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Tulsa Shock Hopes Small Guard Combo Has Big Impact

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Andrea Riley and Ivory Latta working together on the floor in practice
Andrea Riley and Ivory Latta working together on the floor in practice

The Tulsa Shock roster is thin.

If you didn't think it might have been missing a few weapons before the season started, the two games since starting shooting guard Amber Holt's injury have shown the holes at the guard position. Playing basically a seven-person rotation in Connecticut Sunday showed the holes at every position. Tulsa has a steep mountain to climb, that much is clear, after four losses by a combined 72 points to start the season.

After four lopsided defeats, people are grumbling about the lack of talent - or options - with the current roster. Or even moreso, about the roster management skills from GM and head coach Nolan Richardson.

But there are some rotation options, albeit unconventional ones. One such option that Richardson is exploring is a small-guard set, playing the 5-6 Ivory Latta and the 5-5 listed Andrea Riley concurrently.

 

"That's something I'm going to probably do a lot of because I can move Riley to the 2 and Latta to the point and vice versa so we'd have two pretty decent guards in the game at the same time," Richardson said.

But, oh the struggle that height will make on driving the lane! The enormous size disadvantage on the perimeter, offensively and defensively! Richardson doesn't think it will be quite as much a negative as one might think, especially if 6-8 rookie center Liz Cambage begins working the lane and the basket at an even higher clip.

"Yeah, but if we get Liz going you don't give up nothing really," Richardson said. "If we can get her to start guarding that basket and blocking some shots and forcing them to shoot higher shots. We're trying to get her to spend more time closer to that basket."

Cambage took a blow to the face by teammate Tiffany Jackson on Sunday in Connecticut, and her status for today's televised contest with the Indiana Fever is a game-time decision. So perhaps this small set will see less action in Indy if Lizzie can't suit up for the Shock.

But should the combo of Latta and Riley be utilized? The dynamic duo thinks so.

"We're both great shooters and whenever we're out there on the break with each other, we definitely look for each other on the wing and things like that," Latta said. "It will be a great combination. We're both fast, we get out and go, but we also look for the other players. So you have two point guards that can score but can also distribute the ball very well."

Riley's college coach Kurt Budke tried to implement a two-guard system, but it didn't work with the personnel in Stillwater.

"I've actually never been able to do it. They tried to do it at Oklahoma State, but it really didn't happen," Riley said. "I think that it will be an exciting game. It will pick up the momentum and I think that it will get us going. The points could go either way and it could help us on the pick as well."

Latta has some adjusting to do, as she's never had experience playing with a second point guard in the lineup. And judging from the way she took over the fourth quarter in Connecticut, she's used to being the go-to girl on the floor. The career-high tying 26-point performance included 15 straight to start the final period for the Shock.

"It's kind of a different feeling because I'm mainly out there as a point guard," Latta said. "But it's a great feeling too knowing that I've got another PG to my left and right that can also shoot the thing too, so it's good."

Richardson has already used the combo sparingly in games against San Antonio and at Connecticut, but analyzing stats in the blowouts is hard to do with accuracy. But from the naked eye, there is a noticeable difference when the pair is running the court, with an increased energy yet calmness sounding the sometimes frenetic Shock team.

Perhaps the small guards can indeed make a big impact for Tulsa moving forward.