Saturday, June 29, 2013

The Truth about July Basketball

As the calendar turns to July, players with hopes of catching the eye of a college coach will be covering the country to play during the last evaluation period. Not until recently did you hear of kids going to Disney World & NOT planning on seeing the Magic Kingdom & the thought of taking a group of underage kids to Vegas seemed ridiculous but that's the evolution of summer basketball. 
   I am a fan of summer basketball, particularly AAU, as long as it isn't used as a replacement to skill development. I do think there are too many teams out there, as evident by the beat downs some will receive during pool play. I love what Nike did with the EYBL in bringing the best of the best together.
   For what ever reason, players & parents crave exposure. They need to be found. What happens  more than often is they get found out. I would rather they crave competition. That should be the reason for playing: To compete versus the best competition in front of college coaches. Sadly, summer basketball has become an escape from "structured" basketball. "That Coach won't let him play his style." Blah. If a kid can play, any coach is going to play them. 

Here's a couple thoughts on Basketball in July. 

1. Defense is 2nd in July but 1st in March

    I can't tell you the number of people that tell me "he just plays better for his summer team." My usual answer is "that's because summer defense makes your son look like Moses parting the Red Sea." That goes for all summer basketball, high school team camps included. The hardest part of the year for a basketball coach  is (1) getting football kids in basketball shape & (2) stressing defense after your players have played in the spring with their other teams. 
        I Believe that Spring/Summer should be used to increase offensive skills & athleticism. 

   That doesn't mean I agree with just ignoring defense but it does take a back burner. Here is why.  College Coaches will tell you they recruit offense, toughness & teach defense.  Coaches are watching a kid that can score, run & show some toughness by finishing & handling under less than perfect settings set by officials.
                  Side note: When I coached AAU I loved early games because that meant fresh legs on officials. I hate games that have an officials observer. The officials get too caught up in their performance's appearance instead of getting calls right.

    Summer teams don't stress defense. Most summer teams that is. I've seen some very well coached teams that took pride in defense but for the most part it isn't stressed.  Their defense is often based on a press or trap & relying on athleticism. Most teams are going to play a zone. I'm not faulting a summer coach or any coach for playing zone if its to their advantage. Today players can't pass. Sadly, a player cant make a pass without trying to make it a no-look or something fancy. They struggle to read the defense & they all stand and watch the ball being over dribbled. 
     The teams that play M2M usually aren't that good at it for an obvious reason: They don't practice everyday. To be a great M2M team you have to practice it everyday. You can get away with pressing & trapping because teams aren't working on press breaks or pressure releases either. 
   In a team camp at a local university this month, our team played versus a team that featured a guard that has offers from a Big East, Big 12, 2 Missouri Valley & a SEC schools. His coach said he "blew up" in the spring. Good for that young man.  He's a very good player but just because you can score in the spring/summer doesn't mean you'll be able to January through February against more disciplined defenders. We played M2M, held him to 6 & 8 & won both games comfortably, all with a player without a 1 D1 offer. It's a different game.

2. Character Counts
  I'll never forget this. I was walking through the gym at a large tournament in Dallas when a "coach" from another organization in our state stated this, loudly. " Ya'll suck because the F$&"ing High School coaches don't teach you s*^t. You can walk your a$$ back home." Not only was I furious I was embarrassed because right there on his chest said enough. Arkansas. I apologized to a couple of Moms & promised that not only was he not part of our organization but he didn't reflect the citizens of our state.
 Some summer Coaches seem to have this identity that yelling & cussing is coaching. You're not coaching if you don't coach hard. Some Part-time guys make what full time guys do almost impossible. 
Quite frankly, that is why you're doing what you're doing. You couldn't survive with principals, media & rules. That is why I respect AAU & PCA so much. Guidelines. Rules. It's a Real organization. That's why the other tournaments started. They allow coaches to act nuts. I've said it before but you don't call every car a Cadillac so we shouldn't call every summer team an AAU team. That's why I refer to it as summer basketball. On twitter, the hashtag #AAUBINGO points out everything wrong with summer basketball. Again, not all these teams are AAU clubs but its worth a look. Some one let this guy on their sophomore team. 
    Yep, that's an ankle monitor. Apparently the community service he is doing is court ordered & not
    because he cares about the community. Here's a couple tips to remember:
       * No one is there to watch the Coach coach. It's a game not a show. 
       * No hats, Bluetooth, Jerseys & definitely don't shoot with your team. 
       * Select Kids that are good citizens. No coach wants to wait for charges to drop.
       * If you are going to use a State or City's name as part of your team name, please remember that
         before you act.
       * When your team walks in a gym, have them take off their hats, beats, & act like they are going to 
          a game.
       * NO HEADPHONES during warmups. 

3. Motor & More Motor
Play hard. If you're going to play, play the right way. It's that simple. When on the floor play as hard as possible. Don't take plays off. If a player can't get a minute's rest because the bench is that bad then there is the sign this team shouldn't be playing in a certified event. Coaches want to see players compete. The excuse of playing multiple games a day isn't one. Players signed up for that. The biggest place to play hard? Transition, both offense & defense. Don't just run hard with the ball or when you'll get it. Run back on defense. 

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