One of the most engaging aspects of the TeachHoops.com community is the ability to connect with coaches throughout the nation and all over the world. In this basketball coach interview, Coach Collins talks with basketball coaching with Liam Flynn in this wide ranging interview.
Basketball Coaching Interview: Liam Flynn
A brief version of Liam’s resume is below:
His International Experience includes NBA Consultant, Coach in the German Bunderliga and New Zealand NZNBL.
He sports six years of Australian NBL Coaching experience. He was an assistant coach with the Townsville Crocodiles from 2010-2012. In addition, he assisted with the Adelaide 36ers from 2008-2010.
Flynn has 15 years of State League/ABA Coaching Experience. With the Sturt Sabres, Townsville Heat, Southern Districts Spartans.
He has 12 years of experience with State Teams. Such as: QLD U/18 Boys, SA Metro U/16 Boys & U/18 Boys; South Australia U/20 Men
Flynn also has 20 years experience at Junior Representative Level, with Sturt (SA), Southern Districts (QLD) – U/12s through to U/20s
He holds a Masters in Sports Coaching from University of Queensland, as well as a NCAS Level 2 Coaching Accreditation.
One of the most engaging aspects of the TeachHoops.com community is the ability to connect with coaches from all over. In this basketball coach interview, Coach Collins talks with basketball coaching with Jim Boone.
Basketball Coaching Interview
In this basketball coaching interview, Collins discusses a variety of topics with University of Arkansas Fort Smith head coach Jim Boone. Known for his backline defense, Boone takes a no-nonsense approach to his team.
Boone enters his third season as the UAFS head in 2021-22. However, this is his 36th year overall as a head coach at the NCAA Division I and II levels. The veteran leader ranks eighth nationally in wins among active coaches, as well as 32nd all-time. In addition, Boone stands only 24 wins away from reaching a career milestone of 600 wins.
Coach Boone’s career record subsequently speaks to his success on the hardwood. But his real niche has been creating championship cultures. Coaching at NCAA Division II programs, Boone posted a 483-278 (.635) mark. He guided each of his previous four Division II stops to the NCAA Tournament, an unprecedented accomplishment. In addition, Boone’s teams have won eight conference championships. He also has five tournament titles. This is in addition to 12 postseason appearances.
One of the most engaging aspects of the TeachHoops.com community is the ability to connect with coaches throughout the nation and all over the world. In this basketball coach interview, Coach Collins connects with Coach Mark Cascio to discuss his basketball journey and his approach to the game.
Basketball Coach Interview
Mark Cascio stands as a championship-winning head basketball coach with 14-plus years experience in building elite programs, winning cultures, and developing leaders that create memorable experiences. Coach Cascio’s expertise lies in implementing innovative systems on both ends of the floor using advanced knowledge and practices to build winning teams.
Cascio recently joined the coaching staff at Appalachian State University. He arrived at App State after enjoying a successful career as a high school basketball coach for 16 years in Louisiana. He sports a career mark of 333-163 while posting 12 straight winning seasons. In his 16-year tenure, Cascio advanced to five Louisiana High School Athletic Association State Final Fours. This is highlighted by a state championship in 2012. His teams captured seven district titles. And he won seven Coach of the Year awards.
In 16 years as a head coach, he’s led his teams to nine, 20-win seasons and a pair of 30-win campaigns.
In his most recent stop at Catholic High School, he led them to an impressive 174-77 record since 2013. His teams advanced to four final fours, as well as capturing four district titles. And he won four Coach of the Year awards.
Cascio coached Christian Life Academy from 2010-13, where he posted a 75-20 record. In addition, he won a state title and three consecutive seasons with 20-plus victories.
One of the most engaging aspects of the TeachHoops.com community is the ability to connect with coaches throughout the nation and all over the world. In this basketball coach interview, Coach Collins connects with Coach Eric Bridgeland to discuss his basketball journey and his approach to the game.
Basketball Coach Interview
Eric Bridgeland is the head men’s basketball coach at the University of Redlands in Redlands, California.
Bridgeland arrived at Redlands as an esteemed NCAA Division III coach from Whitman College in Walla Walla, Washington. There he led the Blues to three Northwest Conference (NWC) titles and six runner-up finishes. During the last five years, Whitman has qualified for the NCAA tournament each season and advanced to the Sweet-16, Elite-8, and Final Four. His 2019 seniors graduated as the winningest class in NCAA Division III history. And they contributed to three undefeated titles in NWC action and a 67-conference game win streak.
In 12 seasons at Whitman, Bridgeland posted an impressive record of 245-87 (.738) and an NWC mark of 132-44 (.750%). In addition, he owns multiple national, regional, and conference coach of the year awards. His teams consistently land among the national rankings, as highlighted by the No. 1 spot on the D3hoops.com poll late in the 2017 season.
Prior to coaching at Whitman, he served as the head coach at the University of Puget Sound (WA) for five seasons. After taking over a program that had one winning season in the previous nine, Bridgeland and the Loggers put together a stretch of three consecutive NWC titles, three NCAA appearances, and a No. 8 ranking.
Overall, Bridgeland has coached one national player of the year, 12 All-Americans, six conference MVPs, and 40 all-conference selections. He also sent another student-athlete to the NBA combine as one of only five Division III players to be invited in the history of the league.
Check out the Teach Hoops exclusive interview with Coach Bridgeland below. This discussion came in 2019, prior to Bridgeland’s joining the Bulldogs in Redlands.
Conducting an effective basketball tryout can be one of the most difficult aspects of coaching, especially at the youth level. Coaches want to be fair and unbiased in their preparation of tryouts. Coaches need to be ready to evaluate a wide gamut of talent, from kids who’ve never played before to seasoned veterans.
Often time, developing your tryout can be more difficult that even setting up a playing rotation. Tryout day stands as one of the hardest yet most important days on the calendar. How a coach assembles to roster has wide ranging implications for the season.
Conducting Effective Basketball Tryouts
The first question any coach needs to ask themself is: what type of team will you have? The answer to this question will largely influence the types of drills you select. These drills will be staples of any practice plan, but they’ll also be valuable evaluation tools during tryouts.
The first thing to consider is athleticism. Coaches need to implement some sort of transition drill into any effective tryout. Players need to demonstrate how well they run and what type of shape they’re in. From there, higher level transition drills can evaluate decision making skills as well.
Beyond transition drills, coaches should definitely include station work as well. This is particularly useful with multiple coaches on staff. But even if you’re working alone as a coach, being able to have the players rotate through stations will give you a glimpse at their skill level. These stations can include ball handling, form shooting and free throws, among other things.
Small game groups also provides the coach with a good read of the players during tryouts. Having the players play 3-on-3, 2-on-2, or even 1-on-1 brings together several of the evaluation elements you need to consider. In these small group environments, it’s harder for players to “hide.”
Another effective practice during basketball tryouts might be to teach a new drill or offensive set. This forces the players to pay attention for a long stretch of time. It also provides coaches with a look at who the most engaged athletes are. Coaches also get a sense of who the most “coachable” players are during these teaching moments.
Finally, adding some element of communication and teamwork remains incredibly important and valuable. These drills or situations can shine a light on players with leadership potential. They also provide players with an opportunity to stand out among the others.
What to Look For In Players
Assembling a roster can often be a difficult task. But the first thing a coach should consider, especially when working off a roster that has returning players, is, which of these new talents can fill a specific role.
Of these potential new players, are there any that clearly make the team better? Which of the player will the team community? What positions might these new players fill?
Coaches should always look for specific elements as well. Among those elements: Athleticism, Attitude and Effort are key. Beyond that, physical aspects like height and length play a role. Finally, does the player have an “X factor”?
One of the most engaging aspects of the TeachHoops.com community is the ability to connect with coaches throughout the nation and all over the world. In this basketball coach interview, Coach Collins connects with Aseem Rastogi to discuss his basketball journey and his approach to the game.
Basketball Coach Interview
Aseem Rastogi joined the Brandeis women’s basketball staff prior to the 2019-20 season as an assistant coach.
Rastogi coached girls and basketball at the scholastic level in Maryland, Virginia, and Washington, D.C., for seven years prior to joining the Judges. As the head varsity coach at South County High School in Lorton, Virginia, he coached his team to a record-breaking season in 2018-29. The team achieved its first-ever ranking in The Washington Post (#18). In addition, the team set school records for points in a game (81), 3-pointers made in a season (124), assists in a season (308), and points in a season (1257).
Before that, at W.T. Woodson High, Rastogi helped the program host its first district playoff game. Also, the team appeared in its first regional playoff game in 5 years. During this time, Rastogi developed nine different all-district players. He also coordinated the first-ever girls elite camp in the history of Northern Virginia girls basketball.
Prior to that, Rastogi spent 2012-13 at Division I Virginia Commonwealth University as Director of Player Personnel and Interim Director of Basketball Operations.
Offseason development remains one of the most important elements for any basketball team. Both players and the program as a whole need to focus on skill improvement during the long summer months between seasons. While there are plenty of approaches a coach or player might consider, the use of a basketball shot tracker can be one of the most impactful.
Basketball Shot Tracker
Now, we’re not talking about the wearable sensor here when discussing this shot tracker. No, this tracker uses a traditional statistical logging sheet to give a player or program a wide view of a shooter’s performance.
This tool is a particularly one because it helps the players and the coaches better understand an individual’s strengths as a shooter. Sometimes the eye-test works, but other times, having black-and-white statistics helps paint a clearer picture.
The sheet itself sports columns for two-pointers made and attempted, three-pointers made and attempted, as well as free throws made and attempted. This simple set up affords the shooter with a clear view of the areas where they need improvement.
The sheet can be adapted to further breakdown shot attempts by area on the floor. By having the players log their makes and misses, the coach incorporates accountability to the offseason workouts.
Coach Collins sits down with Coach Patrick O’Neill of Ulster University to discuss developing basketball culture and practice planning. Coming from Ireland, O’Neill needed to developing his program’s culture largely from scratch.
Developing Basketball Culture
O’Neill says their team culture is comprised of three essential pillars: values, attitudes, and goals. He calls values the standards of behavior, often a judgment of what is important in life. Attitudes are defined as the way a player thinks and feels about something. O’Neill defines goals as “the object of a person’s ambition or effort.” Also, “an aim or desired result.”
O’Neill leaned on four keys during his coaching career. He says honest communication stands as one of the most important elements within his program. He also said he realized he needed to up his coaching game, focusing on preparation. The other two keys he relied upon were balance and understanding.
He empowered his players to take ownership of their own development, and he understood the individual circumstances for his players. O’Neill made it a point to make himself available and approachable to the players as well.
But O’Neill admits it wasn’t all perfect. He learned very quickly “shoehorning” a player into his philosophy could be counter productive. Good coaches adapt their approach for each new collection of players they come across. He also admitted being totally positive, especially in the face of defeat, did not work.
Coach O’Neill went on to discuss his approach to practice planning.
O’Neill approaches each session with a detailed plan of attack. He portions off practice segments with specific focuses. Some of the sections include warm up, skill development, and team-wide work.
Within each section, O’Neill’s practice plan lists the specific drill that will be conducted. In addition, he adds the points of emphasis during the segments and drills.
This level of organization allows O’Neill to maximize practice time and move seamlessly between focuses.
Planning any program’s basketball practice remains one of the most important aspects of coaching. No matter if it’s a preseason workout, in-season session, or postseason shoot around, a well-organized practice produces meaningful results.
Coach Collins sat down recently with veteran basketball coach Sean Doherty to discuss his approach practice planning. Coach Doherty currently serves as the head boys coach at Hamden Hall Country Day. Doherty sports more than 20 years experience coaching basketball, including stops as a former Division-1 assistant at Holy Cross, Western Kentucky and Quinnipiac. In addition to those duties, Doherty also served as a top assistant at Division II powerhouse Assumption College, as well as being the former head coach at Salem State.
Basketball Practice Planning
Coach Doherty urges all other basketball coaches to be organized. He suggests meeting with staff to discuss daily and weekly practice plans. If coaching without a staff, he still recommends detailed planning, including a written plan for players to see such as a “Daily Improvement Sheet.”
He calls it integral that coaches have a firm understanding of plays/drills need to be cover during season heading into their first practice.
Doherty also recommends a weekly plan for the team, which includes off the court events. He likens this to lessons plans for classroom teachers.
Doherty says: “Practice is where we create our winning culture.” He calls for accountability should be in all segments. He also recommends tracking Effort Stats. Part of the culture development includes teaching “great teammate” elements, such as: run to guys who fall/take charge, make a huge hustle play, bench up and down, high fives, emotion at right time, etc.
To handle winning and losing correctly, Doherty recommends competitive practice games. This also aids in accountability.”Enthusiasm and Energy is a huge part of all our winning habits,” Doherty says.
Developing the right series of basketball shooting workouts remains one of the most important aspects for any basketball coach. No matter the level of the team, the correct drills that teach and reinforce fundamental skills stand as valuable part of any practice plan.
Basketball Shooting Workouts: 4 Rounds
The first drill to consider incorporating into your basketball shooting workouts is called “4 Rounds.”
This drill can be done individually or within a small group setting.
For this drill, the shooter progresses through a series of spots in the half court, focusing on form and rhythm.
The first two shots from any of the sections remains a form-shooting attempt. The player should use only one hand and focus specifically on release and spin.
The next two shots build on the form-shooting element, now incorporating the guide hand. But with these shots, the shooter still does not leave the floor with the attempt. For the final shot in the section, the shooter steps beyond the three-point line and shoots from there. That attempt should incorporate all of the fundamentals for proper form, elevation and release.
As the shooter progresses through this sequence, they must keep track of their makes. Any miss moves the shooter to the next section. The goal of the drill is to make as many attempts as possible while maintaining proper form throughout.
The name “4 Rounds” comes from the drill’s set up, since every shooter progresses through the drill four times. 100 stands as the most points a shooter can score.
One way to stress proper form with this drill is to require “perfect shots” with the first two attempts in each section. A “perfect shot” is one that’s made without touching the rim. This can also be adapted to be a useful competitive practice game.
The “Burner Drill” stands as a useful sequence either in pre-practice warm up or in post-practice wrap up.
For this drill, a single shooter takes three-pointers for five minutes. One or two additional players provide rebounding and passing support for the shooter.
As the shooter navigates the five minute time limit, he or she should focus on form and elevation. The shooter must set his or her feet before each shot attempt. Shooters should also get in the habit of preparing to shoot before the ball even arrives in their hands.
Shooting for five consecutive minutes often leaves the shooter gassed. The drill “burns” the shooters energy. But it’s important for the shooter to maintain the proper form even in the closing moments of the drill.
This drill can be adapted to be an individual workout as well, with the shooter retrieving the ball after each shot attempt. In that case, the shooter can take shots from a variety of spots along the three-point arc. This, too, can be adapted to be a competitive practice game.
Developing the right defensive approach can often be one of the most difficult tasks for coaches at any level. Defense often directly leads to wins. As the cliche goes: Defense wins championships. So when a coach is faced with the decision to develop a pressure system for the team, there are a number of choices. Among them, the 1-2-2 basketball press stands as an effective option, especially for coaches with developing teams.
1-2-2 Basketball Press
The good thing about the 1-2-2 basketball press is that it’s fairly easy to coach. This press also stands as a relatively safe option for coaches who don’t want to leave the back line of the defense open. This press also becomes particularly effective when the player at the top can provide ample pressure on the ball.
This defensive alignment takes advantage of a team’s best athletes. The primary strength of this press remains the constant application of ball pressure. This press also allows the defense to control the tempo and flow of the ball game. It can be particularly useful in places that incorporate a shot clock.
The 1-2-2 press allows the defense to trap along the side line. It often forces the offense into awkward counter alignments, which can lead to mistakes and turnovers.
While other full court presses, like the 2-2-1 or “diamond” press, try to leverage the back court to force a turnover, those alignments often leave the back end lightly covered. The 1-2-2 press keeps a pair of players back, doubling that back line.
This press can be useful in breaking an opponent’s offensive rhythm. It can also be folded back into several different half court zones or even a man-to-man.
Coaches must stress protecting the middle of the floor when implementing this press. Coaches should also stress trapping along the side line.
Communication is key with this press, like any other, because each offensive pass will require a defensive realignment on the floor.
Watch the video below where Coach Collins and Coach Jaryt Hunziker talk through all of the alignments and permutations of this press.
Youth player development can be an avenue for coaches to share their love of the game. But if a team is going to be successful, it takes more than just love. Coaches are tasked with improving players both individually and within the context of the team. And during the planning stages, including a favorite basketball drill might make practice all the more enjoyable.
Coach Nabil Murad has been working in the Education & Sports Sector for more than 10 years. Nabil has a proven track record of developing players to achieve their full potential using tailored development programs and a variety of motivational methods. Murad is currently in Austria working with Gmunden Swans youth basketball program to develop players along the player development pathway.
This is a full-court competitive practice game that allows coaches to install a specific play or set, while also practice key defensive principles. In the half court, the offense runs their first action against a full compliment of defenders. If this action results in a basket, then the offense and defense switch. But if the defense gets a stop, then it’s a full court game.
The defensive stop flows into transition offense as that squad seeks to score. Only points scored off of defensive stops count in this competitive practice game. This game should flow back and forth for several minutes before coaches change anything.
Emphasis: Defense. Basketball coaches that incorporate this competitive practice game look to establish the mindset that the team needs to focus on getting defensive stops before getting to the offensive end of the floor.
Finding an identity for a team stands as one of the most unique challenges for coaches. Building a Basketball Brand, Culture and Program, not matter the level, must be done on a solid foundation. Without clear principles, the program might drift along listless and without direction. For coaches, creating an environment to empower the student-athletes remains one of the most important undertakings.
In this wide ranging interview, Coach Neal discussed his journey to becoming the head girls basketball coach at Pea Ridge High school, in Pea Ridge, Arkansas. Neal went from Arkansas State University to the US Navy. He served for five years and deployed all over the world. That military training still informs much of his coaching approach.
After the military, Neal returned to the University of Arkansas to finish his degree. There, he became a student athletic trainer for the Razorback football team, then led by Bobby Petrino.
In his five years coaching at Pea Ridge, Neal’s compiled a 78-47 record overall and a finish in the elite eight of the state tournament.
An important foundation for any program to build upon is a definitive set of values. These core values inform everything within the program, from commitment to the players, to communication with families.
For Coach Neal, the core values that support his program are: Truth, Trust, Togetherness, Integrity, Competitiveness, Competition, Effort and Intensity.
“Confidence is earned through detailed preparation.”
In addition, Neal says building the program relationship driven. Connections within the community help build excitement. And that excitement ultimately leads to positive support.
Coaches must remember the importance of their position. A coach remains one of the most influential individuals in society. A coach will influence more people in one year than most people in a lifetime.
Coaches are great thieves. Resources, materials and terminology are often swapped online, at clinics, and even during basketball games. But where coaches can introduce the most unique elements comes in the specific development of a program’s culture. Building a basketball program comes down to what commitments a coach wants to make.
Building a Basketball Program
Coach Collins sat down with Coach Burton Uwarow to discuss building a basketball program. In this video on the Teach Hoops YouTube channel, the two went through the ins and outs of establishing an identity. This establishment involved specific commitments and focuses coaches need to consider when starting their programs.
Coach Uwarow, from Greenville, South Carolina, said the coaches he played for growing up and coached with greatly influenced his coaching philosophy. Uwarow also listed resources from Bob Hurley, Mike Krzyzewski, Pat Summitt, John Wooden and Morgan Wootten as significant influences as well.
Uwarow called commitment and passion his driving forces. He also acknowledged building a program also involves gathering resources. Supplementing budgets from an athletic department through fundraisers stands as an unwelcome but important task for any program.
Among the most important elements he named, Uwarow stressed organization, player discipline and parent-coach relationships.
Developing the right basketball shooting drill remains one of the key elements for any successful coach. Considering the sometimes wild variation of skill level within a team, it’s important that these exercises can maximize any player’s potential. Coaches sift through hundreds of options and seemingly countless variations, hoping to find something that works for their team.
Coaches know that not every player can do everything on the floor. Players have their strengths and weaknesses. And it’s the task of a good developmental coach to find the right drills to improve upon those weaknesses while growing those strengths.
Basketball Shooting Drill: Around the Horn
Around the Horn is a useful basketball shooting drill for players at any level. This drill also provides coaches with the ability to set up individual workouts as well as integrate team elements.
Players might recognize a version of this drill as the old playground game “around the world.”
This drill emphasizes repetition. The shooter progresses through seven spots, arrayed around the perimeter of the floor.
Depending upon the skill level of the shooter, this drill could being near the key, in the midrange, or beyond the three-point arc.
As an individual exercise, this drill involves the shooter taking their shot, then tracking down the rebound. This drill can be adapted to include a rebounder and a passer. Those additional players would also find value in this drill, considering they get to work on other skills as well.
To implement this drill well, the shooter must maintain the proper shooting form throughout. Getting their feet set and hands ready to receive the pass also stand as important elements to this drill.
Adding the timing element allow for the player to focus and provide max effort through the progression. This could also become a competitive practice game.
Basketball Shooting Drill: M-Drill
Another valuable basketball shooting drill is the M-Drill. In this sequence, a shooter navigates a timed progression of shots while a teammate rebounds and feeds the ball.
The shooter moves through five perimeter spots on the floor, taking a shot from each one. The shooter can’t move on to the next spot until they’ve made a shot at each stop.
This drill adds an element of urgency through the one-minute time limit. Shooters must progress quickly and efficiently, concentrating on their form, foot work and movement.
The M-Drill is designed to be a multi-round set. The goal for each shooter is to make it to the next round. Round one involves the shooter making one shot from each spot. Round two increases the number to two makes from each spot. The subsequent rounds also increase in makes, but the time never does.
The goal for each shooter is to remain focused and disciplined despite the time crunch. This drill can help in developing end-of-game situations as well.
Preparing for end of game situations are crucial for basketball coaches at any level. Often times, however, this remains overlooked when developing their practice plans. Coaches continually drill aspects of an offensive set or a defensive approach, but sometimes forget those end-of-game scenarios.
Competitive practice games stand as one useful tool. These drills inject energy into practice that’s usually reserved for game nights. Competitive games, especially ones where the losing team feels the consequences, allow coaches to bring a high-level of energy to the practice floor.
Another thing basketball coaches should consider is developing specific in-practice scenarios to prepare for those end of game situations. These scenarios might play out during a controlled scrimmage. But adding specific elements like time and score will aid in that preparation. Something like, asking a team to hold a single-digit lead for three minutes. Or maybe the “best” player is not available due to foul trouble. Options are only limited by the coach’s creativity.
Check out the YouTube link below for a specific discussion between coaches on how to deal with end of game situations. In this segment, coaches use real game footage to talk through the options available.
For any coach, practice planning and building culture are keys for any successful basketball program. How a coach integrates these elements into their team approach speaks to their preparation and expectations. In this extended episode of the Coach Unplugged podcast, Coach Collins sits down with Coach Jeremy Thompson of Monroe College to discuss the approaches within his program.
Coach Thompson on Practice Planning and Building Culture
Coach Thompson stresses consistency and culture in his approach to practice planning. He often integrates quotes of day, like “If you don’t practice, don’t expect to win.” His plans often include both offensive and defensive emphasis points.
Thompson enters his third season with the Monroe Express women’s basketball program in 2021-22. In his first season with the program in 2019-20, Thompson led the Express to a 19-13 overall record. It stands as the team’s second-ever Region 15 Championship Tournament win.
Thompson was previously with City College of New York (CCNY) as associate head coach. In his final season with the Beavers, Thompson helped lead the team to a CUNYAC Final Four appearance.
Thompson began his women’s basketball coaching career at Staples High School in Westport, Conn. He served as the head freshman coach in 2013-14 and the assistant varsity coach in 2014-15. Thompson coached the freshmen to the No.-1-ranking in the Fairfield County Interscholastic Conference (FCIAC) among freshman teams in 2014. The varsity team made the FCIAC playoffs in 2015 under Thompson’s tutelage.
Coaching basketball at any level often means teaching situational awareness. The out of bounds play stands as a key situation any basketball offense must master. These sets afford a team with a quick-hitting opportunity, as well as a chance to enter into the normal offensive flow.
Out of Bounds Play
Designing a useful Out of Bounds Play provides coaches with multiple options. A good set allows the offense to immediately attack the defense with a series of calculated cuts. And if the initial quick-hitting action doesn’t produce a scoring opportunity, the set seamlessly flows into a normal offensive action.
For this play, the initial set up calls for a Box formation. This formation puts the bigs, 4 and 5, at the elbows. 1 and 2 man the low blocks to start.
In the first action, 1 provides a cross screen for 2. 2 cuts to the strong side corner. The inbounder looks to make this corner pass first.
After setting the initial cross screen, 1 cuts up the court in a zipper action. 4 and 5 provide the screens in this elevator action. From the corner, 2 looks to pass to 1.
The permutations of this set might see an open three-pointer from 2 in the corner, or an open three-pointer from 1 near the top. If the defense overplays 2’s pass to 1, there might be an opportunity for a slip from one of the bigs. If both of those opportunities are covered up, the offense might flow into a continuity set.
Another option might be a down screen from 2 for the inbounder. 3 can pop to either corner after the entry pass for an open look.
When talking about basketball full court presses, coaches refer to the defensive tactic of applying pressure on the offense the entire length of the floor. Depending upon the style of the press itself, a defense might pressure the ball before it’s even been inbounded. Well-drilled teams often find the use of a full court press to be a game-altering proposition.
Before deciding on a press, coaches must understand the limitations of their team. The defense must be well-conditioned and disciplined in order to effectively use a full court press. If not done well or correctly, the full court press might surrender easy scoring opportunities on the other end.
Reasons for Basketball Full Court Presses
The reasoning behind implementing any style of basketball full court presses remains applying pressure to the offensive unit. Presses allow the defense to control the pace of a game. Presses also allow for the defense to create transition opportunities on offense.
If a team is trailing in a game, a full court press might provide the best chance at scoring quick buckets. The press could result in a turnover, or it might force the offense into a quick shot on the other end. Either of those outcomes provides the defense with another opportunity.
In states where the games are played with a shot clock, using a full court press can burn valuable seconds off the clock. Presses often result in lob passes across the court, which rob the offense of their time.
Implementing a consistently, high-energy full court press also affords the coach with the ability to expand the team’s rotation. Having 10 to 12 players capable of performing at a high level will leverage these high-energy attacks.
Types of Basketball Full Court Presses
While there are a number of variations available and different vocabularies, basketball full court presses often boil down to a few basic set ups.
A full court man-to-man press creates a chaotic, scramble environment that allows the defense to control the pace of the game. This option can incorporate a ball-denial approach for every player, or for specific offensive players. An initial overplay might dictate where the ball gets entered. From there, the man-to-man press allows for multiple trapping opportunities in both the full court and half court.
A soft version of the man-to-man full court press might simply force a zig-zag break from the offense, which would burn valuable seconds and might disrupt play timing.
Common zone full court presses include the 2-2-1 and 1-2-1-1 (sometimes called the “diamond press”).
The 2-2-1 press might be particularly valuable to a team that uses a 2-3 zone, or some other configuration, as its base half court defense. The 2-2-1 full court easily folds back into a half court zone. It also applies pressure to the ball and forces the offense to use the sidelines. This pressure moves the offense into potential trapping areas and tries to key to ball out of the middle of the floor.
The 1-2-1-1 or “diamond” seeks to trap the initial offensive pass. This press often allows the offense to initiate the action to a specific spot, then converges from there. The trap applies immediate pressure deep on the floor, so any turnover can be quickly turned into an offensive opportunity.
What to Consider Before Installing a Press
Coaches must evaluate their roster before deciding which full court press will be most beneficial. Some of the other considerations include: when to press, and when to remove the press.
Many presses are implemented following a made field goal, made free throw or off a dead ball. Coaches might mix and match their approach, but those are typically the options. The decision to remove the press usually comes when either the opponent easily navigates the pressure, or the defense is not running it properly. Zone presses often fold back into half court zones at a given point.
Beyond those considerations, others include denying the entry pass and protecting the rim. Denying the entry pass might make an initial trap difficult, and this can be beat with a pass over the top. Protecting the rim might use a safety, or a player rotation.
Trapping the basketball provides the defense with its most high-leverage play in any of the full court presses. But coaches must be clear regarding the expectations for their team when trapping, both on and off the ball. Are there specific areas on the floor that always signal a trap? What do the weak side defenders do?
As with anything, communication is key to a successful full court press.
Every basketball coach needs to be clear on their vocabulary for their team. Some basketball terms are interchangeable, while others are wholly unique. When discussing the concept of basketball entry plays, a coach might think of an inbound play like a SLOB or a BLOB. But an “entry” can also be considered any play that gets the offense going, providing both quick hitting options as well as getting into a continuity offense.
Sometimes, these plays are described as “false motions” or “decoy motions.” Regardless of the terminology, coaches need plays that deal specifically with pressure. Pressure-release plays must combat defenses that overplay or deny passes to the wings or the post.
Basketball Entry Play
This play begins with using the 1-4 High set.
1 starts with a dribble entry to the wing. As 1 makes his way to the wing, 2 imitates a zipper or loop cut.
2 cuts down and loops around 5, who provides the down screen.
As that action is taking place, 3 cuts to the corner as a decoy action.
This initial action might get an open look for 2 at the top of the key.
Any defensive overplay might result in a dump down pass to 5 for a layup.
3 pops up from the corner to receive a pass on the wing.
1, meanwhile, cuts from the opposite wing to the strong side corner. He cuts along the baseline, receiving a screen from 4 at the block to free him.
2 reverses the ball to 3 on the wing. Once that pass has happened, 5 provides a flare screen for 2.
This action might get an open shot for 3. It might also get an open shot for 1 in the corner, or 4 on the block.
The final sequence of this play sees 3 make the decisions. He might be open, or 1 in the corner, or 4 on the block.
3 can also skip pass to 2, whose flair screen might see him open on the opposite side. Depending on how the defense plays it, 5 might slip the screen for an open layup as well.
The value of a play like this one remains the pressure-release aspect. If a defense overplays or denies certain passes, preventing a team from initiating a continuity offense, then a set like this one provides a useful counter attack.
If this sequence hasn’t produced a good look, the offense can immediately shift into a continuity offense set.
The fast break stands as of the most exciting plays in basketball. Regardless of a team’s skill level, the fast break injects a level of energy and excitement to any game. Coaches constantly scheme for ways to incorporate a fast break offense for their team, and the 2-Side Fast Break allows them to do just that.
2-Side Fast Break Offense
The 2-Side Fast Break Offense loads a pair of players on the weak-side of the floor, the “two-side.” One player takes the weak-side corner, while the other takes the weak-side wing. The ball handler attacks from the opposite end, which features an empty corner. One of the bigs fills the rim runner role, while the rebounder who outlet the ball occupies the trail position.
This approach to fast break offense avoids players racing to balance the floor. Instead, the 2-side spaces the floor completely for the ball handler, allowing that player to dictate how the play unfolds. The ball handler attacks the paint, forcing the defense to choose which of the weak side options on the “two-side” will be left open.
The ball handler always looks to pressure the paint on the break, and if that means kicking the ball ahead, he makes the pass.
With the numbered break, the ball centers and the wings are occupied by runners. Sometimes, based on how a defensive possession played out, one of the wings would find themselves out of position. That player might cut across the floor, ultimately ruining some of the timing of the fast break. That relocating might short circuit the flow of the break and ruin whatever opportunities had presented themselves.
2-Side Fast Break Into Base Offense
Not every fast break opportunity will result in a basket, or even a good shot attempt. It’s important for players to understand that just because they’re on a break doesn’t mean they need to take a fast shot. Sometimes, the transition defense covers up any openings and the offense is forced to run a half-court set.
If the defense prevents a score or shot attempt, teams using the 2-side fast break set up can easily flow into a base offense.
The break itself saw the 2 and 3 both run the weak-side of the floor. 2 takes the corner and 3 the wing. 4 started as a rim runner on the break, but since nothing materialized, he cleared to the strong-side corner.
1 probed the defense, but ultimately is forced to run a set. To initiate this set, 1 finds the 5 man, who was trailing the fast break. The 2-side fast break flows immediately into a 5-out offensive set.
After making the centering pass to 5, 1 cuts through the lane.
As 1 makes his cut, he receives two screens away. 2 comes in to set the first screen, then 3 lowers to set another one.
This “floppy” action allows 1 to potentially get a look at a three-pointer on the wing. 2 cuts after his screen, and runs off a single screen from 4 on the opposite side.
From here, 5 looks to get the ball to 1 on the wing as he’s curling off the two screens.
Base Offense Attack
5 sprints into a ball screen after making the pass to 1. This action creates a three-man game on the strong side of the floor. It forces the defense to make decisions on how to cover up the sudden movement.
1 attacks the lane off the ball screen and 5 rolls. 3 lifts from the corner to the wing.
1 reads the defense to determine the next move. 3’s defender might take 5’s roll, leaving 3 open on the wing. If 3’s defender stays home and 5’s defender steps up to hedge the ball screen, 5 will be open on the roll.
If 2’s defender sags to help on the drive, 2 will be open on the wing. Should 4’s defender sags into the lane to help, 4 will be open in the corner.
If this action unfolds quickly enough, 1 might find the lane opens thanks to a still scrambling defense.
Basketball coaches at any level have a limited amount of time with their players. So maximizing practice time, especially entering a new season, becomes paramount. At the youth level, this remains a stark reality. Coaches might only have their players for a few hours a week. No matter the level, basketball coaches invariably spend time practice planning.
Basketball Practice Planning
Most basketball coaches have their own approaches to practice planning. Some minimize the pre-practice work, opting instead for what feels right in the moment. Others build off of the previous day, or something that stood out in the last game. A coach might scribble notes on a pad or random slip of paper. That paper usually finds itself tucked behind the elastic of the coach’s shorts.
The key to a good practice plan will always be efficiency. Coaches must consider not only what their specific goals are, but how those goals will be reached within a given time frame. Youth leagues often limit practice time. Even high school teams find themselves forced into a given time slot at the school’s gym.
The best practice plans can be constructed on one sheet of paper. This paper focuses the goals and approaches for the day. Having a wide view of practice allows a coach to establish a logical progression through the drills. The plan can also keep a general timing structure, although flexibility is key for any coach.
By listing the drills and concepts clearly on the practice plan, coaches know exactly what the focus of each practice segment will be. This will eliminate any lost time between drills or segments, maximizing contact time.
Sample Practice Plan
Every coach should know the amount of time available to them for practice, both how long each practice will be and what the schedule looks like for the week.
From there, it’s a matter of dividing the time of each practice. These segments will have specific focuses. Segments might include warm-up and stretching, individual skill development or larger team concepts.
One helpful inclusion for any basketball coach’s practice planning is a drill library. Having the different drills listed directly on the plan itself will facilitate movement from segment to segment. The drill library can include not only the drills themselves, but also the specific focus points for development.
Having a drill library also allows a coach to vary practices from session to session. Sure, each coach will have a core set of drills they like to implement, but falling into a rigid routine is something to avoid. Keeping practice fresh can only benefit the players and maintain engagement.
Beyond that, varying the practice plan itself allows for the drills and segments that invariably will be cut short because others went long to be incorporated into the next practice.
Coaching basketball at the youth level invariably involves dealing with zone defenses. The most common zone, 2-3, allows developing teams to hide certain players on the defensive end. It can also frustrate offenses to no end, especially if the offensive players tend to stick to their spots. So, as zones become more and more common even at the game’s highest levels, it’s integral that every coach knows exactly what they want to do when attacking a 2-3 zone.
One of the most common misconceptions to combating a good zone is the reliance on distance shooting. Teams might have a reliable zone-buster on their team, capable of consistently draining three-pointers. But the reality is most defenses would rather their opponent launch from deep rather than attack for higher percentage shots near the rim.
Keys to Attacking a 2-3 Zone
The first, and perhaps most important, key to attacking a 2-3 zone remains not settling for a three-point shot. Of course, if a three-pointer comes as a clean result of an offensive action, then by all means take it. But too often, teams settle for threes against zones because they can’t consistently pressure the paint. Approaching the zone with a one-pass-shot, or ball-reversal-shot, gets the defense off the hook.
Another key to combatting the zone is movement. Many times, the offensive players stand around and the zone shifts with each pass. The offense occupies set positions during the possession in hopes of finding an opening. The reality is, the openings won’t appear until more than just the ball moves. Accompanying a pass with a hard cut, filling the vacant spots, and forcing the defense to account for the movement stresses the rigidity of the zone.
A forgotten key against a zone defense is offensive rebounding. With defenders occupying designated areas instead of checking specific players, boxing out becomes problematic. Facing any zone creates lanes for offensive players to crash the boards on missed shots. The misses often result in scramble situations which could yield good scoring opportunities.
The final key to dealing with this defensive set up is learning how to screen the zone. While ball screens are typically staple counters against man-to-man defense, learning to screen the zone forces the defense to immediately adjust their alignment. If the defense doesn’t adjust, huge openings appear within the zone itself.
Continuity Offense Attacking a 2-3 Zone
Continuity offenses stand as one of the most valuable approaches to attacking a 2-3 zone. These plays and sets create a rhythm and offensive flow that allows the team to stress the opposing defense. Offensive players know where to go as each pass is made within the continuity. The constant flow forces the defense to adjust, not only to each pass but also to each cut.
The set up for this continuity involves using a 1-3-1 counter to the 2-3 zone. 1 brings the ball down, with 2 and 3 on the wings. 4 occupies the high post, while 5 takes the low post. The initial action is a pass to either wing. 4 reads that initial pass, then cuts with the ball to that strong-side corner (or short corner).
From there, 5 presents as a low-post option and 2 cuts across from the opposite wing. 2 flashes to the open elbow area, while 1 makes a flare cut to the opposite wing. 3 reads the movement of the defense before making the next pass. If 2 doesn’t immediately receive the ball at the elbow, they lift to the top of the key.
The continuous element of this continuity offense comes if the defense recovers through the initial movement. 3 gets the ball to 2, who reverses to 1. As the ball switches sides, both 4 and 5 cut to the new strong side of the offense. 4 makes the baseline cut behind the zone, while 5 flashes to the opposite low post.
As the ball reverses, 3 makes the cut across, flashing to the open elbow. 2 makes a flare cut to the opposite wing, away from the ball.
Variations to this Continuity
A variation for this set could involve 5 cutting to the corner or short corner, then 4 cuts into the low post. This would be an option of the 4 and 5 are interchangeable on offense.
Another variation involves using a skip pass. If the defense overplays the elbow cut, or overplays the potential ball reversal at the top, the wing can use the skip pass to the opposite side. As that skip is happening, 4 and 5 make their cross cuts like normal.
A drawback to running continuity will always be the defense learning the cuts that are coming. Adding a slight variation to the progression might catch the defense off guard. Varying this continuity with an overload option should yield good looks.
In the overload, 1 makes the initial wing pass, but instead of cutting away, 1 cuts to the strong side corner. From there, 5 turns and screens the middle of the zone and 4 flashes to the open low post area. 2 can stay wide for a skip pass or cut up to the top of the key.
It’s key for the offensive players to be patient when attacking a 2-3 zone. Force the defense to adjust to each pass and cut before settling for a shot. The initial progression through the continuity might not yield openings, but as the offense moves, the defense must remained disciplined. If the defense is slow to adjust, the openings will be there.
Coaches with talented playmakers often face a similar defensive set up: high-pressure in the half court. To combat this pressure, a coach might incorporate a high screen to free up the ball handler. But defensive-minded coaches can counter in a variety of ways. Defenses can blitz the pick-and-roll, hard hedge or trap. Enter the Ram and Veer offense.
Each defensive counter is specifically designed to get the ball out of the playmaker’s hands. Once a playmaker surrenders the ball, getting it back within the flow of the offense can prove problematic. The Ram and Veer offensive sets get multiple actions going, so the defense can’t key in on one specific player.
Ram and Veer Offense: The Basic Actions
The vast majority of basketball teams, regardless of level, incorporate some sort of pick-and-roll action into their base offense. The pick-and-roll is such a fundamental action in basketball that it filters from the top (as a staple of all NBA offenses) down the the lowest youth level.
But defenses can key on particularly talented playmakers to remove the ball from their hands. To combat potential defensive counters, a coaches can install Ram and Veer offense actions.
“Ram” designates an action where a smaller player screens down on a big’s defender to free the big to set a high ball-screen. This action frees the big to set the screen without his defender immediately engaging in some blitz, hedge or trap.
“Veer” designates an action where a player who has just set a ball-screen, immediately moves into an off-ball screen for another player. The initial screen is sometimes called a “ghost” screen, then, instead of rolling to the basket, the screen moves into a wide pin-down screen for a teammate away from the ball.
The Veer action preys upon a defense’s “tag” of the roller. In the image above, 5 sets the ghost screen for 1, then immediately moves into the veer action. Typically, 2’s defender is tasked with “tagging” the roll man in a high pick-and-roll, so he’d cheat off his man. But the veer action sets the pin-down screen for 2, freeing him up completely.
Depending upon how aggressive a defense is when handling the initial screen action, Veer also creates the opportunity for the screen to slip for an open layup.
Ram and Veer Offense: Play Option 1
The first play that would be useful against aggressive, trapping defenses, relies mostly on the Ram action. For this play, 3 should be the best shooter on the floor. 1 executes a dribble hand-off (DHO) with 2, which is largely a decoy action. From there, the play progresses quickly.
1 and 2 initiate the action with the DHO on the wing, while 3 begins the Ram action with a down screen for 5. 5 sprints to the top of the key, where he completes a ball-screen for 2, who is attacking off the initial action. 5 rolls as 2 turns the corner.
As this action is unfolding at the top of the key, 3 gets a pin-down screen from 4 to free him up on the opposite wing. So, as 2 attacks the lane, his options include 5 as the roll man, 3 for a kick out, or keeping the ball for an elbow jumper or layup. If 4’s defender overplays the pin-down screen, he can slip for a layup. 1 remains an option for the throwback pass as well.
This action is particularly useful at the high school level to combat overly aggressive defenses. This core actions also appear regularly at the NBA level.
Ram and Veer Offense: Play Option 2
This next play option incorporates both the Ram and Veer actions into the offense. The initial set up for this play implements a double-stack under the basket. The shooters execute a floppy cut to get open on the wings, an action that’s particularly effective at the high school level.
From there, the action of the play unfolds. 1 hits 2 coming off the floppy and immediately initiates the Ram action. 4 races up to set the ball screen for 2. As that’s happening, 1 cuts off a screen from 5 along the baseline and occupies the strong side corner. 2’s first look, before using 4’s screen, should be the corner.
If the corner pass is there, 1 receives and either shoots or immediately attacks the defense. If the shot isn’t there, 5 initiates a back screen for 2, who cuts. After the back screen, 5 enters into a ball screen for 1, who attacks from there.
If the ball doesn’t go to 1 in the corner, 2 has the ball screen from 4 (Frame 4 above). This becomes the Veer action. 4 sets a ball screen, then sprints into a pin-down screen for 1. 2 attacks into the lane as 1 lifts on the wing. 5 can seal his man for either 2’s layup opportunity or for a dump down. 3 occupies the opposite corner.
Ram and Veer Offense: Quick Hitter
Ram and Veer use several actions to free up ball-handlers and create opportunities on offense. These actions can be particularly useful against overly aggressive defenses that like to blitz, hard hedge or trap screens.
It’s important when teaching screening at practice that the screeners know to sprint into their screens. If a player jogs to the screen, this allows the defense to adjust and defeats the purpose of the screen itself.
This last play option combines the two actions into one quick hitting option. This is a useful after-timeout play call, or even as an end-of-game situation.
The action sees 3, the team’s best shooter, set the Ram screen for 5. 5 sprints into the ball screen and immediately cuts into the Veer action. 5 does a pin-down away from the ball for 2, while 3 receives a down screen from 4 on the opposite wing. 1 uses the initial ball screen and pressures the defense. 1 can pass to either wing off this set, or attack on his own.