Covering Teen Wolf:
One Coach’s Guide.
BY PASHA MALLA
[Originally published November 4, 2005.]
Used to be, the key to beating Teen Wolf’s Beavers was just to play them on any night there wasn’t a full moon. We were unlucky one season in that we met them 28 days apart, both times in their barn, and Teen Wolf destroyed us—64 points in the first game, then a quadruple-double in the second, with 14 blocked shots and 25 steals. Our third matchup, though, we were fortunate enough to have a 76 percent waxing gibbous, so it was regular Scott Howard, who turned the ball over twice before fouling out, scoreless, in eight minutes of play. These days, however, it seems the guy can change over whenever he wants, which poses a real problem to opposing coaches. What follows is the best strategy my staff and I have come up with to limit Teen Wolf’s effectiveness on the court. While admittedly far from foolproof, it will, hopefully, prove useful to your team. We’re all in this together, folks.
To begin, you’re going to have to resign yourself to the fact that Teen Wolf is probably going to drop at least 50 points. That might seem like a lot, but, unfortunately, it’s just the way the ball bounces. As coach, you need to recognize that your job isn’t to do the impossible; you’re not going to stop Teen Wolf entirely, but you can try to contain him by making him play your team’s style of basketball. Discipline and defensive fundamentals help: nose on the ball, feet moving, channeling him into traps—careful with those, though. Soon as Teen Wolf gets two guys on him, he tends to find the open man. He’s a heads-up ballplayer with great court sense, so if you’re going to bring a trapping zone against Teen Wolf, make sure you have solid weak-side rotation and your defenders are communicating.
Of course, that’s only if he feels like passing. Teen Wolf gets scrappy once you put the pressure on, and he’s a great ball handler with a low-to-the-ground style reminiscent of Pistol Pete or a young Isiah Thomas. Add to his skill and quickness those gigantic, hirsute paws, and you’re up against one hell of a dribbler. We’ve tried giving Teen Wolf a step, respecting his speed, but we’ve found that if our guys slack off him, he’ll generally hit the open jumper—or else take off from wherever he’s standing on the court, sail over everyone’s heads, and finish with one of those dunks where he ends up sitting on the top of the backboard, howling, feet dangling down through the hoop.
While you’re welcome to try it, my feeling is that man-to-man defense simply isn’t an option. Some teams like to play a box-and-one, which generally works well against most lycanthropes. With Teen Wolf, though, you have to be careful. He’ll just stand baying by the sideline while the rest of the Beavers run four-on-four. Then, at a signal from Coach Finstock, Teen Wolf will come screaming down the lane, fur bristling and fangs bared, for the alley-oop. (And with him having what’s rumored to be a 78-inch standing vertical leap, rest assured he’s even more difficult to stop once he gets up in the air.) I’ve heard of coaches dealing with this by putting a sniper in the crowd with a box of silver bullets and a hunting rifle. We tried it once, back when Teen Wolf was only a freshman: the shooter missed, and when the cops showed up and cleared the gym we were forced to default.
So, I bet you’re wondering, if it’s impossible to cover him through conventional defenses, what can we do? Here’s the key: Teen Wolf doesn’t get along with his teammates. While he’s certainly got the individual skills to dominate most games, I’d have to struggle to think of ever seeing a more selfish player in my 28 years of coaching. He tends to alienate his fellow Beavers by doing things like stealing the ball off them, or stealing their girlfriends, and their resentment is easy for opposing teams to exploit. Sympathy seems to work well; get your players to say stuff like, “Man, sure sucks playing with Teen Wolf,” or “I’d hate to have a guy like Teen Wolf on my team,” and you’ll be surprised how quickly the Beavers’ team defense will start to open up.
Another trick is to keep on the officials about aggressive play. Granted, most refs are pretty scared to call anything on Teen Wolf, what with the risk of being devoured in the parking lot after the game. Still, it’s hard to ignore someone being gouged by lupine talons, especially if the player’s entrails are exposed. Coach Finstock hates sitting Teen Wolf, but if his star picks up three fouls early, there won’t be any other option. Just make sure to tell your guys to resist taunting Teen Wolf while he’s on the bench; it only makes him angrier, and with that anger comes frightening strength.
Finally, keep in mind that beneath all that fur, Teen Wolf is only human—or half-human, whatever—with weaknesses, just like any of us. And as a hormonally imbalanced, eternally cursed teenager, he’s particularly fragile. For one thing, at just under 70 percent, Teen Wolf’s free-throw shooting is comparatively weak; if you’ve got a kid on your team brave or crazy enough to knock Teen Wolf down with a hard foul, encourage it. Make him earn his points at the line. “Hack-a-Wolf” brought us within 10 of the Beavers during last year’s playoffs—that is, until Teen Wolf dunked eight consecutive trips down the floor from the 3-point line, putting the lead out of reach.
OK, that’s pretty much all I’ve got. As I mentioned earlier, defending Teen Wolf isn’t an exact science, and you’re more than welcome to alter these tactics as befits your own ball club. I hope that between us we can keep the lines of communication open and continue to share strategies that seem to work. My feeling is that there’s no team that is completely unbeatable, even if their star transforms into a werewolf before every game. Oh, and if you come up with some way of preventing Teen Wolf from jumping up and catching your team’s shots, I’d be particularly interested in hearing it.
Thanks, and best of luck.
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