It’s a work in progress, this emphasis on enforcing the hand-check rule in college and prep basketball.
Some teams are barely affected. That was the case for Kalaheo, which edged St. Francis 41-40 on Saturday. St. Francis coach Sol Batoon pointed to the Saints’ defense as a culprit, but players are still getting used to the new wave in officiating. His team was whistled for nearly 30 fouls in the loss, hitting the 10-foul, double-bonus mark in each half.
“That’s the problem, yeah? When the guy (without the basketball) goes by you and you have your hand on his back, that should not be a hand check. If you’re defending a guy and your hand is extended and your defending the ball and touching the guy, that should be a call,” Batoon said. “If a guy goes by you and it’s non-essential, it’s a judgment call.”
He noted that some officials are enforcing it more than others.
“Earlier we played Castle and Kamehameha (Division II), and none of that was called. Now tonight, we play Kalaheo, any time you touch somebody it’s called,” he added. “These are all good officials. They’ve got to make decisions on the fly. The idea is to get consistent on the decision-making. Once they do that, then it’ll balance out.”
Getting his players to be flexible and adapt is not easy, particularly this early in the season.
“We play very aggressive defense, so now you’re taking away from what we teach. Our presses, Our traps, our hands are extended. We’re not trying to hand check. We’re just trying to get our distance check, our spacing,” Batoon said. “Now we’ve got to go back and fine-tune that.”
Kalaheo, the defending state champion, is reloading with a nucleus of young players led by Kupaa Harrison. The 6-foot-3 junior played center in the Mustangs’ 2-3 zone.
“Our kids and our (staff) have been through all the rules, the emphasis,” coach Alika Smith said. “We’re going to play to how it’s called. Each crew is going to call it differently. Sometimes they may let you get away with it, sometimes they won’t.”