PARADISE ISLAND, Bahamas — First, it was Kobe King. The next game, Brevin Pritzl and Brad Davison joined the list.
Their teammates in the University of Wisconsin men’s basketball program can’t help but wonder who’ll be the next player to be whistled for a hook-and-hold foul.
A point of emphasis for the 2018-19 season, the hook and hold has led to a great deal of frustration for players, fans and coaches alike through the first two weeks of the season. It has caused players such as UW senior center Ethan Happ to reevaluate how they play, particularly while battling for rebounds in physical situations around the rim.
“I guess I’ve had to change a little bit of what I do,” Happ said. “But I don’t want you to jinx me and then I come out the next couple games and have some hook-and-holds.”
Officials went to the monitor four times and assessed a total of five Flagrant 1 hook-and-hold fouls in UW’s 96-59 win over Houston Baptist on Saturday, three on the Huskies and two on the Badgers. The delays made the game drag on and led Huskies coach Ron Cottrell to joke afterward that it felt like a triple-overtime football game, a reference to the Badgers’ 47-44 win at Purdue earlier in the day.
The stoppages in play are one thing; the fact a Flagrant 1 penalty is assessed to the foul — giving teams two free throws and possession of the ball — ultimately could become a major factor in close games.
UW could find itself in some of those tight games this week when it participates in the Battle 4 Atlantis. The Badgers (3-0) open play on Wednesday afternoon with a quarterfinal game against Stanford (2-1) at Imperial Arena.
After King got called for a hook-and-hold in the first half of UW’s 77-68 win at Xavier last week, Badgers coach Greg Gard called the Big Ten office the following day to seek clarification.
“They’re getting a lot of complaints from coaches,” Gard said.
The hook and hold was added as a point of emphasis in part to eliminate deception by players who latch on to opponents in an attempt to draw a foul call. The example Gard stressed involved late-game situations where players make cuts off the ball and latch on to defenders in an attempt to draw fouls and get to the free throw line.
There’s also a safety component at play. Purdue’s Isaac Haas sustained a broken elbow in a game against Cal State Fullerton in the 2018 NCAA tournament after an opponent latched on to his arm during a rebound and pulled him to the ground.
While 2018-19 is not a rules change year — they make changes every other year — exceptions can be made if health and safety issues are raised. Hence, the Flagrant 1 penalty assessed to the hook and hold.
“It’s been hard for the officials,” Gard said. “In every game I’ve had, I’ve talked to them about it. They agree. And they’re on high alert right now because it’s early and they have points of emphasis they have to try to enforce.”
The hook and hold calls on King and Pritzl involved rebounding situations in which they got tangled up with an opponent. Pritzl got tied up with Houston Baptist’s Jackson Stent in the first half and, after a trip to the monitor, officials assessed hook and hold fouls on both players.
Stent was whistled for another hook and hold in the second half. This time, a foul was called on UW senior forward Charlie Thomas and officials decided to take a closer look. Upon review, the call on Thomas stood, but Stent was assessed another Flagrant 1 for latching onto Thomas.
“They get tangled up,” Cottrell said. “And I don’t think it’s intentionally tangled up, I think it just kind of happens through the course of the game. We’ve been told going into the season that they were not going to call those kind of plays if it was just part of the game that wasn’t an intentional hook to try to pull a guy — certainly not to hurt a guy — but even to try to gain an advantage. Certainly it seems to me like basically every one is being called no matter what the intention of the play was.”
The call on Davison might have been the most baffling of the bunch. He had the ball on the perimeter during the second half against Houston Baptist and tried to drive around Stephen O’Suji, who got too close and was called for a hand check.
After a trip to the monitor, officials assessed a hook and hold call on Davison, apparently for briefly latching onto O’Suji as he tried to fight through contact.
“It’s been a huge, hot topic with officials and league offices about where is this going and is this turning into the NFL with the protection of the quarterback, are we going way overboard?” Gard said. “I’m sure it’ll be talked about more and it’ll be interesting to watch the trend as we go through the year.”