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Jay Bilas's Thoughts on Basketball, Part 2

3 Cues for Better Basketball Shooting

 

 

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If you're a good basketball shooter, the coach will find a spot for you on the floor, especially at the high school level. Thus, it becomes extremely important to learn the correct basketball shooting technique, and to practice various shooting drills over and over and over again. Larry Bird didn't become one of the greatest shooters of all-time just because he had a pretty shot. He practiced relentlessly too.

It's amazing how many kids don't know how to shoot a basketball correctly. They can't even explain the correct shooting technique, let alone demonstrate it. So we use a couple of cues to correct even the most horrid shooter's shots.

Once again, we use the Wooden approach to improving a basketball player's shot: quick, short cues not long explanations, as well as showing the player how to do it correctly, showing them how they are doing it, and then showing them how to do it correctly one more time.

Here are three cues for better basketball shooting:

Start Small End Tall

 

We actually stole this one from Ganon Baker. Very few kids actually explode into their shot. They start way too tall and never get their legs involved. They may shoot fine 8-10 feet from the basket in stationary drills, but once we move them to the 3-point line or it comes to the 4th quarter, every shot becomes short. And if it isn't short, it's on a line drive with little hope of going in. Plus, a tall shooter coming off the screen is a slow, poor shooter.

So we use the cue "start small, end tall." Originally, we would use cues like "bend the knees", "push the hips back", "sit back", or "hip hinge." We like "start small, end tall" better because it not only reminds the shooter to explode into their shot by pushing their hips back, but it also reminds them to end in an extended position with a great follow-through. Essentially, it gives us the best bang for our buck in the fewest words possible. We quickly found out that the fewer words we use, the more likely the athletes will remember it.

Snap the Elbow

 

This is one of the biggest basketball shooting mistakes we see with female players: not extending their follow through. They will continually short-arm their shot. That almost always results in a line drive.

Once again, we used to use "snap the wrist", "hand in the rim", "up and out", and "shoot out of the telephone booth." However, we like "snap the elbow" better because it solves multiple problems with one cue. It reminds the athlete to extend the follow through. It also reminds them to shoot up and then out as it's almost impossible to really snap your elbow without extending your arm up first. And it indirectly reminds the athlete to snap their wrist on the follow through because once you snap your elbow, your wrist will automatically snap.

The result: a beautiful arching shot that touches nothing but the net.

Middle to Middle

 

This is another wrist/elbow problem we see often with basketball shooters. Either the shooter will snap their wrist to the inside/outside of the rim, or they will have their elbow sticking out and not lined up towards the basket. Although the shooter can make adjustments for these and still be a good shooter, she will never be a great shooter without thousands of hours of practice to compensate for the error in technique.

We used to use cues like "center of the rim", "back of the room", or "grab the rim", but we like "Middle to the Middle" better. Once again, it attacks two problems with as few words as possible. Players are reminded to take their middle finger to the middle of the rim (where the middle finger goes, the hand will follow), as we as line up the middle of their elbow to the middle of the rim. Thus, their accuracy should be improved tremendously. If they miss shots, they should always be missing long or short, never right or left.

All three of these cues are absolutely useless unless you explain the meanings behind them. You always have to speak the same language as the athlete. What you say may not always be what they hear. Thus, we usually make the athletes repeat it back to us in their own words just to see if they are hearing what we're saying. Plus, it also gives us the opportunity to find a cue that may be a better fit. Once we're both on the same page as far as cues are concerned, shooting drills become a lot more efficient and effective with as a little talking as possible.

 

 

America needs more teaching from its coaches

By: Jay Bilas (exerpted from ESPN.com - Part 1 of this article ran in last month's edition of the GamePlan)

Fundamentally sound players need to be able to handle the ball, shoot the ball, pass the ball, and use their feet. Unless a player has these basic skills mastered, he will be limited and therefore easy to guard and difficult to play with.

Here are the basic skills needed by every player on the court:

Ballhandling:

If a player cannot handle the ball with either hand, he will get attacked and overwhelmed by the defense because he cannot go anywhere off the dribble. To be a competent ballhandler, a player needs to be able to control the ball with either hand, and know the proper use of the dribble given the situation. Once a player knows when and how to dribble, how to set up his man to make a dribble move, and has the basic skills and footwork, he becomes much harder to guard, and much more valuable to any team. The best way to become a better ballhandler is to handle the ball more often. Repetition is the key to success as a ballhandler, whether it is doing game speed drills in dribbling around cones or executing the footwork and handling of a spin move, rocker step or reverse pivot. Ballhandlers must also learn to handle the ball playing against a defender. That is the only way to learn how to protect the ball, use the body, and learn to set the defender up for counters. If you want to make players better handlers of the ball, make them handle the ball. And make the big guys handle it in the same situations you ask guards to handle it.

 

Shooting:

If you cannot shoot the ball, you will always be able to get an open shot, because nobody guards a substandard shooter. Like ballhandling, the best way to become a better shooter is to shoot the ball over and over again at game speed. The motto for shooters in practice should be "game shots, game spots, at game speed". Shooting "game" shots over and over creates muscle memory, and provides confidence to the shooter. The first thing shooters must learn to do is to look at the basket when they catch the ball. Defenders must believe that you are a threat to shoot the ball, and nobody will by that if you don't look at the basket, and no good defender will go for a shot fake. In looking at the rim, a player will be able to see what is going on under it as well. To be a good shooter, a player has to use his feet effectively to create space and get open, and must be ready to shoot as the ball arrives. Good shooters go straight up and down without drifting, and therefore don't have to shoot at a moving target. They have their shooting hand under the ball, and the elbow under their shooting hand. The motion should be up and not out in order to shoot a soft ball with good trajectory and velocity. Whatever shot a player wants to perfect, the proper repetition of that particular shot is the key. No player can get that proper repetition by simply playing in games, but must be made to do it in practice.

Passing:

No skill in American basketball that is more neglected than passing. Good coaches will tell you that the quality of the pass determines the quality of the shot. That is absolutely correct. In order to score, the defense has to be moved, and the pass is the most effective way to move a defense. Players need to be taught how to properly throw two-hand chest passes, overhead passes, bounce passes with either hand, and to pass with exactness and imagination. The first rule of passing is that, if you have a clear path to an open player, pass him the ball. You do not pass-fake to open people, you pass the ball to them. Passing should not be a last resort, after you have exhausted all possibilities to obtain your own shot. Rather, you should pass the ball to get your team the best quality shot. Watch any game, on any level, and see for yourself how many times passes are made only when all other avenues have been closed. It happens a lot. If a player cannot pass, he cannot play, and the ball dies in his hands.

Footwork:

Basketball is played with the feet, and every phase of the game is dependent upon good footwork. In any game, a player plays 90 percent or more of the game without the ball. Learning how to play with your feet, offensively and defensively, is of vital importance for basketball players at any level, and an area in which youngsters need the most attention and instruction. Without attention to detail of the footwork necessary to execute basic moves in the game, and to create space, the player is severely limited. The United States has the best athletes, the best coaches and the most basketball resources in the world. We need to spend less time coaching, and more time teaching, especially at lower levels of the game. We need to encourage coaches to teach, not just to coach, and for players to practice, not just to play. There is no reason why our best athletes cannot be our best players. If we do a better job of teaching, the level of play in the United States will skyrocket, and the game will be better for it.