WHO INITIATES CONTACT?

The the basketball officiating acronym WIC stands for “who initiated the contact.” It is used to describe any number of different plays that all have one thing in common. That commonality is that the defense has established legal guarding position and there after there is contact by the offensive ball handler. This contact often does not displace the defender by any great extent, but often results in a foul being called on the defense even though he/she had established LGP.

Classic WIC plays often involve an offensive player getting a rebound under or near his/her own basket and then during the “put back” action the offense “jumps into” the legal defender causing marginal contact. Officials often “ring up” the defender for the foul on these classic plays.

Another version of these classic WIC situations involve dribble drivers or post players going to the hole that could not defeat their defenders who have obtained and maintained LGP. As a last desperate attempt to score they ‘drift’ into or intentionally try to draw a foul by initiating contact with their legal defender

As the covering official don’t be fooled or suckered into this incorrect call. The key to getting these WIC plays correct is to “officiate the defense.” All officials have heard this “ref the defense” mandate since day one of our officiating careers, but it is never more important than when officiating these WIC scenarios. If officials will focus on the defender he/she will then know whether or not they were “legal” and know that any resulting contact was initiated by the offense. Make sure they “got there first,” are in bounds, facing and not going forward. With this done then focus on the defenders arms. If they stay within the “vertical” during the contact the official then knows the defender is not “culpable.”

More often than not “WIC” plays probably should be correctly ruled as “no calls” rather than charging a defender who was in legal guarding position with a foul. If the defender was severely displaced or knocked to the ground then the play should rightly be ruled a charge, but most WIC plays involve contact that doesn’t significantly displace the defender and probably should rightly be passed on.

Another quick point on WIC situations. Often, the defenders are legal with their arms straight above and entirely in the vertical. The offensive contact into the torso of the defender often causes the defender’s arms to momentarily go forward giving the illusion that they were not vertical. Don’t be fooled and know that it was caused by the offensive contact.

Finally, there is often the offensive coach that that will raise his arms in disbelief and yell “How can that not be a foul?” The quick short reply by the official might be, “the defender was legal.” That retort communicates quickly and effectively information to the coach that he/she already knows because he /she was the one who taught the offensive player that illegal tactic in the first place.

Below is a clip of a post player who “drifts” into a legal defender who he couldn’t defeat hoping to get a call. The experience covering official of this “curl play’ does not bite and correctly, in my view, “plays on.

In this video the defender is pretty legal and the offensive player jumps back into the defender, with significant contact that does not displace the defender. The lead is straight lined to the contact and the trail who has the open look decides to pass on the play. And I think rightfully so.

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