Basketball is a sport that has developed into a much more complex game than to those who knew it many years back. It has certainly evolved into a bigger, faster and stronger game. In such a sport which has so many essential components for both the team and individual players, principal fundamentals such as footwork, shooting and ball handling can tend to be neglected. For those who do not know the game well, basketball appears to be a sport where team effort is they key to success. Yes, team effort is important, but much of a team’s success points back to the drive by individual players to attain and master the fundamental skills. A.J. Lapray has that drive . . . and the fundamentals.
Lapray is a freshmen who played at Sprague High School in Salem, Oregon, before becoming a Duck this year. As a junior in high school Lapray averaged an impressive 21 points, 6 rebounds and 4 assists per game. His senior year he averaged 17 points per game and lead Sprague to the state playoffs. His success across the board in high school is evident and will without a doubt carry over to the college level. This will result not only from his statistics, but also his fundamentals, unselfishness and off-the-charts basketball IQ.
Standing 6-foot-5 and 187 pounds, Lapray has been said to have contributed to the success of Oregon’s Men’s Basketball as the “glue guy” in practice situations. This position is not obtained easily. It takes fundamentals and knowledge of the game on a far higher level than many others on the roster. A guard that stands 6-foot-5, and still has the ability to shoot deep in the woods, is exactly what Oregon needs with their half-court offense. Not only having the skill to shoot the ball at any range, but also being able to run the floor and move on the court is part of the recipe to create Oregon’s fast pace offense.
Lapray is said to do just that. Those are the kinds of things that can’t be easily coached. Knowledge of the game extending from memorizing plays and finishing underneath, these are valuable details that often go unseen. Moving with the ball is without a doubt important, but having the capability of moving effectively without the ball to get open and set up big plays are game changers for all teams.
Lapray has a knack for knowing the game and how to get open in transition, while also finishing or assisting in plays. Because of his textbook shooting form, he will surely shoot the lights out some day using not only his quick release, but through his dexterity in shooting off the dribble as well as moving off picks and finishing with a back door cut. Knowing many ways to score makes a player like Lapray hard to defend.
Because he has more than one “go-to” move he continues to be a threat all around the court. His unselfishness on the court only creates a more prevailing position for himself. He knows when he needs to score, but he also gets his teammates the ball. Lapray continues to make himself a difficult task for defenders left and right.
A.J.’s capacity as a player doesn’t just include the offensive side, but also the defensive. A long frame allows him to defend effectively in passing lanes and get out quickly in transition to finish plays on the other end. Oregon is excited to have a young player like Lapray that will contribute to the success of Ducks Basketball through his keen sense of the game and his fundamentally textbook performance on the court.
Top photo by Kevin Cline