Category Archives: Coaching

Don’t Look Now but the NCAA’s Elite are Playing “Junior College” Basketball

JUCOIs it just me or has anyone else noticed that NCAA college basketball has become junior college basketball? Well whether you’ve noticed or not, it has – at least in the elite programs! I’m definitely not saying that it’s a bad thing but I am saying that it’s a fact.

Now before you get your spandex bunched up in a wad here is my reasoning. I have been involved in junior college basketball in some capacity for nearly my entire life. My father was a junior college coach and I became his team’s official scorekeeper when I was 8 years old and didn’t miss a game until I made the high school varsity team.

I eventually played for my dad’s junior college team before moving on and transferring and then became a junior college coach myself soon after I graduated. I am as familiar with junior college basketball as anyone I know.

For years junior college coaches, players, and programs have often been treated like unwanted step children – mainly because they did things a little differently so they could adapt to their situation.

I can’t tell you how many times over the years I have heard things like: “Junior colleges almost never have the traditional two guards, two forwards, and a center. They just have a bunch of players the exact same size.” “Junior college coaches just try to fill their roster with good athletes and then teach them whatever skills they can.” “Offenses are way too simple in junior college; coaches don’t really coach, they just roll out the balls.” And on and on and on. . . . . . .

The truth of the matter is that some of those statements (and others like them) are true which is why junior college coaches are some of the best in the country! Faced with the challenge of replacing up to half their roster and often their entire starting five each and every year, junior college coaches have had to learn to make adjustments that their four year university counterparts never had to make. Until now.

In each of the last several years approximately 425 underclassmen have transferred from NCAA Division 1 schools for a variety of reasons and over 40 other underclassmen have opted to leave school early each year in order to enter the NBA draft. Add these numbers to those players lost to graduation and to those players who quit playing altogether because of injury, eligibility problems, or personal issues and what do you have? You have practically a brand new team every year. In other words, you have Junior College basketball in a university setting!

Not too long ago Division 1 rosters would be dominated by experienced players who had already developed chemistry with their teammates and coaches and so the few incoming freshmen were simply integrated into the program. When they entered college as freshmen, the new players thoroughly learned the offensive and defensive “systems” that were already firmly established, paid their dues, and got themselves ready to eventually make huge contributions. By the time they graduated from the same program four years later these players had often mastered several offenses (North Carolina’s Dean Smith, one of the most respected college coaches of all time, ran 5 complete yet different offenses nearly every season.) and increased their basketball IQ in the process.

That rarely happens anymore. As an example just look at this year’s University of Kentucky roster which lists 9 freshmen, 2 sophomores and a junior who started his career at a junior college. That’s 12 players with less than two years of experience in the program!

Now instead of learning multiple offenses, nearly every team runs a very simple pick and roll or dribble drive offense with a roster full of great athletes who have no real “position.” (It’s interesting to note that Kentucky’s now famous dribble drive offense was taught to Coach John Calipari by a junior college coach.)

Since most offenses today are far from complex, coaches can spend less time teaching offensive intricacies and more time on skill development and because many players won’t be in the program long enough to gradually improve their talents their basketball IQ, athleticism becomes a bigger premium than ever before.

Sound familiar? Well it does to most junior college coaches.

Again, I’m not saying this is a good thing or a bad thing. It’s just the way that it is – and it’s going to stay this way as long as transfer rates remain sky high and the “one and done” rule stay intact.


Shane Dreiling’s Match Up Zone Rules

Match up Zone DefenseShane Dreiling’s match up zone defense is a combination of defensive principles that he learned from Fred Litzenberger and the late Don Meyer.

These match up rules are fundamentally sound and can (and should) be applied to all defenses.

  1. Continually point to your man and talk to your teammates.
  2. Guard someone – do not have two defensive players on the same offensive player.
  3. The defense takes the shape of the offense’s alignment.
  4. Keep bigs in and smalls out.
  5. The post player comes out in emergencies only – when the offense have all 5 players on the perimeter.
  6. Help side defenders straddle the weak side lane line. Assume all offensive players are good shooters and then adjust accordingly.
  7. Guards dig into the post to force a pass back out to the perimeter.
  8. Switch everything to keep your biggest players inside. Do not switch the dribble.
  9. Pressure every shot
  10. Only defend out to the 3 point line – allows you to help on the high post.
  11. Pressure the ball but don’t deny any perimeter passes.
  12. Block out, Pursue, Chin the Rebound, Outlet – “BOPCRO”

Bob Hurley’s Thoughts on Practice

Hurley Basketball1. Shorten practice as the season progresses, but maintain intensity.

2. Alternate easy and hard segments of practice.

3. Only emphasize one side of a drill.

4. Don’t stay on one thing more than 10 minutes. Come back to it the next day.

5. Stress fundamentals early in practice and build to team play later.

6. Make the players keep a notebook.

7. Have practice gear for them to wear. (varsity only)

8. The group that finishes practice as starters start the next day.

9. Practice should be harder than the game. Make players confidently look forward to the next game.

10. Spend more time with the offense early since the offense will take more time to develop.

11. Practice should be tough but variety is essential.

12. Reward playing time to those players who practice well.

13. Don’t punish after a bad game – TEACH!

14. Stay with your practice plan. If things aren’t working move on anyway and return to the problem the next day.

15. Use peer pressure to elevate the practice mood. If that fails, throw someone out. (anyone)

“Bobbleheads” Can’t Shoot

Bobbleheads Can't ShootWhen players start to experience a mid season shooting slump they usually look for any possible flaws in their mechanics.

They check their shoulders, their elbows, their feet and their fingers. One thing they hardly ever check is their head!

Here is what Thomas Emma, President of Power Performances has to say about a shooter’s head:

Too much head movement can drastically hinder shooting accuracy by causing the shooter to
lose balance and focus. This shooting defect is a common problem for athletes at all levels of play from junior high school on up through the professional ranks.

When shooting it is imperative for the shooter to keep the head stationary. Even the slightest head tilt can be enough to send an otherwise perfectly aimed shot awry. Coaches should consistently be on the lookout for players who move their heads when shooting because it is very difficult for a shooter to detect this subtle flaw in shooting form on his or her own.

If you find yourself in a shooting slump and all your other shooting mechanics seem to be “normal” try taking a look to see if your head is moving.

Have your coach help you or have a friend or parent record a short video while you are going through a shooting workout.

Once the problem is recognized it becomes much easier to fix.

Back to the Basket Workout

Back to the BasketDuring the course of the season when we are all worried a bout the next game it is easy to forget about skill development work and the process of getting better.

Over the next few posts I’m going to include some individual workout ideas that you can either use with your team or individually.

This particular workout will help you if you play with your back to the basket.

Start under the basket and spin the ball out to yourself so you catch it about the first hash mark above the block. Keep your center of gravity low and catch the ball out of a jump stop with your feet wide. Give a quick head and shoulder fake one way and drop step the opposite direction. Take no more than one dribble.

Drop step baseline from both right and left sides making (not shooting) 10 shots with the right hand and 10 shots with the left hand.

Drop step middle from both right and left sides making (not shooting) 10 jump hooks with the right hand and 10 jump hooks with the left hand.

Double drop step. Do a normal drop step one way, pick the ball up and drop the opposite foot in the opposite direction. Make 20 shots going in both directions.

Up and under. This is a great counter tot he jump hook. As the defense slides to one side show the ball, step through, and jump off two feet. Make 10 shots from each side.

Turn around jump shot. Make 10 shots turning to your right and 10 shots turning to your left. Do this from both sides of the floor.

Turn around up and under. Turn over your shoulder like you are shooting a jump shot, show the ball and then step through. Make 10 shots from both sides and in each direction.

Finish the workout with 25 free throws because as you do these moves correctly and become a bigger scoring threat you are going to be fouled more than ever before!


How to Seperate Yourself from the Pack

Pat Riley ShowtimeHere is some great advice from basketball Hall of Fame coach Pat Riley who is now the President of the Miami Heat.

It is taken from Riley’s book “Showtime.” Although the book is a little older it is still full of awesome insights for players and coaches alike.

The ones who can really separate themselves from the pack are those who understand what it takes to sustain excellence. To get away from a “to have” mentality. “To have” is something we get early in our life. To have power. To have a little bit of prestige. To have position. To have the car and the house and all those things that we feel that we need.

And then you understand later on in your career that those things don’t mean anything. When you experience them you realize the only thing left is to be the very best. You prioritize “to be” over “to have.” And when you’re thinking about being the very best, you’re making sure that you’re being a person, a performer, whom you can be proud of.”

A Closer Team Might Only be a Touch Away

Closer TeamsOften times a team’s culture is reflected in it’s day to day activities, routines, and traditions.

Some of these routines need initial instruction and explanation and others are so simple and obvious that everyone catches on immediately.

One such routine takes place it the UCONN women’s program. At the beginning of every practice coach Geno Auriemma has the team gather around  the center circle at mid court.

While Coach Auriemma is talking, each player quietly and discreetly touches the player next to her until they’ve worked their way all around the circle.

The touches might include a quick pat on the back, a tug on the shorts, or a slight fist bump – each player seems to have her own style and preference.

It’s not important how its done but why it’s done is very important. The touches signify that everyone is “all in” together, that everyone is important and that no matter what they do in practice that day (or what happened the day before) they are united.

The most interesting thing about this UCONN tradition is that even though it has been going on for years Coach Auriemma has no idea who actually started it.

That means a player started it, obviously without recognition or fanfare, in hopes of bringing her teammates a little closer.

What are you doing each and every day to bring your teammates closer together?


Successful Teams Act like Geese

Geese V-FormationHave you ever noticed how a flock of geese always seem to be flying in a “V” formation? Well they do and understanding how and why they do it can help all of our teams.

First of all, studies have shown that a flock of geese flying in formation can fly over 70% farther than a goose flying by itself. This is possible because as the birds flap their wings in unison, the ones in front create an updraft for the ones in back, allowing the ones in back to conserve their energy.

In other words, if you want to go a little faster then go by yourself but if you want to go a lot farther then go with a team.

Secondly, whenever the goose at the point of the V starts to get tired because he is taking on the brunt of all the wind resistance, he drops out of the lead and rotates all the way to the back. Another goose takes its place in the lead and the formation moves forward.

When every teammate is willing to step up and be a leader as well as share whatever hard work is necessary, then that team has a chance to accomplish great things.

Third, all the geese in formation constantly honk while flying. Maybe they are honking encouragement so the leader doesn’t slow down and maybe they are just “singing” a “marching” song like they do in the military. Either way they are constantly communicating with each other no matter how easy or difficult the journey.

Have you ever heard of a great basketball team that did not communicate effectively and constantly both on and off the court?

Lastly, whenever it becomes necessary for a goose to leave the formation, at least one other goose escorts it back safely to the ground and stays with it until it can return to the group. However, the rest of the flock keeps moving.

Great teammates are always supporting each other and looking for ways to help each other become stronger and more effective. But nothing is more important than the group (team) and the inability of one team member to keep up cannot keep everyone else from reaching their ultimate destination.

Is the above story and all of its facts completely true? I honestly don’t know if it is or not but I’m not sure it really matters.

What matters is the lessons that the story contains:

1. Teams can go farther when everyone is working together and heading in the same direction.

2. While everyone on the team should be willing and able to lead, they should also be willing to take on whatever role that will help the team succeed. If that means being out in the forefront then great but it might also mean staying in the background while someone else takes over.

3. Honest and effective coach to coach communication, coach to player communication, and player to player communication are all essential for team success. A silent team is usually not a winning team.

4. Stuff happens. Players sometimes get hurt, become academically ineligible, and/or make bad decisions. Great coaches and teammates should always be there to give whatever help and support is necessary to make the team whole again but at the same time everyone needs to understand that the progress of the team cannot be completely sacrificed for one individual.

The Perfect Present for Basketball Coaches

BC 250Still looking to buy a last minute Christmas present for your “favorite” basketball coach?

Then by all means consider subscribing to Basketball Classroom! (Especially if your favorite coach is you!)

Basketball Classroom is the first of its kind in terms of coaching programs. It’s no nonsense, straight to the point information produced by real coaches for real coaches and is presented in several multimedia formats to accommodate all learning styles – just like a real classroom.

The program contains dozens of videos, special reports, audio files, charts, diagrams, interviews, and animated plays. It doesn’t matter if you are just starting to coach your first team or if you’ve been pacing the sidelines for years, you can benefit from the information in Basketball Classroom.

Some Christmas gifts lose their value almost as soon as they are opened. The benefits from enrolling in Basketball Classroom can be career changing and will last forever!

Check it out now! – you and your players will be glad you did (make sure your speakers are on or you have a headset on to watch the preview video).

Merry Christmas from your friends at HoopSkills!!

A Simple Trick to Improve Team Chemistry

Team Chemistry TipWant to bring your team a little closer together?

Then try this really simple yet effective technique – from now on have every player and every coach touch every other player or coach he sees throughout the day.

High five, fist bump, choreographed team hand shake – it doesn’t matter as long as there’s some type of quick intentional physical contact.

The key word here is EVERY.

Every player and every coach gets the exact same treatment and attention regardless of personality, grade, or stature.

Leading rebounders, bench warmers, head coaches and volunteer assistant coaches are all greeted and acknowledged by everyone else.

No one is left out!

It might sound silly but try it for two weeks and I promise your team chemistry will improve and everyone on the team will be a little tighter!