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Reduce Turnovers by 50%?

by Bill Winfrey

"Be quick but don't hurry."

- John Wooden, UCLA, 10 NCAA championships in 12 years

john wooden with Kareem Abdul Jabbar

As a player, I liked the quote but couldn't make much practical distinction between being quick and hurrying. I knew I was supposed to understand it but really I didn't. As a coach I see it much differently and I'd like to share what it means to me now and how I try to coach it.

I believe that a clear understanding of this concept, along with one very teachable skill ... can reduce TOs by as much as 50% in high school games, and even more so in middle school and youth games.

That's because most TOs come from players being out of control. Players attack strong, go too far without a plan and get themselves in hot potato situations where they have to do something NOW and hope it works. The result is often a TO.

So how do we balance? ... How do we teach QUICK, without the HURRY?... How do we give players something practical that keeps them attacking but reduces TO?

In short, I think of QUICK referring more to the start of the play, and HURRY referring more to the end of the play.

“Be quick...

It’s important to play aggressively, to attack, to explode past your man and get to the basket or the middle. Players should keep working on how to do that quicker, faster, stronger. There are technique points that improve quickness like: start low, big first dribble, big first step, straight lines to the goal, etc. All of these can make a player more explosive at getting by his or her man. And that's all good.

But how do you do all that without hurrying? One seems to excuse the other.

… but don’t hurry”

If you think of HURRY referring more to the end of the play, then you'll look for things like... did the play end in a 'Sure' pass or a 'Maybe' pass? Did the player 'Jump to Pass', leaving too much to chance? Are they off balance at the end of the play? Did they drive too far into traffic, get stuck and reduce their options? Did they get to the basket but take a low percentage shot? (not all layups are easy shots).

It’s at the end of a play that most HURRY happens that results in TOs. So, to have QUICK without the HURRY, a player needs, along with that quick start, a quick STOP... ie brakes.

Not having a quick stop is like riding a bike without brakes or playing hockey without the ability to stop (picture that crazy scene). Brakes make speed possible. Without brakes that same speed is a liability and the rider is out of control. Out of control is not good on bikes, in hockey, nor in basketball.

In basketball, brakes = Jump Stops

The ability to stop on a dime is a learned and very valuable skill. Watch young players and you'll be reminded how out of control they are, and how important this very simple but profound skill is to their play.

Having a Jump Stop means a player can stop short of getting into trouble... any time they need to. No need to fear the approaching situation and rush some 'Maybe Pass' or shot in the air hoping it might work. Stopping short of trouble makes the defense have to come to you, it puts you back in a balanced and strong position to pass from, and it allows you time for options to open up. The result is not a slower game.. it’s reduced TOs, more control, and better opportunities to attack the basket.

But we know that. And we'be been telling our players that forever. Why do they keep doing it?

Reminder... 'telling isn't teaching'. They don't change because of what they hear, they change because of what they experience. If we incorporate Jump Stop as an important part of our practices... their body will feel it, and their experience will imprint the value of it. Only then does it have a chance to be adopted into their second nature, and thus show up in pressure situations and family reunions (?).

Ways to emphasize Jump Stops throughout practice

To develop this Jump Stop idea into a skill, and then into good habits... players will need 1) good technique and 2) plenty of good reps.

1) For good technique, emphasize a 2 footed stop that ends with bent knees and bent elbows, with the ball at their numbers. If under pressure, then add a piviot and a ball fake.

2) For good reps... here are some ways to incoporate Jump Stops throughout your practice:

  • Relay Races (can combine ball handling, conditioning, and jump stops)

  • Have each player as they hand off the ball to the next racer come to a Jump Stop and put the ball on the floor in front of the next guy (instead of an out of control fling to the next playe)

  • Have them at the ‘turn’… instead of just touching a line an turning to go, have them make that turn with a Jump Stop.

  • Sprints (combines speed work, ball control, and Jump Stops)

  • Start on baseline, each runner has a ball ... on the whistle go.. on the whistle Jump Stop. Make sure that technique is good (2 foot landing, bent knees, bent elbow, pivot, ball fake)

  • Stop them 2-4 times per run.

  • Continuous fast break drills… make it a rule that every pass inside the red zone (say 22 feet and in, ie - not passes made in the middle of the court in transition) has to be made with a jump stop. To enforce this you’ll need a consequence, like 3-5 push-ups, or that player steps out of the play, etc.

  • 3 man continuous fake drill … 1 is at baseline with the ball, 2 defends him lightly, 3 is near half court. 1 shot fakes, big first dribble and big first step, then takes two hard and explosive dribbles, then jump stops. He then bounce passes to 3 near half court and Closes Out on him. Now, 3 has the ball, 1 is lightly defending, and 2 is back on the baseline replacing 1. 3 does what 1 just did and then passes to 2 on the baseline... repeat. The emphasis can be on Jump Stops, on fakes, on Close Outs, or all of these. Have as many groups of 3 as you need.

  • Any drill or competition - Call any ‘Jump to Pass’ play a TO, whether it was completed or not. Even make it, for a time, a TO to not pass and Jump Stop.

Note: There are exceptions to every rule. Certainly there are times when a Jump to Pass works well (as in an at the basket dish off? ). But bad habits are ones where players do the exception as a rule. Good habits, good basketball, and beating better athletes is all about percentages. Doing things that work the highest percentage of the time. To create these good habits, in practice don't allow exceptions. Get them so in tune with the rule that that rule has a chance to become second nature in their play. Then, in a pressure filled game situation they'll have the ability to more instinctively judge when to make a wise exception.

To summarize... the real TO problem comes from players getting out of control and into hot potato situations. The fix is to develop brakes... ie the skills of a quick Jump Stop.

You can make Jump Stops a very noticable part of your practice and in turn your players will develop that skill just as they do any other.

Reward ... In a recent tight game, we had a good post player, who is apt to get out of control... get the ball on the wing, take 2 hard dribbles toward the lane. As he saw he was drawing a second defender he jump stopped at about the elbow. He then ball faked, pivoted under pressure, and made a simple bounce pass to a teammate cutting backdoor from the corner. It was easy and it was beautiful. All because of a simple Jump Stop. That's all I needed to see.

Jump Stop of note... Road Runner had one of the best ever.

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