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Choosing The Right Player For A Basketball Team

Aug 17, 2007
Most of us have to take what we get, but if you have a choice, and you have enough boys out so that you have to cut the squad, select your personnel as follows:

(1) Size (2) Speed (3) Shooting (4) Intelligence (5) Competitive spirit.

This is the era of the "big" man in basketball. Most of the successful teams in the country, both on a collegiate, as well as high school level, have had the tall boys helping them. However, the place is still available for the little man in this era of giants, if he can get the job done. He can do this by playing big, that is, mastering the fundamentals of shooting, dribbling, passing, and having that competitive fire that enables him to earn his place on the court. As I said, it is true that most of the good teams have big men, it is also true that over the years most of the outstanding teams have had at least one good little man. The U. of Kentucky is a good case in point. Year after year Kentucky has a little guard to spark them.

On a high school level, I can point out any number of good little men in Illinois who have left their mark on the hardwoods. There are many players who are "small" physically, but whom earn their place on the basketball floor, because they play big.

Regardless of the style of play used, the player must have speed, and know how to control it. Just to run with reckless abandon does us no good, he must have control of his footwork, be able to feint, and acquire the ability to start, and stop quickly.

Regardless of what you do well, to be successful at this game you must put the ball through the hoop. Long hours must be spent with the boys helping them develop into good shooters. If I find a boy who can hit the "hoop" with any consistency at all, he is on the squad; I'll teach him the other things. A good example of this, is a small sophomore whom I had several years ago. I watched him play one day and remarked to our sophomore coach, "That kid certainly can shoot, but he can't do anything else. I doubt if he ever plays for me." Nine games after the season opened the boy moved up to the varsity, captured a starting position with his shooting, and played regular for me the remainder of the three years. He captained the team during his senior year. He had a funny looking side-arm jump shot, but it went through the hoop. That is all you ever strive for; just find someone who can get the ball through the hoop. You can help them develop the other skills.

I like to see some intelligent boys on the squad. They don't have to be the 125 to 135 I. Q. boys, but your coaching job is naturally much easier when you get boys who grasp your instructions quickly. The best students in the classroom, with equal physical endowments, will make your outstanding athletes. The tendency is also for an intelligent boy to keep his head better and make the right decisions in a tight situation. Your worries about eligibility are lessened considerably with boys of this caliber.

Competitive spirit is an intangible that is one of the most important traits a boy can possess. I feel that you can add to the competitive fire of a boy but if he doesn't possess some native competitive spirit when you get him, then I don't feel it can be instilled by the coach. I have a motto that hangs in our varsity room, "When the going gets tough, the tough get going." The boy with the fierce competitive desire to win will "bow his neck" and give it his "best shot" when the competition grows keen. A boy with this spirit, although maybe lacking in innate ability, deserves a place someplace on the squad. He will "pay for his keep" by helping you win a tough game some time.
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