Andre assists: Ranking top 10 Curbelo dishes from last season

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Cameron Krasucki

Freshman Andre Curbelo dribbles the basketball down the State Farm Center court Feb. 25 against Nebraska. Curbelo’s top moments from this season are played back.

By Brandon Simberg, Staff Writer

Andre Curbelo took Champaign — and the college basketball world — by storm with his passing abilities last season. He averaged 7.7 assists per 40 minutes. Even coming off the bench, he finished third in the Big Ten in assists during conference play.

Curbelo is a brilliant offensive player who understands how to manipulate defenders, read the floor and anticipate the defense. He had a flair for creative passes that turned into highlights. Below were 10 of my favorite assists.

Honorable mention: Pick-and-roll bounce pass to Cockburn

I technically can’t count this on the list because it was not an assist, but this was arguably Curbelo’s best pass of the season. Off the pick-and-roll, Curbelo has an incredibly small window to find Kofi Cockburn. But he extends his arms around his defenders and throws a bounce pass that not only hits Cockburn, but it also somehow leads him right to the rim.

 10. Live dribble skip pass to corner shooter

While this isn’t Curbelo’s flashiest pass, it’s a very functional one that requires a high IQ. When Curbelo gets downhill, he has little time to read the defenders on the weak side before they are able to recover. In those split seconds, he sees Brad Davison taking away Cockburn on the roll. Without stopping momentum, he’s able to fire a perfect skip pass to Adam Miller in the corner for the open three.

9. Spin wrap-around

This play is about the dribble move as much as the pass. Curbelo sprints in before he catches the ball, giving himself momentum to attack downhill. Without stopping, Curbelo executes a perfect spin dribble to dust his defender. From there, he’s able to draw the opposing big in, and he places a perfect wrap-around pass to Cockburn for a slam.

8. Tight window feed

One of Curbelo’s best passes from early in the season, he again starts his footwork before the catch, so he has the speed to blow past his defender, Davion Mitchell, finalist for the Naismith Defensive Player of the Year award, on the catch. From there, he has a split second to make a decision before meeting the big. He places a perfect dump-off to Giorgi Bezhanishvili and prevents charging into the defender.

7. Between-the-legs dime

This was a cool pass in real time, but on review, the level of difficulty isn’t as hard as I had hoped. A good screen by Cockburn sets up, essentially, a two-on-one game with Curbelo, Cockburn and Drexel’s big. Curbelo has options as to what he can do here: He can lob it over the top, shoot a floater or find another angle. Curbelo went with option three, dotting a bounce pass between the big’s legs, leading to a slam.

6. Behind-the-back pass to Hamlin

The first of a few behind-the-back passes on this list, Curbelo changes speed with his dribble, enabling him to draw the big in on the baseline. From there, it’s a simple read, but it’s perfectly executed. He hits Jermaine Hamlin with a behind-the-back pass, resulting in a dunk.

5. Baseline drive to bounce pass out to perimeter

One of those “how did he see that?” moments, Curbelo drives baseline, and it appears he’s cut off. The defense collapses, and out of the corner of his eye, he spots Ayo Dosunmu open at the top of the key. Still, a pass from the baseline to the top of the perimeter is difficult. But Curbelo finds an angle and places it perfectly, leading to an open three.

4. Pick-and-roll pass puts away Indiana

With Dosunmu fouled out against Indiana, Illinois leaned on its freshman guard to help bring them the win, and he did not disappoint. Needing a basket to put the nail in the coffin, Illinois went to a high pick-and-roll between Curbelo and Cockburn. Curbelo uses a crafty double-crossover to create space before sliding in a bounce pass to a rolling Cockburn for a slam. This pass gets bonus points for the time and score in the game.

3. Behind-the-back pass to Dosunmu

Off of a screen, rescreen, Curbelo gets trapped on the baseline, but he doesn’t panic. He scans the court while Dosunmu makes a great cut under the hoop. Curbelo could telegraph that Dosunmu is there, but he doesn’t. He looks to his right, confusing the defender under the rim before whipping the ball behind the back to get a better angle and hitting Dosunmu for a layup.

2. Wrap-around against Rutgers

Sometimes, Curbelo defies simple laws of logic and gravity, and this was one of those times. Attacking downhill, Curbelo leaves his feet as if he’s going to attempt a floater. He has his defender and the big on him and appears stuck. But he glides toward the baseline, contorts his arm around the big and lays the ball down to a wide open Bezhanishvili for a dunk.

1. Behind-the-back pass to Cockburn

Definitely the most functional behind-the-back pass on the list. Curbelo gets trapped on the pick-and-roll, and while Cockburn is open under the rim, the angle to throw it over the top isn’t there. Curbelo has a split second to hit Cockburn before the weak side defender tags and his own defender recovers to him. Curbelo delivers a behind-the-back pass, but he adjusts his body and delivers it tight to himself so it has the room to get there and not hit any defenders. Truly a special pass from a special player.

 

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