Deceptive athleticism

Pat Connaughton tweeted the above after his impressive results at the NBA combine. during his time at Notre Dame, he was described as deceptively athletic. Apparently, he felt that his combine results suggest otherwise.

The discrepancy says something about the way that we evaluate athleticism. Regardless of his combine results, Connaughton’s athleticism never should have been questioned, as he played minor league baseball last summer. Anyone who can play BCS basketball and professional baseball is an athlete, regardless of his vertical jump or shuttle run.

When evaluating athleticism, we put too much emphasis in isolated tests. Whereas speed, quickness, and vertical jump form the foundation, athletically, of most sports, and certainly basketball, there is not necessarily a pure application of testing speed or jumping ability to game speed or game performance.

Game speed has much to do with perceptual skills – the ability to read cues in the environment and make quicker decisions will make a player faster than his testing results may suggest. Is it better to have the combine numbers or to be game fast?

Connaughton should not have needed a good test result to demonstrate his athleticism. He demonstrated his athleticism throughout the season and through his time as a high-level two-sport athlete.

By Brian McCormick, PhD
Director of Coaching, Playmakers Basketball Development League
Author, The 21st Century Basketball Practice and Fake Fundamentals

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