Coaching Frosh Basketball 2.0 – Week 3

Week 3 consisted of one practice and one game. In Utah, there is a rule that prohibits practicing on the Friday and Saturday after Thanksgiving, so we are off until Monday. We also missed a day of practice because the boys’ and girls’ had home games on the same day. 

In our one practice prior to our first game, we had a lot to cover. We added 3 simple underneath out-of-bounds plays and a zone offense. Otherwise, we continued to work on full-court games to practice our press, transition defense, and offensive execution.

Prior to our first game, I showed the guys a Flex offense, as most had never seen it before. Last year, probably 60% of the teams ran the Flex, and I had meant to practice against it during practice, but ran out of time. I tend to focus more on what we do, rather than what an opponent may do, so I kept playing games without own stuff to try and improve our spacing and timing offensively.

As it turned out, they didn’t run Flex. Most of the time, they didn’t run anything because our press made the game ugly. It was a typical opening game for freshman with lots of turnovers, lots of missed lay-ups, and lots of missed free throws. We trailed early, but finally grabbed a lead that we never relinquished and won 47-43. All 14 players played in both halves; there really is little separation from the top to the bottom of the roster.

Our offense was a little stagnant, and we dribbled too much at times, but we also did some great things, like a perfect pick and pop for a late basket, and a great dribble-at backdoor for a wide open reverse lay-up (missed). Our press created turnovers and easy chances, but our spacing often was poor when we had 3v1 or even 4v1 fast breaks. Our best shooter also couldn’t buy a bucket – we were on the verge of creating separation a couple times and had a wide open three or lay-up in transition roll off the rim. It happens.

At half, I heard that our shooter had said that he wasn’t going to shoot anymore because he missed his first three shots. I found him and told him that if he didn’t shoot, he was coming out. I don’t want him to think about shooting; he’s good enough that when he catches, and he is open, I want him to shoot every time. His shot isn’t perfect, as I’d like to clean up some of his bad footwork habits, but when he is open, he’s pretty consistent.

It was a weird game because overall I thought the guys played hard and played aggressively. However, when I think of our opponent’s baskets, there were guys walking back in transition. We fouled too much, as they were in the double bonus in the 3rd quarter, and we never adjusted to the officials. We attacked the basket aggressively, but then finished passively, ducking and avoiding contact rather than going through contact. We rebounded pretty well, but we didn’t really block out.

Always good to play a game and have other team’s expose weaknesses for us to fix. Lots of work to do on Monday, as we play again on Tuesday. We’re in that stretch of the season where development (practice time) is sacrificed.

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

5 thoughts on “Coaching Frosh Basketball 2.0 – Week 3

  • Hey Brian,
    I was going to ask “why the high % of teams running Flex” and then though, “is that even a high %?”
    If that is a high %, is the “ease” of teaching a patterned offense to young players (probably) its draw to coaches?
    I haven’t coached HS now for about 9 years, but when I was a younger, certainly less-educated coach, a patterned offense seemed like a great idea. You know, just, “run the offense, go to your spots and keep going.” It was easy.
    But now, when I coach my son’s u10 rec team, I purposely don’t want to run that type of offense and I hand over the reins to the kids to make the decisions on the court.

  • Yeah, I once saw a team try to install the flex as its secondary fast break. Didn’t work out too well. I won’t say that it’s easy to teach but it’s easy to make you look like you know what you’re doing if only the players could pick it up better. When you fail, you can pont your finger elsewhere because, after all, you were using a proven offense.

  • Brendan:
    I don’t know. I think some things are regional. I see different coaches at different levels in this state who do the same exact drills, run the same offenses, etc. I also think it is reassuring to have something for players to fall back on if other things don’t work. The Flex also is a fairly effective offense and uses two very basic, general concepts: the Flex screen is much like a back screen to bring the cutter to a dangerous area, and the down screen is just a screen the screener action. Unfortunately, that’s not how it’s taught – my teams ran the Flex when I was in junior high school, but we never learned how to use screens generally: It was just run to the spot. Also, there is no shot clock here, so teams will run Flex for a minute and wait for the defense to make a mistake that gives the offense a lay-up. They’re very good about being patient. I’m pressing this season primarily because I don’t want to be in games where the other team runs 1-2 minutes of offense on a possession. I want to speed up the game, and make it ugly if necessary, just to get more possessions.

  • Before California had a shot clock, and when I was an assistant, if we had a lead in the 4th quarter, we’d run a high-set flex from (almost) half court. We’d tell the kids, “layups or no shot.” Again, we took advantage of the rules with a peak-by-Friday mentality (winning) rather than developing players.
    Also, I don’t agree about “winning ugly.” I’d do what you do, giving kids more opportunities at making decisions and developing. Their pressing, making tactical and technical decisions rather than just playing defense for 1-2 minutes.

  • Brendan:
    I wasn’t talking about “winning ugly”, but just creating a more chaotic, more error-prone game. It’s not about winning or losing, but just creating more possessions in the game and not allowing the opposition to stall.

    Of course, the problem with this style is that it is easy to lose leads. We led by 16 at half last night and dominated the second half, but let them close the game to 7 on a ridiculous buzzer beater to end the third. Rest of the game was played between 7 and 12 points. Without a shot clock, I could have gone to a spread for the entire second half and it would have been over; instead, we played like we were the team that was behind. Something new to talk about today, as it was the first time that we’d had a substantial lead.

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