Coaching a European Club – Week 20

Note: I had nothing to write for week 19, so I skipped it.

After our winter break, we returned to the gym with only seven guys. Two guys had to return to their home countries to take their final exams for (online) high school. Another player went to Africa for a meditation retreat. Another player was away with his family for vacation. Finally, my American returned with the flu. After two practices, we played a practice game against a 2nd Division team and won easily. There was not much to take from the game. However, our three guards played all 40 minutes, so I felt conditioning would not be a big problem; our two young bigs started to make some plays; and our best player played 20 minutes in his return from injury and had no problems. 

After the scrimmage, we practiced with six or seven guys all week in preparation for the second-best team in the league. The week kind of slipped by, as I kept waiting to have more guys to go over basic things like defensive rotations, but the week ended before we had a full practice (of 8 players). We lost by 16.

This week, we did not have a full practice, and still could not go 5v5, but we had a consistent 8 (should have been 9, but one player was injured). Due to the numbers, and our lagging offense in the past couple of games, we spent more time on shooting and position-specific work.

During my post/guard breakdowns, I concentrate more on the posts, as we need more production. Since my top post was injured, we have been able to get any easy shots or establish an inside presence, and teams put more and more pressure on our guards. Each practice, I try to reinforce the post drills from the previous day, and extend and add one element. We go through many of the drills from this clip with CSKA Moscow Head Coach Ettore Messina:

We have moved from finishing off an offensive rebound to finishing after pursuing a rebound, to finishing off the catch without a dribble from a stationary start. We also have added a post series off an inside pivot foot to begin teaching footwork and post moves.

The guards work on ball handling, finishing, and shooting. I try to change up the drills each day, but I tend to stick to a couple drills so that I do not have to explain the drill. I want them to get up shots, not have to worry about the drill execution, as my attention is split between the two ends, as I have no assistant coach.

During the last two weeks, we have played a lot of 2v2. I have stopped laying 1v1, and instead play 2v2, because it is more game-like. In 2v2, I can practice almost everything that I want to practice in 1v1, but there is also more decision making involved. There is the potential for an on-ball screen or help defense. There is the decision whether to pass or shoot. We get through nearly as many repetitions in 2v2 as in 1v1, which means everyone actually gets more total repetitions, and there is less standing between turns. I have structured 2v2 a couple different ways to practice some specific skills, especially a ball reversal for our post players, getting open on the wing for the guards, and entering the ball into the post for the guards.

Due to the lack of players, we played a lot of 4v4 to practice our team defense, and had to walk through our offenses 5v0 because we did not have defense to play against. I also increased our transition defense practice to get some more conditioning. We had been doing a full-court lay-up/shooting drill for conditioning, but the guys were so lazy in their skill executions that I stopped. On the first day, I stopped them in the middle and made them run baseline-to-baseline sprints for the rest of the time. Since then, I have used transition drills for conditioning. There is no sense developing bad habits just to get a little low-intensity running. I also added consequences to some of our timed shooting drills to add some running/increase the intensity level.

After last week’s game, I realized that I send mixed messages to one of my players. I stopped him after a practice and told him to ignore me. I said that I knew that I seemed to contradict myself: sometimes I yell at him to shoot the ball, and sometimes I tell him to be more aggressive and attack the basket. My comments are dictated by what I see, but I realized that it can be confusing to a player to hear one thing one time, and another the next time. Therefore, I told him to ignore me and make whatever he feels is the best decision, and we can talk after the game about improving the decision-making. Maybe it was a coincidence, but he had his best game of the season this weekend. He made mistakes, but he played more confidently and aggressively. He also dove on the floor to get the loose ball that led to a jump ball and our final possession where we hit the game winner.

We won 80-78 on the road against the 3rd place team (and best player in the league). We were in foul trouble the entire game (all 8 healthy player traveled and played), with three guys picking up their third fouls in the first half. However, we kept the game close enough and gave ourselves a chance to win. It was a good morale boost to get the win.

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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