- Graham Hays, espnW.com
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It's a daydream savored by anyone who ever spent so much as an afternoon with a basketball in the driveway. The imaginary clock ticks down and the phantom crowd is on its feet. The game is on the line, the ball is in your hands.
It is your chance to be the hero. You survey the options -- and pass the ball to an open teammate for the game-winning assist.
Let's face it, in that moment, most of us make John Stockton look like Carmelo Anthony. Of course we take the shot.
Michael Jordan took the shot against the Utah Jazz in the NBA Finals. Charlotte Smith took the shot that won a national title for North Carolina. Jimmy Chitwood took the shot in "Hoosiers," just as Bobby Plump did in the real life Milan Miracle that inspired the film. Growing up, we all took that shot a thousand times in our imaginations.
Give Samantha Logic her choice of endings and she opts to set up the hero.
"I don't know, I just always wanted to do that," Logic explained. "I'm more about assists. You're going to take either [the shot or the pass] for a game winner, but I think that's just what I would want to do, make the pass to one of my teammates. I believe in them so much that I would never pass it up."
Which explains quite a bit about why Iowa's third-leading scorer is nonetheless one of the most influential players in the NCAA tournament. And how, like Connecticut's Stefanie Dolson, Notre Dame's Natalie Achonwa, South Carolina's Aleighsa Welch and a handful of others, she exerts that influence without averaging even 10 shots per game.
Logic doesn't overstate her predilection for passing. Any assists she accumulates in the NCAA tournament, in which sixth-seeded Iowa hosts 11th-seeded Marist in the first round Sunday (ESPN2, 8 p.m. ET), will add to the total she carries into next season as the active leader in women's college basketball. She is currently ninth among active players with 609 career assists, only eight seniors ahead of her. Give her another season of the sort she now enjoys and she could make a run at 900 assists and a place in the top 10 in NCAA history.
And while she won't catch all-time assists leader Suzie McConnell-Serio, she just might catch the former Penn State star and current Pittsburgh coach for the career record for triple-doubles. McConnell-Serio had seven in her career; Logic has four, including three this season (Maryland senior Alyssa Thomas, who has six, could get there first). Yes, it seems the only thing she doesn't like to do with a ball is shoot it.
That's how it has always been, from watching her dad pass the ball in city leagues in Racine, Wis., to the pleasure she derived in passing to youth teammates who rarely had a chance to play, let alone score, to an All-American high school career in which she never averaged as many as 17 points per game in a season. Get the ball and get it to the open player.
"Sometimes point guards in high school don't really like all that contact," Iowa coach Lisa Bluder said. "She's always embraced that. She's always wanted to play that way. Even then, she was their leading rebounder, their leading assists player, didn't score a lot of points and that didn't faze her, didn't bother her. That's the mentality she came here with, too."
Scorers have to learn the difference between good shots and bad shots at the college level, learn that what came easily can be too easily forced against better defenders. Those who don't adjust rarely spend much time in the tournament. The learning curve is no different for a passer; it just came one step earlier in the process that leads to a shot.
Logic averaged better than four assists per game as a freshman, despite spending part of the season out of position as a small forward, but she also averaged nearly four turnovers per game. As a sophomore her assists rose to more than six per game but her turnovers also climbed to nearly five per game. It's safe to say no one in college basketball created more points a season ago than Logic. Unfortunately quite a few of them were scored by the other team.
It's this season, en route to the most wins of her career on a team with seven freshmen and sophomores, that she matched her natural unselfishness with a more crafted consistency. She is always going to have some number of turnovers for the same reason a shortstop with great range will put herself in position to make more errors. but she's third in the nation in assists per game and in the top 50 in assist-to-turnover ratio.
"Sam has gotten better over the years at not trying to make a home run pass or make a big play to get us back in the game," said assistant coach Jenni Fitzgerald, a former point guard who has spent as much time as anyone working and watching film with Logic. "Instead, be that floor general, run the team, make a good pass and get us in our offense. I think that was one of the big steps she took. And then I think this year, it was like Sam said, 'This is my team, and I'm in charge of it and I'm going to make it go.' She was a good leader for us, but we had seniors that had been the captains for a few years. She led, but she kind of led in the background. This year, she really stepped up."
Iowa ranks 23rd nationally in scoring offense and 13th in field goal offense, its best at any time in the past decade and just the second time in that span ranked in the top 25 in both. Like Logic's rebounding numbers, which she only somewhat convincingly attributes first and foremost to her teammates blocking out, the offensive success isn't all her doing. She has nice options to pass the ball to with Theairra Taylor and Ally Disterhoft attacking the basket, Melissa Dixon spotting up from the 3-point line and Bethany Doolittle posting up. But there is little doubt that the cause and effect is at least equal, their contributions enhanced by her assists at least as much as is true in reverse.
It's why pass-first is a bit of a misnomer when it comes to point guards. The good ones think first, then pass, all before the window of opportunity slams shut.
"You have to know personnel, who is on the floor and where and put them in their best position to make a play," Logic said. "That's probably the hardest part, just understanding that you're not going to throw a fast-break pass to a [center] in a place where she has to take dribbles, something like that. Just knowing people's strengths and putting them in position to succeed so the team can."
Logic was a unanimous first-team All-Big Ten selection this season, so it's not as if her contributions go unrewarded. At the same time, it was easy to focus on Nebraska's Jordan Hooper, Penn State's Maggie Lucas and Minnesota's Rachel Banham, players who ranked near the top of the NCAA scoring charts at better than 20 points per game.
It's not that Logic can't score. She leads the team in free throw attempts and averages 13 points per game. It's just that she's at her best when others are.
"That's why people didn't talk about her for player of the year in the Big Ten is she didn't score enough points," Bluder said. "People love points. But if you look at the impact on the team, I think she should have been in the mix for player of the year in the Big Ten because what her impact is to our team is so much more significant than just a scorer.
"A lot of people do look at scoring and value that so much, but why not love a kid that passes it for the score."
Even in her daydreams.