Inside the play: Ari Stewart finds an opening
There is a common theme in many of the pre-season previews I have read about the ACC so far this year: Wake Forest is picked to finish in the bottom third of the ACC. This is to be expected, as they return only 2 players who used more than 16% of possessions while they were on the floor, both sophomores.
Ari Stewart is one of these players and he will be key in the Wake Forest offense. Last year he was mainly a three point threat, shooting 37% and having 56% of his points come from 3 point shots. Whether he will be able to improve on other aspects of his offense remains to be seen, but his 3 point shooting will not be going anywhere.
Let’s take a look at one play from last season where Stewart got open for a 3 pointer. There was a bit of a breakdown defensively, but we can still highlight the design behind the play and why it worked.
Here is the setup: Ari Stewart on the far wing (circled in green) with Al-Farouq Aminu on the near wing (circled in red). CJ Harris makes the pass to Aminu on the near wing and the play begins.
First off, Aminu has the option to use the pick set by David Weaver to run a pick and roll or drive baseline. However, he chooses to drive to the baseline but is cut off by his defender, Will Graves.
Meanwhile, Stewart has started his break around the arc. He is coming into position so that if Aminu does stop his drive like he did, Stewart is there for an outlet and an open shot. With the help from a screen from David Weaver, Stewart is open and he buries the 3.
What happened to Stewart’s defender? His initial defender was Reyshawn Terry and Terry hedged hard over to cut off any chance of Aminu getting to the basket. This was a major mistake in my opinion, for several reasons.
- Will Graves is a solid defender and while Aminu was a great offensive talent, Graves does not need help from Terry in this play.
- Any help should have come from the UNC player guarding David Weaver (one of the Wear twins) as he was in better position and covering a player who was less of an offensive threat than Stewart.
Terry chooses to hedge hard on Aminu and when Graves cuts him off, Terry is caught under the basket and Stewart is left free to roam to the open area, get the outlet pass and knock down the 3. Stewart had just made a three one minute before this play, so why are you leaving him?
A questionable defensive decision leaves the best shooter on Wake wide open and gives them a 10 point lead. UNC would get no closer than 9 the rest of the game. Kudos to Stewart though, he really made a nice read on this play. He recognized the situation and got to the spot to get open and in Aminu’s passing lane.
He also showed the ability to catch and shoot in motion coming around a screen. This is probably his biggest skill and one he should be able to sustain in his sophomore season. Wake Forest will need his outside shooting if they want to stay competitive in the ACC.