Saturday, February 28, 2009

At the End of a Hard Season...

When you start to get to the tail end of a hard season in terms of wins and losses, things are going to go one of two ways: you are either going to implode or start to have fun. I think last night, even though we dropped one to Central (after close first half we ran out of gas in the second half), my guys started to have fun playing with each other and I was so glad to see that, as that was what I had been working for all year. They cheered each other up after mistakes and cheered each other on after good plays. I tried to keep things light as long as I didn't feel they were going to quit, and they didn't. I think, as a freshmen coach, it's vital to make sure that your season ends on a positive note because you need those guys to have energy in the gym come summer workouts. And as I have said before, we have come a LONG way this year in terms of improving their skills and their attitudes. I am very proud of them and wish that we could have won more games than we did, because they deserved to.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Situation Day

As I continue the trend of keeping my player's interest through the last few weeks of the season, today we had a situation day. On situation days I use the clock (did not today, but usually do) and play some mini games using different times and scores. I have the players divide into teams and play out a bunch of different scenarios. They receive a point of they win. The losers at the end of it all have to run.

I go over a bunch of different scenarios such as up 1 with 10 seconds left, down 10 with 3 minutes left, so on and so fourth. Usually what I try to do is give a scenario and then give the same scenario with the teams flipped so the players can see how to do it from both sides. I also adjust fouls for the teams in terms of bonus/double bonus/ no bonus so they have to think about that.

Another drill I like to use to teach scenarios is called 76-76. You divide into two teams and start them with a score of 76-76. You put three minutes on the clock, but do not start it. The teams play until one hits 80 points and then the clock starts and the teams play out the scenario. The beauty of this drill is that every time you play you get a different look. One time it might be a one point game with a minute left, the next time it might be an 8 point game with two minutes left. You as the coach have to really learn to think on your feet, as you do in a game. I think this is a great way to keep you sharp as a coach. If I was coaching varsity, I would play this drill out at least once a week just to drill situations.

I really think that situations are an important part of basketball, but something that isn't dealt with a lot. I know I did not do that well with my freshmen on it this year, and really should have. It is tends to be one of those things that gets overlooked for other things. But it can be something that makes or breaks a game, and even makes or breaks your season.

Giving the Team a "Day Off"

As you get to the end of a season, players start to get burned out and worn down a little bit. This is especially true when you are having a rough season record wise we are having. It's not that we haven't had a successful season in terms of improving our overall game (which was my goal), because we have done great in that area, but our record has not been what the players would have liked. Anyway, because I can feel my guys starting to burn out I decided to give them a day yesterday where we did nothing but fun stuff.

We started out playing baseball, moved to sack races, then tug-of-war, and then they were given pieces of gym equipment and had to make it from one baseline to the other without touching the ground. Then I let them just play for the last forty minutes of practice. Two of the three people that actually read this blog probably think it was a waste of time to do this, but I personally think that kids (especially freshmen) need a break from the everyday routine. What I don't want is to burn them out completely so that they do not show up routinely for summer workouts in June and July. I want them to still love this game. I think everyone needs a mental health day from their daily grind, and this is a good way to give it to them while still building team camaraderie.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Three Things on a Notecard

I am going to share something that I've started doing with my freshmen at the end of this year. Before each game, I give them a note card with three things that they can do to help the team. These things are not something like "score 20 points" or "grab 15 rebounds", because I don't want to give them goals that have numbers. I feel that if they grab 15 rebounds in the first half then they will be satisfied with their performance. With these notecards, my players basically get jobs to do that stretch an entire game. Some of my favorite ones are:
"Help swing the ball"
"Go after every rebound"
"Attack the rim"
"Take the OPEN shot"
"Talk on defense"
"Be in helpside"
"Pressure the ball from baseline to baseline"

They are things that really everyone should do, but I try to make sure SOMEONE is thinking about. It's just a little thing, but I think it helps their focus.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Starts to the 1-4 High Sets

Since I have been doing some Xs and Os stuff the last few days, I will continue that trend here. I have gotten a lot of interest and compliments about some of my 1-4 set stuff I have compiled over the years. I don't run a lot of it, but have shared it with coaches. I am not a set guy at all, but use them from time to time to give different looks and run into our motion game. I like the 1-4 high because of the spacing and room to move. But I believe that set plays should fit your players to a T and shouldn't be designed to do things they are not good at. For example if you are lucky enough to have 4 6'8"+ kids (like another blogger I know) but don't have any shooters (he does have them, lucky bum), then you probably shouldn't be having sets to free up your players for threes, no matter how well the plays work. At the same time, if you have a ton of small kids that can shoot, the plays shouldn't be set up so that you are getting post ups and high/low looks for your guys, again, no matter how good they look. I also think your sets should run into your base offense, it makes it harder to scout because where does the play stop and your offense start? Anyway, I will give some entries, looks, and ideas to think about when running a 1-4. So if you love sets and 1-4 stuff, take the information here and tweak it to fit your team.

Three for One
Personally, I like to run 3 different 1-4 high plays for my sets. But I run them on the same call. How do the players know what play to run? By how the ball is entered into the offense. I have three different entries I use and each one triggers a specific play. I feel it is harder to scout (unless you read the blog I guess), and makes things more streamlined for the players.

I contend there are three MAIN entries into the 1-4 and these are the three I use primarily: Wing pass entry, wing dribble entry, and post pass entry. Now, there are also some things you can do in terms of pass fake the wing and have the wing back cut, call for a screen and roll, and things of that nature, but I usually use these three.

When you start in the 1-4, I really like the offense starting as a 1-4 low and coming up to high. It makes ball entry easier, I feel, and really helps you exploit other teams on the back cuts when they over play.

I also do not mind starting the offense from a box set with your bigs at the corners and your perimeters on the blocks and having your bigs set a downscreen and pop up. That is a good way to free your guys. I just don't like having guys get into the 1-4 set because they start from stationary and are easier to guard. At the same time though, I see a lot of teams start like this and do fine, usually until someone really applies the pressure.

Dribble Over
When we run the dribble over, there are several things you can do out of it. I teach my guys to run the dribble over option when the wing is being denied, so obviously, I always have the wing run a back cut off the dribble over.

After the back cut is made, there are several moves you can make. You can have the player that back cut go all the way to the front of the rim than loop up and have your posts set a pinch screen for him to try and shoot a three. This is effective if your wing is a good shooter and you are looking to iso him.

Another option is to have your back cutting wing set a screen for the other wing (almost flexish), who cuts across the lane and to the corner for a shot. You can also drop your post as a second screener and have him post up for an entry (depending on your post play), which is not shown here. Another option is to screen the screener with your post setting a downscreen on the wing that set the screen (as shown below).

I also LOVE the back/cross screen where a person on the block screens a person on the opposite elbow. Here the back cutting guard sets a cross/back screen for the backside post. He then pops up to the perimter and we have a high/low look for the post coming off the screen. This works REALLY well when done right. Some other simple starter options for the dribble over are things like just having the guy clear out so the point can go 1 on 1, if you have a stud PG. You could have the back cutting wing clear out and the post drop down, post and then set a back/cross screen for the post on the opposite elbow. After setting the screen he shapes up and you have a high/low look. The wing could also take 1-2 steps down as if he is making the cut then come up hard and perform a Euro screen with the dribbler. The possibilities are really endless.

Wing Pass
When a pass is made from the point to the wing, there are several things you can do, some are more obvious than others. I only touch on the starts to the wing, but I feel the pass to the wing should be your most indepth play simply because it happens more often. Your dribble and post entries should be quicker and your wing entry should be more in depth. But I guess if you stress a dribble over or post entry, then that can be the more indepth set.

The most obvious thing to do when the pass is made to the wing is to run a UCLA screen off the high post. I like this because you are looking to get your point guard an initial easy shot and if you have an athleitic point, as many teams do, you can even get him a post up look. The high post setting the screen can either pop out (Swing style) or can roll as a second cutter if the point guard cuts and clears. A lot of it depends on the type of post you have and what you want the subsequent actions of the offense to be. If you have a post that can shoot then he should step, of if you put a shooter at that position for the purpose of stepping.
So after the UCLA cut is run, there are several things you can incorporate. Again I like the cross/back screen look, especially when the point guard faces up out of it and seperates to the ball for a jumper.

And again, you can run the screen the opposite wing action, shown here with the screen the screener look for a pop. if you have a dominant point, I like to incorporate this because you are getting two looks for your point guard.

Also, after setting the screen, I like the post to be a second cutter, cut to the block, post hard, and then set a back/cross screen for the post on the opposite elbow. After setting the screen, the screener should roll to the high post for a high low look.

Other things you can do out of it are things such as send the point guard to the opposite corner to clear out for a wing to go 1 on 1. You can have the player in the high post turn and screen for the post on the opposite elbow -the player being screened for runs a curl cut and the screener rolls back to the high post (can switch that as well).

Another option I like on the guard to wing pass is having the backside post set a backscreen for the point. If you have an athletic point who can put one down, this is a great look to get the team going!
Again, if you have a good point guard, or your point is your best player, this is a good look for him. Have the post on the ball side drop down and post up, then when the point gets to the block have the post that is on the block set a screen to free him up for a jumper in the corner.
If you have a good post player, clear the point out to the opposite corner and have the post drop down, post and then set a screen the screener look for the post that set the back screen. Also, when the post goes up to set the back screen, it opens the lane for a good slashing wing to drive the ball to the basket.
Another good idea with the back screen is to incorporate a screen and roll with it. Again, send the point to the opposite corner and clear out the paint for the screen and roll.

Wing pass and screen away is another obvious option. Very vanilla, but very effective. There are some different things you can do that I will share with you here.

Again, I am a fan of the back/cross screen and here you see the ballside post drops down, posts up, then sets the back/cross screen. He should roll across to the high post for a high/low type look.

You can also set a double using the post players. There are two obvious ways to do it. The easiest is to screen with the backside post and the point. You can also screen with the ballside post and the point and have the backside post dive to the lane. I would definately add some screen the screener action for both of these.

You can also, for fun, throw in something crazy like a triple screen away where you slip some screener, pop others, curl, straight or flair your cutter depending on the personnel.

Post Entry Pass
I like the post entry pass in the 1-4 high because you can do a lot of things with back cuts.
The most obvious thing you can do out of the post entry is have your wing cut back door for a layup. From there you can add things like a back/cross screen for the opposite post, or a screen for the wing and have the opposite post screen down flex style.

Another obvious idea is to dive the opposite post into the post for a high-low as shown below with the optional screen away. You could also have your PG basket cut to the opposite block for a layup.

Another classic look is having your backside post backscreen for your point guard (or you could ahve them screen for your wing or double screen with the point guard). This look frees your pg for a layup and can have a high, low off of that. From this look you can have the PG back screen a wing or cross screen a wing to the corner for a shot (if posted on the block) then seperate out for a shot.

The scissor action of this is a class look and can got a lot of places from here in terms of screening and moving. It's a great look if you have a post that passes well.

Again, there are tons of options from this point. Another good one, if your posts can handle, is having the post with the ball and the other post running a screen and roll. Good option with a talented post player.
Other Starting Looks
I've outlined some basic starters for the 1-4 high, and there are also some other things you can do out of it.
The horns set is a good start, having your two posts come up and set a screen and roll while your wings drop to the corner. The point attacks and you go from there.
Another way is a simple screen and roll. Have your post come up, screen and roll into something.
End Thoughts
First, this took me a long time to get done and I apologize for that!! As the season winds down I will start to post stuff more regularly on here. Anyway, again, the 1-4 high is a great set offense to run into your base and would encourage everyone to look into it. The point of this post was to give you a buffet style look into the different options with the offense and let you choose what works for you. Hopefully this gives you some options and things to think about. I don't believe that there are any fool proof set plays and you should tailor every set you have to your team and tailor it to flow into your offense. So anytime you see a great set play, use your brain and tweak it to better fit your team and you as a coach!

Monday, February 9, 2009

Good Lob Play

This is a play I picked up while at LaCrosse Central. On the freshmen team we had a 6-7 post and an athletic 6-4 post that we ran this for. Worked really well. I also ran it often when I coached Minnesota Magic 19U (which is really like glorified baby sitting), and got some fun dunks for my older guys. If I ever have high flyers again, I am sure I will break this one out. Good play to run to get your guys pumped up to start the game or the half.

The play starts in a basic point guard, two wing, two post set. The post who is getting the lob cuts up the lane line and recieves a pass from the point guard. As this is happening, the other post player cuts across the lane and posts up. The backside wing starts to cut down into the middle of the lane. The post who popped up quickly swings the ball to the wing and as he lets the pass go, the backside wing sets a back screen for him to free him up for the lob. The backside wing pops for a jumper and the wing with the ball looks to throw the lob.
*Sometimes on this play, after a team has seen it, the player guarding the other post (not the one getting the lob) will sag off his man to play the lob. That opens up the post feed and an easy layup. It was suprising how many times the post entry actually scored us the points because the team was so worried about the lob.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Box Out of Bounds Set to Free Up Your Shooters

I probably should not share this, because it is my favorite BLOB play, but I am going to do so anyway. I came up with this one when I was an assistant at LaCrosse Central and it worked well. The first game we ran it, it freed up our shooter for NINE threes, although he only made two!!! It initially started out as diagrams 1-3, but I have since added to the play and think it makes it even more effective. I am not running it this year, but definately will in the future.

The play starts in a box set. Both of the perimeter players are on the ball side at the elbow and block. The post players (or worst ballhandlers/shooters) are on the backside block and elbow. Your best shooter should be taking the ball out and your second best shooter should be at the elbow.

DIAGRAM 1: The play starts with the player at the ball side block setting a back screen for the player at the ball side elbow. The player at the elbow runs a cut to the block (just in case he is open for a layup), and then pops out hard to the corner and recieves the pass.

DIAGRAM 2&3: After setting the pick (and as the ball is passed in), the player who set the back screen pops out and recieves a pass from the player in the corner. As the pass is coming to him, the players on the backside are both coming to the block to set a double screen for the inbounder. The inbounder cuts off the double screen out to the three point line and recieves a pass for a possible three.

DIAGRAM 4: If no three is taken, the two players who set the double screen stay there and set another double screen for the player in the opposite corner (who the ball was inintially inbounded to). The player comes off the screen to the corner where the ball is. The player coming off the double to the corner looks for his shot.

DIAGRAM 5: If there is no shot, the 4 man on the block comes up and sets an immediate backscreen for the 1 man who runs the backdoor lob look and seperates out to the backside wing. We are now in our 4 out 1 in look and can run the offense.

Well, there it is. Simple, but I really hope that it can be useful to you. If you find it to complicated for your team, you can stop after diagram #3 and go from there.