Diggs stepping out into new role

PHILADELPHIA-For the last three years, senior forward Rob Diggs has been the GW men’s basketball team’s go-to man in the post. Possessing a rare combination of agility, fluidity and touch, the 6-foot-9 Maryland native has sometimes been the only source of points for a Colonials team that has struggled to score for much of the season.

But ever since coming to GW, Diggs has talked about wanting to step out farther from the basket and show off his equally smooth jumpshot. He spends much of his time during pregame warm-ups outside the post area, happily launching jumpers to his heart’s content without having to worry about his usual responsibilities as the team’s big man.

Recently, GW head coach Karl Hobbs has seen his leading scorer maximizing his versatility on the court during games. Diggs has already taken eight three-pointers this season, one more than his season total for last year. Wednesday during the Colonials’ 66-58 loss to Saint Joseph’s, he continued the trend, shooting from mid- to long-range about a half dozen times, including one missed three.

“I’m just looking for jump shots more than I was before,” Diggs said. “Because I worked on them, I feel as though I can make some shots. The defense has been giving me those shots all year, now I’m just taking them.”

Though he has made just two of eight threes this year, the percentage of successful long two-pointers is much higher. Opposing defenses have to respect his ability to score outside, making it easier for Diggs to score down-low. Both he and Hobbs said that, when matched up against a bigger player such as the Hawks’ 242-pound center Ahmad Nivins, Diggs can tire his man out with his mobility.

“The center on the opposite team, he’s not going to step out to try to guard me most of the time, he doesn’t like chasing me around,” said Diggs, who Saint Joseph’s coach Phil Martelli called “a terrific player.”

Shooting the ball during game situations does not always feel comfortable, Diggs added. He said he worked on his outside shot during the summer partly because most professional teams will want him to play more of a swingman role, but sometimes he can’t help but hesitate when staring down the hoop from more than 20 feet away. Considering that it takes more time than most guards for him to release the ball, those few half-seconds can be costly.

It is also clear that the athlete in Diggs prefers to use his leaping ability not to shoot above defenders, but to dunk on them, as exhibited by his regular dosage of alley-oops Wednesday.

“If [point guard] Johnny Lee keeps throwing those up, I’m going to keep trying to get them,” he said with a smile.

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