Point guard essentials

Another basketball season has kicked off, and I am busy trying to prepare the South Charlotte Middle School Shockers for their season. The agony of having to cut young players is never a pleasant experience. It was especially painful this year because each young man was respectful and eager to be a part of the team. I have never met a coach at any level who looks forward to cut day!

As the season unfolds, I will try and provide reflections of our progress. Hopefully, a dialogue between coaches at First Easy Pass will provide some insights and guidance for all of us as we move through our seasons. Coaches, players and parents will benefit from the real life examples we are able to provide and comment about.

The first days of practice are always a trying time. The excitement of making the team, looking forward to the first game and the overall confidence of each player leads to fast-paced, and sometimes hectic, early practices. One thing remains clear to me as we work through the first days: the point guard is the key to a smart, efficient team. Just like the quarterback in football, the point guard needs to be one of the best – if not the best – players on your team. I learned a great deal from Coach Smith during my playing days at UNC. My focus on the point guard in today’s game is a clear reflection of the importance Coach put on his point guards many years ago.

Here are a few points to emphasize with your point guards:

  1. Take care of the ball! Turning the ball over during live play can be a killer for the team. Almost every day I remind my players I would rather have a jump ball called than a weak, forced pass that gets picked off. At least the jump ball call lets us set up the defense. It is a hard lesson for young guards to learn; especially when the “lights come on”. If my years of experience hold true, we will struggle with this concept early in the season. If your team experiences similar issues, be patient, stay positive. Each day, continue to emphasize the importance of possessions with good shots.
  2. Your point guard needs to be able to read the court. We tell our players to play with their heads up. The point guard has to be able to handle the ball with his head up. Seeing the entire court is a must. So much of the time they tend to focus only where they want to go with the ball. Once he trusts his teammates to be where they should be, the point guard will be able to focus on reading where the defensive players are and react accordingly. This attribute is difficult, especially for the middle school player. However, I believe the first step to progress is reading the zone defense. Usually, the zone is not pressuring the ball, and the point guard should be able to see the gaps and potential opportunities to break down the zone. Playing with your head up against man-to-man pressure is, of course, more difficult. That is why I try to make sure our teams are moving the ball with the pass against man pressure. It takes pressure off the dribbler if we are focused on moving the ball quickly with the first easy pass!
  3. The point guard is most often the one guy who can pull his teammates together. It does not always happen, but I prefer my point guard to be a vocal leader along with his actions. Try and make sure your point guard feels the freedom to be that vocal leader. Early on, the coach does so much talking during practice that it can be hard for a leader to develop. One warning: The leader is there to encourage, not criticize his teammates. Only the coach should provide constructive criticism. This was a Coach Smith trademark, and I don’t bend on this at any time!

The season is here and I wish you all the best! Stay tuned, and I hope you will feel free to engage in dialogue with me in the comments below or on the discussion board.