Gavin Block is banned from dunking.
More accurately, he’s banned from attempting dunks.
During a game his freshman season, he had a breakaway opportunity. One on zero, all by himself. He missed the dunk badly.
Coach Saul Phillips thought he’d suffered a season-ending injury on the play.
“From that day on, we encouraged Gavin to lay the ball in the basket,” Phillips said.
The Bobcats don’t count on Block for his leaping ability. They count on him for his basketball IQ, that hard to quantify “feel” for the game.
“His basketball IQ is off the charts,” Phillips said. “He knows what every body is doing on the court at all times.”
Because he understands the game so well, Block is proficient at the less noticeable parts of the game. He has good footwork, sound ball fakes and he’s not afraid to fall on the floor.
On the first official day of practice this season, he left a chip in the wood of The Convo floor from his tooth after diving for a loose ball.
He loves getting dirty and he loves talking charges.
“When he goes down, he looks like a crash dummy,” Phillips said.
With a mind like Block’s, overthinking is a common problem. When he makes a bad play, he his hyperaware of it. He knows it’s his fault, and he knows exactly what he did wrong, which makes it all the more frustrating.
One bad play can turn into three if he doesn’t shake it off in time. It’s harder to make good decisions on the current possession if he’s still thinking about the last one.
But Phillips has a solution. To combat the issue, Phillips found it’s best to scold Block when he produces a negative play, rather than tell him it’s OK.
“If he comes to the sideline and says, ‘That was a dumbass pass,’ and I emphatically agree with him, that’s gonna piss him off,’” Phillips said. “It moves him along in the thought process of what’s going on.”
His smarts aren’t his only skill, however.
Block can shoot it, too (35 percent from 3-point range last season). He’s a great passer and a good defender. He can play any position besides center at six feet seven inches tall.
Maybe he could even play center in a pinch, who knows. Phillips has compared to Draymond Green, after all.
But it all comes back to his brain.
“If you know every position out there, you obviously have a better chance of getting out there and getting minutes,” Block said. “I like to be a student of the game.”
Entering his junior season, the student has become the teacher in some ways. Block feels comfortable enough in Phillips’ system to direct his teammates to their correct spots on both ends of the floor.
He doesn’t always say a lot, but when he does, his teammates learn something.
“Gavin don’t speak much, he keeps it short and sweet,” guard Jordan Dartis said. “But I just know he’s one of the guys I trust the most on this team.”