Coach Izzo has talked a lot about the role leadership played in last season's success. Draymond Green has been lauded for his outstanding leadership and Green has consistently made sure Austin Thornton is recognized as well. You can read and hear the latest edition of Coach Izzo discussing the leadership void to fill here. But is it possible that something else made the team so good last year, like maybe better personnel?
I think it was Conor Boyle that commented recently that if leadership is so important to winning and Cleaves was the best leader that Coach Izzo ever had then how has he won so many games since Cleaves ran out of eligibility? Or something like that. I've always felt that leadership doesn't really matter, talent does. But we hear Coach Izzo talk about it year after year and you look at the results of the last two teams and consider how displeased he was 2 years ago and how pleased he was last year and think maybe it does matter. But isn't it more important to be versatile and unselfish? Kalin Lucas has been seemingly kicked in the nuts repeatedly for poor leadership in his final season but perhaps his last team suffered from something else. How about nobody else to create offense off the dribble, lack of a utility wing like Thomas, Anderson or Morgan and a dearth of passers. While Green's leadership may have been great, I think he played on a better built basketball team in 2012.
Remember that Lucas played with no other shot creators after Lucious got booted. Summers was seemingly allergic to putting the ball on the floor, freshman Appling was a spot up shooter and you weren't going to get that from Mike Kebler. While last year Appling, Wood, Dawson, Trice and Green were all capable of breaking down a defense off the dribble. Even Kearney could dribble, drive and occasionally nail a pull up J.
As for wings, Dawson and Kearney were better suited to deal with 6'5-6'7 wing scorers, Dawson could crash the offensive glass, Kearney was an upgrade as a go-to defender, and both guys could affect more pass attempts with wingspan and athleticism. In the surprise of the century(OK, maybe decade) Austin Thornton became the fail-safe 4th or 5th option with deep 3pt range that every college hoops team needs. He did that so well he was promoted to more of a 2nd or 3rd option by the time the season was wrapping up and even carried the offense for short stints. That's an incredible bonus from a role player. You even had the option of bringing in Russell Byrd, a part time long range bomber, to guard post players(not well but still). That gives your lineup serious versatility.
Having willing passers also played a part in team success. We all witnessed the birth of Derrick Payne and the maturation of Nix and Payne as players due in no small part to the fact that they were able to actually get the ball in scoring position. Nobody turned down the opportunity to make a good post entry pass, including the guy who had the brightest Green light to shoot of anybody. Even a noted gunner like Wood caught the passing bug.
So as we think about next year, if you're bothered by questions about leadership maybe you shouldn't be. Maybe as long as the team has talent(which we believe it does), versatility(which we've seen already) and unselfish players(which we hope they remain) it will be another great season and leadership will take care of itself.