It is the perennial question in regards to comparing the girls and boys state tournament. What’s the state of the girls’ game, how far has it come, and can you even compare it to the boys? Like never before you can make the case…yes!
Dayton, OH – At the Division IV regional tournament at Butler last week there was a healthy discussion prior to the Thursday session between a broadcaster, a writer from out of the area, and a pair of tournament volunteers.
The question: How far have the girls come towards closing the gap between their brand of basketball and that played by the boys.
Said one: “It’s not even close. Boys are more physical, more athletic, and more competitive. It’s a different game altogether.”
Another: “I think they’ve come a long ways, but it will never be the same as the boys.”
Finally, it was my turn, and I aimed to stir the pot.
“Who said the boys game was that good to start with?” I challenged. “Fundamentally, you all admit that the game is lacking. And twice in the past month I’ve seen a boys team lose a game because they shot less than 50% from the free throw line.”
“Yeah, but the girls still turn the ball over too much because they don’t have the skills the boys have,” someone countered. “Don’t play politics.”
“Really,” I said to him. “I saw a boys team turn it over 20 times this week in the districts. So where were the skills?”
Concluding, here’s what I said then…and the point I make with writing this column.
The girls game is closing in on the boys game, and for one very understandable reason.
No, they’re not as athletic – tall, fast, and strong – as the boys are, generally.
No, they typically can’t dunk.
And it’s rare, Loramie being the exception, where a girls team can play two or three off the bench like boys teams do.
But here’s where the girls have narrowed the gap, if not caught up with the boys. The percentage of girls who really work hard at their game to improve, to be competitive, who’re committed to be exceptional is just about the same as that of the boys. Given the difference in size and strength, there are enough of them in 2022 to stand out like never before. What’s more, there always have been.
Politically correct? I laugh at the suggestion and call your attention to something I wrote five years ago when Kelsey Mitchell was playing guard for Ohio State and leading the Big Ten in scoring. I made the case then that there wasn’t a boys basketball team in Miami County that could guard her one-on-one and deny her from scoring…without roughing her up physically. She was that quick, her shot was that good, and her abilities were simply stunning compared to the average boys player.
But the fact is that Mitchell had worked on her game since she was four years old, had played against the boys since she was six, and had committed herself to being one of the best players in America. And no, at 5’9″ she could not dunk the ball.
Today, there are more Kelsey Mitchells. Minster’s Ivy Wolf started all 30 games this year at Miami of Ohio and averaged 12.6 ppg. Girls who populate the better teams in this weekend’s OHSAA state tournament, and girls who will drop jaws at this month’s NCAA tournament, because the number of them who truly work hard to be exceptional is just about the same as the percentage of boys.
In fact, there may be more. One Big Ten coach told me last year that the WNBA has been the carrot on the stick in terms of motivation for women’s basketball – proportionately more of them than men who honestly believe they have the game to play in the NBA. And it doesn’t take you long to watch a WNBA game to realize that the ball skills are there, the shooting is there…and it’s headline news when someone misses a free throw.
Is it as exciting? It is if you want to see a more precise game.
It is if you want to see skill and shooting, instead of driving the ball into the heart of the lane, drawing the defense, then kicking it back out for someone to miss a three-point shot.
Basketball has always been a game of shooting, and how many Ohio State players can you name that stood out this season for their ability to score? Answer: EJ Liddell and Malaki Branham. About two out of fifteen.
And take any good women’s team in this weekend’s tournament at UD Arena and deduce the number of girls with the same impact. Answer: Probably about two. Proportionately it’s the same.
Of course it’s a team game, so what the other three contribute is equally important in terms of ball-handling, defense, and rebounding. Same as the men’s game.
And every year there’s more and more girls who are watching the NCAA and the WNBA…committed to being as good as it takes to get there because it’s a game of skills more than just the ability to dunk.
A friend from Wheelersburg recently said this about the difference in boys and girls basketball.
“The boys should be better because they ARE more athletic, and they ARE stronger. There should more good players than there are.”
My point, exactly!