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All-Access UConn Men’s Basketball: First Practice

By adam.warner - Last updated: Wednesday, August 24, 2011

In this week’s edition of All-Access, we take you to Storrs, Connecticut for a behind-the-scenes look inside a University of Connecticut men’s basketball practice. Watch as legendary head coach Jim Calhoun leads his squad through an early pep talk plus a variety of team drills during one of the first practices of the season.

This All-Access look is a terrific way for coaches, players and parents to see exactly how one of the nation’s most renowned basketball programs conducts practice. In this particular instance, Connecticut runs through several team drills that include three-man weaves and 3-on-3 half-court simulations.

Be sure to pick up some tips, insights and new drills from this exclusive look and look for ways to incorporate them with your own program.

Inside the Huddle – Practice – Day 1

Coach Calhoun emphasizes three areas for these early-season practices: Get out and run, play with intensity, and use tempo to create an advantage. Next, Calhoun sets expectations for his team and gives them a short and long-term game plan. As for the very near term, it’s all about having a positive practice – one in which the team gets stuff done and everyone improves.


3-on-3 Half-Court Drill

Using just one section of the court in a half-court setting, the team moves into a 3-on-3 offense/defense drill. While the post man is looking to establish positioning on the block, the guards are looking to use screens to get open and then get the ball down low (and not far away from the hoop).

Meanwhile, the drill works on offense and defense at the same time in the half-court setting. As soon as the wingman passes to the man in the post, he should immediately set a screen for the opposite guard. If a defender overplays you, reverse the ball. Eventually after a few reps, the players switch to the left side of the court.


3-on-0 and 5-on-0 Drills

First in the 3-on-0 drill, players look to get the ball up the court quickly. It’s a two-pass drill with layups to start. Eventually, the drill moves into quick off-ball screens and splitting the post.

In 5-on-0 action, the goal is to move the ball quickly up the court in an effort to beat the defense. As Coach Calhoun reiterates, 5-on-0 means you run it like there is five guys against you. Use your imagination. Calhoun also talks about positioning frequently, such as where you want to post up exactly, where to play depending on a defender’s positioning, etc. Players should stay wide and go full speed at all times.


The previous clips can be seen on the Championship Productions’ DVD  titled “All-Access Basketball Practice with Jim Calhoun.” To check out more exclusive videos featuring Coach Calhoun and the Huskies, click here.

Winning with Undersized Teams: Characteristics and Misperceptions

By adam.warner - Last updated: Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Butler head coach Brad Stevens has created a name for himself by maximizing the abilities of his players. Although not always equipped with multiple seven-footers or a handful of First-Team All-Americans, Stevens has proven year after year that basketball teams don’t necessarily need the tallest and most athletic players to win.

In this week’s team development feature, learn about some common characteristics and misperceptions when it comes to winning with an undersized basketball team. Coach Stevens clearly details his winning philosophy and gives fellow coaches a blueprint for success even if they don’t have a roster filled with the tallest players in the league.

Common Characteristics of Undersized Teams that Win

Coach Stevens has learned over time that his best teams — regardless of size — share certain characteristics. Most importantly, all players need to be ALL IN. For instance, those players would run through a wall for the good of Butler University. It’s not about them. Rather, these players would sacrifice for the team in game situations and make the team better as a whole.

For the majority of Stevens’ teams, if they were undersized, they were undersized at the 2, and either the 4 or 5 positions. Often, Butler would run out there with two point guards, two 3’s and a 5. And although they were undersized, they had tough-minded guys in those spots. These players took it as a challenge and carried that mindset.

These teams also had the ability to playmake from a number of spots. Although playing untraditional basketball, the team’s 4 players could put it on the floor and make plays for other people. That’s very important to be able to do. These are the kind of players that Stevens looks for in that spot – and it’s made his teams better over time.

Also, it’s about defensive versatility and your turnover margin. Before 2009, most of Butler’s teams were in the national top 10 for turnovers in Stevens’ eight years at the helm. However, most of the NCAA teams they played against out-rebounded them. Therefore, when undersized, it’s mostly about trying to be even when it comes to rebounding, but also turning it over less than your opponent, and getting good shots.

There were times when from a physical stature that Butler couldn’t beat people to the ball or get to the rim faster. Plus, as the team got into the tourney and played squads like Florida, those teams would likely win the physical battle most of the time. Therefore, undersized teams must figure out a way to counter that so they have a chance to beat them.


Misperceptions of Undersized Teams

First, a common misperception is that undersized teams don’t recruit for size. In actuality, teams like Butler would love to have that 7-foot pro. But the bottom line is that those guys aren’t in school (college) very long. Plus, everyone else is looking for those guys as well. However, when it comes to recruiting, it’s also about getting guys that will sacrifice inches and make up the difference in speed and skill. These are guys that move well and have an unbelievable skillset.

Another misperception is that undersized teams don’t utilize the post. But at Butler, the goal is to spread the floor and run ball screens. The team wants at least one player at the rim every time. That person could very well be our 1 posting, or even the 3. For instance about five years ago in the Sweet 16, Butler ran post actions for its 1 and 3 players.

Finally, a third misperception is that size dominates the league. However, big men now have to face a flurry of adjustments, like extremely quick guards, containment on ball screens, etc. In Stevens’ first seven years at Butler, there was only one player over 6-8 that made the First Team All-League squad.

Also, Butler didn’t make that jump from NIT team to Sweet 16 team until the squad fully understood that undersized did not mean undermanned. That starts with players and belief. With Butler’s guys, they could sell the fact that they had an advantage.


The previous clips can be found on Championship Productions’ DVD “Brad Stevens: Winning with Undersized Teams.” To check out more exclusive videos focusing on overall team strategy and concepts, click here.

Two Game-Like Shooting Drills Used by Jay Wright and Villanova Basketball

By adam.warner - Last updated: Wednesday, August 24, 2011

For Villanova head coach Jay Wright, the team’s shooting drills are typically set up in such a way to mimic shots taken in the offense and situations where they get shots in the offense. All the while, the drills are multi-dimensional and cover a number of situations. Remember, if you just run drills where everything goes perfectly every time, you aren’t preparing players for game situations.

In this week’s player development feature, we highlight a pair of effective shooting drills that should pay immediate dividends with your players. The shooting drills are used frequently by Coach Wright and the Villanova men’s basketball program and can also be used across every level of the game.

Slide Threes

There are certain situations in a game when you need a three-pointer and your opponent knows it, too. According to Coach Wright, this is one of the tougher game situations to deal with and that’s why Villanova practices this often.

With Slide Threes, we’ll catch the ball, make a fake, and slide dribble in order to get off a three. Watch the players below go through the drill simulation. There’s a catch, rip, one dribble and slide. This drill really works the shooters and gets them working on game-like situations. Many times, Villanova will have shooters doing this drill while the big guys are working on something else.


Two-Ball Shooting

This drill really simulates shots that Villanova takes in their offense and situations where they get shots in the offense. We’ll start with two players at a basket and separate them by forwards and guards. The forwards are the screeners and the guards are the cutters.

Here, we are simulating screener/cutter situations. Any time that you have these situations, the cutter should set his man up and always come off the screen ready to plant his inside foot and be ready to step and shoot. Players should think shot before they get the shot – and this a perfect drill to practice that.

Meanwhile, the screener should hold the screen until the cutter passes him. The cutter should look to go eyeball-to-eyeball with the screener before going shoulder-to-shoulder at the last second. Once he clears his shoulder, the screener now becomes the cutter. And if the defense takes that away, the cutter looks back to the screener in any screener/cutter situation.

As for player movement/positioning in this drill, start with one player up top and one player on the wing. The player up top makes a screen for the wing player. The cutter then comes around the pick, receives the ball, pivots and makes a bounce pass to the former screener in the corner for a shot. Next, the passer receives a pass and steps into a shot. It’s all about footwork and getting a feel for game situations. Start out with straight cuts and then move to curl cuts and curl & pops.


The previous clips can be seen on Championship Productions’ DVDJay Wright: 28 Competitive Drills for Shooting and Footwork.” To check out more videos in the Jay Wright/Villanova collection, click here. For more shooting-specific videos, click here.

User Submitted Play of the Week: “Curtains”

By adam.warner - Last updated: Wednesday, August 24, 2011

This week’s play submission comes from Brandon Rohr, the assistant women’s basketball coach at Corcordia University (Texas).


Here’s an effective set that can be used on a variety of levels to create a great look off of multiple actions. Unlike many sets which hope to take advantage of poor defensive execution, this particular one is dependent upon defensive players executing their assignment by properly hedging, helping, and chasing over screens. It’s a great late-game set that has been used with a variety of initial formations and variations. It’s also a must for any coach in their playbook.

The play begins out of the “Floppy Series.” Once the point guard hits the “initiation area”, the action begins. First, the 2 cuts off a cross-screen from the 3 and pin-down by the 5 player. After setting the screen, the 3 will come off the left wing on a pin-down by 4. The entry is made to 2 on the right wing.

After the entry pass, the 5 player will “seven-cut” into a ballscreen for 2. As this action takes place. the 3 and 4 will double flare-screen for the PG. The emphasis should be placed on the screeners coming big, wide, and fast to the screens.

As the 2 guard engages the ball-screen, the 4 will cut up to a direct line with the wing. Next, 2 will take one dribble to clear the screen and make a quick pass to the 4. As this happens, the 5 will sprint to the rim receiving a bounce pass from 4 for a lay-up.

As you can see these actions clear out the paint area. If the screen defender hedges and the on-ball defender fights over top as he/she is taught, this will leave no one to help as there is simply no weakside help available. This is a terrific late-game set against a hedging or switching ball-screen defensive team. Whereas most sets take advantage of poor defensive execution, this one takes advantage of a team that fulfills their commitments correctly.

Do you have a go-to play that you want to share with the coaching community? Do you know of an effective drill that pays dividends for yoursquad? Send us an e-mail at and break down your favorite drill or play for us.

All-Access Tennessee Women’s Basketball: Transition Drills and Offensive Sets

By adam.warner - Last updated: Wednesday, August 10, 2011

In the latest edition of All-Access, we take you back to Knoxville, Tennessee for a look inside a University of Tennessee women’s basketball practice. Watch as head coach Pat Summitt – who has more than 950 career wins and eight NCAA titles to her credit – leads the Vols through a typical practice session.

To begin, Summitt leads her squad through a variety of drills. Full court transition drills, inbound plays, 5-on-4 drills, and offensive sets are all covered.

This behind-the-scenes look gives coaches, parents, and players a glimpse inside one of the nation’s most dominant basketball programs. You’ll also get a chance to see how practices are organized and conducted at the Division I level. See what kind of drills, techniques, concepts and overall tips you can pick up and immediately begin implementing with your own team.

Full Court Transition Drills and Inbound Plays

Watch the Vols in action as the team works on full-court transition drills. Players start in a circle going around and around continuously (with the circle getting wider each second) until the coach throws a ball into play. The players immediately move into their 5-on-5 loose ball transition offense/defense.

Next, players cool down with a free-throw session before working on a number of inbound plays from under the basket, first against a ghost defense and then 5-on-5.


5-on-4 Scramble

Here, the team works on defensive tactics against offensive ball movement around the perimeter. Players are preventing middle penetration, staying low, blocking out, communicating, and working on help defense.

From here, the squad transitions into half-court 5-on-5 defense, which includes blocking out and then transitioning to offense down on the other end of the floor. It’s continuous play back and forth and points are tallied for each respective unit.


Offensive Sets

Next, the team works on its offensive sets against a ghost defense. Notice that players are always crashing to the basket on a shot and at least one outlet person is getting back on defense to prevent quick fast breaks off the shot.

Also, pick and rolls are involved, plus a play called “Spin.” The team then moves into 5-on-5 action while working on those specific plays. Summitt eventually goes step-by-step through one play and reminds players about spacing, techniques, and more.

Notice the quick pace of practices as players are always hustling, communicating, and moving fast. Also, drills are always timed. All in all, each practice session is quite methodical and each player knows her role.


The previous clips can be seen on Championship Productions’ DVD “All-Access Basketball Practice with Pat Summitt.” To check out our entire All-Access collection, simply click here.


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