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Posted by Steve Bzomowski on March 23, 2017

Please, never call out the name of the player you are passing to even if things have transpired in a way that you had not expected: meaning they aren’t looking and the pass that you have thrown is on its way. It’s embarrassing to do so. It means that you and he or she were not on the same page and to shout the name, shout in desperation, is a very public acknowledgement of that mistake. Better to see the ball fly out of bounds. Better that the ball smacks your teammate in the back of the head. That’ll teach ’em not to be looking for the pass. No more, “Jamal!”, okay?


Posted in ballhandling, beautiful basketball, general improvement, passing, team offense, without the ball | 2 Comments »

Poem Inspired by an NTL Weekend Camp

Posted by Steve Bzomowski on April 19, 2016

On The Occasion Of Playing Basketball
for Nine Hours in Two Days
One Week Before My Sixtieth Birthday

Being as sore as I was this morning is OK,
but if I were to elaborate on that just a little, I’d say
it’s like getting a voice-mail message

from a childhood friend who is evidently calling
from a noisy truckstop in the Midwest
and who is evidently drunk, saying that

some s**t has gone down, some bad s**t, actually:
that his mom sold her house and its contents
without having discussed it in advance

or even let him get his stuff,
including concert-ticket stubs tacked
to the bulletin board beside his door;

not to mention his original X-Box,
which admittedly is not compatible with
today’s games but for the love of god,

there were some great ones
that you cannot get anymore,
and simpler graphics are not necessarily worse graphics.

Would it have been such a burden to call your only son to say:
“Hey Granger, this is your mom. I’ve decided to move
to an assisted living facility, in Rockford”?

Arthur Russell, Nutley, NJ, NTL Camps (1993-2016 . . . ) “winner of the NTL Lakeside, Michigan Weekend Camp 2016 Baron Davis Award for Returning to the Game in Terrible Condition But With a Still Passable Handle.”


Posted in ballhandling, beautiful basketball, general improvement, without the ball | Tagged: , | 2 Comments »

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 »

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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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 »

50 Little (Big) Tips (2nd in a 10 part series)

Posted by Steve Bzomowski on February 25, 2015

Week Two

First Tip: Layups 12 Different Ways

In games, layups present themselves in a variety of ways; it’s not always the classic “right knee up on a righty layup”, “lefty knee up on a lefty layup”. Here are 12 ways to shoot a layup:

1) right knee up righty layup (the classic);

2) left knee up on a lefty layup (the opposite hand classic);

3) right hand, “wrong foot”

4) left hand, “wrong foot”

5) “Power Layup”; off two feet (right side)

6) “Power Layup”; off two feet (left side)

7) lefty dribble, righty layup

8) righty dribble, lefty layup

9) righty finish left side of hoop (back turned to the middle)

10) lefty finish right side of hoop (back turned to the middle)

11) EuroStep right side

12) EuroStep left side

Second Tip: Alternating Hands Dribble when speed dribbling

When needing to cover a long distance, maybe after a steal or long rebound, and you have no one ahead of you and you want to finish the trip and the play as fast as possible, use the alternating hands dribble technique. Don’t cross the ball over, extend your arm and put the ball down in front of the other hand. 3-4 dribbles and you should be able to cover a full high school (84′) or NBA/NCAA (94′) court.

Third Tip: Sikma Move

Named after NBA legend, Jack Sikma. Also known as “inside pivot”.

Fourth Tip: Use defensive fakes

Especially important when defending a 2-on-1 or 3-on-1 fast break or when helping against penetration on defense and you want to make the dribbler pick up his/her dribble without fully committing to the dribbler.

Fifth Tip: Screening the low side of a defender in a ball screen

Many defensive players, especially in pick-up games or recreational league games react to a ball screen by trying to go under the screen. If so, screen on the low side of that defender so it is even harder for that defender to get under the screen. This will drop the defender so far under that the ball handler who you are screening for will be free for a wide open, undefended shot.

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

Out of Bounds Under the Hoop (Patience!)

Posted by Steve Bzomowski on October 29, 2014

At our NTL camps and clinics, we eschew the old playground tradition of checking the ball at the top of the key after fouls and after the ball goes out of bounds. Instead, we take the ball out underneath the hoop. The idea in our camps and clinics is to make the basketball as real an experience as possible and similar as possible to game and game-like situations. Friday night, Harvard at Princeton, Jadwin Gym, ball rolls out under the hoop off a Princeton player: Harvard ball.

Different teams have different takes and philosophies regarding the out of bounds play. Some look to run a play to score; some are content to get the ball in and let their half court offense do the work. At NTL, the idea is to teach and help players see and recognize what they hadn’t seen and recognized before. Left to their own devices, players always pass the ball to the first open player, usually someone who has popped to the wing or corner. This, to me, misses a great opportunity. Inbounds passers, the player passing the ball from out of bounds, should always look to pass the ball into the lane before making that pass to the perimeter. You can make that pass to the perimeter anytime; look for the layup or easy finish play in the lane for 3 or 3 1/2 seconds before passing the ball out.

All it usually takes is a player to screen away in the post, say block-to-block and then shape up after the screen. It’s that easy.

I remember playing a summer league game in Swampscott, MA long ago with Tom Thibodeau when we were assistants at Harvard. Thibodeau, who was a pretty tough player, better than his DIII all-league status suggests, scored 32 points, many of which came from OB Under plays; me passing into him, of course! We’d make eye contact; he’d fake away from an opening and come back (sealing strong) or he would do the aforementioned screen and shape. Easy as that! (When I was at his apartment a few days later, he had cut out and hung the local paper’s league write-up on his refrigerator, circling “Tom Thibodeau, 32 points”. I scribbled in below it: “Steve Bzomowski, 16 assists”.)

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“Alternating Hands Dribble in the Open Court”

Posted by Steve Bzomowski on January 14, 2009

When I was a kid going to camps and practices, coaches used to have us do the “speed dribble”. Basically going – supposedly – fast as you could using the same hand to dribble all the way up court. It’s what you were taught and directed to use during the hopelessly boring and inefficient use of time “relay races”. I’m pretty sure coaches at camps are still teaching the speed dribble. Last I looked, they were. Problem is, if what one wants to do in teaching hoops is to show players what the pros (and college players) do and help developing players master those skills, i.e., “do as the pros do”, none of the pros ever speed dribbles. Never! Watch! Instead, the technique they employ is the “alternating hands in the open court dribble”.

What is it? Well, what it is not is crossing over. Crossing over when running hard is too constricting, too tight to the body. That, in fact, is the problem with the speed dribble, as well; it doesn’t flow. Instead, imagine doing the Australian Crawl (swim stroke) while standing up and running with a basketball. That’s the “alternating hands in the open court dribble”. Push the ball out, almost as if you are telescoping your arm; out it goes then down goes the ball. Right arm out and slightly diagonally left, then left arm out and slightly diagonally right. Out and then down. Doing it that way never impedes your running progress and allows you to run quick-as-you-can with the ball, much speedier than the old, tired, seen-its-better-days speed dribble. (Video Coming Soon!)

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Posted by Steve Bzomowski on December 4, 2007

Every now and then, you’ll hear someone say about a basketball player: “he’s got really good hands”. (Or she.) What they’re talking about when they’re talking about “hands” is the ability to catch the ball, especially the ability to catch a ball that’s not so easily in reach, or to come up with a ball that seems out of reach. Like you’ve got glue on your fingers or some magic, magnetic relation to the ball. Slurp! Whoosh! Ball’s in my hands. A cartoon character or animation figure whose arm and hands extend and there, like an apple picked from a tree, is the ball. 

Went to the “new Celtics'” game yesterday versus the Cavs at The Garden. About the only thing of interest (unless you call LeBron not playing interesting, which it is, but in the totally reverse way) was the play of Glenn “Big Baby” Davis, their rookie 2nd round pick. He was active on the boards, threw a couple good passes, leaned heavily on post defense, took a charge (and had another that was wrongly called a block) and even looked like he knew the plays better than Eddie House. He was enough of a force that Mike Brown, coach of the Cavs, was asked to comment on him. One of the things he said, of course, was that Big Baby has “great hands”. And he does. No fumbling, no passes lost streaming out-of-bounds.

So, how does he do it? Is it genetic? (And therefore if you seem to not have great hands you should give up?) Probably somewhat. But what it’s really about is vision, the coordination of hands and eyes, and the “feel” in your fingers. Your eyes determine the place in space that the ball, in flight, occupies. Your brain in coordination with your hands puts them in just the right place at just the right time to snare the ball. Does “Big Baby” think about all this? Of course not. He’s just playing, ‘havin’ fun’ (as they say)! He’s learned how to have great hands, through countless hours of ball games and throws and catches. His brain and eyes, arms and hands have gotten used to predicting it all.

What can you do to make your “hands” better? Play “wall ball“, for one. Another is practice catching a basketball thrown (or passed) from far away but catch it with just one hand, not allowing the ball to touch your body at all on the catch. Practice catching with each hand, concentrating on making soft contact with the padded parts of your fingers. This also forces you to watch the ball all the way into your hand, a good idea, a good fundamental to return to if you ever find yourself dropping a pass or two.

Now you can be a Big Baby, too!

Posted in ballhandling, general improvement | Tagged: , , | 1 Comment »

Rooting for this Kid

Posted by Steve Bzomowski on September 27, 2007

How could you not be impressed with this kid? Though lots of college and pro athletes now know how to say the “right thing”, with Michael Conley it comes across as something he thought up, totally sincere.

Watch these clips and tell me you’re not rooting for this kid.

Bucks’ Workout

Ballhandling Drills

Posted in ballhandling, notes: college & pro | Leave a Comment »

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