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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 »

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 »

Glossary of Terms For Post Play (Part One)

Posted by Steve Bzomowski on January 6, 2015

(excerpted from the outstanding handbook, Practical Post Play, by Pete Gaudet*)

Passing Angle: “Draw a line from the ball (spot A) to the target. Now imagine the easiest spot from which to feed the post successfully (spot B). A line from both spot A and spot B to the target form an angle. When a player moves the ball from spot to spot B, the passing angle has improved.”


Bzomowski adds: Passing angles are crucial; improve your passing angle and you cut down on turnovers. You improve it by (in the case of feeding the post) reading where the defense is playing and moving the ball (via dribble, pivot or pass) so that it is fed to the post player as close as possible on a perpendicular angle formed by ball line to post player’s chest.

*Coach Gaudet is former head coach at Army, longtime assistant at Duke University as they went to 7 Final Fours and 2 NCAA Championships, lead instructor at the famed Pete Newell “Big Man Camp”, overseas coach and a member of Never Too Late Basketball’s Weekend Camps’ staff.

Posted in beautiful basketball, general improvement, post play, team offense | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »

Sins of the Recreational Basketball Player (5th in an occasional series)

Posted by Steve Bzomowski on December 7, 2014

It’s a sin, a crying-shame-kind-of-sin, to see a player in a recreational league or pick-up game or even, heaven forbid, in a scrimmage in an NTL Clinic or Weekend Camp, feed a post player the ball and then just stand there as the perimeter player’s defender (the post feeder’s defender) impedes the movement or offensive play of the post player. It is a sin because it is so easy to do something to affect the play in a variety of positive ways. The easy something to do? Move. Move to occupy your defender so that your defender gets off the post player. Whenever you feed the post your defender always ALWAYS turns to look into the post. At that moment, all your defender knows is that you were where you were when you fed the post. Shaving points? Don’t move. Feeling super lazy? Stay right there! Sinning like a recreational player? Yup, don’t move your feet.

Now the question is, the good question is, where do you go? Simply put, anywhere! More helpfully, go one of three places: 1. cut behind your defender’s head (so the defender has to adjust his/her position to concentrate on finding you or 2. move to a spot away from your defender so that they have to cover the most ground to recover to you (often to the corner) or 3. dive to the rim (cut to the hoop). Any and all of these movements get your post player what your post player and you want: one-on-one in the post.

Do one of those three things and your stay in basketball purgatory will be shortened; the basketball gods will begin to forgive you your long list of basketball sins. Amen.

Posted in beautiful basketball, general improvement, post play, team offense, without the ball | Tagged: | 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”.)

Posted in ballhandling, beautiful basketball, general improvement, passing, team offense | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

Sins of the Recreational Basketball Player (2nd in a series)

Posted by Steve Bzomowski on May 7, 2012

Sins, of course, carry different weight, come in many shades, stain the basketball soul, sometimes more, sometimes less, permanently. The first sin we identified was Not Running the Floor; the gravity of that sin cannot be overstated. You might as well excuse yourself for a bathroom break, secretly locate and turn on the sprinkler system and send everyone home. Who are you kidding: you don’t want to be there and are just spoiling the game for everyone anyway.

Our second sin, Not Getting the Ball Inbounds Quickly When the Other Team Scores, is related. It has to do with running; it has to with effort; it has to do with the sublime consciousness of outthinking and outdoing and surprising the opposition. (The opposition is, of course, both the other team and the sedentary you.)

Here’s what happens in recreational basketball games: one team scores and the team that was scored upon walks the ball out of bounds and slowly, mutely, listlessly, defeatedly, looks for someone to throw the ball to. But this dullness turns out to be problematic in itself because the scored upon team, your team, is walking up-court, collective heads down, watching the other team celebrate. This is a sin. This is an affront to the collective basketball soul. This is what is wrong with humanity. Somehow basketball became football in the sense that after a score, it seems to be a virtual time-out. I mean, let’s sub and line the ball up and kickoff and then, but only then, try to bring the ball up-court and score. (I like football but get it off my basketball court!)

Like I said in the first post, I’ve played a lot of pick-up basketball and it has always been for me that when the other team scores, I am in a rage. Enraged. And I cannot wait to avenge what just happened. What to do? Take it out and get it in and up-court as fast as possible, preferably, hopefully, while the other team is still gloating, feeling unjustifiably good about themselves. When the ball drops through the net, it’s like the starter’s gun has gone off and you are up and out of the blocks. Their guard is down, is it not? Wipe that smile off their faces. Is there not great satisfaction in that? What happens when you run the ball out and scream for someone to throw it into and sprint up court is your teammates see what is happening and they join the race that you have begun. They run with you. They sense the passion, the possibility, the transcendent nature of basketball as a fast-paced, non-stop game. They scored on you; okay, that’s not a sin. But not trying to answer right away, that sits heavy on the soul.

Posted in beautiful basketball, fast break, general improvement, team offense | Tagged: | 3 Comments »

Michigan State’s Pressure Release Play

Posted by Steve Bzomowski on March 18, 2007

Michigan State Pressure Release PlayIn a recent NTL Boston Advanced Clinic, we set-up a high 1-4 offense to introduce players to the “UCLA cut”. The point guard passes the ball to the wing and then cuts off a high post screen to the block. That cut is the UCLA cut. We talked about the issue of getting the ball to the wing if the defender was overplaying there. What to do? What to do? Here’s what we said:

“Bounce pass it to the high post and on the catch, the wing goes backdoor to get a bounce pass for the score. This ‘pressure release’ play is a play that has been around a long time and it’s one that teams like to use coming out of a time-out, if the other team has been overplaying or are all jacked up, for some reason. You make them pay for taking away your pass to the wing.”

So, there I was last night, watching the Michigan State/Carolina game in the 2nd round of The Tournament. Carolina, of course, is pressuring Drew Neitzel and all the other Spartans everywhere and, then, time-out with about 2:30 left in the first half. Feeling somewhat drugged from the previous six hours of watching hoops, I open one eye to see MSU go 1-4, bounce pass to the high post, bounce pass to the cutting wing backdoor for the score. I wanted to email and phone everyone in the clinic and say, “did you see that? Did you see that? That’s how it works!” Instead, I high-fived my wife, low-pawed the dog, got back into the game. State ran the same play at least three more times, all with varying degrees of success (and with an eventual new wrinkle or two). That play brought to mind the Michigan State/Princeton match-up in the first round of the NCAA’s in 1998 when Michigan State turned the table on The Tigers, and in the process totally demoralized them, beat them at their own game, by scoring off that same high post pressure release play backdoor for the last play of the half.

Posted in beautiful basketball, passing, team offense | 4 Comments »

“Up Screen (Back Screen)”

Posted by Steve Bzomowski on February 4, 2007

NTL Photo Library

If you come down court and you settle into the post and one of your teammates fills the wing area and you notice the wing’s defender really extending out, effectively in a “denial” position, it is a good idea to come out and back screen that defender. What the defender takes away on the outside, he/she gives up on the inside. It’s consistent with the principle of “reading the defense”: in taking away one thing, they give up something else. It is up to you, oh astute basketball player, to read it (see it and understand it) and take advantage of it. Don’t worry, after awhile it comes naturally. You’re doing lots of good things out there naturally already that fall under that principle, and you don’t even know it. It’s, like, in your soul, your basketball soul. (Okay, you’re right, you caught us. The photo was staged.)

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“Make the Extra Pass”

Posted by Steve Bzomowski on November 13, 2006

Passing is more important than shooting. An oversimplification? Yes. But a good group of passers who aren’t great shooters will still fare well because with good passing, they would eventually find a good shot, or a shot that even a not-so-good shooter would make. On the other hand, a good group of shooters who are not good passers won’t get good shots. Eventually that team will break down, alienate one another to the point that the game will degenerate into one big argument amongst team members and eventually someone, probably the guy who brought the ball, will say, “I’m goin’ home”. Basketball is movement, player movement and ball movement. The idea is to move and in moving, manipulate and tire the defense. When readying yourself to shoot – and even before – you should have in your mind and in your eye: is there someone somewhere on my team, who is more open the I am? “Nice pass” (along with “good hustle” and “good d”) are the sweetest words one can hear on the basketball court.

Posted in passing, team offense | 2 Comments »

“Weak-Side Screen”

Posted by Steve Bzomowski on August 31, 2006

After you pass the ball, dare you “go away”, away from the ball? Fear you’ll never get it back? Ever? Go ahead and screen away and shape up! Screen away to give the ball-side spacing for the post up, for the two player game, the drive middle, and to free up the cutter off your screen. Then “shape up” – not in a Dr. Laura-kind-of-way, but a Dr. Naismith kind-of-way – back to the ball. If the person you passed the ball to is aware, he will not only look for the cutter, but look for you stepping back to the ball, as well.

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