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8th Grade Travel Basketball Team: Very small v. a Big team


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#1 Bleedred

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Posted 15 February 2013 - 12:24 PM

I coach my son's 8th grade travel basketball team. For those of you in MA and familiar, we are a division 3 team in the Metrowest league. The quality of basketball is solid, and each team is pretty well coached. My team is not a good rebounding team at all, but we've drilled them to death on the fundamental of boxing out, help side Defense, Low Post defense, etc., so that they are now at least passable.


This Sunday, because of school vacation, I'm missing 3 kids. Of course, the 3 I'm missing are my two 6 footers and my rebounding swing man. The "strength" of our rebounding core. I have 5 guards (all 5'4" or shorter), one tweener, and 2 kids who are probably 5'7". The opponent is likely to have at least 3 kids close to 6 feet. We are likely to get crushed on the glass.


My guards are active and quick, so I'm thinking of putting a lot of pressure on the ball in a man to man, and have my small forwards 100% front any posting big men. It's been my experience at this level that when a guard is pressured and a big man is fronted, the pass inside is hard to make and must be very precise (of course, if their low post player has 5-7" on my guys, then it may be moot). If that proves utterly useless, I think I pack in a 2-3 zone, have the guards harrass any big men in the post, and hope the other team can't shoot from outside 12 feet. We have a 1-3-1 zone as well, but that is typically employed against teams with 2-3 outside shooters.

So, hoop experts, any suggestions on how to approach this game defensively and to avoid getting murdered up front?

Edited by Bleedred, 15 February 2013 - 12:25 PM.


#2 DrewDawg


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Posted 15 February 2013 - 01:17 PM

Man to man with a lot of on the ball pressure sounds solid, but will you be pressing?  I mean, it's nothing you don't know, but I would try to make them play your pace and match you the length of the court.  Make their big men come back and help break that press, get them all handling the ball in areas they wouldn't normally touch it.  If they start rushing in the back court to break the press, they may start rushing on the offensive end, taking shots before they are set and hopefully somewhat negating some of their rebounding advantage.

 

But, as with coaching all sports at this age group, your plans will be shattered as soon as 14 year olds start trying to implement them. :smithicide:



#3 Bleedred

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Posted 15 February 2013 - 01:46 PM

 

But, as with coaching all sports at this age group, your plans will be shattered as soon as 14 year olds start trying to implement them. :smithicide:

 

Very very true.

I would typically press, and will do some pressing, but since I'm short 3 players, I'm left with only 8. I have to be careful about running my team into the ground. They're 14 years old, but you might be surprised how quickly these kids get gassed. I also have to worry a little about foul trouble.

Edited by Bleedred, 15 February 2013 - 01:47 PM.


#4 DrewDawg


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Posted 15 February 2013 - 02:08 PM

Definitely.  Maybe run it out for the first few minutes, see if you can get a little lead and then back off.  Of course you play helter-skelter and your kids may develop some habits that you don't want.

 

The one good thing about the 14 year olds is the other team has them too.  Who knows if they'll be disciplined enough to play the game they should against an undermanned squad.  It should be interesting.  Maybe throw a lot of gimmick defenses at them, just to keep them guessing.



#5 FelixMantilla


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Posted 15 February 2013 - 02:39 PM

From Lurker JeffS:

All depends on the talents of his players.

I like the suggestion to pressure the ball and stretch the opponent.

A full court zone press may work with your quickest 2 on ball defenders denying the entry of the ball.

The forwards that have a little more size toward the middle of the court, to possibly deflect passes.

With your 3rd guard all the way back as the safety.

As always trap when you can. Its worth a shot, you have to practice the zone rotations.

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Edited by FelixMantilla, 15 February 2013 - 02:40 PM.


#6 knuck

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Posted 15 February 2013 - 02:42 PM

The one thing you probably have going for you, I've noticed, is that the refs will let the smaller kids get away with a lot while guarding a significantly bigger team, especially on rebounds. Hopefully you have some scrapers who aren't afraid to mix it up and can probably get some of the other team's big men in foul trouble.

#7 Bleedred

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Posted 15 February 2013 - 02:48 PM

 

The one thing you probably have going for you, I've noticed, is that the refs will let the smaller kids get away with a lot while guarding a significantly bigger team, especially on rebounds. Hopefully you have some scrapers who aren't afraid to mix it up and can probably get some of the other team's big men in foul trouble.

 

This is true. The quality of officiating at this level is wildly inconsistent. There are a handful of good refs, some awful ones, but those that don't give a shit are the worst. I like the idea of man to man full court pressure and denying the inbound pass with my 2 quickest guards.

I do have zone traps in place, which we've practiced a fair amount. Our zone defense rotates well. My only concern is that the other team will be able to pass over the top fairly easily, exploitng the seams in the zone by virtue of their height. I was thinking of packing the zone with all 5 players and try to force them to beat us from 12 feet and out. If they can consistently knock down jumpers, then I tip my hat to them. If I can keep them off the glass by having 5 kids in the key or close to it, that would be ideal.

#8 riboflav

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Posted 15 February 2013 - 05:54 PM

   

This is true. The quality of officiating at this level is wildly inconsistent. There are a handful of good refs, some awful ones, but those that don't give a shit are the worst. I like the idea of man to man full court pressure and denying the inbound pass with my 2 quickest guards.

I do have zone traps in place, which we've practiced a fair amount. Our zone defense rotates well. My only concern is that the other team will be able to pass over the top fairly easily, exploitng the seams in the zone by virtue of their height. I was thinking of packing the zone with all 5 players and try to force them to beat us from 12 feet and out. If they can consistently knock down jumpers, then I tip my hat to them. If I can keep them off the glass by having 5 kids in the key or close to it, that would be ideal.

 

I coach high school varsity and the best team in our district last season lost their best player in their first game this year to a torn ACL. A 6'8 stud in the middle who averaged 23 points a game as a Frosh last year. The rest of the team is very small. Normally, I see small teams press more, stretch the court, play faster, etc., but this coach decided to pack it in. M2M, Dick Bennent style. They would not guard anyone above the three-point line. Played great help defense in the gaps, fronted the posts, closed out well, didn't try to steal or turn over the other team, just forced them into contested shots. It worked great. They play in the District title game for the second year in a row tonight.



#9 BigSoxFan


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Posted 15 February 2013 - 06:42 PM

The decision to press should be based on how good the other team's guards are. If they're good, then pressing will just lead to layup line for them. If they're weak, then you hound them as much as you can with 8 kids. Once they're past half court, I'd settle into a 2-3 zone and just collapse the paint. Make them hit a bunch of 15-20 footers. If they do, good for them. But it's still better than watching their bigs destroy you down low all game.

What is your offense?

#10 Bleedred

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Posted 15 February 2013 - 09:16 PM

The decision to press should be based on how good the other team's guards are. If they're good, then pressing will just lead to layup line for them. If they're weak, then you hound them as much as you can with 8 kids. Once they're past half court, I'd settle into a 2-3 zone and just collapse the paint. Make them hit a bunch of 15-20 footers. If they do, good for them. But it's still better than watching their bigs destroy you down low all game.

What is your offense?



We have several offenses, but our main offense against man to man is a 5 out, 0 in offense, where all 5 guys start on the permimeter. The point guard has 4 options after passing the ball. (i) pick for the guy he passed to; (ii) cut back door; (iii) pick away; or (iv) fake a backdoor cut and flare out for the return pass. The other players are in constant motion, picking for and off the ball, curling off screens, double screens and cutting back door at times when someone dribbles toward them. We also run a bit of a weave up top which lulls the defense to sleep sometimes. This offense has worked really well, as I really have no inside options (even my bigs, when there, are soft inside). Our problem has not been getting good shots, it's been getting pounded on the glass.

Ribo...I might follow your approach (or the team in your league's approach). Pack it in, front the posts, weakside help...all in the key. If the other team beats us outside, so be it.

As an aside: Tonight we got waxed by a team that really wasn't much better than us. My kids didn't respond to a team that got in their face and pressured them. The refs called nothing and it looked like a football game, but I was disheartened by the lack of response by my boys. I lit into them a little after the game. I didn't raise my voice or call anyone out, but I matter of factly asked if they were not a little embarrassed by the way they got manhandled tonight, without putting up a fight. I told them that the good thing is we have a chance to respond on Sunday without our bigs, against a better team. I told them I have every confidence they will respond (but truthfully, I'm not sure).

#11 bbc23

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Posted 15 February 2013 - 10:10 PM

I would look into a 1-3-1 zone.  Be extremely active on D, trap whenever possible, and just force as many mistakes as possible.  



#12 riboflav

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Posted 15 February 2013 - 11:27 PM

I would look into a 1-3-1 zone.  Be extremely active on D, trap whenever possible, and just force as many mistakes as possible.  

 

This is suicide with a small lineup v. big team.



#13 Bleedred

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Posted 16 February 2013 - 03:36 PM

 

 
This is suicide with a small lineup v. big team.

 

Right. The 1-3-1 zone is a very difficult defense to rebound out of. If the other team has 2 or 3 good outside shooters, then it's the better match-up zone than the 2-3, but given our rebounding deficiency, it will be a 2-3 zone, tightly packed in, that we employ, if we go zone at all.

#14 riboflav

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Posted 17 February 2013 - 10:33 AM

   

Right. The 1-3-1 zone is a very difficult defense to rebound out of. If the other team has 2 or 3 good outside shooters, then it's the better match-up zone than the 2-3, but given our rebounding deficiency, it will be a 2-3 zone, tightly packed in, that we employ, if we go zone at all.

There's no way you could teach it and run it effectively in a short time span but the 1-1-3 Amoeba is great if you have quick high-motor guards and no real size. Something to keep in mind for the future. It's aggressive and you have three in rebounding position automatically on most shots. It also looks like a m2m defense to most inexperienced coaches. Once they figure out it's a zone, they attack it like it's a 2-3 (some think it's a 1-3-1) and that really plays into your hands. I love switching between this and m2m when I have a smallish team. Kids love playing it.


Edited by riboflav, 17 February 2013 - 10:34 AM.


#15 Bleedred

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Posted 17 February 2013 - 02:41 PM

 

There's no way you could teach it and run it effectively in a short time span but the 1-1-3 Amoeba is great if you have quick high-motor guards and no real size. Something to keep in mind for the future. It's aggressive and you have three in rebounding position automatically on most shots. It also looks like a m2m defense to most inexperienced coaches. Once they figure out it's a zone, they attack it like it's a 2-3 (some think it's a 1-3-1) and that really plays into your hands. I love switching between this and m2m when I have a smallish team. Kids love playing it.

 

Where can I read about the amoeba zone to understand the fundamentals? I think I get the big picture, but would like to reinforce it.

As for today's game, we played man to man the entire game. As expected we gave up 5" on the front line on every player. However, we pressured the guards on the entry passes and any time the ball was on a wing, the weak side guard defender would drop into the middle of the paint and double the opponent who was trying to post up on the strong side block. The kids actually played it beautifully, causing a number of turnovers, frustration on the other team, etc. We lost by 12, and really could have made it a game if we shot better than 20% from the field. My best shooters were ice cold and just couldn't hit a thing. In truth, they may have been spent by their defensive effort. All in all, I was thrilled with the result and let them know it.

Edit: The defense we played, although technically a man, sounds more like the amoeba zone you are talking about, as the weakside guard was constantly in the paint and double teaming the post. Our opponent was very confused by the defense and couldn't figure it out. We gave up the outside shot every time, and we were lucky that they couldn't really shoot.

Edited by Bleedred, 17 February 2013 - 02:42 PM.


#16 riboflav

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Posted 17 February 2013 - 07:17 PM

It sounds like you just played good, solid help m2m defense but that's not Amoeba.

 

One thing to keep in mind is all zones look the same usually after the first pass. Decisions about where and when to trap vary but the rotations are so similar. Disguising it's initial set up can be critical to your level of success with it. Have the kids start in man for a couple possessions and still act like they're in man when you switch by calling out which number they have, denying someone in the area, etc.

 

Tark ran Amoeba at UNLV on those great late-80s and early-90s teams. It looks like man to some because the point picks up the ball right near mid-court and forces one direction. He will stay with the ball if as long as it's dribbled. On the first pass to the wing, the lower 1 in 1-1-3 rushes out to get ball while the top 1 drops to take high post. A lot of steals can be had early on a wing to high post entry. Many teams have a player in the high post to start their offense so again it looks like you're matched up at the beginning. Instead of trapping in the low post, you trap on this first wing pass. The lower 1, like I said, raes to ball on the wing and so does the wing forward. The top 1 drops and the center rotates over and covers the low block. You are giving up a pass to the corner (which you want) and a reverse pass to the top which you're ok with. Most players under the age of 16 will not reverse anyway. Once the trap comes, they are looking right in front of them at high and low post. On a wing to corner pass, your players execute an x-cut. Your center runs out to ball and your wing forward (who was trapping the wing) drops to take the low block. A lot of steals occur here because the corner offensive player sees the low block uncovered and passes but the wing forward is able to deflect or pick off this pass. If the corner player doesn't go there, he's got nowhere else to go. Center has him. Guards have high post and wing covered. And wing forward has low block. Most, in this situation, try to drive and that's a bad idea.

 

This was the way I played it but there are variations. See links below.

 

I've played this a lot with small teams and been successful. I had a Frosh team that was the smallest team in our district and we went 13-3 with this and m2m. We also used a 3/4 diamond press.

 

The beauty of this is most coaches have never faced it and that's rare in our AAU-dominated world.

 

http://www.coachescl...ebaDefense.html

 

http://coachingbette...ne-defense.html

 

You can also just google "amoeba zone defense" for more variations. Warning: Some sites claim it's 3-2 but it's not. Ignore those.


Edited by riboflav, 17 February 2013 - 07:19 PM.


#17 riboflav

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Posted 17 February 2013 - 07:21 PM

Another great rotating defense that is akin to m2m and will really screw with your opponent's head is SWARM. I wouldn't suggest implementing it in the middle of the season as it's more of a base defense. But, keep it in mind for the future. It is fun to play and coach.



#18 twothousandone

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Posted 20 February 2013 - 01:55 PM

Most players under the age of 16 will not reverse anyway.

 

I saw this as the immediate way to challenge bleedred's defense. As soon as the off wing doubles in the lane, reverse the ball. Even if the defenders can rotate effectively, they'll get tired quickly.
Other than the age 16 rule, what am I missing? Reverse back and forth two or three times, and someone is bound to get caught, either for the entry pass or a drive from the top of the lane.



#19 riboflav

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Posted 20 February 2013 - 07:56 PM

I saw this as the immediate way to challenge bleedred's defense. As soon as the off wing doubles in the lane, reverse the ball. Even if the defenders can rotate effectively, they'll get tired quickly.
Other than the age 16 rule, what am I missing? Reverse back and forth two or three times, and someone is bound to get caught, either for the entry pass or a drive from the top of the lane.

You're not missing anything really. But, try getting kids to be patient enough to work the ball around and then recognizing when to attack is not as easy as it sounds, especially the younger they are. It depends largely on their bball IQ and how well they've been trained. I always choose to give up the reversal unless I'm playing all-out denial m2m because it's the least likely pass to burn you (if you have to give up something at least let them go backwards) and kids aren't disciplined enough to always look for it. So many wings know the reversal is open and yet still choose to try to attack the rim or make the ill-fated entry pass.



#20 Bigpupp

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Posted 20 February 2013 - 11:42 PM


Another great rotating defense that is akin to m2m and will really screw with your opponent's head is SWARM. I wouldn't suggest implementing it in the middle of the season as it's more of a base defense. But, keep it in mind for the future. It is fun to play and coach.


Besides paying quite a bit for the DVD's is there a good resource that goes into detail about this defense?

Edited by Bigpupp, 20 February 2013 - 11:54 PM.


#21 riboflav

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Posted 21 February 2013 - 12:28 PM

Besides paying quite a bit for the DVD's is there a good resource that goes into detail about this defense?

 

http://www.coachescl...armDefense.html

 

http://www.mensbaske...defense-review/

 

Details are hard to come by on this one without getting Wayne's stuff. The good news is that Wayne is extremely receptive to helping coaches run swarm. You can even get some basic diagrams directly from him for free if you simply email and ask him.

 

By the way, Rick Peterman's site (2nd link above) is a great resource for coaches as he puts up a ton of notes he collects from watching coaching dvds and attending clinics. Just click on "blog" to get started.



#22 Bleedred

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Posted 21 February 2013 - 02:29 PM

You're not missing anything really. But, try getting kids to be patient enough to work the ball around and then recognizing when to attack is not as easy as it sounds, especially the younger they are. It depends largely on their bball IQ and how well they've been trained. I always choose to give up the reversal unless I'm playing all-out denial m2m because it's the least likely pass to burn you (if you have to give up something at least let them go backwards) and kids aren't disciplined enough to always look for it. So many wings know the reversal is open and yet still choose to try to attack the rim or make the ill-fated entry pass.

 

You're both right.  If the opponent had reversed the ball directly out of the post, in all likelihood, they would have wide open elbow or just above the elbow jumpers.  We have taught the hi guard (i.e the strong side guard not doubling the post) to perform an "X" cut with the low guard, so that the high guard closes out on the weekside wing and the low guard replaces the high guard on the strong side.  But Riboflav is quite right that 14 year old kids do not recognize defenses particularly well and the reverse out of the post pass virtually never happeend.   I was prepared to give up as many 15 footers to protect the paint and that's what we did. 






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