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Pre-Game Feet and Ankle Warm Up

During regular basketball season many teams can take the court anywhere from 20-45 minutes early to warm up. However, during club season when games are scheduled continuously throughout the day, teams often find themselves with hardly enough time to shoot a few layups and fire up a few jump shots. With such little court time […]

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Did the Heat Really Get The Top Spot by Finishing Second?

Every season there is always talk about at least one of the NBA’s worst teams “tanking” the end of the season in order to hopefully improve their position in the upcoming draft. But it’s not often that one of the TOP teams can be accused of tanking games! Is it possible that is exactly what […]

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Ricky Rubio’s Crossover

Ricky Rubio’s mastery of the behind the back crossover has helped make him one of the elite guards in the NBA. In case you missed them in the latest edition of ESPN Magazine, here are the 6 steps that Rubio uses to break down his signature move. 1. A good crossover starts with footwork. If I’m […]

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Shoulders to Hips Equals Driving Success

The best offensive players always get their shoulders below their defenders’ shoulders because once in that position it is much easier and quicker to attack the basket. Not only does getting low make your move quicker but it also allows you to absorb all the defensive contact with your shoulders so you can remain in your […]

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10 Commandments of Stretching

Before stretching, do an aerobic warm up to get muscles warm. Stretch before every work out. Stretch daily, and if you are exceptionally tight, stretch twice a day. Stretch within 10 minutes after every work out. Stretch to the edge of the discomfort in the muscle but not to the point of pain. Breathe normally […]

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KG’s Work Ethic

Michael Jordan, Larry Bird, Karl Malone, Ray Allen, and Kobe Bryant have all been known for their legendary work ethics. Another player who belongs in that elite group of focused workaholics is Kevin Garnett, currently of the Brooklyn Nets. The following, written by  J.P. Clark, an Assistant Skill Development Coach for the Boston Celtics, offers […]

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Bob Hurley’s Point Guard Absolutes

Watching the NCAA Tournament has reminded all of us that you need good guard play in order to advance in the post-season. Here are some ideas on point guard play from Hall of Fame coach Bob Hurley of St. Anthony’s High School in New Jersey. Philosophy of PG Play Think pass first…shot second 1st step […]

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6 Overlooked Areas of Off-Season Improvement

For many players, off-season workouts consists of playing on a club team (lots and lots of games), getting some extra shots in and working on their killer crossover. That’s all fine and good but it’s really not enough if you want to reach your fullest potential. Once again we are sharing a series of simple […]

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YGLI (You Gotta Love It)

Over the last decade I’ve had a lot of direct email correspondence with club coach Gary Lavender and have seen copies of dozens of other emails that he has sent out. At the bottom of each letter or memo Coach Lavender always signs his name right under the capitalized initials YGLI, which stand for “You gotta […]

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Being a Great Teammate on a Summer Club Team

Being a “great” teammate is sometimes hard to define although most of us can recognize one when we see one. Many times it’s easier to be a great teammate when you are around friends that you’ve known and played with for years. However, as club season is right around the corner, many players will find […]

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Latest Articles

Is Your Bench Attitude Helping or Hurting You?

Have you ever wondered why in the day and age of great video technology that coaches who want to scout and/or recruit still go watch games in person? Why do they spend all that time and money travelling to and from a game site when they could just watch a game on video?

Well the answer is relatively simple: game videos usually don't show everything that coaches want to see! As a college coach I watch dozens, probably closer to hundreds, of games each and every year and I would guess that at least 95% of the time I try to sit across from the team benches.

Even though this often puts me right in the middle of a rowdy student section or even worse, right next to the band, it allows me to see things that I generally can't see on video. From this vantage point I can watches the coaches coach and more importantly I can watch each player's reaction when he is not in the game.

Are the players actively engaged in the game or do they seem uninterested in the action? Are they cheering and encouraging their teammates; are they calling out back picks, flare screens, and isolations on the defensive end? Do they stand and acknowledge their teammates when they come out of the game or do they just ignore them?

Watching how a player acts while on the bench gives me some great insight into that player's overall attitude towards the game, his coaches, and his teammates and helps me determine whether or not that player would fit into our program.

Not too long ago I was watching a summer tournament game while sitting right next to a fairly famous coach who had led his team to the Final Four the previous April. One of the players in that game stood out amongst all the rest and seemed to be the prototype All American - tall, long, athletic, quick and skilled.

In most areas of the game he absolutely dominated the action. However, his shot selection could have been a little bit better and after three straight forced shots the coach subbed him out.

As the player walked towards the bench the coach was waiting to talk to him but was completely ignored and so was each player standing by the bench with their hand out. The superstar player finally got to the end of the bench where he kicked the last chair before getting a drink and then chucking the water bottle.

The Final Four coach saw this reaction (like we all did) and almost immediately pulled a red pen out of his pocket, opened a notebook containing a list of potential recruits and drew a line through the player's name. Then he got up from his seat and immediately walked out of the gym - presumably to go watch a different player on his list.

I've wondered many times since then if that player had any idea that the Final Four coach was there to watch him play and that he ruined his chance of being in that program because of his bench behavior. The Final Four coach didn't cross the player off the list for taking bad shots - he crossed him off when he didn't appear to have a good attitude or to be a good teammate.

Remember, there is almost always someone watching you from the time you walk into the gym to the time you walk out. It might be the varsity coach, a younger player who looks up to you, a teacher, a potential employer, or even a college recruiter with a potential scholarship offer. Don't let your attitude on the bench completely undermine your performance on the court!

Let us know what you think!

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5 Ways to Prepare for the End of the Game

Nearly every coach that I know is most comfortable when he or she is in control of what is happening on the court. They will spend days trying to determine who should start the game and weeks deciding which is the best offense and defense to use with their personnel.

Many put rules and guidelines in place so their players know who should shoot, when they should shoot and precisely where they should shoot.

These same players are taught how to defend their opponents by taking away specific team and individual strengths right from the opening tip. However, it's this same desire to control their surroundings that often drives coaches crazy in late game situations when there are so many surprises and unexpected variables involved.

While many things are indeed uncontrollable (officials, sickness, injury, etc.) here are 5 ways to improve your team's preparation for those crucial end of the game situations.

1. Mix up the teams

If your starters are constantly practicing together, what happens when one of them fouls out, is injured, or is just having a horrible game? Make sure a back-up post, wing, and point guard are systematically worked in with your normal starting five. Chances are at least one of those guys is going to be in the game if it's close in the last minute.

2. Use the clock

A lot of players have no idea how long (or short) 5 or 10 seconds can be and what can and can't be accomplished in that time. I've seen some coaches verbally count down the final seconds when they work on end of game situations but that's not realistic or game like. Crowd noise, gym size, and the coach's own game time emotions can make a verbal count unreliable or difficult to hear. Your school has a clock so use it!

3. Practice timeouts

There's nothing more frustrating than trying to set up a game winning play and discovering one of your star players is standing over by the water cooler getting a drink. Assign specific seats on the bench, who gets the water, and who watches for any substitutions by your opponent. Practice sprinting over to the bench and getting in the right seat. Real timeouts are one minute long so don't take 5 minutes setting up your end game offense or defense in practice. Practicing timeouts and last minute situations is as much for the coach's preparation as it is for the players.

4. Teach team foul scenarios

There will be times when your team will have a foul to give and using it wisely will force your opponent to inbound the ball again and reset their offense. There will be other times when you might want to use a "Hack a Shaq" strategy. Don't expect your players to naturally know how to do these things already. Teach them exactly what to do and then practice them several times before it really counts.

5. Simulate end of the game scenarios

There are several ways to do this and all can be beneficial in their own way. You can put up a predetermined score up on the board and two minutes on the clock and see what develops. You can also work on a few specific scenarios every day - things like down 2 and need to go the length of the court in 6 seconds; you are up 1 and your opponent has the ball out underneath their own basket with 2 seconds left; you are down 3 and shooting 2 free throws with 3 seconds left, etc. A third way is to put 67 points for each team on the board and 2 minutes on the clock. Start scrimmaging and as soon as one team reaches 70 points start the clock. Do any (or all) of these two or three times a week and you'll eventually find your team prepared for almost anything.

Don't spend all your time preparing for the first few minutes of the game and neglect the last few minutes. There will undoubtedly always be some surprises and some things out of your control but if you use the five ideas mentioned above you can keep those surprises down to a minimum.

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Improving Your Ability to Concentrate

Whenever I go to watch a high school or club game I try to sit across from the team benches so I can watch the coaches coach while checking out the attitudes and reactions of the players who are not in the game.

However, I recently found myself in a very tiny gym with limited seating and so ended up sitting right behind one of the team benches. I obviously couldn't see the faces of the players or coaches but I could hear much of what was yelled from the bench and discussed in timeouts.

After calling out specific offenses and yelling "Get a stop!" the next most common topic of instruction was focus. In fact, 17 times either the head coach or one of his assistants told the players to concentrate or focus on what was going on during the game!

The problem is that most players don't really know how to improve their level of concentration and so the instruction is often ignored. (Although I couldn't help but notice that some players would nod their head in agreement but then make an obvious mental mistake soon afterwards.)

The ability to concentrate and focus on the task at hand is a skill that can be improved with practice if a player really wants to strengthen that part of his or her game.

Here are 3 things to consider while you are on the court:

1. Stay in the moment

How many times do you see a player miss a shot, make a mistake, or be on the bad end of a questionable officiating call lose his focus for the next several possessions? Or have you ever seen a player make a great shot and then scream or thump his chest while his opponent streaks by him to get a layup at the other end? No matter what happens you need to be constantly reminding yourself "Next play, next play."

2. Practice eye control.

What you look at is usually what you concentrate on and think about. Do you look your coach square in the eye during timeouts or are you scanning the stands for your friends? Every time you take a shot do you look over to the bench to see your coach's reaction? Are you constantly looking at the clock during practice to see how much time is left? If you do any of these try keeping your eyes glued to the action on the court. Watch the ball, your defensive assignment and the other players in the game and nothing else!

3. Don't wait until game day.

Start increasing your concentration level in every team practice and individual work out. Approach every shot you take like it's the potential game winner in the state championship game. You probably don't do a lot of joking, clowning, laughing, and frivolous chatting during games so why do those things while practicing or working out.

Off the court try using these phone and tablet apps to improve your overall focus and concentration:

Lumosity Mobile. One of the most popular brain training apps with over 50 million users. Allows you to have a different 15-20 minute "workout" every day and lets you keep track of your progress. The app also lets you compare your scores with the scores of other users which is great for those who are motivated by competition.

Memory Matches 2. This is the classic memory game where you flip over one card and then try to find/remember its match. There are over 100 different levels so this app isn't just for little kids. There are 4 different board sizes for iPhones and 7 different board sizes for iPads.

iMimic Says & Memory Block. These two apps are "Simon" type games where you try to duplicate a series of sounds and lights. The more you improve, the longer the sequence. I really like this app for basketball players because it incorporates sight, sound, and reaction time. This is bound to help those players who remember vital information just a little too late to be effective.

You undoubtedly spend hours working on your physical skills each week so why not spend just a few minutes each day working on your mental skills as well? It could be the difference between being average and good or between being good and great.

Please feel free to comment:

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