Sunday, March 25, 2012

More Coaching Tidbits From the Minnesota State Tournament

The 100th Minnesota State Tournament will go down as one of the better ones of all time. There were some things to complain about of course - such as games starting over an hour late and high ticket prices, but there was nothing to complain about when it came to the performances on the floor. The coaches, officials, and players were all outstanding!

Coaching wise we saw everything from very uptempo teams scoring in the 80s to a game with two grind out out teams that ended 33-31. Almost every game was competitive, including at least three that ended with buzzer beaters! This was definitely a tournament for the ages. Below are several coaching related items that I thought would be helpful, enjoy.

Southwest Christian BLOB Set
I have always been a fan of simple yet effective. This SLOB set by Southwest Minnesota Christian High School illustrates the simple yet effective theme. In their 1-4 low SLOB sets the backside post usually popped high. In this one, the backside post took 2 steps high and just cut hard to the rim for the layup. The ballside block posted hard to engage his man and the backside ended up with an easy lay up.
Love the fact it's a simple counter that you can put into almost any BLOB set you have - look like you are going to do what you've always done, then break off to the rim.

Minneapolis Washburn 1-4 High Set
The main reason I like this set is the variety of looks that you can get out of this 1-4 high quick hitter. The point guard dribbles at the wing who backcuts to the rim to start the set. The cutting wing then sets the back/cross screen in the middle of the paint for the opposite high post who cuts ballside block and posts (always a good look). As he sets the back/cross screen the ballside post sets a downscreen for him and he pops up to the top for a shot.

Mountain Lake-Butterfield-Odin 1-4 High Post Set
This set caught my attention because it is a kind of misdirection play that can be very effective - especially in a late game. It is similar to what White Bear Lake ran this year to upset Tartan in the playoffs. It's designed to get the ball inside to your stud post player. 

The offense starts in a 1-4 high look. The point guard takes the ball off a high screen and roll with the right side high post (not who you want to score). The wing being dribbled at back cuts to just before the block (unless he is wide open). If the backdoor isn't there the point guard takes the ball back off a re-screen by the same high post. The wing pops back up. As this is happening the backside high post cuts hard to the rim and posts across the front of the rim. The guard throws the ball inside for the big guy. The play worked really well for MLBO when the big guy sold it, looked uninterested, and waited until his defender started to ball watch before he cut.

Hopkins Offensive Start
Hopkins had one of the best point guards in the state this year and runs great motion offense. During the tournament it looked as if they were starting their motion offense in the alignment shown below:
It appeared that they used a staggered 4-Out look to start the offense. They started by putting the point guard at the top and opening up the floor on the point's dominant hand side. They put a shooter on the dominant side corner, post on the opposite side block, and spaced the other players on the weak hand side. This starting look gives the point a chance to initially penetrate and kick to start the offense - a good look when your best player is your point guard. I like this better than starting with a high pick and roll but needs to be a look you have only if you trust your point guard to recognize when to give it up.

DeLaSalle Warm-Ups
Every time I watch the Islander's warm up I am blown away. The concept is simple but every team needs to do it. DeLaSalle uses breakdown drills from their offense as their warm up drills and they use both sides of the basket. This creates constant movement where all players are engaged in game like activities. For example they might have players on the point with a ball and players on the wings. Point dribbles at the wing, wing back cuts, feed for a lay-up. Then they transition to wings and posts where the wings post feed, relocate, kick out shot. They continue like this for the entire warm up, breaking down their offense.

A lot of teams use layup lines where 90% of the players are simply standing around and walking through the lines (including me at times). When you watch DeLaSalle however, everyone is in constant motion and working up a good initial sweat and drilling their offensive movements at the same time. This is the way we are warming up next year for sure. I'm going to spend the summer looking at our offense and defense to find what works best for our warm ups.

Braham BLOB Inbounds Look
The Bombers from Braham lived up to their name this year at the tournament hitting from deep time after time. But something they did really effectively to score points inside was look for the over the defense lob on EVERY BLOB play. Before they started to run their set the inbounder

So there you have it, it was a great year in Minnesota Basketball that ended with an equally great finish in the tournament. Now comes the off season - time of reflection, rest, and improvement.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Minnesota State Tournament Tidbits From Day 1

On a basketball binge during the four greatest days of the year - our Minnesota State Tournament. Our state has some great coaches and teams and I always find some good tidbits! I'm not going to share them all, and not going to share anything from teams that moved on, but here are a few interesting things I noticed on day one:
St. Peter High School End Game Press Set Up
When St. Peter was down late against Plainview-Elgin-Millville they used this start to their press which I thought was a smart look, I've seen it before but wanted to document it here. They needed a quick steal late and were face guarding everyone. Instead of pressuring the inbounder, or taking the inbounder off the ball and helping to double, they put the inbounder's man behind the three across pressbreak that P-E-M used.
The reason I liked this look was that it allowed the other three guys to completely face guard their opponents without worrying about getting beat deep. A lot of times in this situation a good offensive team that is being face guarded will run a player deep and throw the long ball for an easy lay-up.  When you play it like this and put the inbounder's player deep it takes away the deep ball option. The one downfall is that you can't use the inbounder's defender to trap, but in this situation, you need an immediate steal late, it's a great look.

St. Croix Lutheran End Game Management
In St. Croix's game against Braham they were down by 2 and Braham was shooting 2. Braham made the first one and St. Croix Lutheran called time out after the first free throw. I thought this was great because it set them up to go right into what they wanted to do offensively so they could grab the ball and go make or miss. A lot of coaches wait until the second free throw, but at that point that gives the other guy a chance to calm his guys down and get them mentally ready. I think getting the ball and going favors the offense because it can be a scramble situation. If you start from a dead ball situation the defense has time to get down and get set. So from now on I will be calling time out after the first free throw instead of the second or first.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Falling Back in Love With the 4 Out

I've always been a motion guy and I doubt that will ever change for me. But over the years my preference of motion has evolved. Started with the three out, went to the four out and a few years ago I went to the 5 out. This year I had a couple true big players on our JV who were a little bit lost in the 5 out. So instead of trying to put the square peg into the round hole, I switched back to a 4 out. Funny this is I now LOVE the four out all over again.

I went to the five out because I liked the idea of the area under the rim being open for cutting and driving. But funny thing is I found that the spacing is actually BETTER in the four out. We got much better offensive looks in the four out than I've ever had coaching a 5 out offense. I am loving the post player for inside touches, screening, etc. Below are some of the things we did and worked for us in the 4-out. None of these are earth shattering, and most apply to most motion offenses, but it's my hope that there is something in here that you can use. I know these things have made a difference for us and made this my best year of teaching the offense.

1. Put the Post on the Backside but Use Him
This is nothing new as Vance Walberg has been doing it in his DDM for years. But in our motion, having the post on the backside made it so much more open for guards to cut to the rim as well as post. It obviously gave us more driving room as well. The post was allowed to flash to the ball, but had a 3 second rule (count to three and get out). He could also seal on the backside when we swung the ball. The other thing he could do was flash to the high post. Putting him there got us a ton of good looks- the guard would pass and cut, he could dribble hand off, perimeters could back cut, post could kick and cut/post, and our post could go 1 on 1 from the high post. Along with that, the post could screen on the backside and then flash to the ball which got us some easy points. One of our posts routinely scored 10-20 points a game in this situation and we were still able to have him not clogging up the lane.

2. Emphasize Movement - Ball and Players
This is a no duh type statement, but as I sit and watch Cincy and Texas it's apparent that not all players know how to move. Some things that we taught that helped were backcutting when not open, flashing to the ball from the backside, and backside screening. Have to be careful with the flashing though as you end up with a clogged lane sometimes. Players don't want to stand, but also they don't know what to do when they are standing so you need to teach them how to move. Also it's important to move the ball quickly. We had a guard who had to keep being taken out because he would hold the ball. Moving the ball helps to move people. When we passed the ball you had to cut or screen - replacing was not an option in our offense. Players need to understand that the more the ball and the players move, the more the defense hugs. Once the defense starts to hug passing, cutting, and driving lanes become wide open.

3. Emphasize Paint Touches
When we won, we got the ball into the paint regularly. There are three ways to get the ball into the paint - post ups (posts and perimeter players), drives, and cuts. If you can have the ball inside often it's going to open up your shooters for threes. We talked often about how many paint touches we got. I think you have to get paint touches on at least 80% of your possessions to be successful unless you have great shooters.

4. Teach Backside Action
Teaching backside action has to do with movement as mentioned above. If you've got guys standing on the backside, they need to know that they can still move. I teach to either down screen (guard screen wing) or flair screen (wing screen guard). You can get really technical with it, but it makes for some good movement. Also, having your backside players move starts to pull the defenders out a little bit.

5. Teach the Offense With Small Sided Games
One thing I did really well this year was teach the offense with small sided games. For instance, we want to work on moving, we would play 3 on 3 cut to score. Players play 3 on 3 and have to score off of a cut - can be of a screen, basket cut, back cut, etc. Playing 2 on 2 or 3 on 3 really does a nice job of emphasizing what you want because players are touching the ball more and concentrating on it. It also is great because it develops the SKILL not the drill. When they get on the floor they are used to having to move no matter where they are or what they are doing on the floor. This likely made the biggest difference for us.

6. Teach pass and cut, drive and kick, and screening options.
So many coaches teach how to pass and cut as well as screen, but I think you also MUST teach your players what to do when the ball is driven. On the drive at least one other player should be moving and everyone should be relocating. I teach that the player being driven at makes a decision - backcut or shape cut behind the drive. The player being driven at needs to read his defender. If his defender comes up to help the player being driven at cuts to the rim. If the defender drops off to help (and you can still see his eyes) the player being dribbled at needs to shape up behind the drive. The post can stay on the backside block, pop to the elbow, or come to the front of the rim. The backside player stays in the backside corner for the shot or crashes in if not a shooter.
7. Teach Patience
Players have to know that they are not going to score on the first pass, or the second pass. But if we can work the ball we will be more efficient. Our scoring this year was actually better when we had longer possessions. We would score in the 60s, 70s, and even a few in the 80s when we were patient. When we rushed it we were in the 40s and 50s. As we learned that we didn't have to score quickly to score a lot we started to really get patient. It's a hard thing to teach but once they understand it's fun.

8. Teach Hook and Look vs. Zone
This was something we added this year, stealing it from the Read and React Offense. We ran the same offense man and zone with the hook and look instead of cutting. When we did it right, we would kill zone teams because we would get the ball inside. Our post would run short corner to short corner and would crash when the ball was passed to the hooking player. Dirt simple but made a huge difference.

9. No Ball Screens
Some coaches will disagree with me, but we were a much better offensive team when we took out the ball screens early on. The reason for me is that ball screens usually have 2 players moving and three standing. It's not good basketball. We would ball screen on a call (fist) but wouldn't let them ball screen. Players ball screen when they don't know what to do and it almost always results in players standing around.

10. Teach Concepts and the Motion Becomes Interchangeable
Even though we taught the four out motion, our guys were able to take the concepts and apply them to 5 out and 3 out on the fly. I don't know how it happened, but our guys were able to do it this year and it was great. I think that teaching concepts and using small sided games helped. One game we had our two bigs in, and was going to have one play outside. But they asked why not just go with two posts so we tried it. The posts were flashing, screening, etc. In another game they started running 5 out because we didn't have a post in the game. Again I don't take ANY credit for it, but trying to figure out how we did it - and I think teaching concepts not spots is a big reason.

11. Teach in Layers
This is probably the most important point on motion offense. We started with passing and cutting. We didn't teach anything else until they got it down. Once they did we started to teach our dribble drive rules, once they understood those we moved on from there. If we moved on and the previous layer started to go bad we would go back to it. But I think teaching it in this way is very effective. Also teach the complexity in each layer as the year goes on. If you add complex things as the year goes on it makes the offense really dangerous. For instance we worked on pass to the high post and cut early in the year. Then we added the dribble handoff as we got farther along in the year.

12. Eliminate the Straight Cut
At the high school level it seems like every player straight cuts off of the screen. Unless you are a dead eye shooter what's the point? Something that we did effectively was run the curl cut only. The cutter can high curl (elbow area) or low (rim) and the screener flashes opposite. If I were to have these guys another year I would teach the flair screen layer as well. But I think the flair and curl cuts are the two cuts that high school players should learn to run. Both of these cuts give you a hard to guard options.

Well there you go, hopefully something in there helps you out.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Great Game Tying Play by Ohio State

Caught the end of the great game between Michigan State and Ohio State this weekend. Everyone saw Buford's great game winning shot, but for me that wasn't the great one. The great play came on Ohio State's second to last basket by Aaron Craft. I didn't get to draw up the exact play but it was something similar to the set below.

On this play, the ball was entered to Sullinger in the post. Craft came from the backside, off a screen I think, used Sullinger as a screen and curled in for the mid-range jump shot and the tie.