Tag:Stew Morrill
Posted on: March 15, 2011 12:22 pm
Edited on: March 15, 2011 12:25 pm

Winning is in the cards for Utah State

Flashcards help Utah State coaches control the game.

Posted by Eric Angevine

Fans of college football went wild for Oregon this season. The Ducks played fast on the gridiron, in part because of a visually arresting play-calling style that allowed the coach to signal in plays from the sideline quickly. In Eugene, it was huge pieces of posterboard with seemingly random images, big enough to be seen from yards away.

Visual play calling on that scale was a relatively new thing to college football, but college hoops coaches have used flash cards for years. Utah State's Stew Morrill, for instance, has a sophisticated system of play calling that dates all the way back to his time as an assistant at Montana, where he worked with current Cal coach Mike Montgomery in a system they learned from the legendary Jud Heathcote.

"I think the origination of calling plays with cards goes back to those guys," Morril said. "It’s always been what I’ve been comfortable with. I like knowing what my team’s running and being able to change it."

The system has had to evolve, of course. The simplistic version Morrill ran years ago was cracked over time.

"We went to two sets of cards a number of years ago. Actually, way back when I was at Colorado State, we had the student body at BYU chanting out our calls to their players," Morrill said with a chuckle.

After that, Morrill had his artistically talented son, who was around 13 at the time, add illustrations to change the interpretation of each card before he adopted the two-card system. The images only lasted that one year, but changes kept coming. The longer he coaches, the more complex the system becomes.

"Now we have color coded cards and we can use the red, we can use the blue. We can also designate it by which assistant is holding the cards," Morrill said. "Our plays can be called three different ways. We have a play called ‘dribble’. We can just verbalize it, say ‘dribble’, we can hold up the card, and the third way we can use is a hand signal. It’s a little more sophisticated than people might think."

Morrill's team has led the nation in field goal percentage three of the past seven years. He credits the play-calling system for giving him flexibility and precise control over the action on the court, even on the fly. He says every player on the floor is responsible for looking to see what play is being run, not just the point guard. The Aggies begin practice from day one with the card system in place. By the time the regular season comes around, everyone is expected to know the ins and outs of Morrill's approach.

"They are getting a college education," Morrill deadpanned. "So they ought to be able to read signs."

No. 12 Utah State will take on No. 5 Kansas State on March 17 at 10:00 p.m. ET. | USU vs. KSU Edge Matchup

Photo: Getty Images

More NCAA tournament coverage
Posted on: February 2, 2011 3:41 pm

It's not easy being (Utah State's Brian) Green

Brian Green defends a San Jose State ballhandler

Posted by Eric Angevine

Early in the season, before I got this job, I went to the Verizon Center in Washington D.C. with my friend Stormy to see Utah State play Georgetown. We both figured the Aggies would give the Hoyas a run for their money, at least, and that it would be a good game.

It turned out to be a 68-51 beatdown for the Aggies. Star forward Tai Wesley got in early foul trouble, and Utah State couldn't keep up without him in the game. It was the second game Utah State had lost, after an early trip to Brigham Young ended in a six-point loss.

It was also the last game Utah State lost, period. Since that trip to our nation's capital, the Aggies of Logan, Utah have been on a fifteen-game winning streak. They're currently 20-2 and ranked in the national top 25.

One thing I remember so clearly from that game was the intensity of Brian Green. The six-foot shooting guard comes off the bench for USU, but he's the team's second-leading scorer behind Wesley with an average of 11 points per game. As I mentioned, that afternoon in D.C., he couldn't hit the broad side of a barn against Georgetown's pressure defense, but he never quit firing. Some leather-lunged twenty-something young lady behind me ribbed him mercilessly all game long, begging him to shoot again and making fun of his height. Didn't deter Green one bit. I doubt he even heard her, but if he had, he would have kept shooting.

"A lot of people make fun of me because I'm short," Green told Shawn Harrison of the Cache Valley Herald News. "My whole career, before I even got to Utah State, people didn't think I could play shooting guard, because I'm so little. That just motivated me to be the player I have been. I don't think a couple of inches matters too much."

The stats would seem to indicate that it doesn't matter at all. Green is shooting around 47 percent from deep this season, and his career average is around 48. A junior college transfer, Green has done a lot to make himself invaluable to the Aggies in a short amount of time.

Offensive firepower is his game, but Green is also working hard on becoming a better defender. According to Harrison's article, Green is also capable of dunking, though he doesn't figure he'll do so in a game. Still, when Nevada visits the Spectrum tonight (11:00 p.m. ET, ESPN2), keep an eye on Green, you never know what to expect from a kid who is a crucial member of a ranked DI squad in spite of the words his current head coach, Stew Morrill, used when he first saw Green in a workout:

"I said, ‘He's too small, he's too slow and I'll take him.'"

Wise move, coach.

Photo: US Presswire

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