Who would you pass to?

I recently had a conversation with a young player of mine about passing. The conversation got me thinking a lot, because so much of the Greyhound offense is tied to the idea that at any time, any player is a valid target to receive a non-risky pass. And it takes a special type of player to make that pass – a willing passer. And surprisingly, there are fewer and fewer of those in basketball.

The idea behind hitting the open man is as old as it gets in terms of basketball philosophy. Before there was even a dribble, there was the pass. And even today, when teams like Golden State score 68% of their points off of a pass, when players come out to play, they want to shoot like Steph Curry or Kevin Durant – but never talk about how they are developing their passing games – to allow anyone else to shoot like Steph Curry or Kevin Durant. Do they really believe it is accidental that good shooting and good passing seem to go together?

Over the years, I’ve experienced a lot of frustration on the basketball court because passing is a critical component of my game. I don’t LOOK like a basketball player. So I don’t receive passes, and I don’t get the opportunity to make passes. As my defense has tailed off, I get fewer and fewer opportunities offensively all because of a prevailing idea in basketball: “He can’t be any good; don’t pass to him.” It happens every day on playgrounds, at the earliest levels of basketball, and unfortunately, most players never grow beyond this mentality. Don’t believe me? Look at the next streetball game you see going on.

When you take a look at the two highest scorers in NBA history – Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Karl Malone – right away, two other names come to mind: Magic Johnson and John Stockton. Has anyone considered that both of the two great shot-makers played with two people who, at one time, held the mark “Most Assists in NBA History?” And people think this is an accident?

But even more perplexing is the young player’s mentality when it comes time to pass. There is some truth to the idea that if you want to be a good passer, you have to be good at getting the ball to your team’s best player. However, if you want to be a good passer, you have to also realize that continually throwing the ball to one and only one person limits your effectiveness as a passer, as well as the other person’s ability as a pass recipient.

Young passers tend to only throw the ball in two directions: in the direction of the person who they think is the best player, and in the direction of the person they like the most – their friend who is on their team.

As coaches, when we start to practice passing skills, invariably, players start getting sloppy – as if ANYBODY can pass. To find one who wants to make sure that bounce pass hits his target PERFECTLY; who want to make sure the spin and position and placement of the pass is right – well – you just don’t see much of that.

At older levels, isolation plays become more and more common. The idea that the isolation player actually set someone else up? Well, maybe – but it’s not a well-practiced skill. Passing is so – well – EASY. Except that it’s not. It’s something that needs to be practiced, along with communication, receiving the ball, screening, and even diversion.

And without the view that passing is an important skill, which can be and MUST BE developed, the chances of seeing another Steph Curry or Kevin Durant slowly dwindle away.

We now return you to your three-pointers, your dunks, your isolation post-ups, and someone trying to counteract climate change by pounding the ball into the floor enough to shift earth’s orbit. *YAWN*. Wake me when it’s over.

Here we go again – Greyhounds 2018!

Well, it’s that time to get started with the 2018 Greyhounds.

There are 17 invitees for roster spots and two non-roster invitees this year.

Some information about this year’s schedule – we have six practices scheduled as of right now:

  • Saturday, June 2  – from 9:00 AM until Noon  –  at the Armory
  • Saturday, June 16  –  from 9:00 AM until Noon  –  at the Armory
  • Saturaday, June 23  – from 9:00 AM until Noon  –  at the Armory
  • Saturday, June 30  – from 9:00 AM until Noon  –  at the Armory
  • Saturday, July 7  – from 9:00 AM until Noon  –  at the Armory
  • Saturday, July 14 – from 9:00 AM until Noon  –  at Broadway Christian Church

As is the Greyhound tradition, the July 14 practice will be the Greyhound Challenge Game.  This year, we welcome back the members of the 2016 Greyhound team:  Lindale Baker, Asa Holcomb, Keylan Horn, Bryce Irvin, Cody Koebel, Ian Meyer, Zane Meyer, Lemuel Miner, Tosin Ogungbade, Brendan Royer and team captains Connor Parrish and Kolin Easterling.

Now for the untold story:

With so many people wanting to play this year, those of us on the administrative side of team did our best to find practice courts and available space so that we could have TWO Greyhound teams – one for 5th/6th graders, and one for 3rd/4th/5th Graders.  Unfortunately, Columbia has no such facilities available.  A few that had the facilities gave us straight “No”s, and most places didn’t have the space available.

So, without the extra facilities, we’re left with a single team, and potentially a lot of cuts to whittle the roster to 12.  As a person who has been on both sides of cuts, this isn’t where I want our teams to be.

Folks, we simply need more basketball courts in Columbia.  More availability from schools, more courts in churches, more private indoor courts.  If you know of places in the future that we can try, please let us know.  It is likely that we run into this problem – too many Greyhounds and not enough roster spots – in the future, again.  And simply put, we need help!

Oddly enough, the coach for TNT, Tyree Goolsby, is telling me that he’s starting to get a similar issue – too many kids, not enough roster spots.

Our second year – the year of the “Lost Greyhounds,” we didn’t have enough kids to field a single team.  Now, we’re potentially at 5 cuts, plus the two non-roster guys.  Basketball is gaining popularity again.

Time flies

Well, folks, time certainly has flown by this year, and I’ve not had a lot to say – which is amazing for several reasons.

The biggest reason is the wonderful success this year’s Greyhound team had at the Show-Me State Games. For the first time in the Greyhounds’ history, we won two games at the Show-Me State Games – the first non-forfeit wins we’ve ever had. And the guys from this year were amazing.

Upward Basketball is about to get started up again at Memorial Baptist, and Greyhound players are all over the place in terms of the top rankings! Very proud of my guys. And let’s not forget you Wildcats, either! Very proud of how well you guys have scored this year.

Hoping all is well with all of you, and wishing everyone out there the best.

Love of the Sport

I’m very excited that we’re starting to get responses for the 2017 Greyhounds.  Mason Chandler and Sam Clubb have committed to returning, and we’re getting responses from players who have only played against us;  even one from a player who has never played FOR or AGAINST us.  And that tells me that our love for the sport of basketball is what’s doing the talking.

The love of the sport is so important.  When you love the sport, that love can bleed over to teammates.  And that sort of love is contagious.

I’m also excited that I’m about to go on vacation aboard Anthem Of The Seas.  What does this have to do with basketball?  Well, on my first trip on Anthem of the Seas, during the maiden Atlantic crossing, I happened to win the 3-point shoot-out, and my team won the 3-on-3 tournament.  I’m hoping for a repeat.

For those of you who are unaware, my shooting has been affected by another degenerated disc in my neck, which hurt the strength and mobility of my left hand.  I’m starting to come back – thanks to the good folks at PEAK Sport and Spine, where I did my re-hab, and also to my wonderful teammates and friends who play basketball at the Tribune.  A special shout-out to original Greyhound Patrick Smith, who also happens to have done something with EVERY Greyhound team, and who the Smith Trophy is named for.  Patrick is working to help me get back the strength and the shot I’ve lost.

Also, for those of you who are unaware, I have presumably played my last competitive basketball game, with Team Carfax.  Lots of great teammates over the years – including three Greyhound connections:  Patrick Smith, Mason Chandler, and former Greyhound Assistant Coach Jacob Rogers.  Also, at what figures to be my last game, I was blessed to have former and current Greyhounds Sam Clubb and Lindale Baker on hand.  With the injuries racking up, plus my weight plus my age making me slower and slower, it doesn’t make a lot of sense for me to keep playing.  I’ve had a great career as a player, and this season was in a few ways, my best.  So, perhaps, next year will feature a Greyhound Legacy team in the City League – with me on the sidelines as a coach.

Love of the sport leads to love of others when you do it right.  And that’s what Greyhound Basketball is all about.

2016 Award Winners

With the conclusion of the 2016 season, we announce the 2016 Award winners.  There’s a new one just added today, as I’m finishing up the stats for the season.

Game Balls:

Game 1:  Asa Holcomb

Game 2:  Kolin Easterling

Game 3:  Lindale Baker

Game 4:  Lemuel Miner

Line Award (for best per-minute team production):  Brendan Royer

Abele Award (for Hardest Worker):  Keylan Horn

Hamilton Award (for Best Sportsman):  Connor Parrish

Smith Award (for Best Teammate):  Lemuel Miner

Congrats, guys.

 

 

First Practice completed

We completed our first practice on this past Saturday.  10 of our 12 players were there, including new addition, forward Ian Meyer.  Assistant Coach Sam Clubb was not there, as he is returning from a family vacaction, but he texted us, and had his introduction pre-recorded for us.  However, former Greyhound Shelomi Miner was at practice, and helped us out.

We first covered the team rule about injuries;  all injuries are to be reported, with no exceptions.  They are to be reported to ALL COACHES plus the player’s parents.  We did some basic stretching, and we then started learning the Motion framework, which serves as the starting point for our man-to-man offense.

As always, some players took better to the motion system than others did.  Among the better at the beginning were Lindale Baker, Keylan Horn, Kolin Easterling, Cody Koebel, Lemuel Miner, Connor Parrish.  As always, the problems that seemed to occur were the typical ones:  outside players not cutting immediately after passing, big men getting confused as to which direction they go on the inner rotation, or worse yet, not moving.

Afterwards, we did our player introductions.  Kolin kicked it off, and as we went around, bits and pieces started to get funny.  We were doing a better job of joking around and having fun during the intros that we’ve ever done.

We did some motion work against real defense, and before we knew it, it was time for free throws and suicides.  Only one player – Connor Parrish – made his free-throw goal, winning the first week for the skill players.

Of course, I turned 50 this past week, and by Greyhound tradition, each player and coach got to take me one-on-one, to make sure I haven’t lost a step and can still play.  Well, the players this year fared better than they have in the past;  Keylan Horn absolutely burned me.

We finished up with some scrimmage.  As a whole, I felt we had forgotten too much of our positioning and flow of motion at the scrimmage.  I have to give props to two people who were talking with each other and trying to keep the principles in place going:  Lindale Baker and Kolin Easterling.  They kept it together, and started getting offense late with feeds to Cody Koebel.  While Connor Parrish and Keylan Horn were trying to pull the team together, it tended to break down a bit more.  However, Keylan’s pushing the ball and Connor’s shooting kept their team in the game.

My review of the practice:  A good, solid start.

Mason Chandler’s pick for best practice:  Lindale Baker

My pick for best practice:  Kolin Easterling

The 2015 Line Award Winner

Okay, I’ve finally gotten done crunching last year’s statistics; minutes played was the last one for me to do, and I had a bit of trouble with this one. However, I’m now done, which means it’s time to announce the Line Award winner.

For those of you who don’t know, the Line Award is named after the Line brothers, Ethan Line, who was the first honorable mention for the award, and Travis Line, who was the winner of the first two awards. It is the person with the top +/- ratio PER MINUTE. In other words, how much better are we than the opponent with you on the court.

First, an honorable mention: Brendan Royer. Brendan isn’t eligible for the actual award, because we only play players who are third or fourth graders in very limited minutes. However, being effective in those minutes is awesome, and I’m very proud to see Brendan join the honorable mention list for this award.

The 2015 Line Award goes to Cody Koebel.

Cody won one of the closest battles in Line Award history, narrowly edging Tosin Ogungbade and Connor Parrish. Cody won the award by playing major minutes for the team, while being an effective scorer and a solid defender. In fact, Cody was the youngest player in the game during the closest game in Greyhound history – and folks, get ready to celebrate, because he’s coming back this year! In fact, the top four guys are all back this year! High expectations this year, guys, and a big congratulations to Cody.

Greyhound 2016 Invitations are out!

Earlier today, Greyhound 2016 invitations went out.  We’re gearing up for the 2016 Show-Me State Games.

Our initial invitee lists includes 8 potential returning Greyhounds.  Five of these are offered guaranteed spots:  Kolin Easterling, Connor Parrish, Lemuel Miner, Tosin Ogungbade, and Cody Koebel.  Cody has already accepted the invitation, and claimed his 35 jersey.  Also, return invitations were extended to Brendan Royer, Asa Holcomb, and Alex Hook.

We have a few of invitations issued to players who have played for me in Upward, as well;  invitations were issued to Isaiah Larkins and Lindale Baker, who along with Asa, Alex, and Cody were part of my 2014 Tarheels.  Invitations were also extended to Max Sachs, who played for my 2015 Bruins along with Asa, and Robert Lee, who was a 2013 Cyclone along with Cody.

There were also invitations issued to brothers of former Greyhounds;  in addition to Brandon, Lemuel, Tosin and Alex, invitations went out to Josh Candrl, Lane Diggs, and Cooper Rhoades.  Also, former Bruin Jeremy Anderson‘s older brother, Zach Anderson, was invited.

The final 7 invitations went to players who’ve got no experience with me as a coach:  Landon Block, Justin Goolsby, Keylan Horn, Bryce Irvin, A.J. Jones, Craig McGowan, and Zane Meyer.  Landon, who is playing for another team, declined his invitation in a very sportsman-like note from his parents;  we wish Landon all the best with his team.

Mason Chandler and Sam Clubb return as my assistant coaches this year.

We have secured gym space at The Armory for five of the six scheduled practices.  The practices we’ve scheduled run from 9:00 AM to 12:00 noon, on Saturday, June 4, Saturday, June 18, Saturday June 25, Saturday, July 9, and Saturday, July 16.  We have not confirmed the location for the practice scheduled for June 11 as of yet.

A main page will be added to update you as to the upcoming year’s roster.

The first Cavalier win!

The 2016 Cavaliers are my Upward Basketball team for the season. It’s been a rough stretch for my guys.  We’ve struggled with rebounding problems, turnovers, and incredible defensive lapses.  And then there’s the plain old bad luck.  But over the past two weeks, the season has turned around.

Much of the turnaround can be attributed to the improved play of Micah McArthur.  Micah is probably our most talented player, so when I talk about “improvement,” I’m really talking about his efficiency and his defense.  Micah has really bought into the scheme of getting all of the players involved, and this has turned him into a devastatingly efficient player.  He was always solid, but now, it’s stunningly efficient.

The play of Micah is the biggest factor in getting a second player going, and that player is Taysir Yalaoui.  Now, everyone should realize that Taysir is my best friend’s son, and he’s the reason I’m coaching in Boys 1st/2nd.  Taysir is a kindergartner, and this is his first step into actual organized basketball.  Up until the past two weeks, Taysir had taken only one shot.  Now, for those of you who know Taysir, you know that the one thing he can do in basketball is shoot.  Well, thanks to Micah getting him going, Taysir scored four points on 6 shots last week.  With him getting to shoot, he’s now more involved, and is playing much better defense, getting some steals and recoveries.  Well, this week, Taysir scored four points again, this time on three shots.  Two of those points came on a steal and breakaway lay-up in the final period;  those two points tied the game.

It’s a big change coaching in Boys 1st/2nd from the older leagues.  I tend to talk as if the guys all understand the language of basketball, which, of course, they don’t.  Plus, we’re not good offensively at the things I most want to do – which is implement player and ball movement and a passing game.  It has definitely been a stretch outside of my comfort zone.  However, as we’ve gotten better at doing some of the things, our results have looked better and better on the court.  The last two games have definitely been the high point of our season so far.  And, as is typical of my teams, it was the back end of the bench that won us this last game.

The Upward leadership is starting to plan for next season, and there may be more news coming in that regard. I’ll probably talk more about that in my next entry.

SEVENTH? Really?

ESPN has been doing a countdown of greatest players in basketball history. While I knew they’d eventually draw my complete disrespect, I couldn’t believe how early they did it.

Somehow, for what must surely be considered an extreme bias toward recent happenings over history, Bill Russell, my absolute argument as #1, is ranked # 7. He is ranked 7 behind the following players, in an as-of-yet unreleased order: Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Michael Jordan, Wilt Chamberlain, Magic Johnson, Larry Bird, and LeBron James.

A man with 11 rings is finishing behind folks who have, respectively, 6, 6, 2, 5, 3, and 2. In other words, take JUST RUSSELL, and you have to select Kareem and Jordan together to exceed his ring total. In fact, if you were to take Chamberlain, Bird, and LeBron together, you’d be four championships short of Russell.

So let’s think this over. Russell won 11 of the 13 championships he competed for. LeBron has already lost in the Finals four different times (Cavs in 2015 and 2007, Heat in 2011 and 2014), whereas Russell only lost one Finals and one non-appearance.  LeBron has lost as many championships to #8, Tim Duncan, as Russell EVER LOST.

Bird’s presence on the list ahead of Russell is obscene, given that each of the men played for the same franchise. Bird delivered three titles. Russell did that in his first four years.

Did Bill Russell hit 3 pointers? No. Did he score 100 points in a game? No. Did he win dunk contests, and shape marketing for the NBA? No. No, he just won basketball games.

Except that that’s understating what Russell was. He set the stage for the modern NBA. In the days before civil rights, he was proving to be the standard by which all other players were measured. He opened the door for African-American coaches – being the first African-American professional basketball coach, and being the first African-American professional basketball coach to win a title, and did that as a player-coach. LeBron was whining recently about wanting to play for a coach who had actually played in the NBA; he should realize that Russell is a big part of the reason for that.

Russell wasn’t a media darling. Well, neither was Abdul-Jabbar, who I have number 2 on my list.

So – in honor of Russell’s finishing 7th on the list, I’d like to announce my selections for top networks that know more basketball. Coming in at #7 is ESPN.

Coming in at 1 through 6 – in an as-of-yet unspecified order – are TNT, NBC, CBS, ABC, Fox, and the general populace of the Internet.

There is a reason the NBA Finals MVP trophy is the Bill Russell trophy.  Not the Michael Jordan trophy.  Not the Kareem Abdul-Jabbar trophy.  And DEFINITELY not the LeBron James trophy.

Note to ESPN: Winning COUNTS. And if winning counts, EVEN DOWN TO HOW HE DID IT, Russell – like in all but two years – wins.