One of the first thoughts that crossed my mind while considering the addition of Ricardo Ratliffe to the Mizzou roster was whether or not the young man was right- or lefthanded. While that may sound strange to most, I have secretly wondered the past couple of years as to whether Coach Anderson might have a reason to make sure he has a couple of lefthanded bigs to help defend in the block.
My interest in basketball players' primary hand goes back about forty years to my younger days as a high school basketball referee. Being a smaller man (5'9" on tiptoe), one of my greatest challenges was getting off a good center toss to open the game. It goes without saying that the young men and women jumping center always outsized me in both height and weight and, if I failed to make a good toss, I might pay for it physically. (In my first year, doing girls jayvee in the Denver city league, a bad toss resulted in me getting mashed between two young ladies and all three of us falling to the floor - much to my embarrassment and the crowds pleasure!).
If one of the players jumping center was lefthanded, however, it always made for an easier toss - because the two players, favoring their primary hand, would both face the same direction rather than opposite directions. This resulted in them jumping straighter (whether facing me or facing away from me). If they faced opposite directions, they were more likely to jump into each other, or me.
As I have followed high school and college ball over the years, it has always seemed to me that natural lefthanders defended with greater ease, defending to their left; since righthanded offensive players were attacking strength against strength, as they drove to their right. In the post, especially, a lefthanded defender can go up for a block with his primary hand without having to block across the offensive player's body - which would seem to diminish the odds of fouling.
Going back over the past season in my mind (and as I have reached retirement age my memory has become much more selective due to dwindling hard drive space) I can easily recall several "thunder blocks" by Keith Ramsey as he moved across the lane from right to left, usually in a help-out role. In the same thought, I think most, if not all, of Steve Moore's more impressive blocks were while defending the right side of the land - including the one that he spiked off the West Virginia player's head.
I have never seen any stats concerning such a theory, but knowing how completely Coach Mike Anderson understands the game, it has crossed my mind that maybe Justin Safford and Steve Moore were even greater targets for recruitment because they would provide lefthanded balance in the paint defensively.
Sound crazy? Well, consider than only about ten percent of the world's population is lefthanded. Add to that the consideration that lefthanded people tend towards being ambidextrous at a much higher rate than righthanded persons. In a game of inches that separate a clean block from a foul, a lefthanded person whose strong side defensively corresponds to ninety percent of the opponents' strong side might be better equipped for defending in the lane. Further add that the lefthanded defender would also be more balanced with greater ability to defend with his "off hand," and you have the possibility of an advantage - however sleight - in the teams ability to put up a complete defense of the rim.
Then, again, I may have eaten too much watermelon or watched too much sci-fi last night. In that case just disregard the above as the ramblings of an older man who still very much loves the younger man's game of basketball - and who sometimes has too much time on his hand to think about little things that others might disregard.