We’ve all seen the no-look, behind-the-back dishes, swift acceleration off the dribble and desire to win, but Laia Raventós has added another element to her arsenal: scoring mentality. Her arc of improvement has skyrocketed in the past few weeks as she’s beginning to showcase the complete nature of her game.
“I think Laia, the improvement that we’ve seen from her over the past three weeks has been tremendous,” head coach Cara Consuegra said. “We’ve really pushed her outside her comfort zone in some ways, and she’s finally feeling confident in what we’re asking her to do. You’re seeing that in the way she’s playing; she’s become super valuable for us in the past few weeks.”
— Charlotte Athletics (@Charlotte49ers) February 15, 2016
Consuegra’s praise is valid considering Raventós just earned Conference USA Freshman of the Week, an honor bestowed among the conference’s most promising talents. But what makes Raventós a complete point guard? Here are six key traits that every floor general possesses, including the Spanish freshman:
When Raventós first stepped on the floor as a 49er, her main focus was to unlock the defense and create space for teammates. She adapted to the American game quickly in terms of style and pace, but lately she’s shown signs of virtuosity in the scoring department.
After tallying 16 points against Florida Atlantic in Halton Arena on Jan. 30, Consuegra hoped her freshman would carry the momentum into future games.Since, Raventós has scored in double-figures in each game including 14 points during a crucial road trip this past week at Rice.
She then shattered the mark scoring a career-high 19 in Charlotte’s matinee showdown with North Texas, Feb. 13.
She was proficient from behind the arc, shooting 6-of-8 during the two game span and drove to the basket with ease solidifying her confidence as a scorer. The majority of point guards are on the floor to facilitate, but Raventós is exemplifying her playmaker qualities in more ways than one.
When her shots are falling, the entire offense opens up and her teammates undoubtedly benefit. In Charlotte’s last four games in which Raventós scored in double-digits, the 49ers tallied 80 points on average.
Raventós has eyes in the back of her head. At least that’s what onlookers assume when the Spanish guard picks out open teammates she can’t actually see. She’s exhibited her sixth sense for knowing where teammates are, on multiple occasions this season.
During the 49ers visit to Atlanta over Thanksgiving, Raventós threw a full-court bounce pass that split two defenders and found Ciara Gregory in stride. Then again two weeks later against the Wolfpack in the state capital, Raventós landed herself on Sportscenter’s Top 10 plays after finding Lefty Webster with a no-look, behind-the-back feed.
“I expect anything from Laia,” Webster said after receiving the glorified pass from Raventós. “I don’t care where she is, you just have to expect it. She might not look at you, but she’s knows you’re back there.”
If her appearance on ESPN doesn’t fully justify the claim that she has eyes in the back of her head, then it’s noteworthy to mention that she’s tallied 90 assists thus far. Raventós currently ranks fourth among freshman all-time for most assists in a single season, which will presumably change in the coming weeks as she approaches former 49er Elizabeth Walker, who sits second with 100 assists.
Hey @SportsCenter, check out this INSANE assist from @CharlotteWBB PG Laia Raventos #SCtop10 https://t.co/JwPHnq1kgk pic.twitter.com/K6DVOCkjWh — Charlotte Athletics (@Charlotte49ers) December 7, 2015
Thus far, Raventós ranks first among freshman in C-USA for her 1.3 assist/turnover ratio. In fact, only seven players in the conference have posted a better percentage to this point in the season.
While the freshman continues to improve her ball-handling, she’s showcased eye-appealing dribbling skills throughout the season.
It’s not uncommon for Raventós to shake off defenders with ankle-breaking crossovers or evasive step-backs. Her ability to elude defensive pressure not only leads to shooting space for herself, but also creates additional time to pick out that extra pass.
No wonder her favorite player is Chris Paul.
Speed kills, at least that’s the well-known mantra. The Spanish point guard’s ability to beat her opposition to the basket is relatively unrivaled in the C-USA. She has the power and finesse to slow up at the arc and attack her defender off the dribble.
“When she turns up the pace, she’s very difficult to stay in front of,” Consuegra said after the 49ers victory over North Carolina Central. “She’s able to make plays and score for herself and again, I think you saw some moments of that, which is good.”
And then again,
“I didn’t think they could stay in front of her when she had the ball,” Consuegra said after defeating FAU.
Raventós keeps the opposition’s defense on their heels. Her speed allows her to not only create for herself but also teammates. Every time she penetrates, the defense collapses, which frees up space along the perimeter for the 49ers sharpshooters.
Two weeks ago, the 49ers coaching staff had no idea their freshman point guard would be ready to play against FAU after suffering an injury two games prior.
“She went through shoot-around today and was cleared to play so we didn’t even know coming into this game if she was going to be ready to play,” Consuegra said. “That kid is beat up but she played so hard tonight.”
Raventós emerged from the locker room pregame with a black shoulder wrap and white tape supporting her wrist. She experienced a string of games that took a toll on her body.
However, she shocked her teammates and coaches and returned to floor with vengeance. She ignored any probable pain or discomfort and dropped 16 points and dished out five assists, a team-high.
Before arriving in Charlotte, Raventós played at the highest level in Europe. She’s a two-time FIBA European champion with Spain and competed against top-class competition. Obviously, defense was a key factor in her run to lifting the European women’s basketball title twice.
In the U16 final, she pick-pocketed Croatia three times in just 21 minutes. Now in the United States, she’s tallied 32 steals and will most likely eclipse former 49er Tonya Phifer who rests fourth among freshman for most steals in a season.
There’s the notion that the point guard is an extension of the head coach. This belief rings true when applied to the 49ers. Consuegra values defense therefore it’s no surprise that Raventós is evolving into a defensive pit bull.
She’s toned down her fouling tendency and is increasingly showing her willingness to commit to defense.