Coaches Network: Incorporating Shooting Guards Into Team Concept
This week's focus on the site is the shooting guard. A good shooting guard is capable of taking over a game -- but it's important to remember that basketball is a team sport. The coach must find the proper balance between leaning on the shooter and keeping the rest of the team fully invested. So the question this week for the Coaches Network:
How do you incorporate a good shooting guard into the team concept?
Mike Jones, head coach, DeMatha Catholic H.S. (Md.)
Everyone loves a shooter!!! Any coach that has a shooter/scorer has quite the challenge: How can you allow this player to flourish without allowing him to be selfish and alienate teammates?
It will always depend on the individual player's psyche and also the overall mentality of the team. The best teams that I have been involved with had clearly defined roles. That is the most important aspect. If the shooting guard is that talented and you want to highlight the player within your offense, communicate that to your team. Let them know. And then communicate with that player so he or she understands the benefit and the burden that accompanies such a situation.
Many people believe it's easy to coach the really talented players. It's quite the opposite at times. With the gift come responsibilities. Getting the player and the rest of the team to understand this is key to being successful.
Brian Robinson, head coach, Bishop McGuinness Catholic H.S. (N.C.)
A good shooting guard can be a positive or negative depending on how your team culture and philosophy is established. You want your best shooters to take their shots as long as it is within the flow of the offense. There will be the occasional time when your shooter, like all of your players, will take a bad shot. That's when you, as a coach, have to treat that player like everyone else. If you don't correct or at least acknowledge questionable shot selection when it takes place, it can lead to a negative on your team ranging from dissension and selfishness to even the freezing-out of players, more so your shooter.
From experience, the more our individual players understand their personal strengths and weaknesses, the more our team is willing to accept the role of our shooting guard. You want your shooter to have a clear conscious when it comes to playing her role on your team, and as long as you express to that player and the other team members that you trust them enough to be unselfish with their decision-making, things will be okay.
Don Showalter, head coach, Iowa City H.S. (Iowa)
This is tough to do at times because you want your shooting guard to have the freedom to shoot the ball and basically give him the green light for shooting -- yet you need to instill in him the importance of being a good teammate. I will talk to him about when to take over a game depending on time and score and when to get his teammates more involved. This is why it is very important that a coach communicates openly with his players. Also, some players will look for the shooting guard to score and expect him to shoot the ball. If the shooting guard can hit big shots and do this when the game is on the line, the other players respect this and will see the results.
I also think the other parts of the game must be emphasized for the shooting guard as there will be nights when the shot doesn't fall. When this happens, the shooting guard must give me a reason to continue to play him because of his defense, passing or rebounding. Part of our job as a coach is to make each player the best skilled he can be with all the skills, not just shooting.
Dori Oldaker, head coach, Mt. Lebanon H.S. (Pa.)
In all my years of coaching, having a very good shooting guard is a luxury. With that being said, we tend to run our offenses for all five players to score. We do not run specific sets for just one player. We like to run an open offense for each player to read and react and score if they have the open look. However, if we have an excellent shooting guard, our staff will tell this shooter that they have the green light and be ready to shoot at all times. (Always have your feet ready to shoot the rock!)
As a coach, you need to make sure that this shooting guard knows that you have confidence in them. It’s very important that this player have a ton of confidence and is willing to take the big shot. They must have the confidence in their stroke to keep shooting even after they have missed a few. This player needs to have a short memory -- next play, next shot, next make!
Scott Fitch, head coach, Fairport H.S. (N.Y.)
The first thing we try to do is teach the shooting guard to say “nice pass” and “nice pick” after every scoring opportunity. When teammates feel appreciated and respected by the shooting guard, they want that guard to have success. It is easier to free up a good shooting guard when the rest of the team is setting good picks and looking for him.
Whenever we introduce a play for the shooting guard, we will show how getting that player a touch will open things up for everyone else. Sometimes in practice, we will pull the shooting guard aside, tell him he cannot shoot but must draw the attention of the defense and set up others. It is then easy to reinforce the message of how important it is to get them touches for the success of the team. In the end, the team has to understand a good shooting guard puts pressure on a defense and helps our team be successful.
Sue Phillips, head coach, Archbishop Mitty H.S. (Calif.)
Having a great shooting guard can be an asset or a detriment. It all depends on how a coach integrates the shooting guard into his or her system. The integration must be from a team-first perspective. If the shooting guard doesn’t understand situations or never shares the basketball, he/she will create team discord. Not only will his/her teammates become unhappy, but they will also become spectators on the floor.
If the shooting guard, however, plays within a team concept, he/she can raise the team’s offensive productivity. Obviously, running some special sets to create good looks for the shooter is definitely advised. But, also using the shooting guard as a decoy to free up other players is a great way to keep the defense honest, and increase the team’s offensive efficiency rating (OER). This will spread the offensive productivity among the team and keep all the players engaged and invested on the offensive end. This proves crucial in maintaining offensive consistency due to foul trouble, injury, or illness.
It is also recommended to allow the shooting guard some latitude on the offensive side of the ball, but raising the bar of accountability on the defensive end. This is another way to keep the shooting guard in line with the team concept, and reinforce this same notion with his/her teammates. Coaches can further cultivate team chemistry by acknowledging the great screen or praising the assist that led to the made basketball. Moreover, it is equally important for the coach to expect this type of communication between teammates.
Just how good is your is your integration of your shooting guard? Track your offensive productivity by tallying your OER* (points scored divided by number of possessions) in your next practice or game. Numbers never lie, as professed by Hall of Fame coach Dean Smith.