Developing the mental and physical skill sets required to be succesful on and off the court, as stated in our mission, don't only come from repping out drills in practice and in the gym on your own. It also comes by deliberately searching for knowledge. Whether that is through books, mentors, coaches, or classes, to truly better your best you must be a sponge and seek knowledge.
I figured the Holiday season would be a good time to showcase a book I know to be beneficial for growth on and off the court.
Toughness - Developing True Strength On and Off the Court
I read this for the first time when I was in high school. My coach would bring in excerpts of the book and read them to us in practice. I have revisited it many times since then. If you scroll down on this blog you can read a lot of the concepts in our post, "The Anatomy of Toughness" and learn how some of these lessons translated into success. All of the lessons remain true and practical, on and off the court.
I look forward to hearing about what our players learned from this book. Please enjoy!
"Get the fundamentals down and the level of everything you do will rise."
I have found myself repeating "just do the simple thing," "keep it simple" a lot lately. Oftentimes, it is said with a bit of frustration in my voice after I watch one of our players do something completely unnecessary, i.e. fadeaway's in shooting drills without defenders, jumping passing lanes with back turned to their assignment, step backs, etc. The same players doing this are the same ones who don't know how to properly pivot, can't make a left handed layup, or don't know how to box out.
I am not an extreme stickler. I don't forbid kids of watching the NBA or try new moves, but what young players do not understand (and is tough to convey) is that they need a fundamental foundation before what they see on TV can be achieved with consistent success. Foundation - five skills: shoot, pass, rebound, defend, and dribble. Thats it. Anyone should be able to coach this and anyone can do it. It is simple, drill work on this is easy to find and do.
"In a world of social media, we glorify the results and not the process. We see the kick that knocked someone out but not the years of effort that went into perfecting it. We see the results, not the hard work."
6th graders should focus on catching the ball ready with their feet set before practicing a step-back jumper. 8th graders should not be putting together combo moves to finish at the rim if they can't make a left handed layup. I could go on all day. Players see James Harden shooting step backs, Steph Curry launching deep threes, Ja Morant making jelly finishes at the rim. There is nothing wrong with any of these moves by all-time great players but youth players think they can emulate that TODAY. No. See what I have put in bold - you are not yet an all time great. The Steph Curry's of the world have put countless hours of work into building his foundation to be able to shoot those deep shots.
"The only way to become good at something is to practice the ordinary basics for an uncommon length of time. Most people get bored. They want excitement. They want something to talk about and no one talks about the boring basics."
Think about most video games. When you level up you unlock new missions, new games, new gear. Advancing in basketball is the same. Once you consistently make 10 left handed layups in a row you "level up." At the next level you can work on a reverse left handed layup, and once you make 10/10 consistently thereafter the same things applies in new moves and drills. Parents, coaches, players... it takes time. A ton of time. Be patient and enjoy the journey.
“I fear not the man who has practiced 10,000 kicks once, but I fear the man who has practiced one kick 10,000 times.”
Keep things simple. Don't practice a move you'll score 2 points a season on. If you want high PPG, APG or RPG, you're better off focusing on the simple stuff, the basics that you can do in bulk.
"Excellence is not a singular act, but a habit. You are what you repeatedly do."
It was a pleasure to meet with Coach Jim Blaine a few weeks ago via Zoom. His Pride are coming off a school record setting 24-9 campaign and received their first bid to the NAIA National Tournament in 2020. Unfortunately, the tournament was cancelled due to COVID, but the Pride are looking for redemption in 2021 and are fully stocked to make it happen. All-American and Dubuque Native Keith Johnson is back along with starters and All-Conference selections, Jordan Lake and Josh Meier. Coach Blaine credits his success to his players, but his work behind the scenes has also helped the Pride improve year after year.
Often when we talk about college basketball we refer to power conference Division I schools, the likes of Duke, Michigan State, Kentucky and Kansas. Rightfully so -- these teams have talent that attracts millions of viewers per game and generates billions of dollars per season. And while they get the most media attention, these power conference teams (Big Ten, ACC, SEC, etc.) only represent a small percentage of college basketball played.
Of the over 900,000 high school boys and girls competing on prep basketball courts (399,067 women, 540,769 men), roughly four percent make it to the next level to play college basketball. If you have your eyes set on playing on a Power Five conference team, only 0.02% of players actually do (65 schools in the power five conferences multiplied by 13 scholarships = 845 players x 2 for men and women. 1,690 divided by 900,000 high school basketball players = 0.0018). In total, between the power five schools and the other DI programs, only one percent of high school participants make it to the DI level, leaving three percent in NCAA DII, NCAA DIII, and NAIA.
The odds are obviously small as the number of schools is disproportionate to the number of high school players. If your goal is to play college basketball, the best chance you have more than likely lies beyond DI hoops. Now, I am not discouraging the pursuit of playing DI basketball or any high level post-prep ball. It's a dream of many youngsters to play for Coach K, or represent your state school on ESPN when you're in the driveway shooting hoops. But, the harsh reality for many young dreamers, is still that 0.02% of high school players will go on to the highest levels. With that being said, if you’re dedicated to the game, percentages mean nothing, and the hard work and years of practice will put you in a position to be successful on the hard wood. My own story serves as an excellent example. In middle school and high school, several buddies and I lived at the Webber Center, the local gym in Cascade. Every night we knew where to find each other; no cell phones needed. Being in the gym fulfilled my every need and ultimately being around the game so much allowed basketball to come naturally to me. I didn't care about the low odds of playing at the next level, I knew my hard work would get me there. As a matter of fact, I probably wouldn’t have gone to college if it weren’t for basketball. It was the only thing I cared about, that was my lifestyle.
My goal is to give players the tools to reach their full potential, and in doing so, improve the chance of earning a scholarship to play college basketball. When I sat in my kitchen and Zoomed with Jim Blaine, Head Men's Basketball Coach at Clarke University, we discussed this topic: what it takes to get a college scholarship.
What I loved about this interview was its simplicity and the value it provides for young hoopers looking to get a college scholarship. It is a guide to get you noticed, scouted, pursued, and signed. Though Clarke is a small school in Dubuque, Iowa, it is a member of the NAIA, a league in which you can receive scholarships to play basketball. I played for Coach Blaine in college and had a relatively successful career for The Pride. Although I didn’t go to a high level DI school or make it to the pros, I did get a scholarship to play basketball, which came with an excellent education. I can’t emphasize how good of a deal that really is.
My freshman year was Coach’s Blaine’s first year at the helm. He came from a successful high school coaching career at Benton High School in Wisconsin, where he led the Benton Zephyrs to the 2009 Wisconsin Division 4 State Championship. When Blaine secured the Clarke job in 2014, college basketball was all new to him. “I was overwhelmed with the differences from the high school level to the college level. When you’re a college coach, you’re a professional coach. It is now your life and it is a different world.” In that world lies the recruiting trail. “You can’t take shortcuts when it comes to recruiting and building a culture. It is the most important part of building a successful team. The things that I looked for in a player have changed over the years to fit into what we want to build. It is clear to see that process paying off by looking at our records improve year by year.”
In talking to Coach Blaine, I wanted to give prep players perspective from a person who evaluates them for a living. It can act as a wake up call to players--no, your high school coach isn’t blowing smoke up your rear end by yelling at you to talk to your teammates on defense. That type of stuff is important and as you’ll hear later according to coach, communication is paramount. If you ignore it, you’ll wind up with 96% of players who don’t make it to the college basketball level. Coach Blaine’s comments can act as a guide to the prep player who is confident in their game but not getting any looks, or steer a player in the right direction to reevaluate some parts of their game that need work.
What it Takes
Just because you put up big numbers on a high school basketball team doesn’t ensure that you will receive an offer to play in college. Coach described what he looks for in a player and his basic recruiting principles:
The magnificent thing about Coach Blaine’s principles is that each one of them is something you, as a player, can control. “When I watch a player I have already done my work and evaluation on how he can play, i.e. skill and ability. In my first trip to watch a high school player, I look for Clarke University Men’s Basketball character requirements.” Some good news to players who may aspire to play at colleges other than Clarke is the majority of basketball coaches look for a similar combination of character requirements. “If the character requirements are there, and I like what I see on the first visit, I will come back and watch him play a second time to look more in-depth at his skill and ability. At this point, if I am coming back a second time, there is a great chance that the player will be getting an offer to play for us. The ability to fit into our program and a player's character always comes first.”
Coach Blaine offered a story to illustrate this: “I went to a game in Wisconsin not too long ago to recruit a kid. He was in foul trouble early and spent the majority of the game on the bench. To my surprise, that was enough for me to know he was a player that would fit into our system. He was on the bench cheering on the team and the first one to meet his teammates at half-court for a timeout. Right from that moment, I knew his high character personality was one that would match well with what we were looking for. We already did our evaluation and knew he could play, but we were making sure he was able to pass our test, and he did even though he didn’t play.” One of many lessons learned here is, just because you’re on the bench doesn’t mean the eyes are off you. If you are a prospect, the eyes don’t leave you. Also, if you are a prospect, simple things like this can be attractive and make you a steal without even playing. Like Coach said, if he is going to watch you play, he has already done his homework. So what you think is the worst case scenario could result in what gets you to the next level. “How will a player conduct himself in the worst case scenario? Will he mope and complain and let a bad call affect him for multiple possessions? Or will he move on and focus on the next possession?” This applies to getting in foul trouble and sitting on the bench. How do you react? If you’re throwing water bottles or punching the bench, it may be time to clean that up and work on areas outside of your game.
Obviously, you must have the skills and ability to back up your play. As much as I love high character individuals, just because you have those traits, doesn’t mean much if you can’t play. But, let’s say for the sake of exploring, you do have the ability. Then one might ask, “If I have the ability to play at the next level how can I get noticed?” Players who have made it to Division I have had more of a clear cut path to college basketball since their extraordinary skills and abilities have stood out (obviously hard work and dedication is required as well.) While this is the mythological way many prep players envision college recruiting, for the vast majority, it doesn’t work like this.
I asked Coach what are some things players can go out of their way to do to get actively recruited, and he says, “If you want to be recruited--meaning you’re not currently being recruited and you think you are good enough to play college basketball, TALK! COMMUNICATE! Whether you’re on offense or defense, at an AAU tournament or playing for your school team, communication on the court will simply get you noticed. It will be up to you to make sure your skills back up your communication, but this is the first step in getting a coach's attention, in my book.” Coaches are on to something when they tell you to talk and communicate. It is the base of your play and what could very well decide if you go on to play at the next level or not. Coach goes on to say that high school or AAU mixtapes have never swayed him into looking into the player who sent the video. “If I am going to watch a tape of someone, I either need to watch a full game or a string of possessions put together. I’m 57 and I could make myself look good in a highlight video. There is a good chance I won’t even watch the video you send because it really means nothing.” Clarke is an NAIA DI school, if Coach Blaine were to get a mixtape of a kid doing 360 dunks and dead-eye shooting, this kid isn’t going to Clarke. Let’s be real. The only highlight tapes that stick out are the ones of players who are beasts among kids in high school who aren’t going to smaller schools. If you're not putting together a mixtape that might attract millions of viewers on YouTube or Instagram, there is really no point in making one. Instead, put a long string of possessions together and send that to coaches, where your character and skills can be evaluated.
A valuable source when it comes to recruiting according to Coach Blaine is your high school coach. “If I get word from a respected high school coach of a player who can play and is interested in coming to my school, I will take that very seriously and do my homework.” Players can simply tell their high school coach they would like to play college basketball. Most high school coaches would be thrilled and do whatever it takes to get you there. I can’t imagine a more satisfying feeling as a high school coach than sending one of my players off to play college hoops, especially knowing I had something to do with it.
An example: “Dennis Geraghty [Western Dubuque High School Basketball Coach] reached out to me about one of his players, Jordan Lake, and said that this kid was very interested in coming to play at Clarke. He was a junior and was just coming off a season-long injury when I went to watch him play. He wasn’t in prime shape and I was thinking ‘this guy won’t be able to play at the next level, no way!’ A few months later Geraghty reached out again and said, ‘Jim this guy would really like to play at Clarke.’ So I go watch him play a second time and it is a night and day difference. He’s back in shape and I’m thankful Dennis reached out to me because he was a great local talent.” Jordan is now the starting point guard at Clarke. The takeaway: Don’t underestimate the power your high school coach has in getting you to the next level. A valuable life lesson to learn at this age--don’t burn bridges, starting with your high school coach.
Does a coach ever take a chance on a player who can fill up the stat sheet but whose character fit is in question? … At that point you hope the culture that you’ve established can help mesh this player into your program while their extraordinary skills will enhance the players around them. “If you have a solid culture, you can take a risk on a player who may not match your culture----with the idea the team will help shape the player to fit their culture.” With that being said, what players want to be the rogue of the team? To fit within a culture or fit into a system requires players to step beyond their own egos and do what is best for the team. That is why Coach Blaine rarely takes risks on players who don’t match his character requirements. It is not worth the risk of having that player come in and damage the culture you’ve spent time building.
Red Flags That Will Hinder Your Chances of Playing At The Next Level According to Coach Blaine:
Coach's recruiting process has certainly evolved since his humble beginnings as a head coach at small town Benton Wisconsin, where he won a state championship and many conference championships. “When I was a high school coach I didn’t have to worry about the team chemistry. These guys have been playing together their whole lives and didn’t need a coach forcing relationships on players or attempting to build a culture. They were going to do those types of things on their own. I was in the right place at the right time when I got hired to take the head position from Coach Drymon at Clarke. It was overwhelming and it was all new to me. It took me a while to narrow down how we wanted to get guys to join our team. It wasn’t until about year four when we finally got our five principles for recruiting down (which are stated above). It was clear to see the culture wasn’t fully established until these principles were set in place and we were really committed to our ‘next play’ mentality.” Coach has built his successful teams following the principles he has set forth and now that they are established it would take a lot for him to bring in wildcard talent. It just isn’t worth the risk.
As the Corona virus rattles youth and prep basketball, it cannot stop the driving force behind the next generation of hoopers getting ready to thrive at the high school - college level. From coaching youth basketball players around eastern Iowa, I am proud to say that basketball is in good hands. After checking in with each family (now that gyms are closed until Dec. 10th or later), every kid is reported to have been finding some way to continue to play the game and get better. Whether they are dribbling in the front yard or shooting in their barn, the drive to continue to improve upon their game has not stopped.
For players living that hoopers lifestyle, no matter what age or talent level, your characteristics are what define you as a player. Aside from basketball, where can you develop yourself more as a person of character? No matter what percentages say, if talent and high character mesh, there is a good chance you will find yourself reaching your maximum potential!
Many thanks are due to Coach Blaine for taking time to reflect on his recruiting process and sharing great wisdom of what college coaches look for on the prep and AAU circuits. I’m thankful for my time playing for Coach Blaine at Clarke and looking forward to catching a game somewhere down the road once COVID is no longer an issue.
By Haris Takes
When I play Rec League basketball or pick-up at a random location these days, it usually goes one of two ways. The first, every player is a black hole, meaning once the ball is in their hands, there is no getting it back. Or second, nobody knows what a good shot is. Zero pass pull-up shot, after zero pass pull-up, not surprisingly, results in a total abomination of a game that stimulates ulcers in my stomach.
Contrary to informal games in other locales , whenever I walk into a gym in Cascade during the holidays for pick-up games, or a casual game at the local gym, I know I can expect a competitive, real basketball game--with ball movement, off-ball screens, communication, tough defense and good shots. All the players here seem to know how to play the game the right way. Playing basketball the right way requires a fundamental understanding of the game. In Cascade, this fundamental understanding comes from years of discipline and instruction taught by long-time head coach, Al Marshall, who coached Cascade High School teams to win over 700 games--the third highest in Iowa history. Coach Marshall narrows this understanding down to one word: toughness.
When I sat down with Iowa Basketball Hall of Fame Coach Al Marshall, I didn’t really know what to expect. The only thing I was certain of was the subject we were going to discuss--toughness, one word that captures his whole philosophy, a word that was drilled into every practice with me and my teammates. Coach Marshall dissected the word toughness as if it were a high school cadaver science lesson; one action sparking the process of another like the way the muscles in our bodies work, but in a basketball sense. Imagine basketball concepts being broken down by an expert like a doctor explaining the practice of medicine to a novice. After talking hoops for a while and finally sitting down to conduct my interview, I saw Al had prepared five full pages of notes just on the subject of toughness. Looking back on my playing days under Coach Marshall and remembering how well-prepared he always was, I should have expected nothing less.
Al’s coaching philosophy is simple: “build a team that centers its focus on fundamentals.” It wasn’t dumb luck that Al’s teams averaged 8.5 turnovers/game on the defensive end and limited opponents to 36%-40% shooting from the field. It wasn’t surprising to see Al’s best teams shoot 50%+ on the offensive end. “Practice does not make perfect,” according to Al, “practice makes permanent.” Create the right habits, focus on fundamentals, instill discipline in your game and you have a recipe for tough, successful players.
Before talking about toughness and establishing a clear definition for players and coaches, Al thought it was appropriate to emphasize what toughness is not.
Playing Through Injury
"People sometimes talk about and praise a player for playing with an injury-- this is not toughness, it is stupidity,” according to Coach Marshall. “If you’re playing with an injury, you’re naturally less effective. You must be tough minded enough to know when you can and cannot play. There is a difference between playing through soreness and playing through injury. If you’re sore, yes, you need to toughen up and fight through that temporary pain. But if you’re hurt, you need to allow yourself time to recover to be game ready.”
I dealt with this reality in high school when I didn't communicate a toe injury I was going through. It had impaired my game for a month and I told no one about it. I didn't want to appear soft or let my team down, so I thought I would fight through it. Ultimately, I was letting my team down because I wasn't able to give 100%. I ended up sitting out a few practices coming up to the postseason which set me back at the most important time of the year. The same thing happened in college, but this time I immediately had the wisdom to rest for a week and come back ready to work.
Looking for the Limelight.
Toughness is not looking to be the star or the center of media attention. Rather it is quite the opposite. Tough players stay humble and work with their heads down.
Missing Free Throws Down The Stretch
“When the pressure is on, true toughness comes out and I have never seen this exemplified more so than in shooting free throws down the stretch.”
Being a Selfish Teammate
"Tough players and tough teams know what it means to be tough together."
Worrying About What You Look Like on The Court
Success doesn't come because of the way you look on the court or by the brand of your sneakers. Likewise for coaches, your chances of winning aren’t enhanced by the coordination of your staff's apparel.
What is toughness?
"In order to have toughness--to be mentally tough--I believe a player has to be disciplined" says Coach Marshall. “Some kids think discipline is detention, getting grounded, or any kind of punishment.” I asked Coach what his definition of discipline is. His response is worth memorizing: "What I believe discipline means, and what my players heard often, is that discipline is doing what you are supposed to do, when you are supposed to do it, to the best of your ability, EVERY TIME."
Coach emphasized the importance of discipline during practice:
Do what you are supposed to do. Practice game-like drills at high intensity. Never give an effort that is less than 100%.
When you are supposed to do it. Repetition = consistency. Getting the right amount of reps in every day.
To the best of your ability. Go hard and hold yourself and your teammates to high standards. Practice at game-like speed.
Every time. You create habits by repeating the same process over and over. Are you tough enough to practice the same things repeatedly until perfection? Ultimately this translates into you being prepared for any game situation.
Contrarily, if you aren’t disciplined and have sloppy practice habits, those too, will translate and you will be unprepared to play in-game. The final four-minute-of-the-game test is where toughness is revealed. You must be disciplined.
“Fundamentals are the building blocks of the house. It’s like the foundation of your house. Toughness is the finished product. You can’t have the finished product (toughness) without the foundation, without the fundamentals.”
Take, for example the last four minutes of a close game. This is where toughness is exemplified and where practice shows. “If you have good habits, they will emerge. If you have bad habits, those will emerge.” The team with good habits will, more times than not, win; and the team with bad habits will think they are plagued by late-game misfortune. The team with good habits knows their win came from discipline and attention to detail on fundamentals; they were gritty, they were tough down the stretch when it mattered most.
Fundamentals to focus and build on according to Al:
When the pressure is on, these habits will come to fruition, i.e. they will contribute to the outcome of the game:
Take individual toughness and multiply it by five and you have team toughness. “It is great when you have one tough player on the team,” says Al, but "having two is better. Having three is great. And when you have all five players on the court at the same time who are tough--that is when you find the greatest success as a team.”
When you have a team of mentally tough players you will get PLAYERS WHO:
Coach printed these traits off and gave them to his players. I find them invaluable. At any level, these can be extremely useful for both coaches and players. They do not just appear. It takes months and even years to instill discipline in your team! Be patient, if you focus on fundamentals, you’ll find these things coming naturally.
The Anatomy of a Successful Team Shot
A successful shot involves a team of five mentally tough players. Teams that understand and practice TEAM SHOTS, tend to shoot in the upper 40 to low 50 percentiles. Look at the Miami Heat under Erik Spoelstra, Kentucky under John Calipari, Michigan State under Tom Izzo, and Duke under Coach K. Very similar shooting percentages, very similar success. There is a reason, they practice and preach discipline.
Basketball is an up-tempo game, and to win that up-tempo game requires balls to go through the hoop. So, in order for you to score and have successful team shots at a rate greater than that of your opponent, it is important to do the following EVERY TIME down the floor.
It starts with the individual....
Does the player set up their defender and cut hard to the ball?
Does the screener set a solid screen, every time?
Does the person targeted for the shot come off hard, shoulder to shoulder off the screener, every time?
Does the passer deliver the ball on time and on target?
Does the shooter, meeting all criteria for a GOOD shot, catch it ready to score?
The anatomy of a successful team shot stems from each player's consciousness that it takes all five players on the court working in motion to reach the above outcome, each possession down the floor. Teams shooting in the 50%-range understand this, and know it takes a team effort to shoot at a high clip.
"For teams, tough teams that is, the players that set screens and make passes accept their roles on the team." Al also says these players are acknowledged by both coaches and players when they fulfill their roles.
I looked through some of Al’s seasons where his teams shot 50%+ from the field and found a predictable stat. In each of those years, the players that shot 50%+ from the field were taking the majority of the shots. The best shooters were shooting the ball the most. It is simple. Set your team up with a foundation for what a good shot is, and let your best shooters shoot the ball.
The Right Acknowledgement
"Tough teams are tough together." He would often stop practice and exclaim to a screener or a passer how they had done their job perfectly after setting a good screen or making a selfless pass, which would inspire confidence in those who were undertaking these roles on the team. Anyone who played for Al knows that he didn't just say things to make you feel good, he would only do this when you had performed to the team’s standards--which always felt good and would increase the likelihood of the player performing that role again.
Knowing your Role
To make this same process happen 60-70 possessions per game it is all about players accepting their roles and holding teammates accountable. Like I mentioned above, there are a lot of moving parts and a lot of dirt work that goes on behind the scenes (hard screen, exploding off screens, posting up hard). Naturally, every person wants to be the focal point the fans and media see--the shooter. As that may be desired on many teams, not everyone on tough teams wants to be the number one scorer or is tough enough to handle it. According to Coach, and witnessed by many at his practices, the best players and shooters are held to the same standards mentioned above in the criteria of a good shot. Al was on his best players from the moment they had laced up their shoes for practice until the final whistle had blown. It wasn’t that he had anything against this player, or was jealous of his basketball gifts, rather he was setting that player up to handle difficult situations and set a standard for the rest of the team. If ‘so and so best player’ was getting reamed for not coming off hard on a screen one time, other players want to step up their game to support their teammates and hold themselves to the same standards.
Players wanting to be great: Are you tough enough to handle hard coaching? Can you respond to constructive criticism? You must be willing to take on the role as a leader and lead by example.
Role players wanting success: Are you tough enough to accept your position and sacrifice for the greater good of the team to win basketball games? Are you conscious enough not to step out of your role, especially in the final four minutes of a close game? Are you tough enough to support every other member of the team and their roles?
Coaching Example - Bad Shots
An effective strategy Coach used to help players understand good vs. bad shots: Before the ball goes in the hoop on a bad shot, Al would say, loud enough for everyone to hear, “bad shot.” Now, even if the ball goes in, the player knows it wasn’t the best shot the team could’ve gotten in that particular possession. It is good to stop bad shooting habits in their tracks so you can instead focus on what a good shot is and how to achieve it every trip down the floor. Shooting a 20% shot and not addressing it is taking away the possibility of more 50% shots you could be getting. There are limited possessions in each game, so why waste them on bad shots?
“When a player comes down the court and makes a bad shot (zero pass pull up jumper, one pass fadeaway jumper, etc.), I would stop him and say, ‘do you think that was a good shot?’ Of course the player would always say, ‘why yes I do, did you see that swish?’ I would propose a wager to this player - “If we did that same play and you took that same shot 100 times, for every time you make it, I'll give you one dollar. For every time you miss, you give me one dollar.” Al says the realization of that player's 15% shot would be a net loss of $75 to the coaches pocket. Of course this was not a real bet, but the wager would give the player perspective on the bad shot, and he would understand that just because he made it, it wasn’t a good shot.
The Anatomy of Tough Defense
Defense is controlled by a few things, attitude, effort and preparation.
Attitude - Are you in the right mindset on defense? You need to want to play defense and you need to be mentally tough to be good on defense.
Effort - Are you tough enough to play hard defense all game long? This comes to discipline in practice. Are you able to sit in a stance? Can you get a big stop down the stretch?
Preparation - Are you able to carry out the scouting report?
These are questions Al asks. If you’re wondering why, as a good offensive player, you don’t play and you answered ‘no’ to any of these questions, you have your answer. You must be able to defend. It is essential.
Carrying out the scouting report is the most important discipline on the defensive end. Coach goes on, “We know the other team has a great three-point shooter that is not as effective off the dribble. We know this! If we are in a zone defense, is everyone clued in enough to know the shooter is in your area and you're there on the catch so he can't shoot? And again, EVERY TIME!! Are we, as a team, tough enough to force that player to score off the dribble?” It is vital, for the sake of winning, to be clued in on the scouting report at all times, and know where the best player on the other team is on the court.
“I think the final step in a team being together is when all the players buy in, to the extent they hold themselves accountable, because they don’t want to let their teammates down.”
A few things Al saw in all of his toughest teams were, “1) We won the vast majority of close games, especially tournament games. 2) Several times we won a conference championship where we would split with a team during the regular season and we would win all of our other games. The other team would lose to somebody they should not have lost to, handing us the championship. In the case of close games, we were used to our discipline (doing what you are supposed to do, when you are supposed to do it, to the best of your ability, EVERY TIME) so we were able to close out the late stages of games. In the case of beating a team we should have beat, we played possession by possession basketball and respected our opponents by playing hard.”
I often wonder if people really understand what toughness on the basketball court really means. Taunting a player after a blocked shot, or pointing at yourself after a made basket are deceiving perceptions of toughness that we often see after ordinary plays. I see players in today's game, at all levels, trying to prioritize their image or worrying about what they look like in the eyes of the crowd or on TV. Seeing players concerned about how they look for their pre-game Instagram or Snapchat picture is the tell tale sign of weakness. Your focus on the task at hand, the game, is long gone the minute you start to worry about what you look like on your fans' social media feed.
I hope that we are not confusing toughness with what someone looks like online.
I was lucky to have been taught many valuable lessons on how to exhibit toughness on the court by Coach Marshall. I still utilize many of the lessons to this day, like seeking the toughest road, because I know the road less traveled, although difficult, leads to the best results, the most growth and the highest satisfaction.
I, along with many people from my small hometown can be thankful we were taught the game the right way, the tough way.
By haris takes
If you follow us on social media (Twitter or Facebook), you saw that we posted everyday this week on our first video series on the Basic Fundamentals of the Jab Step.
In our first video, coach Haris gives the very basics of the jab step. Important notes to take away from this fundamental intro are:
The key of the jab step is to keep your defender off balance!
Our second video features coach Jake demonstrating the first jab drill series.
Coach's jab drill focuses on a basic jab step that will get you past the defender with one dribble leading you to a quick scoring opportunity.
From free throw line - jab right, one dribble for a layup (both sides). Don't forget to rip through the defense!
From three point line - jab right, one dribble pull up jumper from free throw line.
Quick tips: make sure you're keeping your pivot foot down and NOT TRAVELING!
Be quick not fast. Make a quick jab and a quick dribble to the hoop. Yes, there is a difference in quickness and being fast.
The third video by coach Haris incorporates a crossover after the initial jab step. Now with this drill we are just adding one simple move after your dribble to get past the next defender. You can incorporate a crossover, between the legs, behind the back, spin move or euro step after the initial one dribble. It is key, especially for youth players to keep it simple and perfect one move at a time. In this video we keep it simple: Jab, crossover, one dribble finish at the rim. Jab, crossover, one dribble pull up jumper.
In our 4th video of the series Jake takes you through another jab drill series: jab step, shot fake, make a move. Simple and effective. The key is to get your defender off balance and make the right read.
Incorporating the move we’ve been preaching all week and reading the defense! We are emphasizing this fundamental because we believe it is critical to dictate your defender and not vise versa. Create the space, read your defender and have the confidence to make the right move.