08 Dec Watch & learn: Effective ball movement
The basketball season is moving into full gear with holiday tournaments and the looming start of conference play. There are opportunities almost every night to watch a game in person or on TV. Coaches and players should take advantage of this time to watch live games instead of focusing on SportsCenter or YouTube highlights, so you can get more familiar with how the great teams operate.
Here are a few things to look for while watching live games:
- Pay attention to the ball movement on offense. Does the ball get stuck in one player’s hands, or are the players quickly moving the ball to the next open player? Successful teams will change sides of the court to create a better shot and tire out the defense. Chart the changes and the shot that results. I can almost guarantee you the best shots come after multiple side changes. Additionally, don’t underestimate the difficulty your opponents face during time on defense. I am not talking about standing and guarding a guy who does not move, but trying to stay with an offensive player who is constantly on the move. Great shooters need fresh legs. The best way to weaken them is to make them play hard on the defensive end of the floor. An offense that moves and changes sides of the court will get a better shot and will also begin to tire the best shooters on the other team.
- Watch to see if the players are sprinting to defense and offense. The best teams make the transition quickly. Pay attention to where their head and eyes are focused. Many young players transition with their heads and eyes down.The best pro and college players sprint with their heads and eyes up. They want to have court awareness. Awareness of where their opponents are and also where the ball and their teammates are headed. Too many middle and high school players run from one end of the court to the other with their head down and end up on top of each other!
- Notice the players’ court balance and spacing. This also requires playing with your head and eyes up. Great court balance involves spreading the players throughout the half court. Proper spacing includes not being too close to your teammates. Improper spacing on offense can allow one defensive player to cover two offensive players.
- Pay close attention to free throw shooting during the last 5 minutes of a close game. Excellent free throw shooting can help eliminate many earlier mistakes. On the flip side, poor free throw shooting can completely wipeout many minutes off excellent play. The best teams will consistently make their free throws down the stretch to close out games.
Coaches and players who want to get better have the chance to learn every night this season. Take advantage of technology and record games of the best teams so you can study their habits and tendencies. It works for the best players as well.
Oh, by the way, I bet you will notice the best teams make the FIRST EASY PASS!