Coaching a European Club – Week 21

I started this week by having a talk with another of my young players. Late in last week’s game, he passed up an open three-pointer and committed a turnover. I explained to him that in the stats that I have (there are no official stats for our games, and nobody from our club travels to away games), he is shooting over 40% from the three-point line. I explained that 40% three-point shooting equals 1.2 points per shot, which is, at worst, our third best possible shot. He passed up the shot in a game in which he tied his career high with 20 points and missed only one shot. I implored him to shoot more, and that we needed him to take 6-8 three-point shots per game and 10-15 total shots. 

During the week, practices remained the same. The focus was on individual position-specific skills, small-sided games, and shooting, as we did not have enough to play 5v5 until Friday’s practice. I each practice, I incorporated some full-court small-sided games because our opponent pressed. When we played on Monday, I was pleased with the ability to handle the press (albeit not a very good one because we do not press), but we were very fatigued. Our game this week was on a Sunday, so I planned to practice hard each day, as I worried about our conditioning in an uptempo game.

On Friday, we were able to practice 5v5 agains a press, and we handled it well. Our offensive movement in the halfcourt was improved as well. After our first or second action, we kept moving and making decent reads to continue to attack rather than standing and watching the ball. It was good to see the players starting to adjust and adapt even when things did not go as planned.

I continued to mix up the post finishing drills and add more elements, and they adapted well to new challenges.

In our game, we got off to a rough start. My American point guard picked up a foul on the first play of the game as he intercepted a pass cleanly, but was whistled for a foul by the official who was in no position to see what had happened. He picked up his second foul shortly thereafter. For the second game in a row, the officials called everything in the first quarter, with both teams quickly into the bonus, and called almost nothing in the second quarter, with neither team reaching the bonus. It is hard to plan as a coach when there is such inconsistency; one minute, an inconsequential touch is a foul, and the next quarter, a tackle goes uncalled. It worked out okay for us in the 2nd quarter, as I played my PG for most of the quarter, and he went to the half with three fouls.

In the first quarter, almost every point that they scored was directly related to one of our mistakes. One player did not know what defense we were playing on an on-ball screen; one player picked up the wrong player and left his man wide open for a three-pointer; one player switched and the other did not and a player was wide open for a three-pointer; one player backed off his man at the three-point line, and he made a three; and we fouled twice away from the ball when they were in the bonus to give them four free throws. Whatever mistakes we could make on defense, we made, and it was still a close game.

For the most part, their press gave us no problems. Unfortunately, several times, we got sloppy or overconfident and made silly errors trying to hit a home run pass or not running back to a catch.

The third quarter started horribly and got worse, as they had four shots on their first possession. Eventually, we found ourselves down by 17 in the 4th quarter, and things finally clicked. We started to guard people. Our posts did very well helping around the basket. We started to attack the basket rather than fading away on shots. We got ourselves to the free throw line. we knocked down a couple three-pointers. We took advantage of their trapping defense. Finally, we tied the game at the buzzer and sent the game to overtime.

Unfortunately, our American PG fouled out on our last defensive play in regulation, negating a dunk attempt. We got off to a rough start in OT, but had our chances. We never made the big play or the big shot. One of those days.

The game left me with mixed feelings. We fought and never gave up and made a game of it. For much of the game, they looked like a far superior team. However, we missed many shots that we normally make. My American PG shoots over 40% on three-pointers and over 55% close to the basket, and he missed three straight good three-point looks at one point and several contested shots at the rim. Another player had to have missed the same short shot along the baseline five times in the third quarter; the same shot that he hit late in the game to give us a lead the week before. We committed two turnovers passing the ball out after an offensive rebound rather than turning and shooting, and both led to lay-ups for our opponent. So many little things, and we still had a shot with 5 seconds left to win, and eventually scored to send it to overtime. One of those things where I am not sure if it is a positive that we can make some many bad plays and still almost beat a team ahead of us in the standings on the road, or it is a negative that we are still making these mistakes.

At some point this week, we should have all of our players back and healthy for the first time since October. Now, I can start to see where we stand and what we need to correct in our last several games before we (hopefully) reach the play-offs.

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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