Give your Team a Lift by Getting Back to these Basics

Tyler HansboroughI saw two games live this past weekend-Friday, I watched a Division I game between Detroit-Mercy and Oakland.  Saturday, I watched a youth basketball game between two groups of 10/11 year olds. The games were very similar in the number of times both the college players and youth players tried to make plays when they weren’t gathered.  Obviously, the youth players had better excuses as most were very new to the game.

In the college game, Oakland turned the ball over 25 times and easily took 10-12 hurried or forced shots.  UDM turned it over 17 times and took fewer hurried shots.  While both teams have some point guard issues, many players on both rosters were guilty of trying to do something quickly or when they weren’t fully grounded.

For purposes of this article, let’s use “gather” as an offensive term and “get set” as a defensive term as we review some salient points:

  • Basketball is a game of motion BUT inherent in all motion is the reality that motion eventually has to slow down or stop.  The acts of slowing down and stopping are skills.  They need to be noted and practiced.  Players today are moving faster than ever and more of them are doing so. Just as a car that is going 80 miles an hour needs more time and distance to stop than a car going 40 miles an hour needs, so too do faster moving players.
  • Pivoting is a lost art.
  • Balance is the key to everything.  Please read an earlier “Hoop Coach” article, “Balance-The Foundation Fundamental”.
  • It is never too late to teach gathering, getting set, pivoting and balance.  Everyone wants to win “now” but imparting players with the “right way to play” is really a duty.  How many times have you said or heard a coach say something like, “When they got to me, their fundamentals were terrible?”  Someone has to break the chain.  One can win and break the chain at the same time.
  • The definition of “gather” in basketball is really “to prepare” or “make ready”.  Key components of that are balance, being square, being grounded, and being in an athletic position, flexed with feet shoulder width apart or so.  Not so strangely, “getting set” at the defensive end involves all of the above details.
  • Basketball wasn’t originally intended, nor was it “played in the air”.  As time has gone on, more players are playing in the air with greater frequency and at higher altitudes.  Without taking away one’s players’ competitive fire, playing in the air needs to be coached.
  • In practicing “gathering” and “getting set”-like anything else- breaking these skills down into small components (the smaller, the better) is the key.
  • In reality, the only legitimate times when a shot could conceivably be somewhat justified as hurried is when a buzzer is in play-like 4 times in a HS game and at end of periods and shot clocks at the college and pro levels.  Even then, the best coaches have practiced and managed those situations, so those should be minimal.
  • If you watch NBA players practice shooting, watch how they gather.  The best players in the world take an extra beat to “prepare” or “get ready”.  Why wouldn’t lesser players do the same?
  • If you watch a lot of lesser players practice shooting, they catch and “tap-tap”-they take two steps to get grounded.  That’s traveling and they should be called on it.  Players shouldn’t practice a violation.  The key is to get a pivot foot and square as the player catches the ball.  It’s not easy to change a bad habit, but there’s really no choice.
  • Bad things happen when a team or individual is “sped up” beyond their means.  It always amazes me when coaches don’t simulate being “sped up” in practice, so that they’re more ready when it happens for real.  (Please read the earlier Hoop Coach article, “Practice Gimmicks to Better Simulate Game Conditions”.

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