Finals are finished, and we lost two more games. After reflecting on the first loss (I missed the second loss with a final), and the previous two games, we’re losing due to some little things. First, and foremost, my philosophy is hurting us right now. We lost to two teams that run the Flex and take advantage of the lack of a shot clock to run the offense over and over until a defender makes a mistake. Our offense is often disorganized. If we ran something like the Flex, we would probably fare better because players would know exactly what to do: pass, screen down, etc. I am more concerned with players learning to find spacing, learning to move in relation to the dribble, learning to run a pick-and-roll, etc. We have the outlines of an offense, but no true structure. This hurts us competitively right now because we have to learn to play with each other and read each other. It’s a process, and a slow learning process right now.
Second, and along the same lines, my determination to play all 14 players hurts us competitively right now (yes, we’re down to 14, as one player quit to concentrate on his grades, football, and rugby – he’s a potential D1 player in both – and another is suspended currently). We lack a comfort level with each other. If I stuck to an eight-man rotation, we may have fared better in the last couple games. Maybe not. Getting each player playing time is important to me, as I want all the players to have a chance to improve.
We are struggling with little things like giving up too many fouls and free throws, getting caught in transition, and not defending out of bounds plays. Despite going inside on every possession in the second half of the last game, our opponent shot 15 more free throws than we did. We need to play better defense before our man catches the ball and take better angles. We’ll be playing more 1v1 to work on this. I have gotten away from transition defense a little bit in practice, and we have been caught not seeing the ball, so we will make that change in our remaining practices this week. As for out of bounds plays, I don’t like spending a lot of time on OB strategy. We are probably -10ppg on OB plays, so it is hurting us competitively, but I don’t see how spending 20 minutes per practice on OB plays will make the players better. If my major motivation was winning, I would devote more time to OB plays, sideline OB plays, etc.
The rest of the week, we are going to get back to fundamentals. We are going to fix on getting open through some no-dribble passing drills. We are going to do some ball toughness drills. We are going to work on dribbling under pressure in 1v2 drills. We are going to work on finishing with a 2v1 drill. We are going to work more on defending screens in a basic screen down, screen across 4v4 game.
In our practice this week, we played 5v4 to practice talking and rotating on defense and penetrating and kicking on offense. Getting the players to talk and help each other defensively has been the biggest challenge thus far. I had hoped 5v4 would work a little better than it did, but it was the first attempt. We also played a transition game called Rabbit, which may have helped our rebounding, as we did a better job on the boards this week. Who knows?
A couple of the players are developing really well. A couple others are not. We have shown glimpses of playing good basketball, but at times look awful and poorly coached. It is a process. If we can clean up the little things and prevent lay-ups and free throws, we should do better competitively. However, from a player development standpoint, we need to get tougher and more aggressive with the ball and have a greater awareness of court, from spacing to teammates to using different tactics. We just need some more court time to get different combinations used to playing with each other, and more confidence with the ball, especially going to our left hands.
Five practices before the next game, so hopefully we have some time to make some adjustments and improvements.
By Brian McCormick
Author, Cross Over: The New Model of Youth Basketball Development
Director of Coaching, Playmakers Basketball Development League