Category: General

A busy weekend

The big decision last week was what basketball event was I going to watch this past weekend. Should I head to Truro to take in the North Pole Hoops East Coast Showcase or go to Fredericton to catch the action at the new Richard J. Currie Center where UNB is hosting their annual Eric Garland basketball tournament. The decision….let’s do both!

The weekend started with a stop at the NSAC Athletic Center where Colter Simmonds and his NSAC Rams players hosted Phase 1 and North Poll Hoops for a three day combine and player identification tournament. On Friday night the staff from Phase 1 ran the 60 players in attendance through series of stations to capture information on each player. Info included standard items such as height, reach, vertical jump, endurance and core strength. There were also a couple of interesting drills that I’ve never seen before at a player combine. There was a hand speed station where the players performed Maravich type drills, a Mikan drill station (not sure what that measures) and a passing station.

The station the players seem to like the most was the one where the Phase 1 coaches used a series of progression footwork and ball-handling drills to teach the players a one-on-one move similar to when Iverson crosses over MJ back in the day.

On Saturday and Sunday the action switched to standard 5-on-5 full court competitions. The 60 players were divided into teams to form a standard six team tournament. During round robin play the players from the Nova Scotia U17 team dominated the action which wasn’t a surprise given they were the older, more experienced players plus the games were more like pick-ups games which really fits the playing style of guys like AJ Simmonds, Lorenzo Parker, Jayden Norden and Travis Adams. Sunday wrapped up with an All-Star game broadcast live on SportsStream.ca. Click here to watch the replay of the game.

Unfortunately there were only a hand full of NB players at the Showcase; Erik Nissen (KVHS), Mark Graham (KVHS), Mike Armstrong (SJHS), Devon Bradbury (STM) and Costa Kolivas (RNS). Not sure why there wasn’t more NB players in attendance but I would guess the travel and conflicts with fall sports were major contributing factors. Although all played extremely well, only Erik and Mike were selected to participate in the All Star Game and are now ranked in the top 50 for their grad class Nationally. Congratulations to both. Well done.

Some other links

On Sunday I skipped the Showcase All Star game to head to Fredericton. I was looking forward to seeing the new Currie Center and the Carleton Ravens. I have watched Carleton play numerous times over the years but never live plus everyone has been telling me how fantastic the new Currie center is. Well, both lived up to advance billing.

The Ravens dominated the Garland tournament and the game on Sunday against the St. Mary’s Huskies was no different. Their team defense is something that can’t be fully appreciated until you see them up close. Every shot is challenged, post touches are few and far between, and coach Smart doesn’t tolerate even the smallest lapse in focus.

Although Carleton was head and shoulders above St. Marys, UNB and Laval, they have also had the luxury of playing nine games against NCAA opponents prior to coming to Fredericton while the other teams were playing their first games of the pre-season. I’m not sure any of these teams will challenge the defending champs for the National title but I’m sure each will be looking a lot sharper by the time the regular season begins.

As for the new Currie Center…wow. I was impressed. A big thank you goes out to Geoff Mabey who gave me the grand tour of the lower levels where they have their high performance labs, physio clinic, running track, weight room, practice courts and lots more. Can’t wait to play our Mill Rats games there on October 23.

New Look…New Season

With a new basketball season about to begin, I thought it was time to get back to updating my blog more regularly. Hopefully I’ll do a better job than I’ve done over the last year as there should be lots to write about this season.

To get things start I’ve updated my site with a new look and feel. Being a typical computer geek I tend to turn simple tasks into a much more complicated process than it should be and this time was no different. I’ve switched out my old blogging engine (again) and have moved back to good old WordPress. I’ve also added lots of widgets under the covers to take advantage of all the great social networking tools now available. Hopefully taking the time to wire this all together has given me some valuable hands on experience plus I’ll have a more effective platform for sharing some thoughts on my favorite sport.

Since I haven’t posted anything here for so long there is lots to talk about but I’ll keep this post short and will follow up with more details as we go forward. Here is a quick summary of what has been happening so far this season…

BNB Elite Development Program
Basketball New Brunswick has created a new program for their elite athletes which will replace the Center for Performance (CP) program. The new program will include five Regional Training Centers (RTC) across the province where athletes will training with local coaches using an updated version of the CP curriculum and practice plans developed by BNB. I’m helping out with the south-west RTC and will be writing about some of the great discussions I’ve had with other coaches regarding the content of the new CP curriculum, especially the footwork development.

Saint John Mill Rats
The Mill Rats are now part of the new National Basketball League of Canada. Players are starting to arrive here in Saint John and we’re only a couple of weeks away from the opening of training camp. The buzz about the new league, especially in the Canadian cities starting up professional basketball teams for the first time, has been unbelievable. I plan to return as an assistant coach again this year and hopefully will be able to post some articles on here regarding how the team adjusts to playing FIBA rules which will be the first time for some players on the roster.

NPH East Coast Showcase
North Pole Hoops  are holding a player combine and showcase at Nova Scotia Agriculture College (Truro, NS) September 30 – October 2. The event is open all Atlantic area players interested in proving themselves against the best players on the East coast. I’m aware of few area players that have registered for the event and I plan to drop down to observe the action.

KVBA Slammers
My son Ryan has been selected as the head coach for KVBA Bantam A boys teams. He’s been working basketball camps for years and has been an assistant coach on many teams in the area for years, but this is his first head coaching position. It looks like he has a pretty talented group of kids and I’m sure they are going to love player for a younger coach. It’s going to be great watching this team develop throughout the season.

There will be lots more to write about, especially as we moved in the high school season, and as I mentioned at the top, hopefully I can do a better job posting here than I did last season. If nothing else I have to at least keep up with Moncton Miracles assistant coach Serge Langis over at Lashing by Langis.

It’s good to be back online. Let’s have a great season.

Playing at Pace

This post is from an email I sent to colleagues at Basketball New Brunswick following our first CP Atlantic training POD on Sunday October 3, 2010.

We had our first CP session last weekend. To be honest I headed into the session a little unmotivated. As is always the case, we didn’t have some players in the program this year that should be and to top it off a few of the better players we selected were missing due to conflicts with fall sports. However, I came away from Sunday’s sessions with a renewed interested as I think we may have found a winning formula for this program.

First factor was making the sessions more competitive. At the technical meeting in Winnipeg following Nationals, Rich Chambers from BC indicated he creates teams within his CP group and the teams compete in “Leagues”. for example they might have a Fast Break league, shooting league, half-court offense league, etc. During the drills players are not only learning skills and/or concepts but are also competing, trying to earn points for their team at the same time.

The second factor was that Basketball New Brunswick has indicated that their top priority from a elite development perspective was to get players playing at pace. To me this meant our drills, or at least the reps within the drills, needed to be done at a pace they would be facing at a National competition.

On Sunday we still did a few “learning drills” that were slow paced to allow guys to work on mechanics and for coaches to correct flaws, but for the most part we ran drills where the players were racing against the clock, competing against an opponent and there was the pressure of trying to help the team win. The interesting point was that suddenly shooting percentages started to reflect those we are seeing with our provincial teams. This was the case even when there was no defender. For example, we ran a full court shooting drill where each player had to sprint full court, shoot an elbow jumper, sprint again, do another elbow jumper, etc. Each player had to shoot 4 jumpers per rep. Since they were racing against another team at the same time players were forced run full speed. Slowing done to save energy wasn’t an option because they would lose the contest and not get points for their team.

We finished up the day with a full court 3-on-3 scrimmage using an eight second shot clock. Games were three minutes. Players were asked to use the transition concepts presented earlier in the day but other than that were allowed to play however they wanted. As the games progressed the players (with a little encouragement from the coaches) started to pressure the ball a little more trying to kill seconds off the clock while at the same time the offensive players started to realizes two things; the importance of shooting open shots instead of dribbling with no purpose; and getting out quickly so the defense can’t setup.

These changes were subtle and we still saw too much 1-on-1 and players not finishing off makeable shots, but from my perspective the players made strides in the right direction. We are going to continue with the theme of “play at pace” in most of our drills. This might mean a few less reps per player each session (i.e. less teaching drills) but I think the overall results will be better for the players long term.

Our next session is Oct. 17 at KVHS. It will focus on mid-clock, half court concepts (pass-cut-fill, circle movement, attack moves, etc.). I’ll let you know how it goes.

This is a Bad Trend

Click to EnlargeCongratulations to the Saint John Atlantics for winning the men’s league championship this past
Sunday evening with a 64-52 win over my new team, the All Stars. For those keeping track (ok humour me…I know I’m the only one) this is my third straight silver medal performance this season.

My high school team lost to Fredericton High in NBIAA Jr. Men’s AAA finals, my midget boys team lost to Riverview in the BNB Midget A boys final, and now I lose to my long time nemesis (and  good friend) Butch Cogswell in the finals of the men’s league.

I still have a couple of chances to break the trend however. My masters (over 35) team has made it to the Finals of the KVBA Master’s league where we will try to defend our title, plus the Mayans will also be competing in the BNB Provincial Masters Championships in Woodstock April 9-11. If all that fails my last chance for gold will be with the world famous Harvey Lakers as we compete in the BNB Grand Master (over 45) provincial championships in Fredericton April 16-18.

Zone, zone. Everywhere Zone!

For those that played me with over the years you’re well aware of how much I dislike playing zone defense. Consequential as a coach I seldom have my teams play zone. I do teach some zone defense so we can practice against it but we rarely play it during games.

My reasons for playing man-to-man are pretty typically;

  • I think kids need to know how to play proper man-to-man before they can play zone. Since I’m coaching younger players I’ve never got to the point where I feel they are great man-to-man defenders yet so there was no need to move on to playing zone.
  • We don’t have much practice time during the season so taking the time away from skill development to drill and practice multiple defenses just doesn’t seem practical to me. We’ll learn one and try to do it better than anyone else.

Since I started coaching at the high school level it seemed that most of the better teams did the same thing or at least only used zone as a tactic within the context of the game. They might switch to zone periodically to protect someone in foul trouble, to slow down a team that’s getting good dribble penetration, or to force a poor shooting team to score from the outside. But for the most part the top teams played man-to-man. This year that seems to have changed.

Perhaps teams play zone against us for one of the reason listed above, but in speaking with some colleagues around the province they are noticing the change as well. One interesting suggestion was teams are playing more zone because of the shorter shot clock this season. Show some false pressure to slow down the ball then fall back in zone for the final 16-18 seconds forcing teams to score with the clock winding down.

Canada Basketball pushed hard to bring in 24 & 8 thinking it would help develop a player’s ability to be creative, especially off the dribble. If coaches are now resorting to zone defense to prevent this, the reality is the new rules are instead developing better shooters that no longer play man-to-man. Interesting indeed.

For me this just reinforces what I knew all along…we need just one offense that we run regardless of the defense. In games we don’t have the luxury of time to setup difference offenses once we get into the half court and we don’t have enough time in practice to teach multiple offenses. Next year I’m dropping my zone offense (3-out 2-in) and we’ll run Read & React all the time.

Power Rankings

A few days ago Peter Vincent and I decided we would attempt to start a weekly “Power Rankings” of school teams in the province. The concept was quit simple; ask coaches to submit their rankings of teams each week then publish the compiled list. No gender or age categories. No size classifications. Each coach uses their own selection criteria. Just a top 15 with all NBIAA teams eligible for consideration.

Since then the NBIAA has suggested our rankings “…may go against the philosophy of School Sport”. I’m not sure if the act of posting the results of the poll is against the philosophy or if it the act of coaches submitting a vote is, but regardless I don’t think we are inventing anything new here. Every time I run into other coaches, either around the water cooler at work, at the store, or in the gym, the topic of favorite teams and who can beat who always comes up.

So I guess we will distance ourselves from the NBIAA, or at least stop using the NBIAA Coaches association’s email services to contact NBIAA coaches. We were only hoping to have a little fun and hopefully generate a little more interest in high school basketball.

If you are interested in participating in the weekly poll, or want to be on our distribution list, please send us an email at vaughanp@nbnet.nb.ca (Paul Vaughan) or vincentp@nbnet.nb.ca (Peter Vincent).

This could be ugly

The NBIAA season begins next week, at least for Junior teams, but it seems like we have had no time to properly prepare. Not only are soccer and football keeping players from practice but now the flu season has hit the school system with full force.

Including the tryouts, which began on October 20, we’ve had eight practices but on only two occasions have we had all players present. This past Thursday was the low point with only seven bodies at practice. I cancelled practice yesterday to give kids a rest but still only had nine players today.

As a result we have basically no team systems in place other than some basic man-to-man team concepts. No zone offense, no team defenses, no press break and no inbounds plays. Normally I wouldn’t be too concerned because we would still have nine days to go, but this year my team plays at home on Tuesday against Simonds, travels to Harbour View on Thursday then hosts a tip-off tournament on Friday and Saturday.

I think we will be coaching and learning on the fly for a few days. Hopefully we all are in the same predicament.

Salt and Pepper Shakers Strike Again

I’m back from Toronto. Unfortunately I didn’t have time to post while away as we had a very busy itinerary. If we weren’t in meetings or on-court for coaching clinics, Jon and I were our room discussing the day’s topics or planning for the upcoming CP Atlantic centralized training camp.

As I’ve mention before, I love attending sessions where coaches get together to share ideas. It’s especially fun when we are at the dinner table and the salt and pepper shakers turn into offensive and defensive players as coaches start sharing their favorite drills. This weekend was no different plus we went to a restaurant that uses strips of brown paper instead of table clothes. It wasn’t long before coaches were grabbing the crayons normally reserved for the younger guests, turning the tables into replacement clipboards.

Now I face the challenge of taking all this new found knowledge and incorporating it into our upcoming CP sessions and passing it along to the rest of the coaching staff. One thing for sure, the kids are in for a few new drills and concepts. And for those you will be watching my practices be on he outlook for some of my new sayings…“create a 1 second advantage”…“guarding one and a half”…“is that a T, L, or C drill?”.

Another great thing about the weekend was running into two transplanted New Brunswickers. Tyler Slipp, former UNB assistant coach and CP Atlantic assistance coach, is now the lady’s head coach at Waterloo and running the women’s CP in that area of Ontario. Bob Murray, originally from Moncton and former AD for ABU (now Crandall University) is now the men’s head coach at Olds College, coached the 2009 Alberta U15 men’s team and is the men’s head coach for Alberta’s Center for Performance.

National Meetings

I’m off to Toronto for the annual CP Head Coaches meetings. Over the next four days we’ll be going over the new 2009-2010 CP curriculum and getting an overview of Canada Basketball’s plans for the 2010 National team program. This is my first time attending but I’ll be with Jon Brain, NB girls head coach, who attended last year. I’m sure Jon will be a great tour guide.

Given how easy it is to find high speed access these days, I’ll try to give updates throughout the weekend. In fact, I’m sitting here in the Saint John airport waiting to board my plane to board writing this message. Yeah, I know, I’m a geek. But I’m proud of it!