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What I Witnessed was Like Rec Soccer

by Rich Stoner, USAW Elite Basketball Training, LLC

In a recent blog post entitled, “Teach Players How to Play” I discussed the topic of coaches not focusing so much on plays but rather teaching them how to play the game of basketball. In other words, how to move without the basketball in order to get yourself or your teammates open. The inability to move effectively without the basketball seems to be a common problem amongst youth players and even high school players these days. This was never more evident than in two recent small group workouts where I divided the group into two three on three teams, put one team on offense and the other on defense, and instructed the team with the ball to score…without dribbling the basketball. The dumbfounded looks on the players’ faces suggested that this experiment would not go well andwhat transpired afterwards only confirmed my assumption. As a matter of fact, what I witnessed was a lot like rec soccer at the youth level. For those of you who have ever watched a rec soccer game, you know exactly what I am talking about, 20 players (excluding the two goalies) following the soccer ball in unison all over the field. On a smaller scale, my situation was two basketball players cutting toward the basketball screaming, “Here!,” “Here!,” “Here!.” There was no semblance of spacing. The players could not get open against a man defender. Triple threat was more of a myth or legend than a reality. And, don’t even ask me if they scored. Watching this, sent up a red flag for me and I knew that I had to supplement my basketball skill development with more of this three on three work in order to help these players learn to play.

With this in mind I have set out to accomplish the teaching of three key fundamental basketball components: getting open against a man defender, catching the basketball and coming to triple threat, and cutting effectively without the basketball. For the purpose of this post, the focus will be on getting open going away from the basket and going towards the basket. As I stated earlier, the players had a very difficult time actually getting open when guarded man to man. The man defender would drape himself around the offensive player and although the defense was not great, the offensive player could not get open. The common mistake that was consistently made was cutting further from the basket and/or closer to the ball. Consequently, this led to a lack of spacing on the court or a turnover. If they did catch the basketball the offensive player was no longer in a scoring position because they were 3o feet from the basket. Simply stated, in order for a player to get open they have to change speeds effectively. When an offensive player’s speed remains constant they become very easy to guard. This is true with or without the basketball. In this case, without the basketball, the first step is to teach them to walk their man down slowly and then plant their bottom foot and pop out hard showing your hand and giving the passer a target going away from the basket. Obviously the passer needs to time this correctly and throw the ball to you so that you can catch it before the defender recovers. Once the offensive player has caught the ball, it is important that they immediately square the the basket and come to a thriple threat position. The offensive player should be low, balanced, and in an attack position. Doing so will allow the offensive player to perform the three fundamental basketball skills of passing, dribbling, and shooting effectively. The offensive player should not stand half turned away from the basket or straight up with the ball over head. This type of positioning allows the defender to get closer to them and make them feel very uncomfortable, ultimately leading to a potential turnover. It is imperative that the coach or trainer correct this immediately if they see it happening. Through repetition, solid habits are built, so do not hesitate to make corrections.

Earlier I mentioned that the offensive players were constantly cutting away from the basket and putting themselves in poor positions to score. Jamming your defender down and popping out hard should alleviate this problem. However, in the case that you have a very good defender on you who can stay with you as you pop out, it is important to be able to cut towards the basket as well. To do so simply cut as if you are going away from the basket, jam hard and cut back door quickly. Be sure to show your hand so that the passer once again has a target to throw to. Cutting back door can serve two purposes. First, it can get you open for a score, but in the case that it does not, the cutter should continue through to the other side of the court. This will open space from where you just cut allowing the ballhandler to attack that position with more freedom than if the other offensive player were still there.

My experience with these two groups was eye opening. As a former varsity high school basketball coach, getting open, coming to triple threat, and cutting effectively had always be a key component of my coaching. Having transitioned from high school basketball coach to the basketball skill development realm this fundamental knowledge had taken a back seat to the development of basketball skills such as ball handling, passing, and shooting. However, having had this rec soccer-like experience it has become abundantly clear to me that this is a must include for me as a supplement to my intense skill development regimen.

In my next post I will continue this series with triple threat and various moves that you can make out of triple threat that will allow you to create your own space with the basketball.

If you would like to learn more about how Elite Basketball Training can help you teach your players basketball skill development within your offense, email me at rstoner42@gmail.com with questions and have us come to your practice to work on skill development with your players.

See you on the court.

Rich Stoner, USAW

About Rich:
Elite Basketball Training, LLC is a New Jersey based basketball training company that provides basketball players and athletes with the tools to take their game to the next level. Elite Basketball Training specializes in individual, small group, and team basketball skill development, sports performance training, and college planning and recruiting.

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