Friday, July 27, 2012

Stretching and Fixing Relationships

Photo courtesy of UWGB Website
Got the chance to watch Getting Players to Play Hard: Revised Edition by Coach Divilbiss and loved it. The most outstanding point of the entire video was when Coach Divilbiss talked about the idea of constantly "stretching and fixing" your relationships with players. "Stretching and fixing" is the process by which you stretch your players comfort level on discipline and playing hard and then build the relationship back up after the stretching is over. You push them farther than they want to go, they get mad at you, you build the relationship back up within that stretched comfort zone, and then you proceed to stretch it even farther. It's a great concept and one that I think all master teacher's use. They maintain the delicate balance between pushing players forward and building them up.

 I've never heard it put this way, but it's a great way to explain how to coach! It's why I constantly remind our players that I'm doing this (pushing them) because I care about them and want to make them better, not because I am trying to be a jerk. This process is something that I want to improve upon this year as I think it's the one single key to getting players to play hard out of motivation not fear.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Power Flex Continuity

Photo from


This is a continuity that I discovered while writing more sets for my first HoopsU Insider post. It started out as a set play, but ended up being able to be run as kind of a slick continuity. Some of the ideas come from watching a lot of Princeton Offense lately as well as watching some of the concepts that were employed by high school coaches this winter. This isn't something that you would use as your primary offense, but is something you could definitely use as a secondary offense. **I have never used the offense but it does look like it could be successful in theory.**

The offense is designed to be run if you have a stud post player and at least one shooter. There is a constant stream of cross screens for your big to try and get him open, the best part is that your smaller players are doing the screening, so that makes it tough for switching defenses. It also gives you down screens for your shooter(s). Lastly there are many back cut options for your perimeter players which makes it hard for players to pressure your team. Lastly it gives you an option to isolate a second post player (or good driver) in the high post if you pass the ball into the high post.

Entry: Getting Into the Offense

The offense starts out in a 1-4 high look. The point guard (1) dribbles at a wing (2) and away from the stud post (5). The wing (2) backcuts to the rim and then sets a back/cross screen for the stud post (5) on the backside elbow. The back/cross screen is one of the best looks that you have to get a post the ball in an offense, so we want to take advantage of that in the entry. We always look for a post up right off the bat. If they are fronting the post we go right to the high post and look high-low or run our high-low action (shown farther below).

The backside wing (3) sets a flair screen for the player who set the back/cross screen for the post (2). The cutter (2) fills the wing and the flair screener (3) pops to the top of the key and gets the ball. If the player coming off the flair (2) is a shooter we can skip to him (2). If a skip happens the post (5) and high post (4) just come across and we are still in the offense. If we don't skip the ball, we pass to the separating screener (3) at the top of the key.

The Continuity 

When the ball is swung to the top the player at the top, that player (3) catches the ball and dribbles to the wing opposite the pass (2). The player at that wing (2) backcuts and we look for the backdoor pass. If it's not there, the cutter (2) continues across the lane and sets a cross screen for the stud post (5) on the backside. The stud post (5) comes across the lane and looks for the post up. If he doesn't get the ball right away (there needs to be an emphasis on entering the ball early), the high post (4) sets a down screen in a screen the screener action.
 The cutter (2) comes off the down screen in the screen the screener action and the screener (4) pops back to the elbow. We can again look to enter it to him and look for a high low again if the post is fronted. If we don't get the ball into either post we swing to the top and we continue with the continuity.
 The player at the top of the key (2) again receives the pass and again dribbles at the opposite wing (1) player. The wing player (1) backcuts, looks for the ball, and then continues across the lane and sets the cross screen for the post (4) who comes to the ball.
 The high post (4) sets the down screen. The player who set the cross screen (1) comes up to the top of the key. The player setting the downscreen (4) pops back to the high post and we swing the ball to the top to start the continuity again.

Other Options

High Post Entry

The ball can be entered to the high post (4). If that happens we have two immediate quick looks. These should take 1-2 seconds at the max. The first look is for the high post player (4) to dump the ball into the low post (5). Then high post (4) can look to take his defender one on one to the basket away from the stud post's (5) side.

If none of those looks are there, we go into our high post action. The wing player who passed the ball in (2) gets a backscreen from the post (5) and cuts to the basket. The stud post (5) stays on the wing and pretends like he's watching the play.  If the back cut isn't there, the backside wing player (3) sets a flair screen for the player at the point (1) who flairs to the backside wing. The screener (3) pops to the point. We look to get the ball to the player coming off the flair (1) by either skipping the ball or swinging it through the top. Either way the ball needs to end up on the opposite wing.
 After the pass is made the high post (4) sets a curl screen for the post who cuts to the rim and block. The player who came off the backscreen (2) fills the backside wing.
 The high post (4) fills across and we look for another high-low or we swing the ball to the top and get back into the offense. The player with the ball at the wing (1) passes up to the point (3), point dribbles at the opposite wing (2), who backcuts, etc. If they are denying the wing/point pass, the point (3) can screen away for the backside wing (2).

Low Post Entry

The whole idea of the offense is that we want to get the ball into the low post, right?! Well what do we do when it's there??
As the ball is passed to the low post, the high post (4), sets a curl screen for the entering wing (1). The entering wing (1) cuts off the elbow screen, to the backside block, and out to the opposite corner. If his man doubles we give him the ball and he gets a layup on the cut.

If the post doesn't score, and we don't get anything off the elbow screen, the player at the point (3), starts to cut to the rim and cuts to the wing off a flair screen. The other two perimeter players (1,2) fill to the ball.

Cheating the Dribble Over

Some teams will try to cheat the dribble over and by sagging off. If this happens we can run a Euro Screen to attack the defense. You can also do this action if the player at the wing is a stud that you want to drive. You could have a rule that you run the euro screen action anytime player X is dribbled at.

In this call/look, the player that has the ball at the point (3) dribbles at the player on the wing (1) as we normally do in our continuity. Instead of backcutting however, the player on the wing (1) cuts at the dribble and we perform a dribble handoff. The wing coming off the dribble handoff (1) gets a ball screen from the high post (4). The driver (1) can attack the rim and then dumps to the post (5) or kicks out. if the drive is not there, the driver (1) can dribble across, at the opposite wing (2) and we are into our offense again. A nice addition would be your stud post (5) backscreening the ballscreening post (4) but is not shown.


As I said in the beginning this is not something I have ever used, and am not sure how well it will work. I am more of a motion coach anyway, but it appears that it could be useful, especially if you have a stud post you want to get the ball to. Hopefully if you are a continuity coach you will give it a try and have some success with it!

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Great 1-4 High Set

I am starting a new project as a writer for the website HoopsU. I am very excited to have the opportunity to participate, a big THANK YOU goes out to Coach Alfonso for giving me this opportunity, hopefully I can live up to his high standards!

In trying to figure out what to write for the first time, I've been spending time looking at sets to get your stud player the ball. In all honesty sets are not a strong suit, so I am using this opportunity to really improve and do some in depth research in this area! One of the sets I really like is the one that is shared below.

This set is a 1-4 high look that is geared toward getting looks for your stud point guard. For many coaches, especially at small shools, your point guard is usually your best driver, best shooter, best passer, and maybe even best post up player. So you need sets that revolve around the point guard and let him have opportunities to score and distribute. This is what the set does.

The set starts with the point guard (1) dribbling at the wing (3) - this should be the second best shooter between the two wings. The wing back cuts to the rim and if back cut isn't open, the backside wing (2) comes down and sets a pin screen to get the cutting wing (3) to the corner. As this is happening the backside post (4) starts to work his way down.

This clears out the ballside and gives your pg a chance to isolate. If the point guard (1) can turn the corner and go he should. As the backcutting wing (3) comes off the pin screen and fills to the corner, the backside post (4) sets a down screen for the screener (2) who cuts up the laneline to the slot. We can throw him the ball for a three if he is open. The

The downscreening post (4) shapes to the ball and we can enter it for a post up if it's open. This is especially great if they switch the screen. If the post up is not there the ballside post (5) comes across and sets the side ballscreen. The post who is on the ballside block now (4) comes up and backscreens the screener (5) and then shapes to the elbow. The point guard (1) comes off the screen and can throw to a shooter on the backside (2, 3) or hit the roller (5) coming off the back screen, or hit the screener (4) shaping to the elbow.

This is a great play for a number of reasons. First, the ball stays in the point guard's hands the entire play. It is a great look if you don't trust your other players to handle the ball. Second it gives your point guard a few opportunities to score and distribute, while still giving the other players on your team opportunities.

This set is geared toward a point guard who likes to drive the ball. If it's not an athletic point guard who's good at getting to the rim and creating, it's not a great set.

Lastly, I would not run this against a team that really pressures man to man. The action on the side is going to take a few seconds to develop and if your point guard can't back dribble on the wing to get the pressure off they run the risk of a five second call.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Teaching Shooting: Everything You Know is Wrong


As a coach, I feel that shooting may be the most important skill in the game. If you are coaching a team with shooters you are going to be pretty darn good. With that said, I am always looking for new and better ways to teach this skill. I used to be a stickler for form. I thought that players had to have "great form" to be a great shooter - square feet, straight back, perfect. I would even go as far as to work on a player's form even though they were shooting a high percentage - which I now know is a waste of time.

After reading The Talent Code and Talent is Overrated I started to realize that perfect form isn't what's important - practice is what is important. I also started to look at great shooter's shots and they were all different. No one had a "text book" jump shot. The only similarity I saw was the balance, elbow under the ball, and follow through. So last year we spent more time on just shooting with proper balance, elbow, and follow through and we saw results.

After going through that revelation, I attended a shooting camp called Pro Shot by Paul Hoover, I was blown away by what he taught. It went against everything "traditional" shooting technique says. The Pro Shot shooting system is contrary to everything we've been taught about shooting. Techniques such as square feet, square shoulders, hand in the cookie jar, and the importance of bending your knees all go out the window. At first I was skeptical, obviously, but after watching the results, and trying it myself, I was sold. The system works and it makes sense when you take an honest look at what he is saying. Below is a rundown of the Pro Shot System.

The Pro Shot System

Each of the following are teaching points that Coach Hoover uses to build the jump shot. These are things I have used with our players and we have seen great success already with. 

The Basics
This video covers many of the basics of the Pro Shot System which will be discussed in more detail below. 

The Finger
For me, this was the biggest secret of the entire clinic. On the follow through, as you snap your wrist, you pinch your pointer finger and thumb together as you keep your other three fingers straight (3 up 1 down). This FORCES the ball to go straight because, as Coach Hoover points out, your pointer finger is the only finger that truly points straight ahead on your hand when your hand is extended straight out. Using this method has really aided players who miss a lot left and right. 

As you can see in the video, Bryant is clearly pinching his thumb and pointer finger together in the clip as he follows through. 

The Feet
This was a huge contradiction to EVERYTHING I had ever been taught. I have never heard a coach tell a player to unsquare his feet, but here was this guy doing just that! At first I was very hesitant because it just seemed wrong. But what sold me on it was the demonstration he did with the alignment of the shoulder in this video.

As you can see it's about squaring the shoulder and the hip, NOT the feet. As he says in his clinic, look at every sport where you aim - darts, baseball, shooting guns, no one square their feet to aim in those sports so why are we squaring our feet to aim in basketball? After that I was sold and will not tell another players to square their feet again. We will work on squaring our hip and shoulder to the basket instead of our feet.

The Sway
When great shooters shoot, they jump forward a little bit and keep their shoulders slightly back in a swaying motion. Below is a video that illustrates this movement. 

Reasons for Missing
Another amazing piece of the puzzle is why players miss - and it's not why you think. Most coaches would say that players who miss short don't use enough leg, but that's not true either. Both the video below, and this article by Brian McCormick explain that it's not the legs, it's balance, shoulder tension, and how high you release the ball.

In Closing

In closing I would like to say that while it may be easy to write this off, I would encourage you to take a hard, critical look at the ideas:
  • Is the pointer finger the only finger that points straight when you extend your arm straight out with palm down? 
    • Yes, it is. So that means it's the finger you want pushing the ball the most if the ball is going to go straight ahead. 
  • Does your arm, when held straight out, line up with the front of the rim when your feet are squared up?
    • No. So you need to turn your feet and hips to line your hip and shoulder up with the basket.
  • Do your legs really give you a lot more power?
    • No. Try it sometime, they don't really help in the shooting process as much as we think they do. It's more about balance and relaxation.

Last year a player I have worked with took 1800 shots in the offseason as was still a poor in season shooter. Does this sound familiar? Does it seem like some players are just "born" good shooters? Well the truth is it's a coaching issue. If a player is a good shooter we usually leave him alone right? We don't correct the feet or whatever we see as the flaw, correct? So a good shooter is shooting this way and we are letting him because shots go in. We take a poor shooter and try to "correct" him by squaring his feet, etc and he still doesn't make shots. We assume it's because he hasn't shot it enough, or he is a poor shooter, but the truth is it's because he's not shooting the ball in a natural way.

This player that I mentioned above was missing a lot of shots to the right (right handed). He had great feet that were squared to the rim every time, as were his shoulders. I would venture he missed right because his shooting arm was not lined up with the rim. Since he has started turning his hips and pinching on his shot, his shooing has improved greatly. 

I would like to extend a sincere thanks to coach Doug Linton of New Life Academy for inviting me to the clinic! He is having one at his place this week and I am trying to get as many of our guys as I can to show up!

****Note: Just to clarify, I am getting nothing from Pro Shot for this blog post. I just believe that the system works and want to share it with everyone. I would recommend that you bring in Coach Hoover and have him work with your players. It would be well worth the investment!