Coaching a European Club – Week 18

We returned to the basics this week. We started with a lot of 1v1 and 2v2 to focus on defense. Simple things: jumping to the ball, denying cuts to the strong side, etc. We also needed the offensive practice to get open when overplayed, as we were not physical or tough enough against switches in our last game. 

This week, I organized our shooting drills along the template from 180 Shooter. Starting now, each week will be a basic progression from stage 1-4. We do not have the space to do stationary form shooting on Mondays, as we have two baskets for 14 players. The week starts with straight-line shooting and straight-line off the dribble shooting. Next practice moves to shooting off curls. Thursday’s practice, because we have fewer players and more baskets, will be more form shooting, free throw shooting, and basic catch-and-shoot shots, and Friday’s practice will include flares, shots moving away from the basket, and shots off dribble moves. If the gym situation was different, I would organize the order slightly differently, but it is what it is.

Also, this week, I started to play a tag passing drill with my team and at the skills workout. The drill is based on a drill that I saw on a Renato Pasquali DVD (Technical Director of Basketball Canada). It might be the exact drill or an interpretation of it. I can’t remember the drill that I saw, and I don’t have the DVD with me (disadvantage of moving a lot – you give away, lose, or misplace things).

(In this version, there is a one person advantage on offense – the yellow jersey. It works better with a two-person advantage, but we had 11 players at the workout).

My goal was to practice the speed of thought. We need to make quicker decisions and better decisions. When we typically play passing games, we can find a player who is open in terms of being able to receive the pass, but he is not really open in the sense of being able to do something with the ball. When we run our offense in games, we focus on one outcome or one player and often miss the player who is wide open. The goal with this drill was to increase the time stress and force players to find more open targets.

Building on this idea, we also played 4v4 cut throat with the stipulation that you have 1 second to do something (attack, shoot, or pass) on the catch. When I watched our game film, we play too slow. This is a drill that I used with my high-school team last season (as our almost all of the drills that I use), and it worked well. The assumption is that with such a time constraint, players would force more bad shots or make more turnovers. I don’t think that was the case. We probably got better shots because of the speed of attacks. We did not allow the help defense to rotate and shift. Players were more active cutting into areas where they could finish shots right on the catch. It worked well.

After watching our game film, I tweaked two of our plays to try to create more options (easy shots) and punish the way that defenses are playing us. We also spent a lot of time this week on our new motion-ish offense, trying to encourage creativity and finding different solutions rather than being stuck running the play. I also emphasized the need for cutters to the basket, as most of our guys use screens to get jump shots, and we just cannot win shooting mid-range jump shots all game. Their decisions are based partially on the defense and partially on size, but we have to force the issue and attack the paint more. We’re settling for too many 2-point jump shots, which are the exact shots that defenses want to give up and the shots that I do not want to take in large quantities. In our home games, we’re averaging roughly 30 shots at the basket, 20 2-point jump shots, and 19 three-point attempts even though we shoot a better percentage from 3-point range than 2-point jump shots. Fortunately, our trend line is to shoot fewer 2-point jump shots and more three-pointers, so I am hoping that continues, and we trade 6-8 of the two-point jump shots for three-point attempts and/or shots at the rim.

In one sense, the changes worked. Our tweak to our main break got us some very good looks early in the game. For the most part, our half-court defense was improved. We just couldn’t make shots. We had four straight possessions at one time where we drove twice off of our offense, drew help, and found someone cutting on the baseline for a lay-up, and missed both lay-ups, followed by two 3v2 fast breaks where we missed a lay-up and mishandled a pass out of bounds. It was one of those days. First game that we lost because of our offense. Our defense was probably good enough to win – we forced two or three 24-second violations and were generally better keeping the ball out of the lane – though we did have a stretch where we gave up several lay-ups in transition. We played 37 minutes of pretty good defense, but we could not finish plays on offense. For the most part, it was the basics: missed lay-ups, mishandled passes, missed free throws. We got into the paint, we found open players, but we didn’t finish the plays.

Definitely a difficult way to go into the winter break, especially since we have two weeks off until we practice again (and truthfully we don’t really practice: the u20s have a tournament; we don’t have another full practice for closer to three weeks. It’s crazy). Once we come back from the break, a couple guys leave the country for some school-related things, so we still won’t be whole. It’s tough to move forward with all of the injuries and absences, but it is what it is. The absences should shorten the rotation, and maybe that will give us some more continuity.

By Brian McCormick, PhD
Coach/Clinician, Brian McCormick Basketball
Author, Cross Over: The New Model of Youth Basketball Development
Director of Coaching, Playmakers Basketball Development League

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