I watched a group of high school players play in an open scrimmage recently and here is what I witnessed:
- A reliance on launching 3 pointers (despite an inability to shoot by most)
- A few players who had an obvious weakness in their weak hand
- No good post moves, very few players willing to look inside or post-up
- No “inside-out” play
- Turnovers, sooo many turnovers
- Very few jab-steps, head fakes, or other non-dribble moves
- Bad footwork: dragging pivot feet (travels), losses of balance, leaving feet without a plan, many out of control drives
- POOR shot selection and decision making
- Lazy defense, no charges, bad box outs
- Very little knowledge of how to balance the floor or move without the ball
I will say, these guys weren’t necessarily BAD players…and most of it should probably be blamed on the coaches they have had along the way, not the players themselves. These coaches obviously didn’t focus enough on the on the fundamentals. For some reason, young basketball players across the US have lost sight of what makes the great players great. The US lives in a “Sports Center” culture where only the spectacular is shown; the dunk, the deep three, the tough fadeaway, or the crazy dribble move. However, a slightly closer examination of the great players shows something startling…fundamentals.
Let’s look at a couple of the best players over the last 25 years, Kobe Bryant and Michael Jordan. Despite what many people might believe, one of the biggest things that set these guys apart from everyone else was spectacular footwork. Both of these guys were known not only as amazing offensive talents, but also great defenders and very good rebounders for their size.
No doubt about it, these guys are spectacular athletes, but the NBA is always full of great athletes. There are a bunch of guys out there more athletic than Kobe and MJ, but they separated themselves in their attention to details: footwork, shooting form, watching game film, and working on their handle…the basketball fundamentals that so many players now ignore.
Defensively these guys are rarely out of position and always seem to have their balance. One thing you notice about good defenders is they don’t seem to be off balance. They are able to do that because they have good footwork. Their feet don’t get crossed and they are always in an athletic stance. Footwork, balance, stance…all fundamentals. Offensively they are unparalleled.
Both KB & MJ move very well without the ball. They are great at cutting, using screens, getting post position, and running the floor. They can shoot, pass, rebound, and handle the ball. They have a lot of positive things about their game, but my favorite thing about them is that they both had AWESOME non-dribble attacks. Before they put the ball on the floor (and after they pick up the dribble) they have a huge array of jab steps, pivots, head fakes, up and unders, pass fakes, and more. While the execute all of these moves, they maintain great balance and keep their head up to see scoring or passing opportunities. They get defenders off balance, up in the air, or behind them.
The reason for the rise of the European player is simple: Fundamentals. Almost every European player, regardless of position or size, has a broad fundamental skill set, they can: dribble, pass, finish, shoot, rebound, effectively use their pivot foot, balance the floor, cut, screen, post. They understand that at the highest level they will not be the best athlete on the floor and they will need these skills. They spend hours refining them, and end up in the NBA or in the top European leagues as a result. Manu Ginobli, when he’s healthy, is among the most dangerous basketball players in the world, because he could do it all. He didn’t have any weaknesses. The reason players don’t have weaknesses is because early on, before the big stage, they figure out what their weaknesses are…and they work like hell to turn them into strengths.
If you want to be successful as a player…practice hard, practice the fundamentals…make the mistakes in the gym at practice, find your weaknesses – turn them into strengths. Put the time in. Basketball players are not born; they are forged from hard work.
You need to incorporate fundamentals into your basketball training. Regardless of what level you currently play at, fundamentals are your ticket to play at the next level.
photo credit: gusestrella