Preseason practices are not the time for scrimmages

With high school basketball practices underway on Monday, I wonder how many coaches started tryouts by rolling out the ball for scrimmaging.

Webster’s definition of a scrimmage is, “a practice game.”

Conducting an intrasquad scrimmage is usually without certified officials or fans and there is little coaching. With just three weeks (including tryouts) before opening weekend of games Dec. 9-10, there’s not much time to get ready.

That could be the reason many coaches think they should rush right into scrimmaging and ignore working on fundamentals at practices. Observing high school basketball the last few seasons, many coaches seem to be holding more scrimmages, and not spending enough time on fundamentals.

The evidence of this is that many players seem to not make enough good basketball decisions.

Coaches who scrimmage more than working on fundamentals have a tendency to rely more on their players’ athletic skills but those working more on fundamentals seem to rely on their players’ basketball IQ’s and basketball skills.

During preseason, coaches should be teaching how to implement good shot selection by allowing the game to come to the players, instead of having players take themselves to the game by forcing the action. Many times, that results in turnovers, player-control fouls or poor shot selection.

On defense, they should be emphasizing that players keep the triangle — ball, man, you — guarding a player without the ball.

Players starting practices this week should also learn the answer to this question: When’s the only time in a game when players shouldn’t know where the ball is?

The answer: It’s when the ball is in air on a shot when defenders immediately go find their opponents to block them out.

During my practices, we worked on important fundamentals throughout the year, especially in the preseason. My staff and I always had offensive and defensive fundamental practice/game rules we insisted players not break. If they did, then they were benched until the next player broke a rule.

The offensive rules were:

— Don’t  leave your feet with the ball unless you have a good shot.

— Don’t pass off the dribble unless there’s no defender between you and the recipient in a straight line to basket.

— The post player touches the ball once before teammates shoot, unless it’s a layup.

— Once the offense is started in the frontcourt, only dribble if you cannot pass the ball.

The defensive rules were:

— Keep the triangle while guarding the player without ball.

— Keep your left hand up while guarding a right-handed player and vice versa for lefty.

— Don’t block a shot until the ball leaves the shooter’s hands.

— Don’t leave your feet guarding a player with ball until that player leaves his feet.

— Force the dribbler to the middle.

— Find your opponent as soon as the shot is in the air and block him out.

Anything done in practice had definite objectives and were planned to the minute.

Watching poor basketball decisions being made repeatedly in games at all levels indicates these teams display below-average basketball IQ’s because they didn’t practice enough to make good basketball decisions and probably spent more time scrimmaging.

It’s ridiculous to scrimmage over and over again, not spend time on the fundamentals, and still expect your players to improve.

We didn’t practice full-court unless specifically working on press offenses/defenses, our fast-break game or if were doing conditioning full-court drills such as 5- and 3-man weaves, or continuous 3-on-2.

You play how you practice. We wanted to play fundamentally sound with excellent shot selection, good basketball decisions and control the tempo of the game. That’s how we practiced and to achieve this we spent little time scrimmaging.