We dropped another game, but we looked better. We simply could not make a shot, and we could not stop our opponent’s best player who was the biggest, strongest, fastest player on the court and played point guard. It was a tough match-up. We should have done better, but we’re learning.
Our offense appears more organized. Players are starting to understand when to cut, when to reverse the ball, where to look on a pick-and-roll. Teams here tend to play the pack-line defense and over-help, so we have plenty of wide open three-point shots. We need to do a better job attacking the gaps, much like attacking a zone defense. We also need to finish better when we get opportunities. Of course, we also need a little luck; we kick out to an open shooter who makes the shot, only to have the official call a foul on the passer and send a below-average shooter the free-throw line for a 1-and-1. Normally not a big deal, but when you are struggling to score, that made three-point shot is a big boost psychologically.
Before the game, I told the team that the game would be decided on free throws and lay-ups. It was. They got and made more lay-ups than we did. However, we did a much better job attacking the basket and getting to the free throw line.
Now we have five days off due to Christmas and state rules prohibiting practice around the holiday. This week, I added a new scoring to our scrimmages that like. I think that I stole it from Geno Auriemma when I was looking at his offensive sets on youtube, but it may have been from another youtube clip. To win, a team has to get a stop, a score, and a stop in succession. In practice, I noticed a little more intensity, especially on defense, and a little better shot selection. As a negative, I also saw some players trying to do too much and not trusting teammates, especially when they needed a basket to prevent a loss. Overall, I liked the scoring system, and referenced it at halftime of the game, saying that that same method was how we would get back into the game: one stop and one score at a time – there are no 10-point plays.
When we return from our break, we are going to focus more on small-sided games. First, I worry about fitness with the five days off, and several recent studies have shown that small-sided games condition athletes as well or better than other conditioning approaches, like interval training. Second, we need to defend better in space. We are often flat-footed on defense. Third, we need to practice in help-and-recover situations, as we failed to adjust and provide more help on their star player. We will work on digging in on the dribble and closing out. This should help our offense as well, as our passes off penetration often lack the proper timing.
I also plan to return to drills similar to the Blitz Basketball drills to practice shots that we should get in our offense. In a workout yesterday, we added some dribble hand-off drills and I want to add another series for entries into the strong side too. Hopefully by practicing shots and finishes within our offensive set, we will feel more comfortable with the shots in the game and shoot a better percentage next time. As bad as our defense looked to my critical eye, we held them to a total that should have given us an opportunity to win had we executed offensively.
Those will be the emphases when we return: fitness, help defense on penetration, passing off penetration, defending the dribble, and shooting within our offensive sets.
By Brian McCormick
Author, Cross Over: The New Model of Youth Basketball Development
Director of Coaching, Playmakers Basketball Development League