Never Too Late Basketball's Tips & Tales

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50 Little (Big) Tips (7th in a 10 Part Series)

Posted by Steve Bzomowski on November 5, 2015

1. When going left, dribble lefty. When going right, dribble righty. When you don’t know where you are going, don’t dribble at all.

2. You are playing a league game or a game where there’s a ref or somebody who is going to impose rules. It’s your team’s ball, side-out in the front court. Pass the ball to a teammate in the backcourt. (You can throw the ball into the backcourt from anywhere and it is not a backcourt violation. Just don’t touch it till you get both feet in the backcourt!) The pass to the backcourt eliminates the danger of a) catching in the front court near the half court line and stepping on the line and getting a totally demoralizing backcourt violation and b) getting trapped by a defender and the sideline/backcourt corner.

3. The first overnight basketball camp I ever went to was Friendship Farm run by Jack Donahue, the great Lew Alcindor’s (Kareem Abdul Jabbar) high school coach. The camp was heaven on earth; all basketball all-the-time. Great high school players and great high school and college coaches. (Bobby Knight came in on day and nearly killed us with defensive drills.) One day during a break, Warren Isaacs, all-time Iona College great and long-time big-time pro in Italy, pulled me aside to work on my hook shot. At one point, Coach Donahue walked by and muttered, “you’re only as good as your running hook”. Whatever Coach Donahue said, I took as gospel. You should too.

4. When you play a game of one-on-one, vary the rules. Don’t always start at the top of the key, don’t always leave the rules open ended. Some ideas: a) top of the key but one dribble maximum; b) start on one or the other low post areas, back to the basket, and go three dribbles maximum (anything more is grammar school ball); c) start in the corner or the wing; d) play one-on-one full court; e) ball handler starts at 1/2 court with a live dribble, defense starts at the top of the key. What game do you want to play?

5. Unless you are dunking the ball or dropping the ball down into the hoop, use the backboard to finish layups, especially breakaway layups. Angle out on the last step if you are coming down the middle (easy to do) and finish around the rim, not over the rim. Over the rim (meaning straight into the hoop) without using the backboard can result in the ball rolling off the rim and out. So depressing. I cannot tell you home many times I have seen heads hung after the ball rolls off the rim and out on “all alone layups – even in the pros! Take the rim out of the equation. Ball + backboard = 2 points.

Posted in beautiful basketball, defense, fast break, general improvement, notes: college & pro, passing, post play, rebounding, rules, shooting, team offense, without the ball | Leave a Comment »

50 Little (Big) Tips (6th in a 10 Part Series)

Posted by Steve Bzomowski on September 14, 2015

1. As in any thrown ball, if your hand goes to the outside of the ball, the ball will curve. In basketball, pretty much the only time you throw a “baseball pass” is when you hit a teammate who has gone ahead of all the defense and you are throwing a 70′-90′ pass. If you throw it with your hand rotating around the outside of the ball, it will curve away and not hit your target. Instead – and this is absolutely beautiful, try it! – finish with your thumb down, your hand coming under the ball rather than around the side. This gives it a smooth backspin rotation, just like on your jumper, which we know, always hits it target!

2. When Tom Thibodeau (NBA Coach of the Year, 2010-11) and I coached together for four years at Harvard, we played a ton of pickup games together. During those games, he talked a lot, some of it smack but a lot of it just random basketball stuff. One thing he used to say was “never catch a deflected pass”. You know: someone throws you a pass and a defender deflects it. Don’t know where Thibs picked this up (it sure sounded like he was parroting something he had heard) but it makes sense in that one is likely to misjudge the flight of the ball and it will deflect off you and out of bounds.

3. When Robert Parish got traded to the Celtics in 1980, he was a four year veteran with plenty of skills. Playing with Larry Bird over the next decade, he added many more. Bird used to outlet the ball 3/4 court left-handed. He’d rebound on the right side of the rim, turn over his right shoulder and looking up court, use the hand that was away from the middle (where defense tends to be) and the hand that he could outlet quicker with, his left. Three years later, Robert Parish was outletting lefty too. If an NBA veteran can pick up a skill like that, so can you.

4. When you run the break, you run wide, right? But don’t run wide all the way to the baseline or corner (unless you are spotting up for an NBA style three pointer in the corner, the NBA’s favorite shot). Instead, hesitate when you are wide but even with the top of the key, and then angle in so you come to the hoop above the block. (I got this from Rick Pitino when he was at Providence College many years ago.) This angle allows you to A) catch and use your body to protect and finish on a layup; B) gives you the angle where you can use the backboard (rather than on a baseline drive where it’s just rim) and C) hit a teammate with a bounce pass angling in from the opposite wing. (Defense is between you and the hoop thus giving you a window to make the pass through the lane; couldn’t do that if you were coming in from the corner!) Again: angle in above the block, please. You will never regret it.

5. Similar to the efficiency of the lefthand outlet, after rebounding and deciding you are going to dribble the ball up rather than outletting with a pass (a la Magic Johnson), take the first dribble with the inside hand, the hand that will allow you to stretch the ball up court quickest. On the right side of the court, that would mean your left hand. On the left side, your right hand. If you are not outletting, you better get moving and using a long inside hand dribble is the best way to start your speed dribble up court!

Posted in ballhandling, beautiful basketball, defense, fast break, general improvement, notes: college & pro, passing, rebounding, shooting | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

50 Little (Big) Tips (5th in a 10 Part Series)

Posted by Steve Bzomowski on July 22, 2015

IMG_24331. After feeding the post yell “double”. This is fundamental, as fundamental as the “Mikan Drill”. Why yell double? The player guarding you invariably goes to bother the receiving post player. One of the first (fundamental) things the post player does is turn and look middle. The post player cannot look middle AND see your player who has vacated you to double down. Help out your teammate in the post by yelling “double”!

2. Let the post player get position before you feed the post. Not doing so more often than not results in a deflection (almost as bad as a steal). Posting up means, posting up by definition is, getting the defense on your back so you can manipulate and hold off defense so that the post player can receive the ball cleanly. It’s offense: be patient!

3. Make your left as good as your right, practice lefty (or off-hand) jumpers to better understand form. Of course we don’t mean become an ambidextrous jump shooter; gauche. But there is a reason that all great shooters are, informally, like during games of H-O-R-S-E or just in goofing around, very good off-hand jump shooters. They understand form so well that they can apply it both to their off-hand and to their strong hand. (My record in shooting 18′ jumpers alternating left hand and right hand every shot is 20 in a row. What’s yours? Try it! And then try it again and again; you’ll figure it out and become a better shooter overall.)

4. Shoot for swishes (“Swish Game”). Fred Hodson of Jonesboro, IN, NTL’s famed Shot Surgeon at our Weekend Camps (he slices open, takes apart and slowly stitches back together your shot – no pain killers) says “shrink your target”. In other words, don’t just shoot to get the ball in the hoop; shoot it to get it in a particular part of the hoop. There’s a game, comes by many names that is helpful. The “Swish Game” goes like this (it can be done from anywhere): you take two from the FT line. If you miss, it’s minus one; if you make a perfect swish (no rim at all), you get plus one; if you make but hit the rim, you get zero for that shot. Then your partner (opponent) does the same, takes two. Play to plus six or to any number you want. Making shots will all of a sudden become a by-product of shooting.

5. Aim for the bottom corner of the backboard when feeding a post player who is being fronted. I got this from Tom Thibodeau when we were coaching together at Harvard and we’d play pick up or summer league games. I’d have it on the wing; he’d be posting up. I would situate myself so that Thibs would be between me and the hoop. If he was fronted, he’d keep the defender there and tell me to throw the ball up to the corner of the backboard. This would keep the ball out of the middle of the lane where hep might be coming but also allow him (the post player) to pull it in, get footwork down and score in the lane.

Posted in beautiful basketball, general improvement, notes: college & pro, post play, shooting, without the ball | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

“99 FTs in a Row and Then Bank No. 100.”

Posted by Steve Bzomowski on June 12, 2015

Since January 2015, in Boston following the NTL Weekly Practice Programs on Sunday mornings and Monday nights, players who have signed up for the FT Project come in, pay 5 bucks and shoot 100 free throws, shoot 10 at a time (alternating with a partner) till they have taken 100. Previous to reading the article about Larry Bird versus Stephen Curry (“Nobody, not even Steph Curry shoots like Larry Bird”) our goal was to just improve; over the course of a few months, improve. Now we have a new goal: make 99 free throws in a row and bank in number 100. 5 times this summer. This is so beautiful. Who is in?

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Play Forever and Play To Win

Posted by Steve Bzomowski on May 20, 2015

Got this note from a long-time, many-time NTL Weekend Camper (mostly Santa Barbara but he got up to Portland NTL once, too). “So about a month ago I decide to get a little cardio work in anticipation of Santa Barbara on a Saturday afternoon. There is a very popular hiking trail in the mountains near my house that is 3 miles up a steep trail to a peak overlooking LA. I walk up the hill at a brisk pace and then start jogging down.  I’m about halfway down and pass a young couple (in their mid 20s probably) heading up the hill. As I go past them I hear the young man say to the girl: “I get really inspired when I see old guys like that trying to stay in shape.”  First time anyone has ever seriously referred to me as being old. Devastated my ego. Switching direction for a minute I need to tell you about how my son broke my heart. I’d been coaching him at the local YMCA youth basketball league since he was 5 years old.  In 5th grade tells me that he doesn’t like basketball anymore and is going to quit playing. Broke my heart. But you gotta let your kids make those kinds of decisions for them-self so I say fine as long as he picks some other sport. Over the next couple years he tries some other youth sports and in his freshman year of high school finds true love: tackle football. His problem is his body. He’s 6’3″ 155 pounds his freshman year.  Freshman basketball coach drooled over him, football coach wondered what position the twiggy looking kid could play. He lifts weights like crazy and finally his senior year starts at left offensive tackle. He’s 6’6″ 185 pounds. The other four offensive lineman all weigh 230-240 pounds. The tallest kid on the basketball team is 6’4″. So anyway, my son comes home from his freshman year of college for spring break a few days before I go on the hike I mentioned. He tells me he had been playing pick up basketball games in the gym at school and is having a lot of fun and is getting pretty good.  He tells me he’s getting so good he can probably kick my ass. Upon thinking about it some more, he tells me, he’s sure he can kick my ass. Not only will he kick my ass, he says, he will beat me down so bad I’ll never play again. This trash talk goes on for a few days. Finally, I get sick of it and tell him to meet me at the high school gym after my team practice on Monday and  we will play 1 on 1 to 15 points. He shows up and takes a few warm up shots all the while talking trash for the benefit of the couple  of high school kids who were still in the gym. We start the game. I kick his ass 15-4. Moral of the story: never f*^k with a guy who just got told he was old for the first time. See you in Santa Barbara.”

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The “Reminds Us of Awards”, NTL Santa Barbara Camp, May 2015

Posted by Steve Bzomowski on May 6, 2015

At each of the Never Too Late Basketball Weekend Camps, Adidas sponsors the NTL “Reminds Us of Awards”. Every player is acknowledged as having some quality or characteristic that reminds us of some former or present player (or referee or movie actor or who-knows-what). Coaches confer on Saturday night and we present them at the Sunday afternoon post-camp breakup lunch.

Here is the rundown on the awards from the NTL Weekend Camp, Santa Barbara, CA, May 2015

Jim Morris, perhaps the greatest 40 Shot shooter in NTL Camps history, channeled Russell Westbrook from his Bruin days (but did not dunk)

Henry Jai leaned and fell away going glass for the Sunday 4-team game winner and walked away with the coveted Chris Paul

Mike Strautmanis posted and passed and shot like Boris Diaw then upped his game and got the Arne Duncan 

Coach Keith Webster said Andy Owens was the best defender in camp which got him the Gary Payton Award

Justin Owens was in the mix for best Big Man and was graced with the Frank Kaminsky Award

Evan Asher flashed MVP form then wrong footed at the buzzer à la Steve Nash (but promises not to retire)

Shelly Asher, steady and underrated and effective and unfazed, walked with the prestigious (to the coaches) Mike Conley

Bob Zukis, 6’8″ and a globetrotting Masters player, sees the court and moves a bit like the legendary Arvydas Sabonis

Leon Kwan, improving by the minute, went inside and out and garnered the Kevin McHale MIP

We liked Josh Berezin’s game as we like Steve Blake’s game: skilled, athletic, team first

Slim Garry Williams ain’t no Big Baby no more, he’s our Louis Orr (#55)

Peter Thom had his best camp in years and torched opponents like Bob Petit

Shaun Kerr, likewise had his best camp. He’s a gamer, a keeper, and gets the Jae Crowder

Brett Bowles, solid and confident, knows how to get it done and picks up the JJ Berea

Brother Brady Bowles wins NTL Camp shooting contests year after year and gets (the somewhat related to JJ Berea) JJ Redick!

James Terrile, southpaw, focused and dangerous with a developing crossover and on-the-cusp jumper, wins the prestigious Pablo Prigioni

Gary Seto, #2 camp draft choice, defended and surprised and scored in the lane like Evan Turner

Chinh Le, soared to the best vertical (29.75″), won the NTL Fastest Human Being, played an awesome all-around game and snatched the Cory Alexander (who graduated from U VA with a degree in psychology). C & C would have made a great backcourt in Charlottesville!

Matt Newman, also of U VA, played like another former Wahoo, Bryant Stith: smooth, skilled, relentless, equal parts good and great

Jeffrey Ogbara is a better athlete than Mike Waitkus, but Waitkus, Brown ’86 and he share a championship demeanor. (JO can become a very good basketball player.)

Mike Webb is a lefty scoring machine who is now finding others easy baskets, like Chris Mullin used to do

Kevin Ng is amazing. Gordon Hayward type amazing.

John Hochhausler knocked his college-age kid off in a game of one-on-one and then came to camp and played like Luc Longely, maybe better.

Rich Gulden. How good was he? Jeff Hornacek good!

Sam Dekker was among my favorite college players all year. Joe Corella won his 2nd NTL Camp 3 Point Shooting Contest and stands shoulder-to-shoulder with the clutch Badger

Philly Duchene runs an offense and runs a defense and runs a game like Ty Lawson

Jason Ford never knows who his award namesake is but we all know he plays like Luis Scola. Yes!

Robert Parish (“Chief”) loved playing with John (“Tricks”) Bagley. Parish would have loved playing with Alexander Lim, who can do it all, too.

YK Low went to the University of Memphis. So did Derrick Rose. They both are playing very good basketball right now!

Steve Lutz can shoot from anywhere. So could Jeff Fryer

Keith Stamler played like Dave Myers, not quite Ann Myers, but Dave Myers ( 4-time All-American) was really good, too

George Sya defends and scores clutch hoops like Andre Iguodala, a true Warrior

John Wang may not go pro like Tyus Jones but he is confident and talented and so good that I am certain Coach K would love to have him (in some capacity) on his team.

Posted in beautiful basketball, general improvement | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

NTL Two Minute Warmup Ballhandling Drill (video)

Posted by Steve Bzomowski on April 24, 2015

The warmup drill we did at our recent NTL Weekend Camp in Lakeside, MI. Greg Tonagel, former star at Valparaiso University and NAIA Coach of the Year at Indiana Wesleyan University, takes you through the drill.

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A Perfect Sunday of Basketball in Boston

Posted by Steve Bzomowski on April 19, 2015

Starts off with Beautiful Basics, a clinic for new-to-the-game players and others who just like working on fundamentals, 9am in super trendy Somerville. Followed closely at 10:30am by a robust Intermediate Skills & Scrimmage Clinic in which players run drills like in a college practice and end with a full court game to put it all together.

Noontime brings players in for the Free Throw Project: 100 free throws twice a week (Monday nights, too). Got to improve on our league free throw percentages!

At 3:45pm we swing over to Fidelity House, Arlington Ctr, the gym where Pat Connaughton put together ll the great pieces to his game. Two one hour Parent/Kid Clinics: first for kids ages 7-11 (though my 2 and 6 year olds are allowed to sneak in) and at 4:45pm, ages 12 and up! Play the game the best way, the fun way!

Next, like dessert after a great meal we go home and watch (on tape) the Celtics edge LeBron and the Cavs at the buzzer in a Game One, Round One upset! (posted 17 minutes before tipoff)

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50 Little (Big) Tips (4th in a 10 part series)

Posted by Steve Bzomowski on April 17, 2015

1. Want the ball? Show your hands; give the passer a target. A pitcher throwing to a catcher without a catcher giving a target would have a much harder time putting the ball where it should go. Same with receiving a basketball. I worked out Howard Eisley (12 year NBA pro) for a couple of summers and on the first day I told him, “show your hands”; he did it every time for the hours and hours we spent together plus every time I saw him playing on tv. Good enough for for an NBA 12 year pro? Good enough for you.

2. Take a hard last dribble, or at least a firmer dribble when finishing a layup or going up for a jumper. It allows you to feel the ball more solidly coming into your hands and helps establish the rhythm for the shot.

3. Backdoor cuts: don’t wait for the defender to overplay you or wait for the defender to get way out of position; just recognize when the defender’s momentum is taking that player away from the basket and then you plant your foot and go! As soon as their momentum goes out, you go in. Two points plus the foul!

4. Ever start to set a down screen from the wing and find yourself walking into your own defender? Frustrating at first because it feels like they are getting physical with you and not letting you go where you want to go. In fact, you should take a moment and shake your defender’s hand because they are giving you two points! Any time the defender is not between you and the ball, means you can get between them and the ball for an easy catch. Walking down from the wing and walking into the defender means you should take them almost to where you want to screen and then step over with your inside foot, sealing them on your back, arm bars up for the catch and score!

5. If you find yourself ahead of the all the defense and a defender is jogging slightly trailing you and they are looking at you rather than the ball, fake as if the ball is coming on a “home run pass” to you. They react with panic. The ball isn’t coming but it helps make the defender feel stupid; always a good thing.

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50 Little (Big) Tips (3rd in a 10 part series)

Posted by Steve Bzomowski on March 12, 2015

Week Three

1. Practice like a pro (

2. Practice “toes to the corner” – shoulder pointing in toward the hoop to protect the ball – finishes (or as I used to hear Rick Pitino say, “put ’em in jail!”)

3. Engage in games, competition: H-O-R-S-E, Streak, Knockout, especially One-on-One (competition is good for basketball development)

4. Play “chest up, high hand” defense (heard Bo Ryan, U of Wisconsin head coach, say this recently)

5. Always run wide on the break (I remember watching Karl Malone run so wide on the break when John Stockton was pushing it up that it looked like Malone was out of bounds or going to run on top of the scorers’ table.)

Posted in ballhandling, beautiful basketball, defense, fast break, general improvement, notes: college & pro, post play, shooting | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »


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