Coaching Frosh Basketball – Week 1

Despite night classes twice a week, I am coaching a freshmen boys basketball team. Former NBA scout Clarence Gaines suggested that I wrote about my philosophy for each week. Coaching will be tough, as the season is compacted, we just finished tryouts, and I am not going to be there all the time because of prior commitments and class schedules. It is what it is. 

Last Monday was the final day of tryouts. State rules prohibited practice over the weekend, so this is really our first true week of practice as a team. We have 16 players, and naturally I will miss Monday’s practice with class. Our first game is Friday. Therefore, I have two practices with the team this week. Here’s the goal:

During tryouts, we spent a lot of time learning some new drills and learning different ways to think about basketball, since my approach differs from many. The emphasis offensively was passing and cutting, and the emphasis defensively was defending on the ball.

In our two practices this week, my objective is to:

Work on 3v2 defense. I focused mostly on transition offense, especially 2v1, during tryouts. I defend a 3v2 differently than many coaches, as I have an ideal way to defend the 3v2 and the fallback, depending on the situation. Our fallback is similar to the approach of most coaches, but we need to spend some time on the ideal approach.

Closeouts. We have focused on defending the ball so far, so now we need to take the next step to defending the ball after a closeout. I teach two closeouts – a short closeout and a long closeout – and the long closeout depends on the offensive player: shooter or driver. These are things that we need to teach.

5v5 offense. We introduced our basic set, and our initial options. I do not want to run plays, but I may add two entries to get us organized as we have not spent enough time to feel comfortable within the offense. It takes time to learn a motion offense, and we have yet to invest enough time. The plays would be options that I want to emphasize out of our set based on our personnel.

Transition spacing. So far, we worked on five-man transition defense without spending a lot of time on a five-man break. We need to address some spacing issues in transition.

Rebounding triangle. I watched a game last week where nobody ran to the free throw area, and plenty of rebounds went to this area. Offensively and defensively, we want to cover this area.

Free throw procedure. I do not take defensive rebounds off free throws for granted. This might be the biggest lesson that I learned from watching a Vance Walberg practice. We need to go over our free throw procedures.

OB play. I will put in one or two underneath out of bounds plays.

This is way too much to accomplish in two practices. We’ll see how everything goes. My primary goal is to develop the players so some have a chance to move to varsity as sophomores. I am not worried about won-loss records. However, some of these things, like free throw procedure, appear to be based on competition, but preparing players for the game is a part of skill development. I want the players to be smart, and understanding an approach to defensive rebounding off free throws will make the players more intelligent, I believe.

By Brian McCormick
Author, Cross Over: The New Model of Youth Basketball Development
Director of Coaching, Playmakers Basketball Development League

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