Tuesday, August 26, 2014

China's Horns Early Offense

Image from Youtube.com
I spent a lot of today watching China vs Philippines as part of FIBA's Asia Cup on Youtube. I was really
impressed with the Xs and Os of both teams and will be adding some other content from the game over the next few days. There was some really good stuff on both sides - Philippines ran some good DDM entries and ran the floor well. China ran some horns and a few other good sets that I will post later. Today we are going to talk about China's Horns set they ran as their early offense.

Point Guard Option Horns Set
This was the best thing they ran out of their Horns look. In the clips it's a little sloppy, but I thought the actions were pretty darn good.

The offense was usually ran in a dead ball situation. The point guard brings the the ball up, and the other players get into a horns formation. The right side post (4) screens across for the left side (5). The left side (5) cuts across the lane and receives the pass on the three point line.

 The point guard then makes a read. He either follows his pass and takes the hand off or comes off a flair screen by the other post (4).

If the point takes the handoff, he first looks to drive. The opposite post (4) sets a back screen for the post who is handing the ball of (5).

Here is what the handoff option looks like in real time. 

If the point guard comes off the screen by the opposite post (4), he wraps the flair screen to the basket. As he cuts to the rim, the post with the ball (5) dribbles at the corner and hands off with the corner player (3). The opposite post (4) starts to follow the dribble.

On the hand off, the point guard (1) sets a back screen for the 5 handing off the ball. The 5 cuts to the rim. Also as the hand off occurs, the opposite post (4) is coming across to set a ball screen for the wing (3) coming off the hand off. The screener (4) pops and the wing (3) looks to drive. If it's not there he throws back and the 1 goes 1 on 1 on the wing.

Here is a quick clip of the point guard cut away option.

In the last option, the point guard makes the pass and cuts to the rim. He gets to the rim and then starts to fill out toward the back side corner.

The point guard sets a flex type screen for the corner perimeter (2) and then receive a down screen from the opposite post (5). The ball is reversed to the 1 and the flex action is run again. 

 Here is a quick shot of China running the set. They didn't quite run the second flex action, but it's what I believe they were looking for. If not, then it was a fake flex and come off the down screen.

I like this as early offense because you get a few different looks early. It's also an offense that you as a coach don't have to call out - you can simply have your point guard pick and option and go. I'm a big fan of back screening the screener and hand off man - and this set has both of those options.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Never Stop Exploring

Someone on Twitter retweeted something from the North Face's Twitter feed the other day. I happened to click on it and the hashtag on The North Face's profile was #neverstopexploring. For whatever reason that struck a cord with me, it's a great approach to living life! It needs  to be a motto for coaches. We should always be exploring the game, teaching methods, motivation, working with people, leading, and a variety of other topics. If we are done exploring the game then what do we have? Where is the excitement and growth? And what type of example does that set for our players? I know that I use Twitter, Youtube, the internet, talking to other coaches, clinics, and round tables to explore the game. How do you do it?

Your One Thing

Below is a clip from the classic move "City Slickers". We used it today in teaching professional development. and it got me thinking about my coaching as well as my teaching.

It's just as important for coaches to find their "one thing" as it is teachers. When I talk about "one thing", I'm not talking about tactical stuff such as "not giving up layups" or "we always work hard", it's more than that. It is about your purpose or why you coach. We all started coaching for a reason, and not always the same one. There are many reasons to coach and mine is simple - I want to help young people find success. That's the reason I started coaching, and why I continue to coach. That's why I strive to teach more than basketball and also focus on player development. That one thing shapes everything with my philosophy. What is your "one thing" and why? I think when you identify your one thing it really helps you drill down your coaching philosophy. 

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Point in the Paint Small Sided Game

I got to spend my afternoon with Chris Hopkins (@coachhop21). Chris is an assistant at Edina and has spent time in the college ranks. He's one of the better young basketball minds in the Twin Cities and I always learn something when we get together. He also writes a pretty good blog that covers a wide variety of topics -  http://coachhop.blogspot.com

Along with all the Beilein stuff, Princeton stuff, and whatever else we talked about, he shared a small sided game with me that I really loved. With my transition to games based teaching, I am always looking for more, new, better ways to teach the game.

The game is called Point in the Paint and the objective is simple, get the ball into the paint. Teams have one full shot clock (35) seconds on offense and get a point each time they get the ball in the paint. The defense's job is to stop them from getting the ball in there. Play X number of possessions each team and determine a winner and a loser.

It's a very simple game, but obviously very powerful. What's the best way to score - get the ball inside! This is a game that emphasizes exactly what we want offensively while training our defense to prevent that from happening. You can teach the defense all the different stuff to take away paint touches while helping the offense creative ways to do it. Coach Hopkins talked about how competitive the game became, which I also love. I can't wait to try it out this season!

On Twitter Coach Eason (@GLbball) added that he plays this game and also gives a point for a ball reversal because it's what he wants his team to do as well. Thought that was a nice tweak.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Motor Learning and Basketball with Trevor Ragan

I was lucky enough last week to be able to Skype with Trevor Ragan (@bball_school) of Championship Basketball School. The guy is one of the best in terms of teaching game like basketball skills. I have never been to a camp, but from the video I have seen it's unbelievable what he does. He's great at creating environments for players to grow.  As I've added a lot of small sided games (SSGs) to my tool belt, I've stolen a lot of what Coach Ragan and Coach Brian McCormick have done in terms of using small sided games, making it competitive, making it game like, and so on.  

Trevor and I spent a lot of time talking about motor learning. It's the idea that the real learning of how to play doesn't come from dummy defense or ___ on 0. It comes for a series of scientific steps that help the athlete understand what is going on. Below are the basic motor learning steps that we discussed. 

1. Goal Presentation
     -Start by showing them what you want them to do. Be it
      a skill, offensive action etc. Demonstrate it, show some 
      video of it, just give them a sense of what they should do. 
     -A huge piece of this is creating skill keys. The skill keys 
      are short phrases that strike a cord with the athlete. You 
      should have no more than 3 skill keys for a skill. For 
      shooting it might be as simple as "aim your hip, dip,
      and snap the follow through". Now what you think
      of pro shot is up for debate, but if I was teaching shooting
      there are three things I can tell the player to repeat over 
      and over again. It is also a quick way to check the player. 
    -After you create the skill keys, you demonstrate again
     using the skill keys while they see the demo. 
2. Skill - Doing It
    -Once players have seen the demo, it's now time for them
     to do it on their own. 
    -Use the skill keys when working with them. 
    -Best practice is:
           *10-20 block practice reps on air. 
           *Play game like small sided games for quite some time. 
                 -Monitor games and look for where they are not
                  doing it correctly. 
           *Play a short full game or two. 

3. Feedback
     -This is where you give them knowledge of WHY things
       happened in the small sided and full games. 
     -Explain what they need to do better the next time with that
       skill or piece from the offense/defense. 

You then repeat the cycle after giving the feedback. You can skip the block practice if it's not needed. The feedback might be as simple as stopping for 30 seconds after a game of defensive cutthroat and explaining that the defense needs to do a better job of getting on the help side - or whatever. Remember it's better to teach in bullets, not paragraphs. Also use the skill keys during feed back. 

Understanding of motor learning can be a powerful tool, I know it is for me. One of the things that Coach Ragan said was a big leap for him this year was the feedback. They actually have Apple TVs set up in the gym and after a player is done with a skill he goes to an Apple TV, the coach at that basket beams int he video, and he can get visual feedback on himself. We might not be able to get that cool, but it does make me think about more ways that we can give immediate and visual feedback to our guys during practice. 

Friday, August 15, 2014

Guard the Tunnel

I was fortunate enough to spend some time yesterday with Brian LePlante from Rochester Community and Technical College (Rochester, MN). Coach LePlante's teams are known for their hard nosed, aggressive defense so we spent some time on that topic. One of my favorite pieces of knowledge was that he has his players "guard the tunnel". Coach is a big fan of pressure man and believes that too many players over help. His philosophy is that players are responsible for guarding their tunnel, an area 2-3 feet on each side, when guarding the ball. As the on ball defender you responsibility is to get the ball out of the tunnel. That means you have to defend the first 1-2 dribbles and push them sideways at least a little. You also are not going to get a ton of help in your tunnel. And if you get the ball out of the tunnel you shouldn't have to have too much help because you are pushing the ball handler on a trajectory away from the basket. This philosophy allows RCTC to deny the passing lanes very well. And when you deny passing lanes, you force offense to run much farther from the rim, making your defense more effective.

I love it because the terminology is simple and it strikes a visual cord. We can all imagine trying to guard someone in a tunnel and what that would look like. That visual/motor connection to me is very powerful. Whether I was teaching pressure man, pack man, or zone it is a term that I would definitely use.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Your Drills: Kim Kardashian or Steve Buscemi?

At our coaching round table last week, Scott Savor of Secrets in Sports (secretsinsports.com) was kind enough to speak. One of the things that stuck with me was when he talked about the "Kim Kardashian Syndrome" - when something looks good but doesn't really provide anything of value. 

It immediately made me think of a lot of the "drills" coaches run that look good but aren't game like, are not accomplishing anything, and really aren't building game habits. For example, my favorite one is the basic three man weave. It's a fine warm up to get guys moving and shooting layups, but it doesn't really accomplish anything game like. It's not a terrible drill, but there are a lot of better alternatives that provide a whole lot more value. Another one is the classic box passing where a bunch of guys are in a box, you pass, follow it get it back hand it off, and the next guy passes. Never seen anyone run offense like that but it sure does look cool. 

While thinking about Kim Kardashian drills, I started wondering who the opposite of Kim Kardashian is in the entertainment world. Steve Buscemi immediately came to mind. If you haven't watched Boardwalk Empire you are missing out. The guy can play roles, from comedic to serious, extremely well. He makes bit parts memorable (see Big Daddy) and can carry a show. And let's be honest, he's not getting roles because of his dashing good looks - he's getting them because he is great at getting the job done!

With that said, what are your Steve Buscemi drills? What drills might be a little bit less aesthetically pleasing, but really develop some good habits in your players? For me, cutthroat, sudden change, and any 3 on 3 or 4 on 4 game are all Buscemi's. They teach kids how to play, no matter the situation. 

In closing I would urge you to examine your drills. Are they Kardashians or Buscemis? Are they really doing anything or just making practice look good in case a parent, teacher, or administrator walks in? You'll find the more Buscemi drills you do in practice the more Kardashian your team will look like on game days.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Serbia vs. Lithuania U18 Notes

This next set of notes comes from the U18 game between Serbia and Lithuania. Lots of solid Xs and Os stuff in this game. Below, are some notes from the game that I thought would prove useful. 

Serbia Perimeter Post Up Set
It's always good to have a quick hitter to get your perimeter players a quick post up look early in the offense. Serbia gets this look out of a dribble hand off in a 2-3 high set. 

The 1 dribbles down and hands off the the 2, who they wanted to get in the post because of a mis-match. Right after the handoff the 2 reverses to the opposite slot spot (3). The high post 5 steps out and sets a back screen for the 2 who cuts to the front of the rim (not the block, this is key). The 5 steps out and the 3 reads the defender and either passes to the wing or back to the 5. 

Serbia Thumbs Down Full Court
You don't see much pressing in FIBA, but was nice to see both teams bring some at different points in the game. What Serbia ran here is basically ran is the "thumbs down" scramble full court. Thumbs down is what Jim Larranaga runs at Miami U. It's a one trap and done deal where you trap down on the first pass. It's usually done in the half court but can be effective in the full court as well. As you can see in the video the point defender rotates over to trap and the backside wing rotates over to take away the middle. 

Lithuania Spread Motion
Lithuania ran some good spread motion. Wasn't much of a pattern except the bigs would follow the pass and ball screen. What I was impressed with was they ran some good backside action setting some down and flair screens. It was almost like blocker-mover with the blockers (posts) setting ball screens.

Re-Screen in the PnR
Something I've noticed a lot of the good Euro teams and point guards do is re-screen in PnR situations to get a look. Sometimes it almost looks like they run the PnR just of the sake of forcing the defense to react and then turning and coming back off it. The both the Lithuanian point guard and ball screener in this clip do a great job of coming off, seeing nothing, and going right back at it.

Serbian Inbounds Set
Nice little quick inbounds from the Serbian team. It's similar to the Trail Blazers BLOB set that I love.

The set starts with a shooter in the backside corner for spacing and your point guard inbounding the ball. The other three players are in a stack with your athletic wing closest to the ball, 5 in the middle other other player at the 4 spot on the top of the stack. The 3 cuts out to the corner and then curls around the stack to the basket. If that's not open, the 5 in screens for the 4 who pops out and gets the inbounds pass.

 The inbounder (1), then cuts up the middle, 5 can either just be in the way or down screen him. The 4 passes to the 1. As the 1 receives the pass, the 5 comes up and sets the pick and roll.

Deep Post
Something Serbia did well, and was rewarded for, was having their guys bully their defender deep into the paint and post up. Not something you see enough of at the high school level. Something that I need to teach our guys this year. They would force them down, leg whip, and post deep. Even the guards knew how to do it and I was impressed.

Chess Match in Italy vs. Greece U18 Game

Image from Britanica.com
As I was watching the Italy vs. Greece U18 game, there was an interesting situation that occurred between the coaches right at the end of the half. There is a jump ball giving posession to the Italians with 12 seconds left. The Italian coach draws up his end game set, a simple pick and roll for his PG with everyone else spotting up. The interesting piece for me is that the Greek coach comes out and immediately traps the PG resulting in a near turnover. The Italians still hit a contested shot to end the half, but I was impressed with Greece coming out and changing it up to take the other team out of their rhythm. It just proves that sometimes even the best laid plan, and the right move, goes awry. Below is the video, it's a little bit long but I like that it shows what the Italian coach is drawing up in the huddle so you can see how it translates to the court. Listen for the American country music is playing during the time out.

I'm a big fan of doing that anytime a coach has just drawn up a play for his guys. There is nothing better than taking their carefully thought out set and flushing it. For example, I'm a huge man to man guy and play it almost exclusively. But if a coach calls timeout at the end of a half or game to draw something up I might switch to a zone or a one time trap (thumbs up or down) just to throw them off. As coaches - what do you guys believe? Change it up in this situation, even temporarily, to take them out of rhythm, or just stick with what you do?

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Italy's 2-1-2 Secondary Offense

If you are not cashing in on the opportunities to watch the insane amount of international basketball that is on display on FIBA's Youtube Channel, you really are missing out! Lots of good, well coached teams (including Team USA) playing at a variety of levels. I prefer to watch the U16, U18, and U20 games over the older teams, mainly because I coach high school and some of the tactics that work for U16 and U18 are better suited to high school players. This post was originally going to be on odds and ends from the Italy vs. Greece U18 game. After watching Italy's secondary break, however, I felt that it needed an entire post dedicated to it. Italy ran a great secondary look to get their point guard an immediate touch in different ways other than bringing the ball up and running "Do Him" or a simple high ball screen. If you have a great point guard, I would look into running some of the Italian secondary options. 

Secondary Break Basics
The secondary break appears to come out of their primary break. Their primary break is pretty standard. The big runs to the front of the rim and the wings run to the deep corners. 

The point guard brings the ball up to a guard/slot spot, the post pops up to the ball side elbow, and they are into their secondary.
**Editors note:  If you are the kind of coach who likes your 4 to take it out, the 4 and 2 can be interchanged in all of these diagrams. 

Hand off to Back Screen to Pick and Roll
This wasn't the first option they ran, but I feel like it was a better one to start with. The point guard passes to the opposite guard, then comes back and takes the hand off. The off guard (2) peels off a back screen by 5 immediately after the hand off. Right after setting the back screen, the 5 comes up and sets a ball screen for the point guard who drives to the rim. The wings (3,4) lift up and the 2 fills out opposite the drive. The post player rolls to the rim and then they get into their other offense. 

Here is some video of the secondary. What I like is that the back screen forces the 5's defender to help, thus making the ball screen virtually naked. It also sucks in the back side corner's (3) defender which can open up some options as well. One thing players have to look for is the pitch back across to the 2 filling the corner if his guys camps in the lane. 


Point Guard Flair
This is a great counter to the secondary look from above. The players start 2-1-2 look with the post at the ball side elbow. The point throws across to the 2 man and starts to sprint to the pass like he's going to take the hand off - which draws the defender farther toward the ball. The 1 then reverses course comes back off the flair and then looks for a pass. From there he can shoot it or drive it. 
Below is a short video clip of the Italians running the guard flair look. The flair was a little bit late and almost looked like an awkward ball screen.

Simple yet effective. I would love the see the 5 slip the screen to the middle of the lane and look for the ball right away and on the skip. That would add another scoring option to the set.

Pin Down to Screen the Screener to Hand Off
The 1 comes down and enters to the 2 as usually happens. The 1 then sprints to the ball side corner and sets the down screen for the wing (4) there. The 5 steps out and the 2 reverses the ball to the 5 man. 

The 4 curls the pin down to the rim and the 2 goes to set a screen for the screener (1). The 1 comes off the screen set by 2 to the top for a shot. If he doesn't get the shot 5 dribbles at 1 who comes over and takes the hand off the. Opposite corner (3) raises up and the 2 and 4 fill out. They play from there.

Down Screen to Handoff to Flair to Pick and Roll
In this set they set a down screen for the corner player who popped up. The 1 made the pass, came back and got it, and the corner man (4) came off a flair set by 5. 

They they run a pick and roll right after the flair and the 4 drives the middle while everyone else spots up.

In closing, the Italians ran a bunch of different quick hitters in their secondary, if you are a secondary guy it would be well worth watching the game and finding some things that you liked. These were just three simple actions they ran that I like because they fit together and force the defense to defend some different actions when guarding your point guard. 

Monday, August 4, 2014

Using Hammer Action with Your Posts

I am currently watching a second round game of the FIBA European Championship between Serbia and Turkey. One of the things that the Serbian big man is doing well early on is throwing the baseline "Hammer Action" pass to the opposite corner with deadly effectiveness. I know many teams use it with their guards on a baseline drive, but it's important to teach posts how to do it as well. Having your posts able to do this basically eliminates the help coming from the baseline. As you can see in the clip below, the post basically waits for the help to get into position and then throws it out to the open player. The first one results in a knock down jumper and the second one ends in a "one more" pass and a three. I also see it as a great action to create a closeout to attack the basket. Why I haven't emphasized it with our bigs before I don't know, but I do know we will emphasize it this coming year!