The first thing Kansas State coach Bruce Weber analyzes after any basketball game are the stats, but he doesn’t need a traditional stat sheet.
Instead, he examines a custom table of information he calls the Wayne McClain Play-Hard Chart, a compilation of hustle plays ranging from deflections and dives to loose balls and charges drawn that don’t appear on the standard stat sheet. Managers track every single hustle statistic that occurs in a game.
The system is simple. K-State assigns one point every time a player comes up with a deflection, block, steal, dive, loose ball or offensive rebound. Drawing a charge earns two points. At game’s end, the points are counted. The player with the most play-hard points is the deemed the game’s hardest-working player. Ditto for the team with the most play-hard points.
Over the years, Weber has found a correlation between the play-hard chart and the scoreboard.
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“If you watch and study us, if we win it we usually win the game,” Weber said. “If we get in the 50s, we win convincingly. You can go through the years and see it. They are those little difference-makers. We don’t have top-10 (draft) picks. You have got to do the little stuff to be successful.”
Every college basketball coach preaches the importance of playing hard, but few do so as passionately as Weber. K-State is one of two Big 12 teams — Oklahoma State is the other — that keeps track of a half-dozen or so hustle stats during games.
Others promote energetic play in their own ways. Kansas keeps track of charges, deflections and floor burns. Baylor coach Scott Drew says the Bears have a long list of intangible stats they monitor weekly. Iowa State, Oklahoma, Texas and Texas Tech keep an eye on who comes up with loose balls.
Some don’t seem interested in monitoring hustle plays. West Virginia tracks only deflections, while TCU does not count extra statistics of any kind.
“Everybody keeps track of some form of blocks, charges and deflections,” Drew said. “Fortunately, our guys have done a nice job with those. That is a good characteristic of this team. We fight and scrap and try to make hustle plays. Playing hard is as much a talent as someone who can shoot.”
Asked what he considers the best single play he has seen during his tenure in Lawrence, KU coach Bill Self pointed to a dive made by Jamari Traylor last week against Texas in which he recovered a loose ball he appeared to have no shot at getting.
“The one guy who has stood out after charting those plays is Jamari,” Self said.
Oklahoma basketball coach Lon Kruger thinks the Sooners could do more when it comes to playing hard.
“When your team is playing with energy, one small play can drastically change the game,” Kruger said. “We probably don’t count deflections as much as some people do. We probably need to do that more, quite frankly.”
You will never hear Weber say those words.
The Wildcats are the only team that promotes playing hard with an oversized board in their locker room. They think so much of it that they named it after McClain, the late Weber assistant who emphasized playing hard above all else. And Weber is the only coach that references play-hard stats in every postgame news conference, going so far as to say a player with 10 points, 10 rebounds and 10 play-hard points recorded a triple-double.
His players follow along.
“We all know if we play hard,” K-State guard Justin Edwards said, “we are probably going to end up winning.”
Weber also stressed playing hard when he was the coach at Purdue, Southern Illinois and Illinois. He thinks a play-hard chart can help every team.
“If you get top-10 picks and they still play hard then you are going to kick butt,” Weber said. “I lived that. I had five guys who played in the NBA on my team (at Illinois) and we won the play-hard chart every time. So we won by an average of 18. Those are the special guys. That is (Gregg) Popovich with the Spurs. That is why they win championships.
“They have got great players and then they play hard and listen and do all the little stuff you are supposed to do. It is important.”