Good stuff from @keystothegym, access it at

Immediately Or Not At All

This phrase and concept is so important that it is used as at title rather than as an explanation under “One-on-one” or “Taking the shot.” The concept is very simple to understand, but few good players understand the importance of it.

If you decide to go one-on-one, do it immediately after you get the ball, or don’t do it at all. There is a very good reason for this. The longer you hold the ball and look around or jockey for position, the more time the defense has to get in good help-position to stop you and clog the lane. If there is an opening to go one-on-one, your best chance is immediately, not after you hold the ball for several seconds.

The same concept applies to taking a shot from outside. If you are free and in your range, take the shot. If you aren’t, don’t take it. But don’t stand there deciding and then shoot. Anytime you have stood there deciding, decide not to shoot. Why? Because tentative shooters are poor shooters. If something about the situation causes your instincts to delay, something about your instincts is likely to disrupt the smooth flow of your shooting motion.

Players shoot at their best when they get the ball, and they know as it comes that they are going to shoot. When this happens, your rhythm is right, and “all systems are go.” But if something about the play makes you reluctant, your rhythm is likely to be off. If you need further proof of this, watch some games. Players who hold the ball and think and decide usually miss.

A good rule to follow is this: when in doubt, pass. Or, if you have held the ball, pass.

Seldom does a team lose for having passed up open shots. You lose by missing shots, by shooting too fast, by taking bad shots, by shooting tentatively. Passing up a shot rarely hurts and often it helps. If ever you pass up a shot and you think, I should have shot that one, your rhythm will be in gear for the next time. When you get the ball, you are very likely to have the confidence and the smooth flow that will enable you to put up your best possible shot.

Most certainly, never hold the ball deciding and then shoot because a fan yells “Shoot!” Make your own decisions. Go one-on-one when it feels right, and take the shot when it feels right. But do it immediately or not at all.

If you are thinking now, But it takes me a while to recognize the situation. I can’t know as soon as I get it what I should do, you are not a good player yet, and you really don’t deserve to be taking shots or going one-on-one. For a team to win, contrary to fan opinion, it is not necessary that each guy be taking shots and going one-on-one.

If you are playing in a league with no shot clock, all you need is a little patience and movement, and eventually one of the team’s best players will get a good shot at the basket. The more you play, the sooner you will recognize situations and be able to decide when you have a good opportunity and when you don’t.

If you are at the stage where you still have to hold the ball and look in order to decide whether or not you have an opportunity, you don’t deserve to be shooting and trying to score yet. You can use yourself better by concentrating on moving to keep your defender busy, screening for your teammates, handling the ball well, playing good defense and rebounding.

The players who take the scoring initiative should be those who know at the instant they get the ball that they have an opportunity. If they do have one, they should take it immediately or not at all.

From Dick’s book Stuff

Do you want to be great?

Great Basketball Players

This is a follow up to the Great Basketball Coaches Post from Alan Stein’s Stronger Team Blog.

Recently I posted a hurricane of Tweets on what great basketball players do. Here is the entire list… plus a ton of additional ones submitted by my followers:

1.Great players… go after every rebound on both ends of the floor – they are crafty and aggressive.

2.Great players… run the floor as fast as possible on fast breaks AND defensive transition.

3.Great players… are defensive stoppers – they stop their man as well as help teammates. They do the things offensive players HATE!

4.Great players… contest all shots. They don’t go for ball fakes or shot fakes. They deflect passes, bump cutters, and take charges.

5.Great players… don’t gamble on offensive or defensive. They aim to make the RIGHT play; not the HIGHLIGHT play.

6.Great players… are strong with the ball. They rip through hard on offense, ‘chin’ all rebounds, and don’t expose the ball when dribbling.

7.Great players… play under control and play at different speeds. They know that playing slow can be VERY effective.

8.Great players… practice just as hard as they play in games. They don’t have an ‘on and off switch’ – they are ALWAYS on!

9.Great players… allow themselves to be coached. They make eye contact, listen, and welcome coaching. They crave getting better.

  1. Great players… are great teammates. They are supportive, high energy, and make their enthusiasm contagious.
  2. Great players… ‘Play Present.’ They focus on the process, not the outcome. They focus on what they can control. They don’t get distracted.
  3. Great players… take advantage of every opportunity to get better. Every workout, every practice, and every game is a chance to improve!
  4. Great players… are mentally and physically tough. They are comfortable being uncomfortable.
  5. Great players… can pivot both ways off of either foot and can dribble, pass, and finish around the basket with either hand. They don’t have a ‘weak’ hand.
  6. Great players… love and respect the game of basketball. They don’t play for money or fame; they play for love.
  7. Great players… are unselfish passers. They hit open teammates. They know the goal is to get THE best shot; not THEIR best shot.
  8. Great players… don’t commit stupid fouls. They know their greatness is eliminated if they are on the bench in foul trouble.
  9. Great players… are students of the game. They watch film. They study opponents. They study themselves.
  10. Great players… value every possession. They aren’t careless with ball. They make smart passes and take high percentage shots.
  11. Great players… don’t wait for the workout or practice or game to start… they prepare for it! They prepare mentally and physically.
  12. Great players… are super competitive. They hate losing more than they enjoy winning. They compete in everything they do!
  13. Great players… always know the time and score. They know how many time-outs they have as well as who is in foul trouble on both teams.
  14. Great players… log the game in the mind. At any point in time, they can tell you exactly what happened, on both ends of the floor, the last 3 possessions.
  15. Great players… are assertive with the ball, welcome contact when driving to the cup, and get to the free throw line.
  16. Great players… immediately think ‘Next Play.’ They don’t dwell on mistakes (missed shot or TO)… they make up for it on the other end.
  17. Great players… make plays, not excuses. They don’t care if the refs suck, if the floor is slippery, or if they have a cold. They get it done.
  18. Great players… are the first ones in the gym… and the last ones to leave EVERY day.
  19. Great players… don’t worry about getting exposure. They focus more on never getting exposed!
  20. Great players… elevate their teammates to become great players too!
  21. Great players… know that their legacy will be judged on their ability to win championships.
  22. Great players… would rather play ball than anything else. They truly love to play.
  23. Great players… are well rounded and have a complete game. They can ‘hurt’ you in a variety of ways.
  24. Great players… are top notch communicators. They talk with a presence on both ends of the floor.
  25. Great players… want the ball in their hands when the game is on the line because they know they have put in the work to DESERVE success.
  26. Great players… train with a purpose. Their workouts are focused, intense, and progressive. Nothing they do on the court is casual.
  27. Great players… give back to their program and are humble and grateful for what basketball has done for them.
  28. Great players… are responsible for tone and effort of the entire team… every workout, practice, and game.
  29. Great players… are always thinking two plays ahead.
  30. Great players… hold themselves, their teammates, and their coaches accountable. They believe in collective responsibility.
  31. Great players… play in straight lines and sharp angles. They make hard basket cuts and set solid screens.
  32. Great players… love playing and competing against other great players.
  33. Great players… know that no detail is too small and that the smallest of details can make them even better.
  34. Great players…have high values. They value their teammates, winning, and self improvement.
  35. Great players… are never content and never complacent.

You know my favorite part about this list? Nearly every trait on this list is 100% controllable! They are characteristics you choose to have! It doesn’t say, ‘great players… are 6’8”’ or ‘great players… can jump out of the gym’ – it lists things that you can make the conscious choice to work on and improve.

Are you up for the challenge? Are you ready to be a great player?

Alan Stein



Thank you for your continued support as we move into the 2nd half of our season.  We are excited about the young men in our program, and we are thankful for the opportunity that we have to work with them on a daily basis.  You can find updates to the website on the picture pages as well as the team pages.

Good luck to our 7th and 8th grade teams as they open their season today with games against Waterloo-Columbus.

Coach Carlson, Coach Tiedemann, Coach Cretin, and Coach Conrad

Great Points

From Coach Creighton Burns Newsletter

Advice for Point Guards:

Share the sugar
Run the team
Set the defense
Rebound the position
Know when to pass ahead
Make Open Shots
Change speeds
Getting/Keeping Teammates Involved
Make sure Bigs touch ball
(From Nike Point Guard Skills Academy)

“The best perimeter players are the ‘little things’ players.”…Kevin Eastman

Advice for Post Players:

Establish position
Show where you want the ball
Catch and be patient
Read the defense
Use the defender’s body against him
Go to your “go” move until they stop it–then go to your counter move
Get the fancy stuff out of your game
(From Nike Big Man Skills Academy

Shared by Glenn Wilkes


What does your character say about you?

At the heart of Torrey Smith

His NFL journey is a story of perseverance, loyalty — and sadness

By Kevin Van Valkenburg |
November 14, 2012

BALTIMORE — There is a Biblical verse — Proverbs 27:17 — that Ravens coach John Harbaugh frequently references in team meetings. He loves the imagery of it, the larger meaning, and so he repeats it almost daily. It’s a way of summarizing much of what he believes and loves about the game of football, about the devotion and fellowship a team must possess in order to be successful.

As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.

Repeating that line of scripture is also the easiest way for Harbaugh to explain how Torrey Smith, a quiet, sensitive, second-year wide receiver from Colonial Beach, Va., became one of most important players on a team that is stuffed with Pro Bowlers and at least two future Hall of Famers.

“We talk a lot about the cauldron of competition, and the fire that refines us, that forges us,” Harbaugh said. “We talk about whether you’re the type of person that will sharpen the next guy or dull the next guy, because that’s how teams are made. To me, no championship team will ever be divided. And to me, Torrey is the perfect example of how the right kind of person is made of the right kind of stuff.”

Smith’s impact on the franchise this season goes well beyond his 31 catches for 548 yards and seven touchdowns. Though the strides he has made as a wide receiver since the Ravens drafted him in the second round out of the University of Maryland in 2011 have been significant, his emergence as a unifying force in the locker room is a big reason why Baltimore, which visits Pittsburgh on Sunday night, is on track to be the only franchise in the NFL to make the playoffs for a fifth consecutive season.

“He’s one of those rare players where there is no agenda,” Harbaugh said. “He just wants to know what’s expected of him, so he can do the best he possibly can. He’s not trying to fool you, he’s not trying to impress you, he’s just trying to be himself.”

Smith’s journey to this point in his NFL career is a story of perseverance and loyalty, but also one of great sadness. On Sept. 23, Smith’s younger brother Tevin Jones was killed in a motorcycle accident in Montross, Va., less than 24 hours before the Ravens were scheduled to host the New England Patriots. Smith left the team hotel in the middle of the night to be with his family, and the Ravens prepared to face the Patriots the next day without him.

“I got a call from our security guy at 1:30 a.m. telling me what had happened, and at that point you’re like a parent,” Harbaugh said. “It was just shock. I felt sad of course. But just shocked. You’re trying to make heads or tails of it. Our team got wind of it in the morning, and you could just see it on their faces. The guys came in and they were almost ashen.”

What happened next was as moving as it was surreal. Smith returned to the team, having slept little more than an hour. He attended the team chapel, decided his brother would have wanted him to play, and then he went out and caught six passes for 127 yards and two touchdowns in a dramatic 31-30 win. When he caught his first touchdown, a leaping 25-yard catch, he pointed toward the heavens and jogged to the sideline with tears in his eyes.

“My teammates, I love them to death, and they helped me get through this,” Smith said after the game.

More than a month later, Ravens players and coaches still talk about what took place that night in M&T Bank Stadium. When they talk about Smith’s character, they use a tone that closely resembles awe.

“It was unbelievable,” said Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco. “I just don’t even think we can imagine what that was like for him. For him to play that kind of game under those circumstances is pretty special. I don’t even think I would be able to function if I were in his shoes.”

“That was his way of relieving his pain for a few hours,” said Ravens wide receiver LaQuan Williams, who was also a teammate of Smith’s at Maryland. “Football was his outlet.”

It’s still a difficult subject for Smith to discuss publicly. He has asked the Ravens’ media relations staff to politely decline all interview requests that focus on what happened to his brother. It’s too soon, too raw. But he understands why people found his performance so inspiring.

“Football is one of those games that definitely relates to life in a lot of ways,” Smith said. “Everything can be going good, and just like that, you have a turnover. Things are going south, you’re going the opposite direction. How are you going to recover from it? That’s the beauty in this game. It brings a lot of people together, and you can also learn a lot of life lessons. For me, I’ve been through a lot before, so there is nothing that this game can throw at me that I can’t handle.”

Smith’s wisdom and maturity were forged, at least in part, by his atypical childhood growing up in Virginia. The oldest of seven siblings, Smith spent many of his formative years changing diapers, preparing meals and getting his siblings ready for school while his mother, Monica Jenkins, worked multiple jobs and attended night school. By the time he was 7, he was practically an adult.

“He’s been like the dad of his family for quite a while,” said Williams.

His position coach at Maryland, Lee Hull, used to joke that after a big victory, the whole football team would be out celebrating on the College Park social scene, all except for Smith, who would be bunkered down in his dorm room, hoping to finish his homework. It’s one of the reasons Smith was able graduate with a degree in criminology and criminal justice even though he left Maryland with a year of eligibility remaining.

Harbaugh says the Ravens took all that into account when they drafted Smith in the second round of the 2011 NFL draft, ignoring the skeptics who thought that he was stiff getting in and out of routes, that he didn’t have great hands, and that he’d never develop into a starting NFL wide receiver. He was viewed as a speed guy, but not a complete wideout. A number of Ravens fans, having been burned by wide receiver busts like Travis Taylor and Mark Clayton, were among his biggest critics, especially after Smith dropped a litany of passes in the preseason. Few people seemed to remember the lockout erased an entire offseason of organized team activities, and Smith was scrambling to digest a new style of route running and a new playbook.

“It was crazy, man,” Smith said. “I guess it just comes with being a high draft pick. I was kind of behind the eight ball anyway. Everyone assumes that [general manager] Ozzie [Newsome] can’t draft a wide receiver. I heard that a million times before I even stepped foot in the Ravens facility.”

When he failed to record a catch in the Ravens’ first two games, the criticism grew loud enough that both Harbaugh and Flacco felt compelled to fire back at what they perceived as unreasonable expectations.

“Here is a guy who obviously was successful very quickly as a wide receiver. He’s exceeded expectations for us,” Harbaugh said. “And yet people were still calling him a bust. He couldn’t have been successful any quicker than he was. That kind of shows you the expectations are pretty unrealistic.”

The chorus of doubters, however, started to sing his praises, especially after the third game of Smith’s NFL career, a game against the St. Louis Rams.

“I remember we had a hitch called, and the guy came up to press him and he changed to a nine route [a go route], just like he was supposed to do,” said Flacco.

Flacco launched a perfect pass that hit Smith in stride for his first NFL catch, and by the time he stopped running it was a 74-yard touchdown. Minutes later, Smith caught another touchdown from Flacco on a deep post route. A few minutes after that, Smith caught his third touchdown — all of this in the first quarter — when Flacco audibled out of a run near the goal line and lofted a perfect fade to the corner of the end zone.

“It was a great opportunity for him to get in and gain some confidence,” Flacco said. “Those plays can be so important for a guy’s confidence — really for the rest of his career. We live in such a now, now, now world, you have to kind of leave a good first impression, and for him to be able to do that on that stage was pretty important for him.”

Smith’s progression from there was much more gradual, but by studying the footwork and work ethic of veteran wide receiver Anquan Boldin with religious devotion, he gradually became a consistent route runner.

“Last year he was considered just a one-route guy,” said Ravens running back Ray Rice. “But we knew what we had as a player in Torrey. He had the perfect example [to follow] in Anquan, the ultimate pro and the ultimate leader. He already had a high motor. I remember a coach saying ‘This guy will fall down on the field before he comes out of the game.'”

The Ravens, unlike teams that use a West Coast passing attack, don’t want their receivers making sharp, 90-degree breaks when they come out of their routes. Baltimore’s Air Coryell offense asks its receivers to instead bend their routes while running full speed, a change that might seem subtle, but one that — to a wide receiver — is like trying to learn to write left-handed after spending your entire life as a righty.

“I was taught in college to break down,” Smith said. “There are other teams in the league that run it like we did in college. But the way we do it, we round everything off because it’s faster. You’re still making sharp cuts, but it requires a brand-new technique, and we didn’t have an offseason to work on it.”

In Week 9, in a crucial road game against the Pittsburgh Steelers, Smith played a game that might as well have been a microcosm of his entire rookie season. He dropped four passes, including a beautifully thrown ball by Flacco that looked like it could have been the game winner. But in the game’s closing seconds, Flacco gave him yet another chance, and he responded by making a dramatic, tumbling, one-handed grab behind Steelers cornerback William Gay that secured a 23-20 victory.

Harbaugh was so excited, he dashed into his postgame news conference — still soaking from a Gatorade bath he received on the sideline — and quoted Teddy Roosevelt’s famous “It’s not the critic who counts …” speech when asked about the past struggles of Flacco and Smith.

“We all have our issues and we all struggle,” Harbaugh said. “So I’m not judging anybody. But to get criticized for overreacting to a win like that? Like you shouldn’t get excited? Look, if you can’t get excited about the success of a friend or someone that you coach or teach, if you can’t do that, what is life even worth? You can’t get excited about anything. I don’t want your life. I was just so thrilled for Torrey.”

This season, the feeling was different. The Ravens knew they had a burgeoning star in Smith, a quiet leader people in the locker room would gravitate toward. “He’s been one of those very few players that you can say ‘He’s a Raven,'” said linebacker Terrell Suggs. “You go throughout the history of the organization there are very few players you can say, ‘They are a Raven.’ I think Torrey is shaping up to become one of them.”

Tevin Jones, 19, idolized his oldest brother. He was the starting quarterback at King George High School his senior year. According to Virginia State Police, on the night of Sept. 22, Jones was riding his motorcycle on Route 672 in Westmoreland County in northeast Virginia when he ran off the right side of the road and hit a utility pole. He was pronounced dead at the scene, police said. He was wearing a helmet, and alcohol was not a factor. The next day, Smith posted about Tevin on his Twitter account: “I can’t believe my little brother is gone … be thankful for your loved ones and tell them you love them … this is the hardest thing ever.”

On the day his brother died, no one on the team wanted to make Smith feel like he was obligated to play against the Patriots. Yes, it was an important game, a rematch of the AFC Championship Game, but this was much bigger than that. One after another, Ravens players and coaches walked up to offer him a hug, or their condolences. Harbaugh wanted Smith to understand his extended family would be there for him no matter what he decided to do.

Hours before the game, Smith still hadn’t made up his mind about whether he wanted to play. But he did decide he wanted to attend the Ravens’ team chapel, a Bible study that’s held in the team hotel before every game. When he walked in, the players, a few coaches and team chaplain Rod Hairston stood up and formed a circle. They spent several minutes in prayer, arms draped around him.

“It was just a handful of guys standing there, but it was really powerful,” said Ravens assistant coach Craig Ver Steeg. “We were asking the Lord to give him the strength to get through this tough time. It was a faith-filled family moment. You could just feel Torrey get strength from that. It was an illustration of how a football team sure can be a family.”

Like iron sharpening iron, each man tried to give Smith a piece of himself in that moment. When he walked out of the room, he saw Harbaugh and quietly told him he wanted to play. The Ravens held a moment of silence before the game for Tevin, and not that much later, Smith was standing in the end zone with the ball in his hands, pointing to the sky.

“Let’s be honest, this thing we do, it’s a diversion,” Harbaugh said. “But it pushes fathers and sons together, or husbands and wives or buddies. It gives you something simple to talk about. If someone is going to associate themselves with our team, I want them to be proud of it. And that, to me, was a shining moment where character was revealed in all of our guys, most especially Torrey. It’s like OK, if you’re a fan of the Ravens, you can say, ‘Hey it’s worth it. I’m attached to this thing, and it’s a good thing. It’s better than just me. It’s bigger than just me.'”

Am I Teachable?

Again, thanks to Coach Burg (@BrianBurg1) at Campbell Men’s Basketball.

How do I maintain a teachable attitude?

ByJohn C Maxwell

Teachability is not so much about competence and mental capacity as it is about attitude. It is the desire to listen, learn, and apply. It is the hunger to discover and grow. It is the willingness to learn, unlearn, and relearn. I love the way legendary basketball coach John Wooden states it: “It’s what you learn after you know it all that counts.”

When I teach and mentor leaders, I remind them that if they stop learning, they stop leading. But if they remain teachable and keep learning, they will be able to keep making an impact as leaders. Whatever your talent happens to be – whether it’s leadership, craftsmanship, entrepreneurship, or something else – you will expand it if you keep expecting and striving to learn.

Futurist and author John Naisbitt believes that “the most important skill to acquire is learning how to learn.” Here is what I suggest as you pursue teachability:

1. Learn to listen.

American writer and philosopher Henry David Thoreau wrote, “It takes two to speak the truth – one to speak and one to hear.” Being a good listener helps us to know people better, to learn what they have learned, and to show them that we value them as individuals.

As you go through each day, remember that you can’t learn if you’re always talking. As the old saying goes, “There’s a reason you have one mouth and two ears.” Listen to others and remain humble, and you will learn things that can help you expand your talent.

2. Understand the learning process.

Here’s how learning typically works:

STEP 1: Act.

STEP 2: Look for your mistakes and evaluate.

STEP 3: Search for a way to do it better.

STEP 4: Go back to Step 1.

Remember, the greatest enemy of learning is knowing. And the goal of all learning is action, not knowledge. If what you are doing does not in some way contribute to what you or others are learning in life, then question its value and be prepared to make changes.

3. Look for and plan teachable moments.

If you look for opportunities to learn in every situation, you will expand your talent to its potential. But you can also take another step beyond this and actively seek out and plan teachable moments. You do that by reading books, visiting places that inspire you, attending events that prompt you to pursue change, and spending time with people who stretch you and expose you to new experiences.

4. Make your teachable moments count.

Even people who are strategic about seeking teachable moments can miss the whole point of the experience. I say this because for many years I’ve been a speaker at conferences and workshops – events that are designed to help people learn. But I’ve found that many people walk away from an event and do very little with what they heard.

We tend to focus on learning events instead of the learning process. Because of this, I try to help people take action steps that will help them implement what they learn. I suggest that in their notes, they pay special attention to

  • Points they need to think about
  • Changes they need to make
  • Lessons they need to apply
  • Information that they need to share

Then after the conference, I recommend that they create to-do lists based on what they took note of, then schedule time to follow through.

5. Ask yourself, “Am I really teachable?”

I’ve said it before, but it bears repeating: all the good advice in the world won’t help if you don’t have a teachable spirit. To know whether you are really open to new ideas and new ways of doing things, ask yourself the following questions:

  1. Am I open to other people’s ideas?
  2. Do I listen more than I talk?
  3. Am I open to changing my opinion based on new information?
  4. Do I readily admit when I am wrong?
  5. Do I observe before acting on a situation?
  6. Do I ask questions?
  7. Am I willing to ask a question that will expose my ignorance?
  8. Am I open to doing things in a way I haven’t done before?
  9. Am I willing to ask for directions?
  10. Do I act defensive when criticized, or do I listen openly for truth?

If you answered no to one or more of these questions, then you have room to grow in the area of teachability. You need to soften your attitude, learn humility, and remember the words of John Wooden: “Everything we know we learned from someone else!”

Brian Burg


Assistant Coach/Recruiting Coordinator

Campbell University Men’s Basketball

What do College Coaches Look For?

From Coach Brian Williams at

This is from an article that was written by Rick Majerus several years ago. The focus is what he looks for when recruiting, but some of these concepts can be taught and others can be improved upon through work.

There are three major areas of consideration which I address in my evaluation of a prospective athlete. Those areas of concern evaluated are attitude, athletic ability, and basketball skills.

The profession being what it is, one is often pressed to find an area in which unanimity of opinion prevails. However, no matter how diverse our philosophies and the styles of play that we employ, I think every coach wants to recruit or coach players that enjoy playing hard. Each of us has our own criteria whereby we assess selflessness, aggressiveness, poise, and many other personality traits. Hence, I will not belabor the point but suffice to say we’re all in pursuit of the player who best demonstrates those personality characteristics that compromise having a good attitude.

Athletic ability is the measure by which many players earn spots on a team and often fill complementary roles. I look first of all for a player with an explosive first step. Quickness can sometimes compensate for a lack of fundamentals and skills. An especially high premium is placed on lateral quickness because this single facet enables you to excel as a defensive player. Anticipation can somewhat compensate for a lack of quickness, however, there is no real substitute for someone who is not endowed with innate quickness.

After assessing the quickness of an individual, I try to determine how good his hands are. Can he catch a bad pass and make his own next pass a good one? Does he come down with the ball in traffic under the boards? Is he able to pick the ball up off the floor and convert in a transition game? It is especially important that you ascertain the quality of hands in a pivot prospect. Being able to catch it in a stationary post situation should be a given. However, when sliding from the high to low post or when flash posting, can the man catch the pass amid other players and on the move? These situations more than most others will illustrate his ability to catch the ball. A well-coached player is one who meets the ball and locates the defense before making a move. He knows or looks for the defender and moves accordingly.

Body control is another facet I look for and that doesn’t necessarily involve being able to make the circus shot. Rather, it is a facet of play that can better be evaluated by watching for a man who pulls up in balance and squares to the hoop off an explosive dribble. Or you can look for a guard who’s able to come to an abrupt stop at the foul line on a 3 on 1 break. It is most apparent when playing defense because a man without good body control has a tendency to commit fouls by “reaching in.” When challenging a shooter, I’m particularly interested in seeing if the defender can rise vertically, arm extended straight up, and not drift into the man taking the shot.

Last of all in my assessment of athletic ability, I look for the leaper. I’m most impressed by those who can jump off two feet in a crowd. Some players need a step to jump and others a run, but the athlete who can go up “right now” is someone who really possesses talent. Then I watch to see if he can stay with the action by continuing to jump a second and third time. When they go airborne for a layup, I’m looking for an individual who goes up with no fear. I think a great athlete is best evaluated on a layup in traffic because if he’s quick, he’ll pull away from the pack, if he has good hands and jumping ability, he won’t lose the ball, and finally he will finish the play off strong. This is what I feel the ultimate in athletic ability entails.

Passers that appeal to me are those who pass the ball away from the defense. Outstanding passers have that snap on the ball that you can’t coach. They deliver it quickly and effortlessly by using their wrists.

I’m continually looking for those players that dribble to improve their passing angle (a lost art and a hard to teach concept). It is easy to find players that can pass in the open court, difficult to find players that can penetrate and pitch effectively in the paint, but next to impossible to find people who can feed a stationary or flash post by ball faking and dribbling to improve the angle of the pass. A good passer takes the ball up to the defense and that’s a trait often overlooked by most.

On a break, I try to find a man who will come to a controlled stop, let a wing fill a lane and be patient enough to give the wing the ball at the most opportune time so the play is made by virtue of the precision pass as opposed to the wing having to execute a difficult move off the dribble because the ball was thrown to soon. Good passers have poise and patience above all else. They anticipate, see the court and read the defense. (not only the defender covering the receiver but the “off the ball” help as well.)

Finally, a really smart passer doesn’t put the ball in the corner unless that man has a shot and he never passes to a man who has begun to cut away from the hoop. The great passer recognizes the difference in those players who are open for a shot or to better position the ball within the confines of the offense.

Good ball handlers are easy to spot. They are at least adequate with both hands. A great dribbler is one who can go full speed up and down the length of the court with either hand and come to a stop under control. A super dribbler is one who can change direction with the ball, head and shoulder fake and change pace accelerating rapidly by the defender. When I see this happen, I know the kid’s a keeper.

A real test of a ball handler comes when he encounters full court pressure. An average guard turns his back against pressure or goes with the playground “spin move.” A heady guard uses a pull back crossover dribble so as to maintain vision up court thus eliminating the likelihood of a double team or trap. And last of all, a great ball handler can back up with the ball. He’ll do it to reset the offense, or perhaps to avoid a trap, and this is an indication to me that the young man is a bright player and can handle the ball. A player who can do all of the aforementioned in addition to shoot the ball is really a find.

It is difficult to appreciably improve someone’s shooting in college. You may be able to make a small change but a complete overhaul is next to impossible. Players revert back to the habits of a lifetime making it extremely difficult for collegiate players to improve on technique. A good shooter has range and there’s a correlation between effective range and leg spring. I’m not as concerned if his elbow is in or out as I am with release and follow-through. A player who can shoot usually has good rotation on the ball, little wasted motion, and an exaggerated follow through. He exudes confidence and can shoot without having to take a rhythm bounce. Those that can shoot it know their range, lack of indecision, and spot up according to the penetration of the ball.