What Ever Happened to the Mikan Drill?

I could remember going to camp as a kid and the camp director talking about layups and how so many are missed. And, how there is the one drill that will help you learn how to make your layups with both of your hands. That one drill…The Mikan Drill. So what did I do growing up? I did The Mikan Drill every time I went out and practiced. I learned the fundamental footwork for a layup. I learned how to watch the ball through the rim on each and every repetition. I learned how to keep the ball high and finish higher. I learned how to finish with my strong and weak hand. Yes, all of that in one simple drill that was created by the original big man, George Mikan.

Georgetown Did the Mikan Drill Daily

Fast forward about a decade to when I was in the midst of my high school coaching career, and I was at a coaches clinic watching John Thompson III the speak. At the time he was a highly successful coach at Georgetown University where they were running variations of the Princeton Offense. If you know anything about the Princeton Offense, you know that they scored primarily off of layups, backdooring and screening the heck out of their opponent until they got an open layup first or an open jumper second. If you are getting layups, you need to make them. So what drill did this highly paid, highly successful college basketball coach show us? You guessed it, The Mikan Drill. Actually, he showed us three different variations of The Mikan Drill and talked about how they started every practice off with this series of mikans. Imagine that, a college team doing the drill that I learned way back when in order to help them be successful at making layups. 

Today’s Youth Basketball Player Misses Too Many Layups but Cannot Do the Mikan Drill

The good old days, when coaches used simple drills that actually worked. What happened to those days? I only ask because for some reason time and time again, I watch youth basketball players miss layup upon layup in their games. Then, I have young basketball players come to my basketball clinics and they cannot perform in any way, shape or form this very drill that will help them make the shot that so many of them miss. It drives me insane! Their footwork is incorrect, often times going off the wrong leg on the wrong side. They put the ball up and take their eyes off the rim immediately. And most importantly, they struggle to make layups with their strong hand and struggle even more with their weak hand. Why? There is a lack of fundamentals being taught at a young age because the culture is too focused on playing games. They are too focused on doing drills that may be creative but don’t do anything as far as skill development goes. Is the Mikan Drill the magic pill for curing your missed layup disease? No. However, if it worked really well for us growing years ago and it worked really well for a highly successful college coach and program it may just be something our youth should be using as well. 

The Significance of Fundamentals

I have stressed time and time again on this site how important fundamentals are when it comes to basketball. There is just no replacing the ability to dribble, pass and shoot the basketball well and players that can do all three are really hard to stop. Take for example Russel Westbrook’s historic season this year, averaging a triple double thanks to double digit averages in scoring, assists and rebounds. All season long, the talk of whether or not he was going to achieve this milestone hinged on whether or not he would be able to pull off the double digit rebounds. Not only was this the stat in question, but rebounding has become an overlooked aspect of basketball that has never been more evident than in recent basketball history specifically as it pertains to the NCAA tournament and the NBA playoffs. 

Rebounding is a fundamental skill of basketball that comes with an ability to know how the ball will come off the rim, a burning desire to go get the ball and the most forgotten part of it, boxing out. Boxing out has become one of the most forgotten fundamental skills in basketball and it has reared its ugly head on more than a few occasions recently. Looking back to the national semifinal game between North Carolina and Oregon, Jordan Bell missed not one, but two box outs that gave the Tarheels the opportunity to secure the ball in the last minute in the game to preserve their victory. Let’s not even get into the fact that the Heels missed their free throws, another fundamental skill that has fallen by the wayside. If Bell boxes out, and Ducks grab the rebound, giving them an offensive possession or two, there is no telling what would have happened. They may have won, they may have lost anyway, but at least the would have had the opportunity to find out. North Carolina on the other hand, mainly won this national title on the heels (pun intended) of their ability to rebound. As the leading rebounding team in the country this year, they gave themselves many more scoring opportunities this season. This was a direct result of crashing the glass on the offensive end and eventually finishing and securing defensive rebounds that denied their opponents the same opportunity. The North Carolina Tarheels averaged a ton of points but not necessarily because they were an explosive jump shooting team. It was because the dominated the glass on both ends of the floor. 

As I watch the Celtics in the first round of the NBA playoffs, I can’t help but notice how bad of a rebounding team they are. Yes, I know that they are the number one seed but they are in danger of becoming one of the few number one seeds to lose to an eight seed and it has a lot to do with their inability to rebound. Lacking in this skill during the regular NBA season can be a bit overlooked and less glaring during the regular season when guys are sitting out or not playing as hard due to back to back games, etc. However, it the playoffs when teams have the extra rest and time to game plan, the Celtics inability to rebound the basketball, particularly on the defensive end is glaringly obvious. Much of this inability comes as a result of missed box out assignments. They seem to be a bit out of position on defense and guys like Lopez sneak in between them and the basket to secure offensive rebound upon offensive rebound. It’s flat out demoralizing to a team who has worked so hard to get a stop defensively and then cannot finish out that play by simply securing the ball. It remains to be seen, but missed box out assignments could ultimately be the reason they lose this series.

I am not sure how it happened or why it happened but it has happened. Boxing out, a fundamental skill, has become a thing of the past. Players just don’t do it anymore with any sort of consistency, relying on their athleticism to grab rebounds. That may work at times, however, you can see when push comes to shove and something significant is on the line, not executing a simple fundamental skill like boxing out is going to cost you and your team.

Looking to learn and excel in the fundamentals of basketball? Elite Basketball Training has got you covered with our Nothing but Net and Elite Ball Handling and Finishing programs this summer. Find out more and register today to hone your skills with us this summer. 

Top 5 Ways to Improve Your Basketball Speed and Agility

The basketball off season is virtually upon us here in New Jersey. With most middle school basketball teams finished up and the majority of the high school basketball teams finishing within the next week or two, many basketball players are looking for ways to improve. Satisfied or not with your season, there is always room to grow as a basketball player and that is what we are all about at Elite Basketball Training. One such way is to make yourself into a quicker and more agile basketball player. The old adage, speed kills, is not a lie. Quicker players are very difficult to guard and can reke havoc on a defense, forcing them into help situations while creating open opportunities for other players. With some help this off season, you can become one of those players that other teams fear because of your quickness. That is why we put together our top five basketball training tips for improving your speed and agility.

  1. Strengthen your body: There is no substitute, when it comes to basketball speed and agility, for being in great shape. Get in the weight room and develop you overall body. Focus on big lifts like squats, deadlifts and presses while adding in complimentary movements such as lunges, pullups and dips. Increase your overall power by training with bands and incorporating implements that force you to hit triple extension such as medicine ball throws, kettlebell swings and plyometrics. All of this will increase your overall athleticism, allow you to exert more force on the ground and become more powerful, a deadly combination that will lead to more speed. However, strength and power can only get you to a point. That is where the rest comes in.
  2. Incorporate Speed, Agility and Quickness training into your basketball skill development: With limited time due to multiple commitments such as school activities, other sports and AAU basketball, during the off season it is a must that your training regimen be as efficient as possible. Combining your speed and agility training with your basketball skill development will not only solve your time issue but also ensure that you are training in a way that is game like. Being fast while running a straight line is one thing. However, having the ability to be quick with or without the ball in your hands while changing directions in ways that mimic those on a basketball court is another. To achieve these skills, you need to develop them through training which should be done on the court while merging skill development drills with speed and agility drills.  
  3. Improve your footwork: Building on the topic of basketball efficiency, improved footwork on the court will absolutely translate into becoming a quicker player. Proper footwork is the difference between being a good player or a great player. There are basketball players that are naturally gifted, athletic and physically quick but their poor footwork makes them look average. There are also basketball players out there that are not as naturally athletically gifted who make up for this with great footwork. Having efficient footwork puts your body in the correct positions no matter what the situation, shooting the ball, driving, defending. As a result of this, they can appear quicker than they actually are because these players are always in the right positions at the right time.
  4. Improve your basketball IQ: Another simple way to make yourself quicker on the basketball court is to have a higher understanding of the game. The more you understand the game, the better you will be at reading situations as they emerge. Reading the defense and being able to make the right cuts, the right moves, the right finishes based on what the defense presents is the sign of a great player. It can also make up for a lack of physical speed by once again increasing your efficiency on the court. Study the game by watching it, reading about it and playing it and you will be sure to increase your basketball IQ and your basketball speed as well. 
  5. Improve your jump shot:  A Better jump shot will most certainly translate into improved overall quickness. If you can shoot the lights out, you’ll appear even quicker because it will force defenders to have to guard you tighter and once they do, it is easier to go by them. Take Klay Thompson for example. He’s a good athlete that is made to look like a great athlete because of his phenomenal jump shot. Being able to shoot like he does, forces defenders to have to guard him closer, and the closer the defender gets to him, the harder he becomes to guard. Using this crowding defense to his advantage, Thompson appears quicker going by players than he actually is all thanks to his superior jump shot.  

Five Basketball Jump Shooting Tips

I have to thank Steph Curry and the Golden State Warriors for making jump shooting relevant again. There was a period of time prior to their resurgence that many players and coaches seemed to have forgotten about the importance of jump shooting and where it fit into the game of basketball. Clouded by the glitz and the glam of the dunk the jump shot became overlooked. Young players favored NBA guys who could posterize their opponents with air defying slams rather than those who could light it up from deep. The times they are a changing though and that is all thanks to players like Steph Curry, Klay Thompson and Kevin Durant who can shoot the basketball. 

In their efforts to shoot like these guys, youth basketball players are working more on their jump shot than ever. This can and should be a good thing, but it does have its detriments. Practicing your jump shot is obviously a positive. However, practicing your jump shot with incorrect form from ranges that you cannot shoot from is a negative. Doing so will only build bad habits and make you a worse jump shooter. I have always maintained that jump shooting is about learning to shoot the ball correctly and then shooting the ball correctly a lot. So with that in mind, I decided to give a list of my top five jump shooting tips. 

  1. Shoot the ball straight. There is no replacement for shooting the basketball straight and our Elite Shooting System addresses this with three components: release the ball off your middle and index finger, keep your guide hand in tight on the finish and align your shooting shoulder and shooting hip with your target. 
  2. Use your body efficiently. The body is like a machine. Machines work significantly better when the parts are all working together in a certain way. For your jump shot, your hips and shoulders need to work together to produce an effortless jump shot. 
  3. Dip the ball. In order to add rhythm and power to your jump shot, dip the ball slightly on the catch doing so will get you into your shooting motion and NO it will not slow down your jumper. Just look at the previously mentioned players, they all do it.
  4. Incorporate forward momentum. Do not wait for the ball to come to you. Step or hop towards the ball. Doing so will put you in rhythm to shoot the ball and also add and element of quickness to your jump shot.
  5. Warm up progressively. Too many players walk on to the court and begin by shooting from 20 feet away. Instead start your warm up close to the rim, maybe three or four feet away. Make a prescribed number of shots from that distance and then slowly progress backwards. At every Elite Basketball Training session my players must make a total of 80 shots from no further than the foul line before beginning their live game shooting drills. This gives them the opportunity to groove their form and get into a flow.

If you are interested in learning more about these five jump shooting tips and our Elite Shooting System, contact me today or visit the Elite Basketball Training page for details. 

Are You, “Allergic to Mediocrity?”

This week while riding into work I was once again listening to Mike and Mike as I always do. With the college football playoffs recently released, that was a hot button topic on the show, particularly, Nick Saban and the Alabama Crimson ┬áTide who appear to be a lock to win their second consecutive championship. Nick Saban, the iconic head coach of the Tide is on quite a run with them and did not do to shabby when he was the coach of their now rival, LSU, winning a BCS national championship there. Former pro football player turned analyst was a guest on the show and, having been an all SEC player for Saban while at LSU was asked what one thing makes Nick Saban such an incredible coach. Without hesitation, Clark responded, “He’s allergic to mediocrity.” Clark further explained that Saban demanded that you play with fire on every play and if you didn’t he’d just get rid of you. There was no in between.

Are you a player or coach who is allergic to mediocrity? One that will accept nothing less than the best on every play of every practice or game? The great players and coaches in any sport are like this. That is what makes them who they are. When they are alone in a dark, lonely gym working on their game, the perform just as hard as they would when the lights are on and the house is packed. As I alluded to last week, great players are great all the time. They do not have a switch that they turn on and off. There is no middle ground with these players. They are not allergic to mediocrity.

Let me know your thoughts on mediocrity and how hard you practice to develop your basketball skills.