Boxing out

Every player needs to know how to box out. I’d say not only is boxing out vital to a player’s skill set, but also to win games.

More and more players are forgetting this skill. This is how.

1) Know your position. Where are you in terms of the rebound zone, the space around the blocks and near the restricted circle ? If your far from the rebound zone your focus is to prevent the opposing guards from coming in to pick pocket your bigs. If your in the rebound zone, your job is to seal the opposing players by giving them the “bad” side, that is the side the ball is coming from.
2) Locate a nearby player and put your body on him. A combination of using your butt and legs. Your legs should be spread and your knees a bit bent to prepare for the rebound. If done right, opposing players have to get through you and your legs.
3) As the ball bounces from the rim, raise your arms in a ” I surrender ” position. This will allow you to grab the rebound quickly, verses your arms coming from your hips.
4) Willingness to box out. You can’t teach it, nor learn it overnight. Just gotta go and do it.

Becoming a Natural Scorer

First, I know scoring isn’t everything. I also understand that the term “scorer” has a bad image associated to it. Some of the negative images can be “ball hogger” or “selfish”. However, I am writing for the players who simply cannot score, despite having the physical  and athletic ability, the skill, the work ethic. They’re just simply lacking something.

Everyone is good at something. Everyone is also bad at something. Everyone makes mistakes, but there are those who learned from them.

In order to be a great scorer, you need to know these basic truths. If they are foreign to you, perhaps you haven’t put enough thought into them.

Now I want you to ask the following questions. If you don’t know the answers to them, take a minute before moving on.

  • Do you know what your strengths are? Weaknesses?
  • Do you know your mistakes?
  • Do you know your habits? Have you done anything to change them?

How can you become a natural scorer?

First, you need to get rid of the superstars images in your head. Watched those video highlights of Shaq dominating the post? Scratch it. Kobe Bryant working a clinic? Delete it. LeBron James bulldozing a bunch of defenders? Pretend it didn’t happen. These images create false expectations. You are NOT Kobe Bryant. You are you. You have certain gifts and traits that others don’t. So don’t try to mimic others. Why would you when you have things they don’t’!

Main Point - Becoming a natural scorer, is to react. That’s what you do. You react to what the defense gives you. Many times, I see players trying to do crossovers 3 times before driving into the lane. They obviously don’t get it. You only do a crossover because your defender took the bait and went for the steal or tried to cheat the defense by anticipating you ahead of time.

A sample scenario if you your strengths are driving, lay ups and weak at shooting.

You catch the ball and the defender is giving you room. You know that you can’t shoot well, but let’s see what they will do if you shot fake. He can either:

  1. Lunge at you and try to block your shot. Awesome, I wanted to drive so this will get him off balance giving me an opportunity to pass him.
  2. Stay there and not move. Fine, so I have an “open shot”.
Well, the first scenario works well for you because you can now use your strength. What about scenario 2? If he won’t bite, let’s entice him to bite. I want you to jab, drive in anyway and pump fake once you get really close to the basket. He will almost fall for it giving you a open window for a close lay up or foul. This might not work when you first do it, but once you start developing counters, up and under, hop step and reverse pivot, dream shake, hook shots, you will find a way to score. 
See why this method works? You utilize your strengths and you react. You’re not forcing shots, you’re not doing it without a plan, you’re just picking what they give you, which is natural
One might ask, what if he doesn’t bite the second time? Well, one, he’s probably not defending you well so you can score regardless or you probably need to fake once or twice before attempting the bucket. However, you are aways in the advantage seat because he’s moving back. It’s physically impossible to move forward and back at the same time. Get it?
This works well with over zealous defenders (happens to me all the time).
So now that you know to become a natural scorer, you need to realize what your strengths are and learn to react to defenders. No defense is perfect and no one can take away everything. If you are having trouble with a good defender, he’s probably giving you false signals to bait you in thinking you have him.  To counter that, fakes and hesitation moves gives you the illusion of taking the bait but you do the opposite. 
Thanks for reading! Until next time!
Coaching for YBL

Hey All! Sorry for the absence. Good news is I am officially coaching for a small summer program in NYC. 

The program is split into 4 parts:

  1. 15 mins - Cardio and Stretching
  2. 30 mins - Drills 2-3 
  3. 25 mins - Scrimmage
  4. 5 mins - Speech & Next Week
Some of my goals would be:
  • Develop key muscle groups - the core, legs, balance, foot work, and eye & ball coordination
  • I’d like to rotate the drills every week. Picked out from the following categories: defense, passing, scoring, and dribbling. 
  • At the end of the program will be a speech concerning some important lessons in the game, examples: attitude, how to be confident, not forcing the game but letting the game come to you, using your gifts to reach your potential, being smart and thinking before doing, playing as a team.

I have never really coached before but it’s something I’d like to try (getting old fellas). The goals of the program is to make it fun, make the kids sweat and teach them to play basketball.

When I was younger I only knew how to play one certain way. I’m sure you all know what it is, as it’s predominately in the NBA—the SG/PG position. Growing up, I was a big guy, however but there really aren’t manygood big guys out there. I would always fall short at game time. It was only last year that I really picked on becoming a big guy. 

Looking back, I wish someone taught me how to play big. That’s why I’m doing. I want to teach kids how to play. Teach them the right things and proper form, mentality and hopefully give them lessons that will stick to them forever.

Next week I’ll share you tips on defense. I found a really good book, STUFF Good Players Should Know - by Dick Devenzio. I think everyone who’s a basketball junkie should read it. Here’s a quick preview:

  1. NEVER lunge at a player who has not dribbled yet, after receiving the ball. He can do anything he wants to you if you do. I think this is a big one for over zealous shot blockers.
  2. Keep on your toes. Playing defense doesn’t mean trying to swat the ball every time. It means being in the right position and making it hard for the opposing player to score. If you are a talented shot blocker, make smart decisions (taking point 1 in consideration). 
  3. Don’t be stock. Try to stay lower than your opponent. Be on your tip toes and keep your head constantly looking for PICKS. If your man is a great slasher, be prepared to shift your weight back. If he is a great shooter, attack him on his weaker step (many players love stepping to the right side for a shot) or attack his right hand if he is a righty, so he doesn’t have clearance to shoot. 
  4. Have an open palm facing towards you (or have the palm in the up position) verses a down facing hand. If you get into trouble with fouls this can help you be more humble and smart about stealing. If you have your palms up, it’s harder to call reach -in because you’re tipping the ball towards you, not at the ball handler.

Until next time!

Breakdown Game #1

I’ve mentioned many times how important looking at defense weakness can become keys to victory. Two weeks ago my team lost to a rather unorganized and physically weak team. We were upset that we lost to such a team. I used my memories to analyze their game. Their main points were :

  • Played 2-3 zone
  • Great defense presence in the paint but weak outside defense. 
  • 4 players continually crashed the boards but did not box out 
  • Only one player was shooting consistently. Only one player was able to lay up effectively. The rest of the team only did mid range shots. 
  • Did not run plays. Swing ball till they found a scoring opportunity

Last Sunday, that same team played my friend’s team. I addressed them the points above. My strategy consisted of:

  • Seal the paint and crash boards. 
  • Don’t let them get inside. Let them shoot
  • Offensive strategy should be pass quickly and spread the floor and shoot if open. If shot wasn’t there, give it to their big man. Driving in was impossible.
  • Play zone defense first quarter, then change to man-man second quarter to disrupt their offense. 
  • Keep the right combination of players in and have at least 2 shooters in all the lineups.

Even though we didn’t follow all these points, we did a good job hitting a majority of them.  Here’s our result

  • We did not box out as much and had to rely on our bigs to rebound.
  • Opposing team’s offensive tempo was never there, so it wasn’t a big change switching defense. 
  • Our 2-3 zone in the first half opened a gap at the top key (guards did not play their defensive roles well), causing the only shooter on the opposing team to shoot three 3pointers. When we switched to man-man this did not happen.
  • Our bigs were over-aggressive and became blind to our open 3 pointers. Once we gave them the ball, they did not pass it back out.
  • Our 3point shooting consisted about 40% of our score.
  • We did manage to get a few good looks at the end of the game with two 3 pointers to seal the game.
  • Our offensive ball swings were horrible. We kept swinging on top and not enough to the corner and inside.

Despite not executing effectively and numerous fast break points and our horrible defense, we managed to pull a win! Analyzing defense, working with your strengths and weapons, and exploiting gaps works so well. This just shows you how a well planned strategy and (hopefully) good execution can lead to a good game. 

Applies to even basketball. For example, during warm ups or practice, mix up the mix of moves. Don’t just shoot 20 hours at the same spot.

Never Put Yourself Below the Competition

Im pretty sure we have all been in this situation where we play against lesser skilled players than ourselves. Many of us would just try to abuse the other team.

Let’s talk about MJ. MJ on the other hand, would work on something in a game he knew he’d win. For example, just using your left in that game, or shooting at a certain spot you don’t typically go to.

Another thing is to challenge yourself. During practice MJ would always go against Scottie. MJ was always looking to challenge himself.

As a basketball player myself, my moments of growth were playing with better players than me. A few months ago, I joined a weekly gym that hosted games. For the first month, I lost every game. It wasn’t until I addressed some of my short comings and got used to the competition (and stamina) that I started winning. Every week after that, people knew what to expect from me and I just did my job until it was second nature.

That’s my lesson for today. You should always try to play against better players because better players teach you if you’re willing to change. You’re go to move not working any more? Maybe it’s time to develop that counter. Keep getting that ball stolen? You’re not protecting it enough. Don’t get discouraged. Play and find out what’s wrong.

Breaking Down Basketball

On the outside, basketball is a numbers game- score more than the opponent and you win. On the inside there’s the spirit of competition and love for the game and team.


I mentioned briefly about the passion for the game last week. This week I’ll talk about what type of mindset you should bring into the game and how that will translate on the court.

There’s a really good chapter on how to be an effective scorer without looking like a ball hog in the book, Everyone Hates a Ball Hogger but Loves a Scorer by Koran Godwin. Basically the author breaks the game as sections. To reach 20 pts a game all you have to do is score 5 a quarter. It’s easier to go for 5 a quarter than 20 a whole game. He goes more into it but that’s the basic.

So now having this knowledge you can start to go in the game with a open and easy attitude. Imagine a seesaw with you in the middle. On one end is the scrapper mode which your mission is to find opportunities to score whether it’s free throws, offensive boards, finding the open cut when your teammate is stuck. This is what most players do. They only score when they’re open or the situation allows you to. On the other end, the dictator creates his or her own shot. This player exploits weaknesses with his arsenal of weapons that he’s mastered. This mode is based on instinct and harder than scrapper.

First, you need to switch these on and off. You can’t be dictator the whole game (ballhog) and you can’t be scrapper or else you lose your tempo. Find the balance!

Second realize that the best players are no where near 50% FG. For those players that are afraid of scoring, don’t worry! No one is a 100% player. But on the other hand, scoring 70% in practice means your a 30% game guy at best. This means to always work hard.

Lastly, don’t force anything. You need to make the game come to you. Always look for weaknesses and be in the right place at the right time.

Love for the Game: What Gatorade Can’t Replenish

Nothing is easy. There’s going to be times when you’ll fail and there will be times when you will succeed. But if you keep giving it your all and continue fighting you’ll make it. Question is how far can you go?

This area is very subjective but worth a mention. It begins with a question of what’s the greatest power that fuels people to overcome hardships and face his/her biggest fear—to face adversity? The answer might be close to you than you think.

I’ve been playing basketball for my entire life. Over time I’ve developed some natural skills that comes from playing. However, I still lose. I’m not the best or worse player, actually I’m no where near where I want to be. But I love the game. I love to compete. Without love you probably won’t get far. That’s the secret. There is no greater power out there than love.

MJ once made a good point about passion. When asked about what’s the best way to teach a kid about basketball. He said he learned about the game of basketball at a rather late age (since he was playing baseball). But he genuinely loved the game. It wasn’t until much later that he learned about basketball—the scoring techniques, the fundamentals and plays. So it’s ok if you learn late. As long as you have passion the learning will come later.

It’s not work if you love what you do.

Space

Besides angles, creating space is one of the most overlooked and underrated topics in basketball. Effective scoters know space like the back of their hand and defenders know space like a good friend.

Now what constitutes good spacing? Good spacing, as a shooter, means having freedom to shoot uncontested. For the inside game, it’s a bit different. You want to close the space and make the defender fall out of balance giving you a window of opportunity.

How can I use space for my game? A good scorer and defender is well versed in manipulating space.

Understanding the defense

Looking for opportunities that are known to make it easy to score

Working on space saving moves
Ie: step back, post bump and go, spins, upper body & lower body bumps, Crossovers, and power dribble (hop step).

Be a Detailed Freak

If you’re here it means you want to get to the next level. I remember being stuck at one point trying to figure out what I did wrong. It took me a few years, tons of losing and missed shots to find out the answer. The answer was my lack attention to details. Most players try to imitate great NBA players but what you really don’t see is the detail these players go through. Sure you can copy Kobe Bryant’s shoaft and you’ll make a few shots in but the next day you lose it. You end up getting upset and questioning

The first thing to do is to analyze your game. See what mistakes and tendencies you often do and figure out how to correct them. Better yet, go out to educate yourself better by watching what others do and watching game tape. I know I always dribble the ball away from my body which ends up getting stolen so I keep a mental note during the game . I forget to aim before shooting so I use “power words” to remind me when I square up. I have this tendency to go passive after a scoring run but I haven’t figured out how to fix that yet. While I was looking at my weaknesses I learned I could also improve what I already had. I was already a great rebounder but I learned a neat trick from watching Dennis Rodman. He loved to tip the ball towards him and away from other rebounders. Coupled with his tenacity and positioning himself on the opposite side of shooters, he was getting rebounds over guys taller than him. Look for details. Look for tendencies, weaknesses and strengths. But most of all, keep working on your game.