Leonard Washington stood tall while a teammate dropped a shoulder into his chest.
The 6-foot-7 forward fell straight back and slid across the floor. He got up, and the next player took Washington’s place.
This drill happens often at a Wyoming men’s basketball practice. Larry Shyatt observes closely as his players display their charge-taking form.
Shyatt knows repetition leads to results. And the coach who prides himself on his defense believes charges are a key element of the Cowboys’ success.
“Whether you take the charge or step up to the offense causes some ill-advised and difficult twos,” Shyatt said. “And we like our opponents to take difficult twos and not open threes.”
Wyoming took more than 80 charges last season. The team stopped keeping track during the Mountain West tournament, so there’s a chance the final total was closer to 100.
Early this year the trend is showing again. Wyoming took five charges in its first game of the season. Shyatt said it could have been more.
“We had five charges in the game, but we had 11 attempts,” he said. “And that’s something I really liked.”
In the two games that followed, both wins, the Pokes forced multiple offensive fouls as well. It’s an important part of a disciplined Cowboys’ defense that, so far, is allowing opponents only 51 points a game.
The defensive mentality that has been drilled into Shyatt’s team.
“Taking charges is about being in the right place on the defensive end,” senior guard Derrious Gilmore said. “We play a lot of help-side defense. We are a help team. If you help, and you’re in the right position, there are a lot of times there are going to be guards and forwards that are out of control. You can easily step up and take a charge.”
And it’s just as good as causing any other turnover.
“It counts as a stop,” senior guard Luke Martinez added. “We get the ball, a foul goes on them and we are going the other way on the offensive end. It’s just like a steal for us.”
A steal that shows UW is willing to trade some physical pain for the betterment of the team’s chances of winning a game.
“It shows toughness,” Gilmore said. “You have to sacrifice your body. You have to sacrifice your body for the team.”