LEWISBURG — Bison point guard Darryl Shazier admitted that Coach Dave Paulsen’s penchant for perfection can be, at times, frustrating.
With a little laugh, though, Shazier said he can make four great plays, then slip on one series and coach is right there to point it out.
“Sometimes it is frustrating,” he said. “But, it definitely helps us.
“We have this saying in the locker room, ‘Chase perfection and you’ll reach excellence’. Another one (coach Paulsen) has is ‘one possession’.”
Shazier explained Paulsen’s philosophy of one possession at a time, one game at a time, to never get ahead of yourself.
“Playing in the moment,” said Shazier.
The Bucknell Bison have done just that this season, having taken it one at a time since Paulsen came to Lewisburg three seasons ago, when Shazier and G.W. Boon were sophomores. Now the Bison are three Patriot League Tournament victories away from a berth in the NCAA Tournament.
This season, Shazier, Boon and fifth-year senior Stephen Tyree have led the Bison back to the apex of the Patriot League, having won the regular-season league title, thus earning homecourt advantage throughout the Patriot League Tournament, a big deal considering the Bison haven’t lost at Sojka Pavilion to a league foe this season and are 12-1 in their last 12 home outings.
In fact, Bucknell has won 19 of its last 21 overall and entering Wednesday’s game at home versus Army, the Bison have wrapped homecourt advantage throughout the league tournament.
It hasn’t been easy, though. Bucknell was 12-19 Shazier’s first season in Lewisburg, which happened to be former coach Pat Flannery’s final season, then finished 7-23 in Dave Paulsen’s first season before improving to 14-17 last season, Shazier’s junior campaign. This season, Bucknell has equaled the previous two seasons win total already.
Shazier, Bucknell’s heady point man, said it’s been nothing but fun, but that’s nothing new in Lewisburg, where Paulsen wants his players enjoying the game.
“It’s definitely been a fun season,” said Shazier. “A lot of people equate having fun with winning, but that’s not always the case. We’ve always had fun and Coach Paulsen has always stressed that.”
Shazier relishes his role as a leader within Paulsen’s offense, one that has evolved from a pure motion offense to a more ball-screen oriented style.
“We’ve gone to more a ball-screen offense where we have more options off the screen,” said Shazier, who ranks among the leaders in the nation (second) in assist-to-turnover ratio, while maintaining an ability to light it up for 30. “I just want to attack.”
Defensively the Bison have gelled into a solid unit led by stopper Bryan Cohen, the two-time Patriot League Defensive Player of the Year, however Shazier credits the coaching staff for its scouting and ability to prepare the team as a whole for opposition tendancies.
“Our coaching staff gives us a blueprint as to how to defend,” said Shazier. “A lot of the credit has to go to them. We’re always ready.”
The evolution of the Bison defensive strategy can be traced to something else Paulsen preaches with his team: passion and talking.
“Coach always talks about passion and talking and that’s inevitably with our defense,” said Shazier. “We stress it on the court.”
As a senior, Shazier admitted his time in the Bison uniform has flown by, however there’s plenty of basketball left to play and he hopes to enjoy an extended season.
“It’s definitely going by fast,” he said. “I don’t want to leave anything behind and talking to players who have come through the program, that’s the advice they have, don’t leave anything on the court and don’t let leammates leave anything behind.
“As long as we keep getting better every day, we’re going to be fine.”
Spoken like a true senior leader on a Paulsen-coached team.
Notable: Shazier has logged 968 minutes this season and leads the Bison at 32.3 minutes per game. He led the Bison in minutes last season (1,090, 35.2 per game) and during his sophomore campaign (1,082, 36.1 per game)… He has 482 career assists, which ranks fourth all time behind Pat Flannery (505), Chris Seneca (553) and Mike Joseph (565).
Chris Brady is managing editor at the Standard Journal. He can be reached at email@example.com.