In order to best evaluate the ability and competitiveness of the players, for the first 30 minutes of each practice we use a training camp shooting workout that achieves evaluation goals as well as creates positive repetitive benefits. Each player is required to work on high release point, footwork, shooting rhythm, and results. We start with 50 layups per player, 25 on each side. Each player reports their results and we chart every shot. After layups we go to 10 straightaway shots in front of the basket from 5 feet, then 10 shots from 10 ft. and 10 shots from 15 ft. (foul line) with a teammate rebounding. We then do the same from the right and left baselines – 10 shots from 5, 10 and 15 feet on each side of the hoop and follow that with 12-ft. wing jumpers, 10 shots from each side, before finishing with 10 free throws. That’s a total of 170 shots per player in the first 30 minutes of practice. For one week of practice, that’s over 1,000 shots per player and 10,000 shots for the team. Talk about knocking the rust off!
Part of the reason for the shooting exercise is to get the players invested in and comfortable with analytics. By charting every shot, we create a competitive environment that should translate to game time. We will be using data analytics through the Hoopsalytics platform this season to chart individual performance as well as team activity, and getting the players tuned in to that effort early in the season is helpful.
The next important thing we try to achieve during training camp is comprehension of our core concepts, including limited turnovers, tenacious and hard-nosed man-to-man defense, sharing the ball, hitting the open shot, acknowledging rebounding is going to be a challenge and accepting that challenge, and knowing a 16-18 ft. shot, analytically, is a terrible shot, while a 19.75 ft. shot – a high school three-point shot – is a good shot (unless it is contested, then the percentages go way down).
Along the way we have interspersed conditioning drills as a recognition that the game requires athletes in top physical shape. You get in shape to play basketball; you don’t play basketball to get in shape. They are two very different things. Playing basketball requires incredible physical ability including top-notch cardio capacity.
Lastly we work on the offensive sets we plan on using in the games. Our UCLA offense is designed for players at this level. Combined with the Phil Jackson popularized notion of triangle play, our team works on point guard picking a side, entering the ball to the wing player after a V-cut (Coach Bill has me interested in the Iverson Cut- to be explored in next practice!). After the ball is entered to the wing, the point uses an elbow screen to cut to the basket, oftentimes, surprisingly, wide open. If the ball is not passed to the cutting point guard, the elbow player screens for the wing player and they play pick and roll. The players have grasped the concept of triangles quickly and we have been honing our timing and passing every day.
We have also adopted the Steve Kerr philosophy of a team that is fun, loose and disciplined. So far, so good.