Chicago Sun-Times
By Pat Brozynski

What's a foul? Nobody knows, or if they do, they're not talking

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manual monmouth.jpgCoaches, players, fans and officials are grappling with the IHSA's new directive on close contact in basketball.

A few people have commented on the article in Wednesday's Sun-Times, "More whistles, more problems," including two highly respected coaches (who will remain nameless to protect them and their players from excessive scrutiny).

Their concerns, and those of many coaches, players and officials, are genuine. But will those concerns fall on deaf ears?

"As one of the old guys still in the game, I saw a need for change," one coach said. "The hand checking was getting out of hand and the paint was too much of a war zone instead of a skills-based area. But of course, we have now gone too far.

"The game has lost a lot," the coach added. "Between my games and the games I have scouted, I've seen some officials acting like their every move is being watched by the IHSA. They are watching the coach's feet for being out of the box, watching for ANY touch on the player with the ball and then blowing the whistle.

"The games have lost any flow to them. Forty-plus fouls is now the norm. Officials are apologizing before the game starts, then call fouls over and over. There has to be some common sense to this. We needed some changes, but let find the best middle ground and get back to playing basketball again instead of watching players shoot free throws."

One concern among some coaches is that even the most incidental contact will be called a foul, even when that contact does not in any way affect the "rhythm, speed, balance and quickness" of the offensive player.

"Having taught man-to-man defense for a number of years, I can say with a high degree of confidence that EVERY TIME a defender in legal guarding position gets beat, the hand of the defender will 'touch' the ballhandler," another coach said. "I believe that this is where the controversy exists today."

A fervent advocate of man defense, the coach has even gone as far as to start teaching zone.

"What I had feared is coming to fruition ... 'touch' calls by a minority of officials has caused good man-to-man defenders to spend a lot of time on the bench," the coach said.

"I believe that ... the guys in charge properly recognized that defensive players were improperly using their hands to impact the rhythm, speed, balance and quickness of the ball handler. They issued guidance that said if a defender initiates contact against a ballhandler, then it is a foul and should be called.

"This was said in the context of illegal contact, which is defined as anything that impacts the rhythm, speed, balance and quickness of the opponent."

However, the coach said that during guidance sessions about what constitutes a foul under the new directive -- sessions the coach attended -- the part about "in such a way that it affects the rhythm, speed, balance and quickness of the ball handler" was left out of the discussion.

The coach believes that this has led to an excessive number of fouls being called that are technically not fouls. These calls not only affect the defensive player's ability to play any reasonable defense, they create situations where an offensive player who may have a clear path to the basket is penalized to accommodate a whistle.

"I believe that the IHSA, since they are rightfully trying to tighten things up, does not want to get specific about what does NOT constitute a foul," the coach said. "Yet, I think this is sorely needed at the moment.

"From my standpoint, I just need to know what to say to the official who says 'nope' when I counter their 'The defender's hands cannot touch the ballhandler' with the 'rhythm, speed, balance and quickness' argument.

"Unless the IHSA comes out and says it is not what they want, then 'The IHSA told us to call every touch' is kind of a trump card to any conversation ... especially when one party has the ability to make it so.

"I believe that the IHSA needs to take a leadership role in quickly closing this loophole," the coach concluded.


Congratulations to Bartlett coach Denise Sarna, who recently won her 300th career game. The party was delayed one game when Benet coach Peter Paul's 600th win left Sarna sitting at No. 299.


Whitney Young and Rolling Meadows, two teams that are in the top five of the Sun-Times rankings, headline the 2013 Mac Irvin Diabetes Awareness Classic at 3:15 p.m. on Saturday, December 7 at Elgin Larkin.

Young returns 6-5 senior center Khaalia Hillsman and 5-11 senior forward Taylor Brame from last year's third-place Class 4A finisher and welcomes 5-8 sophomore guard Kiara Lewis, who missed all of last year with injury.

Rolling Meadows returns six of its top seven from last year's Class 4A runner-up including point guard extraordinaire Jackie Kemph, sharpshooting Northwestern recruit Alexis Glasgow and 6-2 forward Jenny Vliet.


Whitney Young will host the 2013 ChiTown Showdown on Friday-Saturday, December 13-14.

Friday's games feature Champaign Central vs. Harlan at 5 p.m.; Proviso East vs. Morgan Park at 6:30 p.m.; and Huntley vs. Whitney Young at 8 p.m.

Saturday's schedule has Mother McAuley vs. North Lawndale at 11 a.m.; Bolingbrook vs. Crete-Monee and Phillips vs. South Shore at 12:30 p.m.; Vernon Hills vs. Trinity and Bloom vs. Kenwood at 2 p.m.; and C. Miller vs. Joliet Catholic and Christ the King vs. Hyde Park at 3:30 p.m.

Fremd plays Marian Catholic at 5 p.m.; St. Thomas More plays Whitney Young at 6:30 p.m.; and Rolling Meadows plays Milwaukee Riverside at 8 p.m.

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