Glovers tips for playing smart, team basketball

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Much like football in the area, basketball in this region hosts some of the best teams and talent in the state &8212; which is good for me because, behind football, basketball is my favorite sport to watch.

And also like my inclinations in watching football, I am more interested in the work of a group as a whole as it lends itself to wins and losses for the team than the work of one particular player. Unfortunately in basketball as opposed to football, really special players can sometimes make up for the failings of the rest of their team and through their skill and determination win ball games for the group.

It is because of this that I really am not a huge fan of watching NBA games and stick to high school, college and the NBA finals (where it is exceedingly hard for one player to carry a team) for my basketball viewing. But, in almost a trickle down effect, I have noticed players in both college and high school becoming more and more focused on being a star player these days rather than learning the skills they and their entire team need to really succeed at any level of play.

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I am talking about basic basketball skills that make or break close games and can make mediocre and even bad teams winners against undisciplined talent &8212; free throws, knowing how to take a charge, clock management and adjusting defenses to offenses weaknesses.

Free throws are the most frustrating and easy to fix thing I see missing. In high school I had a coach who taught my team to draw a foul and not miss from the line. The team as a whole shot over 75 percent from the line, sent talented players from opposing teams to the bench with foul trouble and beat a lot of bigger, more talented teams down the stretch from the charity stripe.

On the defensive side, that same coach taught us how to take a charge. It is the equivalent to drawing a foul on a shot and will sit down aggressive, talented offensive drivers of the lane the same as a drawn foul will big guys on offense.

Of course foul trouble for an opponent is only effective if you can stay in the game. It is hard to come back from a 20-point deficit, though even that is possible with constant practice of two-minute drills. But to really have a chance against a better opponent and make it deep into the post-season a team has to know how to manage a clock.

Already this season, I have seen teams lose games both early and late by trying to swap blows with a team that has momentum on full court breaks. Transition ball is not for everyone, and there is not a team I have ever heard of that has dominated their way to a championship with it as their offensive strategy.

Learning and using set plays and teaching players when to pull back from a break and run down the clock is crucial to any team that is going to keep a lead or come back from behind. If a coach can analyze his teams strengths and weaknesses against that of his opponent there is no reason a group cannot find five or six plays with various dump offs that will tear apart both zone and man defense.

Which leads us to defense.

Quite a few of the teams I have watched this season haven&8217;t been much on switching their defense when it is obviously not working. Every team should know at least two different zones and of course man coverage to effectively bust an opponent building steam. A two-three zone is a great way to keep opponents out of the paint and force outside shots, of course if you have the size edge go to man and force them inside for points.

Utilizing all of these little things and big things, as I said, can make an under talented team a smart team, and smart teams always have a way of shutting down undisciplined talent. Of course, a talented team that is also a smart team is a team that is going to win it all.

Brandon Glover is the sports editor of The Times. He can be reached at