The Shockers used 14 percent of their possessions on post-ups, which returned 0.899 points per possession. There were 91 teams in the country where post-ups accounted for at least 10 percent of the offense and Wichita State’s efficiency ranked No. 27 among them.
Don’t think Morris deserves all of the credit – Darral Willis and Rauno Nurger were both above-average options. But Morris is an elite post-up option and accounted for 37 percent of the team’s post-up attempts. From the 150 post-up chances Morris had last season, he scored 158 points.
To put that in perspective, there were 313 players in college basketball last season to have at least 125 post-up opportunities. Morris’ 1.053 points per possession ranked in the 92nd percentile in college basketball.
Let’s examine why Morris is so good at it and how Wichita State maximizes its best weapon in the low block.
Sealing, spacing, and lobs
When Morris is at his most efficient, he’s using his body to seal a defender and catching a lob over the defense that sends him straight to the basket for the finish.
It sounds easy enough, but in the clips above you can see just how Wichita State sets this up.
For starters, Morris has a 280-pound frame and he knows how to use it. When defenders are foolish enough to try fronting him, Morris not only is an expert at sealing but also at creating the best angle for the passer to throw the lob. Sometimes the defender just tries to flip to a side, but Morris has a keen sense of when this is happening and can catch them and pin them on his backside.
But these lobs wouldn’t be so easy if Wichita State’s offense doesn’t have good spacing. In the video above, I paused every clip when the entry pass was thrown so you can see the spacing on the floor. Almost every time the other three players are above the free throw line. Here’s a screenshot example:
The defender shifts to the high side on Morris and he has him sealed at the free-throw line. Ideally, Markis McDuffie’s defender on the backside should have one foot in the paint to discourage the the lob. But because McDuffie is parallel to Morris at the free-throw line on the wing and not in the corner, the defender hesitates leaving him.
The final piece to the puzzle is the lob. Wichita State has two capable passers in Conner Frankamp and Landry Shamet. They don’t just get it over the top, they send pin-point passes that take Morris directly to the hole. He’s not having to re-calibrate after catching the pass, all Morris has to do is catch and go up for the dunk or layup.
The go-to: A soft right hook
If Morris catches on the left block, he loves to turn over his left shoulder, bury it into the defender, then raise up for a soft baby right hook.
Even if a defender has a height advantage over Morris, the bump right before the shot usually prevents the defender from timing their leap. The bump serves another purpose too: it’s almost like it sets up Morris when he goes up for the hook.
According to Synergy, Morris scored at a 60 percent clip when he caught the ball on the left block and turned over his left shoulder for a hook shot. He delivered 1.267 points per possession with this move, which is an excellent return.
The counter: the fadeaway jumper
So why doesn’t every defender shade Morris on his left shoulder to take away this right hook shot? Because like every great post player, Morris has a counter that keeps the defense honest.
If you shade Morris to the left, then he has an ability to catch an entry pass, turn over his right shoulder and knock down a fadeaway jump shot. It’s a near-impossible shot to contest because Morris turns the catch into a shot in one motion.
You wouldn’t think this is a very efficient shot, but for Morris it is. Last season Morris produced 16 points on 14 possessions when he caught a post-up chance, turned over his right shoulder and attempted a jump shot. That’s a reliable option and gives Morris another weapon in his arsenal in the low block.
A clever way WSU uses Morris
The above video shows a simple, yet clever set that Gregg Marshall likes to run for an easy basket for Morris.
When Landry Shamet crosses halfcourt, Wichita State has a stack of three players on the right block: McDuffie on top, Morris in the middle, Frankamp on bottom. Morris breaks out to the right wing to receive the pass from Shamet, as the point guard cuts diagonally to the stick in the corner.
McDuffie leaks out to the top of the key to receive a pass from Morris, then Morris cuts to the right block where Frankamp hasn’t moved. Frankamp steps up and set a back screen on Morris’ defender. The key here is to at least disturb Morris’ defender before Frankamp darts out to the right wing.
The defender is tricked into thinking a swing pass is coming to the left side of the floor, so he tries to beat Morris to the left block. But instead of running to the left block, Morris pivots underneath the basket and blindly puts his backside to the defender to begin to seal the unsuspecting defender.
All the while on the perimeter, the ball goes back to Frankamp on the left wing and he has an easy pass inside to Morris with his man out of position. It’s a rather simple play, but a clever one and an automatic two points every time Marshall digs deep into the playbook.