Before every basketball game I coach, I list 6 aspects of the game and tell my team that if we win these aspects of the game, we win the game. This season I expect to have a competent manager and his job will be to chart the 6 battles that win the war.
1. Free Throws – To win this battle you must make more free throws than your opponent. The easiest way to do that is to take more free throws. Getting to the line is evidence of your teams aggressiveness in attacking the basket, and being strong with the ball. Keeping the other team off the line is evidence of your teams discipline on the defensive end, both technical (dumb fouls) and tactical (keeping the ball out of the lane). Reflect on the games you have lost and specifically the role that your missed free throws and the other teams makes have played a decisive role. In the 2006 state final we shot 9/23 from the line after shooting over 70% for the season and lost by 7.
2. Lay ups – Ostensibly the simplest shot in live play, but critical to your team’s success. The other day in practice, one of our better post players had a 3 minute stretch where he was 1/8 finishing around the basket. Empty trips. Everything was done offensively to create a high percentage shot, but we did not convert. This will get you beat. Every practice my team will practice a variety of lay ups from both sides of the basket.
3. Turnovers – You have to get a shot up every trip and keep turnovers below 12. Even when you turn the ball over, it’s better to do so out of bounds rather than a turnover to open play that creates easy baskets for the other team.
4. Transition – I believe the most important aspect of defense is stopping the ball so you have the opportunity to defend. This applies regardless of whether you are playing man or zone. If the ball is not stopped, you are not defending, you are chasing. On the other side, the first offensive option is the fast break. Players must be committed to sprinting up court on change of possession to create numerical advantage and the ball must be played vertically as soon as possible. Your plan must be clear on transition opportunities either way as the matter is decided in the first two seconds of the change of possession.
5. Rebounds – Limit the opponent to one shot per possession, and create extra possessions for yourself with offensive rebounding.
6. Loose Balls – By definition these are 50/50 balls, but to win you must do better than that. First player to the ground wins the loose ball. Grab the ball with two hands and dont’ dribble out of and through traffic.