Oct. 3, 2007
(EDITOR'S NOTE: This is the first in a three-part series of BasketBlog entries from the Notre Dame assistant coaches, discussing the particular on-court positions they work with each day. First-year assistant Niele Ivey tips off this series with a breakdown of what it takes to become a great point guard. As a reminder, we'll be holding a "Meet Niele Ivey Night" at the Joyce Center next Tuesday, Oct. 9 from 6:30-7:30 p.m. (ET). It's free of charge and fans should enter through Gate 10 at the Joyce Center. Now, on with the show ...)
I think it is very important for a successful team -- a championship team -- to have a great point guard. A great point guard is a player who is a leader on and off the floor. You have to be able to be a coach when you are on the floor. The point guard, to me, is one of the hardest positions on the court. You are responsible for everyone and everything that happens on the floor. If one of the wings ends up at the wrong spot or screens for the wrong player, it is the point guard's fault. And your coach will let you know. You have to be able to accept criticism from the coaches and your teammates. They are looking for you to tell them what to do all of the time. It is a very demanding job. Not everybody can do it.
"Niele, we are in 5 - man to man defense," shouted Muffet McGraw. I listened to Coach, turned to the team and huddled them together. "Hey, we are in zone. I know what I am talking about. Trust me." "Coach, we are in zone. We got it," I screamed back. The very next play we got a steal and because of our tenacious defense at that moment, our defense changed the game.
Muffet was probably a little startled by what I did, but she realized that I knew what I was doing and gave me the rein to be the coach on the floor. In that situation, it worked. By that time in my career, I really knew how to play the game and I knew who to get the ball to and when. I was confident enough to go with my heart and determination. Bottom line -- I knew how to WIN.
When I was a point guard under Muffet, it was fun but very challenging. I grew from the moment I stepped on the court. I accepted my responsibility and worked hard at my game and trying to run the team. I knew early in my career, how I go is how the team was going to go. So therefore, I established my trust with the team not only in the season but in the off season as well. Many summer nights I showed up at open gym early and was one of the last ones to leave. Success and dedication is contagious. I think that my teammates knew that I was always going to bring energy, enthusiasm, and hard work to everything I did so they matched it. I was one of their leaders and I accepted my role. I took my role very personal. I put my heart and soul in our program and our team.
Also, I had a very strong, friendly personality. I was always the one making everyone laugh and in very hard and tense times, I knew how to keep everyone light. I was good for cracking a joke when the coaches thought the world was going to end. Not all point guards are the same or have the same personalities. One thing that is similar is that they have to work hard and understand the game. The ball is in our hands most of the times, so we have to be confident enough to know what our team needs at all times. The key to a great understanding of the game of basketball and being a great point guard is communication. If you can't communicate, you will not succeed. The point guard has to communicate to the other players what the coach wants. It is absolutely imperative for the point guard to talk. I didn't become a great point guard over night. I had many long hours of practice, film sessions, good games, bad games, and late nights in the gym shooting and working on my ball handling that helped make me become a great point guard. I also had the best coaching staff in the country. Muffet and Coquese Washington were point guards, and Letitia Bowen-McGuff, Kevin McGuff, and Carol Owens were all instrumental in my growth process. They worked with me and helped to develop me into being the best!
Hard worker. Communicator. Leader. Fundamentally strong. Competitor. Role Model. Determined. Coachable. These are all the things I look for in a great point guard. I want someone who is going to work extremely hard to become the best. I want a relentless and unselfish player who is going to be the first one to the gym and the last one to leave. You have to be strong in every aspect of your game. Whether that is on defense or offense, you have to strive at finding some area of your game that is going to help your team be successful. You will have the ball most of the time, so you have to be comfortable breaking down a press and handling defensive pressure. You will have to be a tremendous leader and communicator. I want an overall WINNER. Someone who leads by example and takes pride in wanting to get better, make their teammates better, and someone who refuses to lose. It sounds like a lot, but it is possible. It is what being a great point guard is all about. Look back at old game films of some of the best -- Isiah Thomas, Dawn Staley, and Magic Johnson just to name a few. Also, look at some of today's best such as Steve Nash, Jason Kidd, Nikki Teasley, and Ticha Penichiero. They all embody in some way the essence of being a great point guard.
I'm proud to be part of a legacy of successful point guards at Notre Dame, a tradition that includes some tremendous athletes and people such as Sara Liebscher, Coquese Washington, Jeannine Augustin and Megan Duffy. We're also working hard to develop the next generation of Irish point guards with talented players like our senior co-captain Tulyah Gaines and rising sophomore Melissa Lechlitner. I'm excited about what's ahead for us at the position, and I hope you are, too. I'll look forward to seeing many of our great fans at Tuesday's meet-and-greet session -- and don't forget to get your tickets and maybe a couple for your family and friends for the 2007-08 season (right here on UND.com or by calling 574-631-7356) 'cause they're going really fast!!