by John Unrein
Former University of North Carolina Head Basketball Coach Dean Smith is credited with saying, “There are two important things to do when teaching basketball, praise behavior that you want repeated and knowing what to do with a mistake. You should recognize a mistake, admit it, learn from it, and forget it.”
High school summer basketball camps like the one held at Grain Valley High School the week of July 20th allow coaches to offer affirmation of positive actions on the court as well as constructive questions and criticism that provide growth. Sneakers were squeaking on the hardwood and nets were swishing as the Eagles boys’ basketball team worked on offensive and defensive basketball fundamentals.
Floor spacing and passing angle sessions for competitive points was part of the menu of drills directed by Eagles Head Boys Basketball Coach Andy Herbert. The benefits of floor spacing in basketball have become paramount from the professional level of the National Basketball Association all the way down to the high school ranks.
By an offense using good spacing in basketball, the defense must cover more territory and has a harder time giving help when recovering to get back to their man or space on the floor they are to defend. Teams who efficiently use floor spacing and motion like the Eagles in their offense are a headache for opposing teams. Defenses must be well conditioned to face the five stressful elements that good floor spacing creates.
Basketball Coaches Clipboard online breaks down the strain that terrific floor spacing in motion offenses creates for opposing defenses.
First, spacing makes it harder to defend against dribble penetration as the help defenders have further distance to cover when coming off their man. Consequently, spacing makes it harder to defend perimeter shooters, as the help side defender in the paint has more distance to cover in getting back to the shooter.
Next, spacing makes it harder to defend post players. Teams that double team the low post will have a more difficult time when players are spaced apart. Good spacing also allows for hi-low passing from one post player to another when players are spread out across the arc.
Effective floor spacing also makes it harder to defend cutters maneuvering towards the basket. Lastly, excellent floor spacing makes it harder for a defense to deny passing lanes.
Herbert takes a cerebral approach with his players during practice to reinforce understanding so that playing efficiency gets better. A lesson that gives players a breather as well as connecting the mental aspect of the game with the kinesthetic.
“Why did you guys win that set? Correct, offensive rebounding. Don’t watch the ball, find a body and get position. You have to be in constant motion when we space the floor. Trust your eyes and compete for the ball if it doesn’t go in,” Herbert said.
“If you are the first guy coming off the back screen or flare, you have to move. The ball being dribbled should not interfere with or be in the way of other movement. Also, with spacing we cannot get caught in no man’s land. Get to your landmarks so that we have options and the defense is stretched.”
Two returning varsity players paying close attention to Herbert’s instructions at camp are seniors Keeton Maxon and John Haywood. Maxon is getting reps in the low post at camp, while Haywood is running the point for the Eagles, a role that got Haywood more playing time in late last season with the Eagles.
“I have enjoyed getting up early and knowing I’m going to get to play basketball with all my friends,” Haywood said.
“I miss my older teammates as well. It’s weird being in here without them. No more Caden (Matlon), Josh (Kilpatrick), or AJ (Salisbury). I’m one of the old guys now.”
“Ball fakes, familiarizing myself with offensive sets, and learning how to become more comfortable in the paint have been what I’ve tried to work on the most this week at camp.”
Haywood concluded, “Defensively, we need to work on closing out better when an opponent drives on us. No easy shots should be allowed against us.”
Maxon offered his assessment as well on the week of work put in at camp.
“Competing and getting to see everyone again has been special. I have missed the chance to compete and get better,” Maxon said.
“Knowing the offense and executing it better has led to more open shots for me. Using my post presence to make better passes has also been an emphasis.”
Maxon continued, “Talking more on defense has allowed us to defeat screens better. Knowing our defensive assignment whether we are on the ball or the help side is assisting us in limiting more shots. That will be important to carry into the season.”