The idea of being a “role player” has been vastly misappropriated and mistreated in my opinion over recent history and it is high time to get back to what it really means…well, at least to me. Detroit Southeastern star and future MSU Spartan Brandon Kearney was just recently labeled as such in the class A semifinal game because he sacrificed offense for defense, deferred to a dominate teammate, and played a more heady game. Um, someone help me find where the negative is in that? However, because he was a Mr. Basketball candidate, many expected him to shoot 20 times and dominate the game offensively. Did I mention his team won? It is amazing the standards that some are held to versus others. But it is astounding to me the negative connotation that being a role player has gotten. So, let’s examine it just a bit from a coach’s perspective.
Every coach on the planet wants role players. Notice that I did not say players that operate in a role. Those type of players are categorized by what they do well. For example, former Frakenmuth star Brad Redford is a great shooter. Current Mott Community College stud Doug Anderson is a great athlete/leaper. Anthony Crater at the University of South Florida is a great passer. MSU frosh Keith Appling was a great scorer in high school. These are all luxuries to have, but do not epitomize a role player in my eyes. They are all players who operate inside of a role. What I mean is something different. Players that a coach can call into their office or locker room before the game or practice and say to them, “This game I need you to shut down the opposing team’s best player.” Then the next week say, “I need double-digit rebounds and points from you this game.” The best role players can even change that role during the game. The best example that I can think of is none other than Magic Johnson. Many people understand that he played all five positions in the NBA championship game, but not many understand how each position required a mentality and role change. No one has done it better on a bigger stage in my eyes. Coaches appreciate these players more than anyone even knows because the flexibility they allow for is paramount. If the starting PG gets hurt or in foul trouble in a big game, it is quite the luxury to be able to move the starting SF there is there backup is stronger than the backup PG. Versatility is essential in the biggest of games. Just ask the BYU coach who would have loved to see Jimmer Fredette turn into a creator when the 3-pt ball wasn’t falling (4-15). However, he was stuck in his operation as a scorer and stayed there to the detriment of the team in that game. There is one player on the high school level in mid-Michigan that I believe was the best role player this year, that is, Dewrell “JD” Tisdale Jr. of Flint Northern.