At the Buzzer…..Good!!!!!
(Was It Luck or Preparation?) Part 1 ARTICLE # 86
By Coach John Kimble
How many times have you seen a close game played hard by both teams come down to the last few chaotic seconds and a player makes a shot at the buzzer after driving the full length of the court or from a location that he would normally never take the shot? Was it unlucky that he missed the shot for his team or lucky that he made the shot for the opposition?
I have often thought that if a coaching staff and a basketball team invested countless amounts of time and energy in preparing the team in fundamentals, offensive plays, and defenses; shouldn’t last second situations that could end up determining the winner or loser of a game be practiced? If a coach effectively prepares his teams for the first 31 minutes and 45 seconds but leaves the last 15 seconds to chance and luck; that team is not completely prepared to play.
I have directly been involved or personally watched games that came down to a last second shot where some of those offensive teams made, some missed the winning shot, and some teams did not even get the shot off. Following is a series of drills that can help prepare a team offensively for those pressure packed situations. Actual last second shot plays from the baseline, from various points on the sideline or from the full court can be discussed later, but this article discusses only the skills involved with the actual offensive players.
In the last few seconds of the close games, there seems to be more chaos and more up-tempo and changes of possessions take place more frequently and more rapidly. Players’ ability seems to be more of a deciding factor in the outcomes of the games. Coaches seem to have less and less control of those last seconds of that close game. Therefore, coaches must take control of those situations not in the games but in the preparation of when those scenarios actually take place. This must be done in practice settings that be in a learning atmosphere but also in as game realistic settings as possible. Time and score scenarios are given for the players to learn and understand what they should try to accomplish. Time clocks, competition, winners and losers, along with rewards and penalties must exist.
Because of the change of possessions, transition must be incorporated in each of these drills and the full court must be utilized. The first drill called “Solo Layup Drill” has R1 defending W1 with the ball in a form of the defensive “Zig-Zag” drill. R1 must first play aggressive defense and when and if R1 gains possession of the ball, via of a defensive rebound or a steal, he immediately speed-dribbles the ball down court. He will have to advance the ball through the maize of Red and White players that are interspersed throughout the full court. The time clock does not start until the initial Red defender (R1) obtains possession of the ball. He must then dribble and weave through the gauntlet of dummy defenders before shooting a layup. The clock can start with about nine seconds and can gradually be reduced to educate players the minimal amount of time it takes to drive the length of the court and shoot a layup. To make the “Solo Layup Drill” even more game-realistic, the two defenders nearest the basket (initially it is W5 and W6) could have football bubble blocking pads to bump and harass the shooter (R1 in the first circuit). As soon as the shot is taken, the initial shooter must take a second shot to instill the habit of quick offensive rebounds and stick-backs. When the second shot is taken, the first circuit is finished and all players must move up the line. W2 must use his ball and dribble towards the original basket with R2 defending him. When R2 obtains possession of the ball from W2, he becomes the next full-court dribbler. After his second shot, the process begins again. Each made layup counts two points and each stick-back is worth one point. After each member of the Red team has gone through the process, each member of the White team repeats the same techniques. Their scores are recorded and the team with the most points wins the contest with the losing team having some form of a minor penalty. It must be emphasized that each gauntlet defender is primarily a dummy defender with the very last two defenders only putting minor pressure on the shooter. See Diagram 01.
The “Solo Pitch Drill” is set up almost identical to the first of the progressive drills. After R1 again defends W1 on his zig-zag dribble and obtains possession of the basketball, he again dribbles through the pseudo defenders. His last two teammates start at the ten second line and they sprint to their respective wing and corner areas. One of those players’ defenders aggressively steps up to defend the dribble penetration. R1 must find the open man and pitch the ball to his open teammate for a three-point shot. After the shot, the original dribbler and the shooter both follow the shot to take one stick-back. After the offensive rebound and stick-back, the drill quickly resumes until all of the Red team has played in all of the offensive stations. The scoring is three points for the first shot and one point for the stick-back. Again, there will be a winning team and a losing team with rewards for the winners and penalties for the losing team. The time clock will again be set at a designated time and gradually reduced. Diagram 02.
The third and final drill, called the “Solo Bomb Drill,” is formatted in the same manner as the first two drills. The exception is that when the original ball defender (R1) obtains possession of the basketball in the same various ways, he must again dribble through the defensive maize and take a three point shot based upon the time remaining on the clock. Each made long shot is worth three points and there is no stick-back for this drill. The amount of time on the clock will again be gradually reduced to not only speed up the dribble but also force a longer and quicker shot attempt by the original defender. See Diagram 02.
These drills can be utilized at the end of the practice for two important reasons. To make it game realistic, the players should be fatigued at the end of practice as they are at the end of a game. It can be a fun but yet productive way to finish the overall practice session. The winning team can finish their practice while the losing team meets their punishment/penalty. Measuring the clock and judging how far a dribbler can travel before taking a very unique type of shot can make individual players proficient in rare situations that could determine the final outcome of a game. Hopefully, these drills will help prepare your team to “get lucky” and win that close game. Remember that “Luck is where preparation meets opportunity.” Have your team prepared for those last shots “at the buzzer.”