Without a doubt, basketball scrimmages are essential at the high school level for assessing the quality of your players and team. Playing against outside competition allows the players to see how they stack up and lets coaches tinker with different combinations and recognize what works and doesn’t. In our case, the two pre-season scrimmages were a lesson in humility and a cold slap in the face. The first team came in like a well-oiled machine, on top of their game after playing a summer and many years together in a Marin City AAU League. We had no chance. I did challenge the team to win the last quarter of the game, starting 0-0 – and we did win that last quarter which I believe gave us a bit of a boost and some form of momentum. But what we really got out of it was it gave my guys a reality check that what I was telling them was true: at the high school level, other players are going to come after them in the games and they will try to eat your lunch. Unless you are prepared you will be exploited defensively and manhandled offensively. Luckily, my group was able to shrug off that opening scrimmage loss and stay loose and determined. That attitude would help in the weeks to come, but not before we got absolutely annihilated again the following Saturday morning at a worthy opponent and first-rate, big football, athletic school.
Two scrimmages, two beat-downs. However, there were some bright lights. And the plays worked. And the guys were competing hard and showing moxie. We were still beat, badly, but everyone got playing experience and we even won two of the five quarters we played in the second game. Progress.
In my opinion statistics for exhibition games can be unreliable based upon a few factors. Stats could be helpful determining an objective decision for a starting job but subjective to context and environment. But film is really helpful. As the coach orchestrating the game in real-time, I might miss or forget a teachable moment or a coaching point. Film helps remember and isolate. Organized film works a lot more. That’s where Hoopsalytics comes in very handy. Having the game film ready to watch and archived as the season goes – even just the raw game footage – provides an opportunity to get better.
Scrimmages are the best pre-season gift a coach could ask for. Use them wisely!