Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Knowing Your Assistant Coaches

I was lucky enough to have lunch and talk hoops today with Jason Hoven (@jasonhoven). Coach Hoven is the freshmen coach at Maranatha HS in Brooklyn Park, MN. The Mustangs have a long and successful tradition with many State Tournament runs. It's always fun to talk hoops with a knowledgeable and passionate guy who's been in that type of environment a long time. Coach Hoven shared with me many good things but my favorite was a philosophy that he learned from the girls coach at Maranatha. Coach Buerman has two assistants - one is a back patter and the other one is a butt chewer. When doing drills he assigns girls to the assistant based on what he feels that they need emotionally that day. Got a player who's having a rough time and feeling down? Send them to the back patter's station to get propped up and feeling good again. Have a star who maybe is feeling a little bit too high and mighty? Send them over to the butt chewer's station so that they can be pushed harder.

The idea is really simple, but great. Why not have assistants with different demeanors and use that to your advantage? Play the two off of each other to create an environment where players are getting what they need emotionally from one day to another. Great thought and I appreciate coach Hoven for sharing it with me.

Friday, July 25, 2014

France U20 Inbounds Set

Ok, I know all of these postings about France's U20 Team is probably getting old. Too bad, it's good stuff! This is an inbounds set that they ran against Croatia. It is a little bit intricate for the high school level, but I do love all the actions that it has - double screen, screen for shooter, hand off into a ball screen, baseline flex screen, down screen, and finally a post ISO. It is a great set to get you a lot of different looks immediately in a possession coming out of a baseline out of bounds. It really is hard to scout and defend all of those actions happening on one inbounds set.

The set starts in a modified box. The posts on the ball side and guards mid lane. The three should be the shooter and the 4 should be above the 5. The 2 pins down for the three who then comes off the double from 4 and 5. The first look is for the 3 to take a shot.

If the 3 isn't going to get it, he turns around and he and the 5 double screen the 4 who cuts out and gets the ball. After 3 clears the screen the 2 pops out to the slot.

The 1 follows his pass and takes a hand off from the 4 and dribbles it into a ball screen by 5. The 3 drops to the block after the 4 clears the screen.

As soon as he hands the ball off, the 4 peels off and comes off a baseline flex/back screen set by the 3. The 1 continues off the ball screen from 5 and looks to attack the rim or hit the 4. If the 1 turns the corner the 4 continues out to the corner.

If the 1 can't turn the corner, or pass to 4, the 5 down screens the 3 who just set the flex/back screen for 4. The 1 passes to the 3.

The 2 fills to the ball, the 1 goes away and down screens for 4. The 3 cuts to the nail after making the entry pass and the 5 goes 1 on 1 in the post.

Here is a quick video of the set. Again, not sure if it's too complicated for high school. Either way as you can see, there are a variety of different actions for different players - which does make it really hard to guard. 

Thursday, July 24, 2014

France U20 Team Secondary vs. Zone

We've been lucky enough to have FIBA put so many games up on Youtube lately. I've been spending some time watching these games, with great enjoyment. As with my last post, I enjoy watching the French team play. The French U20 team runs this secondary against Turkey's zone defense, and I loved it. Haven't seen a lot of good secondaries to use against zone but this was a very nice entry.

The secondary starts with a perimeter (2) inbounding it to the point guard. The 5 rim runs and the 4 gets on the ball side wing. Another perimeter (3) is opposite the point guard in the slot. The point guard dribbles it down the sideline. The 4 runs a shallow cut and gets the ball at the ball side slot. The inbounder basket cuts and fills to the back corner. The point guard hits the 4 cutting up on the shallow cut.

The point immediately cuts through to the opposite corner on the pass. The 4 reverses to the other guard (3) who dribbles to the top of the key, back in the direction of the pass. The 4 spaces away to the wing and the perimeter in the corner spaces up with the dribble over.

The 3 throws back to the 2 in the wing/slot area. They received it in both places from what I saw.
 The 2 dribbles back to the top, the 3 spaces to the wing. The 4 kind of screened the guard in the zone and then came to the middle pretending to set a ball screen for 2.

The 2 swings to the 3 on the wing immediately. The 4 slipped the fake ball screen, catches the ball wide open mid lane, and then make a play.

Here is a quick video clip of them running it. 

What I like about this action is that it's an immediate look in the middle of a zone coming off a break. As you see in the clip, it's pretty wide open. You could add some counters or continuations to give it more dimension. Not sure if it is a super simple break, as there is a lot of movement, but I do like the overall action. Would have to weigh teaching time efficiency if I were to run this with a group of high school guys. 

The one road block for a lot of coaches is that they like to have their 4 take the ball out on the break. I think you could easily modify this and make it work with the 4 taking it out. The 2 and 4 could just switch places. Instead of the player on the 2 shallow cutting, he cuts through to the backside corner and ends up in the same place. The 4 trails in the 2's spot in the ball side slot. The point guard throw back to the 4 in the ball side slot as he fills and you can run the same action.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Why Triple Threat is Bad for Offense and Bad for Players

When  coaches talk about a lack of fundamentals in US players what are they really talking about? It's not shooting - lots of kids can shoot it very well. It's not ball handling - every kid now can dribble like Bob Cousy. What we are really talking about is the fact that players don't know how to move the ball and make decisions quickly. A big part of the problem is that we teach and emphasize triple threat. The Tweet below comes from a group called "D1 Experience" who touts themselves as a group that gets players ready to play Division 1  basketball. The tweet highlights the "importance" of triple threat (I won't even get into the stupidity of the dribbling comment). Unfortunately it is dead wrong. 

Anyway, why do I hate the triple threat? It's simple. The triple threat encourages players to hold the basketball. They hold it, they face up, they jab step, jab again, maybe throw a shot fake in for good measure. As they do that, what happens? The defense gets into position, the other offensive players start watching. Using and teaching triple threat slows down offense, creates ball watchers, and encourages selfish 1 on 1 play. It does not have a single positive attribute. 

The three clips below are of this year's French U20 National Team - you can watch the entire game by clicking here.  The way they play is very reminiscent of the way the Spurs play - they move the ball quickly, they find the open player, and no one uses triple threat. How many times does a player get into triple threat, use jab fakes, etc? The answer is never. They make decisions on the catch and shoot it, drive it, or move it immediately. They move the ball quickly, make quick decisions and read the defense before or on the catch. They are holding the ball around a second and moving it. Their drives are not coming out of triple threat, but coming immediately on the catch. It's beautiful basketball and it's free of triple threat. This is the way basketball is meant to be played, so why don't we teach it this way in America?

Monday, July 7, 2014

Sam Smith, The Talent Code, and Visual Learning

Picture courtesy of Rollingstone.com
What does a British pop singer have in common with book The Talent Code? More than you might think. Sam Smith is a British pop star who recently had his first big US hit "Stay with Me". When I first heard the song, what struck me was that it sounded like an 80s R&B or Soul singer. I was a little surprised that it was sung by a guy from Britain. Then I heard Smith interviewed on the radio last night and it made perfect sense. Smith started talking about how he was greatly influenced by a lot of female R&B singers, Whitney Houston and Aretha Franklin being two of them. His mother was a big fan of that type of music and played it often. Smith readily admits he fell in love with the music and it was a deep inspiration for him (lighting the spark). After hearing that interview, it became apparent why he has the sound that he does.

So what does that have to do with the Talent Code? In The Talent Code, Coyle talks about how great performers spend a lot of time watching/listening to other's performers and studying other performers help to influence their own work. If you listen to Smith's songs, it doesn't take long to hear who his influences were. He spent a lot of time around, inspired by, and studying, those performers. Those performers in turn influenced his sound.

Okay, great, but what does this have to do with basketball? Simple - what are our players watching? Do they even watch anymore?! Unfortunately, visual learning is now one of the most under utilized learning tools. In a lot of talent hotbeds younger players watch the older players. They see how and why they move and then internalize that information to use themselves. In basketball the playgrounds and street courts used to be a great example of this.  Winner stayed on so the younger teams spent a lot of time on the side WATCHING the older players and without even knowing it they picked up valuable information on how to play the game. They then applied next time they were on the court. This created a hotbed of learning that produced a lot of great players.

With the rise of structured year-round basketball, our players are watching a lot less and just playing more. Our young players are so saturated by playing basketball that they don't have time to watch, and if they do they chose to do other activities because they need a mental break. This isn't a blame AAU statement, but just an observation because basketball is year round now. As coaches it's important to get our players watching more and learning through visualization. Some ideas that I have to help coaches get players to visualize more are as follows:

  • Incorporate visual learning into your practices and skill work with video. 
    • Want to teach players to attack the basket? Show clips of Jordan, LeBron, and Kobe attacking the basket and highlight the details - shoulder to hip, pushing ball out, etc. Question players and have them break down what they are seeing. 
    • Want to teach dribble drive? Then have them watch clips of teams running dribble drive well. They will then see the big picture and small nuances of the offense. 
  • Incorporate peer coaching into practices
    • Have players watch each other and have them coach each other on proper movements, position, etc. 
  • Incorporate visual learning in workouts/skill work with peer coaching
    • Partner up players and have them watch each other. 
    • Correct mistakes and praise when done right - helps players evaluate good vs. bad for themselves as much as for partner. 
  • Encourage players to watch more film
    • Pros, college, high school - anything will do. 
    • Have them watch a game on TV and write thoughts on the Xs and Os, player movement, player skills, etc. 
    • Have them watch a player (choose wisely) and take notes on how/when they move, how they execute what they do. 

As a coach I know that I need to do more with players visual learning. We have a middle school workout at noon today and I'm going to partner them up and have them coach each other. We will see how it goes. Also next year I'm going to incorporate more video into practice to show them proper way to execute techniques and offensive/defensive actions. Would love to hear feedback about how you incorporate visual learning into your practices.