Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Getting Players Recruited

I PERSONALLY believe, as a high school coach, that you have a duty to your players to help them the best you can to play college basketball if that is what they want to do. I've heard stories about high school coaches not returning calls from college coaches, and I think that is crazy stuff. All the great coaches I know are always doing what they can in order to help their guys to the next level. Here are some of my personal ideas on how to help your guys do this. Now none of this is going to wow you, but at the same time I think that you can pick a little something up here and there.

1. Start Early.
I think it is paramount for you to start building interest in a player as quickly as you can. Now usually you can't start when he's a freshmen on the JV team, but I think all of your players on the varsity team can be helped out. I think you can do this in a number of ways. First, I think you can e-mail local college coaches to come take a look at a player during practices or games. Heck you can just tell the coach that you have a few players on your squad that he might have interest in and I am sure he will send an assistant. If you can start the dialogue between coach and player early, there is a better chance that something good will come of it.

2. Be realistic.
Unfortunately, ever kid is not going to the Big 10 to play, regardless of what they/their parents think sometimes! The best thing you can do is be honest with them about their talent level and the level they can play at in college. For some kids, being a role player or bench player at the local community college for two years is about as much as they are going to get. Also, you should try to be honest (and have the recruiting coach be honest) about their level of playing time at the collegiate level. For some kids, their dream may be to play D1 basketball even if they ride the pine. For another kid, he would rather go D2 or D3 and be a three year starter.

3. Send tape. This is a no brainer, but at the same time I think you have to send as much tape as possible. Some coaches like to send highlight tapes, but from what I have heard you are better off sending full game tapes. This is because you can make a highlight tape of a lot of players and make them look great. What coaches want to see is what they do when they are not on the highlight reels, how do they play a full game? So maybe send 1 highlight and then a copy of one of their better overall games.

4. Make a recruiting packet. I don't know if this helps or not, but it is something I would like to do for my guys when I become head coach. I would like to put together a packet with the following information:
*Basic Info Sheet: name, height, weight, address, phone number(s), e-mail, parent/guardian name(s) and contact information, AAU team, choices of major, grades, ACT scores, interests, etc. Stuff to make life easier on the coaching staff so they have some ammo to use when having those opening conversations.
*Stat Sheet: A basic page with their statistics by year and their accomplishments (All-Conference, etc).
*Schedule: I think sending a schedule of our games and practices is helpful because again it makes it less work for the college coach. And the less work he has to do, the more willing he may be to swing over and at least check a guy out.
*Game tape: just like above, at least one game where they played well.
I think the basic reasoning behind doing this is what I stated above. If the college coaching staff has a lot of information on a guy, it is easier to come over to at least watch him play. And it saves time having to have them call/e-mail and get info.

5. Invite coaches to games and practices.
I especially like college coaches coming to practice because I think it raises the level of intensity and also gives a lot of your guys some exposure. If you are at a bigger school an NAIA or D3 coach might come and fall in love with that 6-3 athlete who is your 8th man. They may not see enough of him in a game, but may be able to evaluate him (and everyone) in practice on an equal basis in terms of the time they are watching them.
But either way, as long as you are putting your guys in front of coaches, you are doing what you can!

6. Help player get on an AAU team to get exposed.
Some coaches may cringe when they read this, but there are some AAU programs out there that do a great job of getting kids exposure. Just make sure your guys are spending the summer concentrating on the fundamentals too!

7. Make sure the school fits the player.
This is one that a lot of people don't look at. Does the school have the right major the player wants? Does the school have a history of producing players that are successful after basketball? What is the graduation rate? Do they have a high rate of transfer, if so why? All these are questions that should be asked BEFORE any basketball ones. For basketball ones, does the style fit the player? A guy I played with in middle school went on to be 6-10. He was not the fastest guy in the world, but choose a school that played a very up tempo style. He did not fit in and was not happy.

8. Use your contacts.
Talk to every college coach you know about his thoughts on your guy. What does he need to improve on? What level do you see him going at? If your college contacts can but his name into the hands of other college coaches that is even better!

9. Get the team to camps.
As I said above, anytime you can get your guys in front of college coaches it is a good thing. At many camps, the counselors are coaches who are there to coach and network, many of them are college coaches. I am not a college coach but I worked a D1 camp a couple of summers ago (brought a player of mine there) and ended up seeing a few players there that I liked. I in turn send their names on to some of the college coaches I know. So you never know where the opportunity is going to come from.

10. Have the player contact the coaching staff early and often.
When a player shows the college coaches that he wants to be there, they are often more intrigued. Everyone likes someone better that WANTS to be there. I know a couple college coaches who have taken much harder looks at players because the player was constantly calling and initiating contact with the school. So if your guy is serious about playing at college X he should be contacting the coaches also to get their attention.

Well, there are ten things I think are important. I want to mention that I don't think as a HS coach getting your players to college is a mandatory part of the job, but at the same time I do think that if you really care about your players it is something you will do for them. Once again, the ten things listed above are kind of "yea duh" things, but I posted them because maybe 1 or 2 will be simple things you have not thought of! Thoughts? Other suggestions? Leave a comment or drop me a line!

Thursday, March 19, 2009

2-3 Zone as Your Base

Watching playoff basketball tonight I witnessed yet another team have a 2-3 zone as their backbone and come up short when they had to go man. The more basketball I watch, the more convinced I am that great high school programs have to have man to man defense as the cornerstone of their defensive philosophy. I think man to man is more flexible and a little more aggressive than most zones and can be played in all situations. Also, it seems to me that most man teams cover shooters better when they run man.

Now does that mean that you don't play any zone? Of course not! There are a lot of different situations and occurrences where zone defense is the way to go. But I think that most great programs are ones that have their base in man to man.


Monday, March 16, 2009

Three Kinds of Coaches

I got an e-mail from Kevin, the TC Hoops Czar today. It contained a GREAT summary of Coach Larranaga's ideas on three types of coaches. Thanks to the Czar for sending this my way.

Almost all coaches fall into1 of 3 categories.
Practice Coach
Game Coach
Players' coach (i.e teaching/trusting coach)

Some coaches are great teachers. They are like a professor holding class on the court. The players learn and improve and the team is always well prepared. Other coaches are game coaches and are able to make instinctive adjustments in games. They have a great feel for the game and can easily and calmly communicate their thoughts to their players no matter how stressful the situation. These coaches often win close games because their teams are like them. - cool, calm and collected at the end of close games.

The practice coach prepares his team well, but then during the actual contest continues to correct every mistake, like it was practice. I often found myself making corrections under game conditions that I needed to ignore. I should have waited until we got back out on the practice floor to help improve this situation.

Game coaches, on the other hand, rely too frequently on their gut instincts and spend relatively little time teaching the skills of the game and helping players improve in practice. They like to "X and O" the game but not truly develop the individual player. Everyone becomes a pawn in his own personal game of chess.

The best category is the players' coach who prepares his team fully in practice with drills to develop essential skills, with a solid X and O game plan, and with a clear vision of how he expects them to play. However, once the game begins, he trusts that what he has taught them in practice will be executed under game conditions.

If a mistake occurs, the coach should applaud. That's right, he should clap. Truly great coaches have so much confidence that they believe that once you have prepared your team, questioning or correcting them on the court will only lead to indecision.

This doesn't mean you never make corrections or adjustments during a game. Rather, it means you should be patient with your players and find an appropriate time to address issues you feel need to be covered. Making adjustments at time-outs and half-time is still necessary. However, what you say to your team and how you say it will be very different once you commit yourself to clapping for mistakes, such as missed shots, or bad plays. Your players will remain more calm and confident.

After I read this, I am a complete practice coach at times I micro manage a little too much. I realize this however, and am going to really work to switch my style to the third one. I think there are a lot of young coaches that end up being practice coaches, and it's funny that even though I know that I still fall into the trap! But hey, on the bright side I'm smart enough to know my short comings and will work to rectify the situation!

On another great note, the State Tournament is only a week and a half away! I am pumped to go! This will be my 15th State Tournament in a row, as I attended my first one as a third grader and was lucky enough to see Khalid El-Amin as a sophomore barely beat that great Staples Motley team in the old St. Paul Civic Center. After that game I was completely hooked on basketball. While most kids pretended to be Michael Jordan in their back yards, I was being Khalid El-Amin!

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Iowa Press Break

This is a copy of my Iowa Press Break that I have on my downloads page, the link is on the right side of the page. I like it because it is simple and effective. For whatever reason, I had a huge problem with the diagrams loading, so if you like the pressbreak and want to see the diagrams, feel free to download the entire document from my downloads section.

Iowa Press Break
The Iowa Press Break is a very simple press break I picked this up from a very smart man that I once had the privilege of coaching under. The reason I would use the Iowa Press Break as your press break over another is because of how simple yet effective it is and how it can work against any kind of zone press. It’s something that doesn’t take hours and hours to put in, while at the same time gives you everything you want in a press break. When the ball is on a side the guard with the ball has all 4 of the options you should have in a press break. He has a player to pass to up the sideline, in the middle (where you want the ball), a reversal option and someone going deep diagonal.
The whole idea of the Iowa Press Break is that when one of the guards on the side has the ball, the opposite post flashes to the middle and the guard on the opposite side goes deep. You reverse the ball working it up the floor looking to hit that post when he flashes to the middle. Once the post flashing to the middle catches the ball, it’s all over, all he has to do is turn and pass it to the guard streaking long and we’ve broken the press (hopefully)!
This offense can also be used in the half court against zone traps. I don’t show it in the diagrams, but it is the same basic concept, I am sure you can figure it out! The offense starts in a 1-2-2 look with the posts on the blocks. When the ball is thrown to the wing, the backside post cuts up to the elbow and the backside wing cuts to the block. This is GREAT against the 1-3-1 trap because the backside block will be open if the defense locks onto the post flashing high. If you are confused with how this works, shoot me an e-mail and I will help!
This is great against a trapping press because you have spread the floor in such a way that they can not cover everyone. Many times, the guard cutting deep is going to be wide open and can be hit with a pass if the passer gets it off before the trap. At the very least against a trap the reversal pass will be open. If it is not open, you know that you have someone open who can gash the opponent.
As with anything else, this is not the end all be all of press breaks. This is what I personally find useful and is something that I use. Maybe something you have is better and if you do that is great! The only downfall I find to this pressbreak is that we don’t have a guard cutting through the middle of the press. But I find the movement from the other players suffices for this. Many times, the player that is open is the post that is now on the ball side returning to his position up the sideline. The defender lets him go to block out the middle from the post that is now flashing there and the post returning to his ball side spot is open.
The following will be a quick rundown of the press break in more detail. Please refer to the diagrams as well. It really isn’t anything that complicated or mind blowing. I am going to refer to the diagrams in the order that they appear.

Initial Entry
You can enter the ball anyway you want. What I show here is my line entry. The posts flash up and then dive deep, they stop at about the half court line. They are trying to clear the area so that the guards can cut in and receive the inbounds pass. If the defenders stay with the guards, hit the posts (if they can dribble) as they are going deep. If the defense is playing a zone, it’s just like football, you are trying to get the ball to the post while he is between the areas of the zone as he heads to half court. When the ball is entered to the wing, it should be immediately returned to the inbounder as he steps inbounds. Now, if you find the defense denying that pass, have the opposite side post immediately flash to the middle. If they don’t deny that pass back, get it there and quickly get it reversed. If they do, your player should be looking to someone else for a pass because someone has to be open.

Once the ball is on a side, if nothing is open off the post flash and sprint deep, the ball should be reversed. As the action takes place for the first pass however, the player at the point should have taken 1-3 steps up, depending on what the defense allows. Consequently, the guard coming back off the deep flash should not come all the way back, but should come back slightly ahead of the point guard. The reason for this is that even if they defense the cutters perfectly, you are still moving up the floor and will get across in the ten second time limit. The posts (though not shown on this poor artists rendition J), should back up a little bit to maintain the spacing against the press. Don’t let them stay at the half court line and pack things in, that makes it too easy for the defense.
When the ball is reversed, the post now on the back side flashes to the middle and looks for the ball. The guard now on the back side goes deep. The post now on the ball side is looking for a pass up the side line and the point is taking 1-3 steps up. The process should continue until the ball is over half court, we can get a pass to the flashing post, up the sideline or deep.

Middle Flasher Entry
When the ball is entered to the post flashing middle, the press should essentially be broken. All the post player has to do is turn, look diagonal, and hit the guard who was streaking up the back side. If he isn’t open, the rest of the players should be filling lanes to the basket and he should find someone. If your flashing post is a player that can put it on the floor (maybe a perimeter player in a 4 out offense), he has the green light to turn and go as well if they are dropping off to take away cutters. As with any press break, you want to attack and try to score. We want to beat the press for an easy shot so that they stop pressing us. As the catch is made the other post on the sideline should make a b-line for the rim as should the streaking guard. What we are hoping for, best case scenario, is for the guard to get the ball and both posts to streak making it a 3 on 1 or 3 on 2 break where we can score. The passes off the middle flasher entry should be bam, bam, and go. We want to attack!

Sideline Entry
It is not shown in the diagrams, but the sideline entry is basically the same principles as the middle flasher entry. We want to get the ball up the floor and go. If the player who caught the ball on the sideline can dribble, we encourage him to do so. Either way, we want the other post who was flashing middle to make a b-line for the rim as with the guard who was flying deep. If the player that catches the ball on the sideline is a poor dribbler, we want him to wait and hit one of the two guards trailing the play to give the ball to then attack.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Shooting Drill - Swing Shooting

Swing shooting is a very simple drill that gets players used to both swinging the ball quickly, making good passes, and catching and shooting on the swing from side to side.

The drill starts with four players on the four perimeter spots as shown below.

Player 1 starts with the ball, passes to player 2 who swings to player three who swings to player four in the corner for a jumper. Player four gets his own rebound and as he is, 1-2-3 all rotate one position over to the right to cover the open spot left by four. When four gets the rebound he makes a good pass to 1 (who is now at the guard spot on the left side of the diagram). Four fills the empty wing spot. 1 passes to two, who passes to three, who then shoots from the corner. Three gets his rebound and everyone rotates.

I make sure to run the drill so that the shooter is taking shots from both sides and getting used to ripping the ball into his shot pocket from both angles.

I also like to use this drill as a competitve drill where teams race against each other or need to make X number of shots in X number of time. Gives the passes a little more zip and the shots a little more pressure.