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Takeaways from Calipari’s “Players First”

The University of Kentucky’s John Calipari is one of the most polarizing figures in basketball today as fans across the country either love him or hate him. The most important and interesting thing to me, however, is that Coach Cal’s players all seem to love him and that tells me he must be doing something right. […]

The post Takeaways from Calipari’s “Players First” appeared first on HoopSkills Basketball Training & Coaching Blog.

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The Platinum Rule

The Golden Rule has been the standard for centuries. Coach Stricklin talks about in this video how it might not be ideal for coaches to use. He introduces the Platinum Rule and explains why coaches should live by it instead.

The post The Platinum Rule appeared first on HoopSkills Basketball Training & Coaching Blog.

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3 Tips for Drawing up Game Winning Plays

Time is expiring and your team gets the ball out of a timeout. You’re down by one and you need a bucket to win the game. What type of play do you run? You run what you saw Rick Pitino run to beat Duke a few years back right? The problem with many basketball coaches […]

The post 3 Tips for Drawing up Game Winning Plays appeared first on HoopSkills Basketball Training & Coaching Blog.

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How to Defend Baseline Out of Bounds Plays (BLOBS)

Offenses have gotten better and better over the years at creating open shots on out of bounds plays. If your team isn’t 100% clear on what your overall strategy is for defending these plays, the offense will always win. Here’s some tips on how you can better defend out of bounds plays and make it […]

The post How to Defend Baseline Out of Bounds Plays (BLOBS) appeared first on HoopSkills Basketball Training & Coaching Blog.

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Using a Screen Away from the Ball

The cutter has the best chance of getting open if he waits for the pick to be set before cutting tot he ball. Cut shoulder to shoulder off a screen to eliminate any chance your defender can slash through the screen. There are four basic options depending on how your defender plays the screen. Go […]

The post Using a Screen Away from the Ball appeared first on HoopSkills Basketball Training & Coaching Blog.

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Dean Smith – Loyalty Above Everything Else

By now most basketball fans have heard that legendary UNC coach Dean Smith passed away last night at the age of 83. Throughout the day today former North Carolina players have been interviewed on television to share some of their experiences with Coach Smith. Every single one of them mentioned their off court relationship with […]

The post Dean Smith – Loyalty Above Everything Else appeared first on HoopSkills Basketball Training & Coaching Blog.

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My Coach Sucks

Here is a great video that demonstrates how hard it can be for coaches having to deal with all the outside influences their players have around them. Players: Please watch this and internalize how important it is for you to be accountable for your own actions. The more you push blame aside in your life […]

The post My Coach Sucks appeared first on HoopSkills Basketball Training & Coaching Blog.

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Don’t Look Now but the NCAA’s Elite are Playing “Junior College” Basketball

Is it just me or has anyone else noticed that NCAA college basketball has become junior college basketball? Well whether you’ve noticed or not, it has – at least in the elite programs! I’m definitely not saying that it’s a bad thing but I am saying that it’s a fact. Now before you get your […]

The post Don’t Look Now but the NCAA’s Elite are Playing “Junior College” Basketball appeared first on HoopSkills Basketball Training & Coaching Blog.

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Shane Dreiling’s Match Up Zone Rules

Shane Dreiling’s match up zone defense is a combination of defensive principles that he learned from Fred Litzenberger and the late Don Meyer. These match up rules are fundamentally sound and can (and should) be applied to all defenses. Continually point to your man and talk to your teammates. Guard someone – do not have […]

The post Shane Dreiling’s Match Up Zone Rules appeared first on HoopSkills Basketball Training & Coaching Blog.

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Bob Hurley’s Thoughts on Practice

1. Shorten practice as the season progresses, but maintain intensity. 2. Alternate easy and hard segments of practice. 3. Only emphasize one side of a drill. 4. Don’t stay on one thing more than 10 minutes. Come back to it the next day. 5. Stress fundamentals early in practice and build to team play later. […]

The post Bob Hurley’s Thoughts on Practice appeared first on HoopSkills Basketball Training & Coaching Blog.

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Latest Articles

Don't Practice Stupid Stuff

Our local high school runs a summer league a couple night a week for all the schools in the county and last summer my daughter and I would always go the gym an hour or so early so she could get in a few extra shots. Every time we got there one of her teammates was already there working with her "skills trainer." After warming up, most of her workouts seemed geared towards breaking down a defender off the move from the top of the key.

Between the legs, behind the back, crossover. Between the legs, behind the back, crossover. Between the legs, behind the back, crossover. Over and over again. Always the same sequence from the exact same spot again and again for probably 40 minutes. She was intense, focused, and persistent no matter how many mistakes she made and so her dedication was pretty impressive.

Fast forward to this past basketball season when I probably watched my daughter's team play about 20 times. Not one single time did I ever see her teammate use that breakdown move that she practiced for hours and hours on end - not once!

What I did see was an off guard who usually struggled when the defense pressured her right hand and forced her left, who had trouble making an entry pass (especially with her left hand) and who missed way too many wide open catch and shoot jump shots.

The question I kept asking myself was "Why do players spend so much time working on things they don't really need and will probably never use?" Of course, this wasn't entirely the player's fault as my second question is "Why do so many coaches and skill development trainers teach so many unnecessary skills?"

What are you currently working on? Are they skills you actually need and use or are they skills you only dream about using in the NBA All Star game? Don't get me wrong - you should be working on your game!

You want to make your weaknesses strong and your strengths even stronger. However, most players tend to overcomplicate things and as a result choose style over substance; flash over fundamentals.

What should you be working on? Well that largely depends on your current situation and skill level but I can offer a few general suggestions. You need to be able to handle the ball well enough with both hands to get from one baseline to the opposite top of the key while under extreme pressure.

Not only do you need to be able to dribble hard and fast in a straight line but you also need a change of pace move and a change of direction move. You also need the ability to make a one handed pass with both your right and left hands. Entry passes, wing passes, reversal passes, and passes in transition all require the use of this skill.

Most players need three types of jump shots: off the catch standing still, off the catch while moving, and off of a couple dribbles. If you don't think that's enough then add an effective finishing move like a floater or Euro step.

Until you completely master these fundamentals you don't even need to think about working on anything else! Of course after you master them, which isn't going to happen in one day, one week, or even one off season, you just might find out that you don't need anything else!

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How to Become a Better Finisher Around the Basket

The NBA is full of great finishers - guys that all defenses dread playing against because they can get to the rim and make things happen. Guys like Tony Parker, LeBron James, Russell Westbrook, John Wall, and Derek Rose are all offensive minded athletes who can not only score at the rim but can create open shots for their teammates and single handedly put the entire opposing team in foul trouble.

They are so good at what they do that they make destroying defenses seem simple and effortless. Styling your game after any of these players is a great idea as long as you realize being a great finisher is not quite as easy as it looks. It takes athleticism, knowing the proper techniques, and lots of purposeful practice. There are also several things you absolutely can't do if you want to be an effective scorer around the basket.

First and foremost you can't be soft with the basketball, especially from the time you take your last dribble until the time you release the ball from your hand. If you are soft or weak with the ball you have a much greater chance of having the defense knock it out of your hands, losing control of the ball or worse turning it over.

The second thing is that you can't be afraid of contact because if you are going to score around the rim you are going to get hit, slapped, kneed, and bumped. In fact, if you really want to be an effective finisher then you need to be what I call a "seeker."

As soon as you get within 8 feet or so of the rim you should be trying to find a defender so that you can initiate contact, draw a foul, and complete a three point play.

The third rule is NO one-handed scoop shots. I say this primarily because you cannot be strong with the basketball if you don't have two hands securing it. Not only that but shooting an underhand scoop shot in traffic is like serving the ball up to a shot blocker on a silver platter and will often up end up looking like a volleyball "spike."

The fourth absolute is that you can't stop after contact is created. We've already established if you try to score around the rim you are going to get hit and I'm sure you already know that the refs are going to occasionally miss some calls.

The worst thing that you can do when this happens is to stop playing, throw your hands up in the air and start complaining to the ref or look over at your coach. Instead, if there is no whistle and you miss your shot, hustle to get the offensive board and try to get a put back. Mentally move on and don't dwell on what you can't control.

The fifth and final thing you can't do is you can't jack up or force shots. Way too often I see players get down in the finishing area and either get stuck or don't know quite what to do so they panic and throw up a bad shot. Every time you do this you lose credibility with your teammates, your coaches and the officials.

If you haven't spent hours practicing a certain shot on your own then you really have no business trying to shoot it during a game. Remember just because you're closer to the basket, than say a 3 point attempt, doesn't necessarily mean it's a good shot.

It takes a lot of work to be an effective finisher and perfecting the proper techniques, footwork, and finishes doesn't happen overnight. However, if you can eliminate the five things mentioned above then you've already won half the battle.

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How to Beat a Zone Defense

I've said and written this many times before - if you coach a "lower level" basketball team and want to win a lot of games then all you have to do is press and drop back into a half court zone defense.

Why? Because younger players and novice coaches (often parents just trying to help out some local kids) just don't know how to counteract those two strategies.

If you happen to fall into that category, and even if you don't, here are 7 things you can do to beat a zone defense:

1. Fast break. I list this one first simply because it's my personal favorite. Most defensive guards will sprint back in transition to their spot in the zone, which is usually near the top of the key, and stop. This means that the basket usually remains completely unprotected until the defensive center gets back to his area. As long as you have at least one player who can outrun your opponent's center you have a great chance to get a transition layup.

2. Combine ball movement with player movement. When facing a zone defense, lots of coaches like to constantly tell their teams to "Move the ball!" which is good advice for the most part but. . . many of those same teams end of moving the ball quickly while their players literally seem nailed to the floor. Send an occasional cutter through, have an inside player constantly move from high post to low post to short corner. You don't have to run your man to man motion offense but you need at least some movement from both the ball and your players.

3. Realize that most defenses are afraid of the 3 point shot. I can't tell you how many times I've seen a team go into a zone defense and then come right back out of it as soon as the offense hits a 3. One time my team missed four straight 3's but our opponent went back to man to man because they were afraid we "might" make one. Whatever offense you run make sure it has a 3 point look built into it and let your best shooter fire off one or two.

4. Emphasize passing not dribbling. If there is one thing wrong with the game of basketball today is that there is way too much unnecessary dribbling! I see players of all ages who can do some amazing things with the ball but while they are showing off their skills they are missing wide open post players, shooters, and cutters. I don't see why most players ever need to take more than one or two dribbles when facing the zone. Any more than that and they are just giving the defense more time to rotate and recover.

5. Be patient. Force the zone to move and shift. That can't happen if you make one pass and then jack up a quick shot. Be patient and get the shot you want instead of the one the defense wants you to take. Ball reversals, skip passes, and playing inside-outside are all ways to get the zone to shift from side to side. The more the zone shifts the sooner it will break down and allow you a wide open shot.

6. Live in the gaps. This principle is so easy that it is often overlooked. All perimeter players need to position themselves exactly half way between two defenders. This does two things - it puts both defenders at an equal distance when it comes to contesting the offensive player's shot and it often creates some confusion as to who is supposed to cover that player in the first place. While living in the gaps is easy, it does require some work. Since the zone is shifting after every pass, in order to stay in the gaps the offensive players need to adjust their positioning after every pass as well.

7. Crash the offensive boards. One of the big advantages of playing man to man defense is that every defensive knows exactly who he is supposed to screen out. Not so with zone defenses and the smart offensive team will take full advantage of this uncertainty by aggressively crashing the boards. Every time a shot is taken an offensive player should be sprinting to each block and to the front of the rim. Since the majority of zone defenders don't screen out you might discover that your best zone offense is to simply throw it up off the board and go get it!

There are dozens of zone offenses that you can use depending on your specific personnel (several can be found BasketballClassroom.com and in our Zone Busters eBook. All of them will become much more effective if you follow the suggestions outlined above.

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