After five days off, we practiced again and prepared for a game against one of the tougher opponents that we will face during the season. Our play in the game was much improved from our first game, and the game was a fairly well-played, competitive freshmen game. Our opponent was well-coached and prepared, and a couple dumb breakdowns (talking on screens, boxing out on free throws, making free throws) came back to hurt us. We lost 48-44. We actually had the best official that I’ve ever had at the freshmen level, though his partner was doing his first game and didn’t know the rules. For the entire game, we were one or two plays away, but every time we made a big shot, they answered or we committed a foul to put them on the line and they took advantage. For the second game of the year with fewer than 10 practices, I was pretty happy with the way that we played and competed.
We spent the next two days trying to clean up some of the mistakes. We spent a lot of time playing free-throw games. We played one game to 10 makes from the free-throw line. If the offense made the free throw or got the offensive rebound, it shot again; if the defense got a defensive rebound, it shot the free throw. We also started transition games with free throws and free-throw blockouts.
During the two practices, I emphasized movement on offense. We had a secondary-type break, but we never got into it in either of the first two games. It is nothing complex; it’s essentially what the Spurs do. In our two games, however, we tended to dribble too much and when the guards dribbled, everyone stopped moving. The guys know how to play a little bit, but I thought that we needed something to get us started. Once the ball started to move, we were fine; the problem was initiating the movement.
The final emphasis was getting a little better rotation in our press. We tend to start well in the press, but as the game goes on, we get out of position or take too much time to set up the press.
After two practices, we had another game. We played unbelievably well in the first half. We got back cuts for lay-ups, post-ups, rolls off screens, wide open shots on out-of-bounds plays, lay-ups off the press, etc. We led by 16 at half and it felt like more.
At half, the guys looked a little too impressed with themselves, so I got them organized and talked to them about the importance of playing the second half like it was 0-0 to start. I told them that the game should be over with a 16-point lead, but that’s predicated on us continuing to play the same way, taking good shots, getting back on defense, etc. Instead, we started the second half like we were down 15, shooting quick shots, gambling on defense, etc. I used two timeouts and numerous substitutions early in the second half. Finally, after they cut the lead to eight, we settled down and played a little better. They threw in a 35-foot prayer to end the 3rd quarter to cut the lead to seven, but that was as close as they got. we got two great drives by our bigs and made a couple free throws at the end to ice the game.
On Saturday, I emphasized defense. We played 3v3 full-court with no dribble; 1v1; 3v3; and 5v5. In 5v5, I emphasized the secondary break so that we could get more movement to break down the defense before we attacked. We’ll see how that works, as we play again on Monday. After a slow start, it was a very productive practice, as we started to play harder, help more on defense, talk, and compete.
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