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“Yeah but we can dunk.”

In a recent conversation with a basketball player of mine we were discussing the United States basketball team and their potential for winning the gold this summer at the Olympics.  This player was so sure that the U.S. would win the gold so I casually baited him into an argument by saying that I would take the field (any other country) over the U.S. for gold.  He took the bait and shockingly he said, “Why?” I responded by saying that we as Americans just do not shoot the basketball very well (a necessity based on the way the international rules have shaped the game).  His response?  “Yeah, but we can dunk.”  Realizing the unbelieveable ignorance of this response I used this as a teaching moment and began a pontification on the importance of the jump shot when compared to the dunk.

I asked him if he had watched any of the NCAA tournament this past weekend, knowing full well that he did.  Of course he answered, “yes.” To which I asked, “In all of the games that were decided late in the game where teams had to execute, how many were won with a dunk?” 

” Um, Uhhhhh, Ummmmmm. Going out on a limb I’d say a bunch.” 

EHHHHHHHHH! Wrong!  I watched pretty much all of them and I could only think of one that ended with a dunk, Purdue vs. Kansas because Kansas stole the ball at the end and raced full court uncontested for a dunk.  The fact is, the majority of the basketball games this weekend were won or lost on a jump shot or a foul shot, not a dunk.  Late game situations were decided by the players’ ability to shoot the basketball.  Yet despite the fact that the jump shot plays such a tremendous role in the winning and losing basketball games, we as a whole do not practice jump shooting enough. 

The off season is upon us and with it comes the time to develop your basketball skills, in particular, your jump shot.  Jump shooting is an art.  Take a look at some of the great jump shooters at the college and pro levels.  Names like, Dirk Nowitski, Jimmer Fredette, Steph Curry, Steve Novak (he has been unbelievable recently), Kobe Bryant come to mind.  These players are knock down shooters and that did not happen by accident.  It happened because they are committed to developing their basketball skills…they are committed to developing their jump shot.  Jump shooting, like any other basketball skill needs to be practiced often and it needs to be practiced correctly.  Watch these players and their form.  They all shoot the basketball a little differently, but the fundamentals of the jump shot are there.  Their footwork is excellent, consequently they have great balance and their release from top to bottom is flawless.  These are fundamentals worth noting and worth copying.  To do so, you must work on proper form shooting drills daily to ensure that you are getting the repetitions necessary for your jump shot.  Then set out to taking game shots, from game spots, at game speed.  In order to become a good jump shooter, players not only need to shoot hundreds of jumpers a day, they need to shoot hundreds of jumpers a day correctly.  They need to shoot off the dribble, off the catch, using different footwork based on how you approach the basketball all while keeping the proper form.  Furthermore, players should be watching each and every jump shot and learning how to make corrections based on feel and how the ball goes in, where it goes in, if it misses, where it misses.  All of which will help you become a much better shooter. 

Now is the time to put in the work to become a better jump shooter.  In all seriousness, many of you out there will never ever dunk a basketball…EVER….period.  However, you will definitely take a jump shot or two in your basketball lifetime.  With this in mind, working to become a better jump shooter should be one of your skill development priorities this basketball off season.  First and foremost, work to achieve proper form.  Then take game shots at game spots at game speed.  Finally, be sure to learn your jumper by watching your jump shot to understand how you make or miss a shot and correct it.  Developing a good jump shot will take hundreds of shots daily but I guarantee that it will be worth it when your teamates are carrying you off the court becuase you just won the game for your team with a jump shot…not a dunk. 

If you are interested in learning more about how you can become a great jump shooter contact me by email and find out how Elite Basketball Training can help you.

Committed to taking your game to the NEXT level.

Rich Stoner

Elite Basketball Training, LLC

Let the Madness Begin

What a great start to the NCAA tournament last night.  I have to say that I did not have much interest in the Western Kentucky, Mississippi Valley St. game, and when M.V. St. grabbed a 16 point lead it seemed that my disinterest was warranted.  Boy did that change in the last four minutes of the game as Mississippi Valley St. found out just how hard it is to play with a lead and wound up losing to WKU.  And speaking of playing with a lead, way to go Iona for not scoring for nine minutes in the second half and blowing your 27 point lead.  This had to be extremely disappointing for an Iona team who was looking to prove that they belonged in the field.  Kudos to BYU though for figuring out how to slow down the Gaels who were running them out of the gym early on.  Either way, these were two great games and an excellent way to start one of the most exciting sporting weekends of the year.

The parity throughout college basketball this season has created some intriguing first round matchups and it should lead to a very exhilarating next three weeks of basketball.  So, With Tuesday’s games fresh in the books, lets take a look at my picks that are sure to go wrong.

South

Kentucky vs. WKU: Sorry WKU your great comeback was exciting but you are in no way a match for arguably the best team in the country.  Kentucky in a rout.

Iowa St. vs. UConn: A tough one to choose.  The cyclones played in a very challenging Big 12 but UConn, although underachieving slightly this season, played one of the toughest schedules in the country and has the talent to beat anyone.  They also seem to be playing much better now that Jim Calhoun is back so UConn will win this one.

Wichita St. vs. VCU: I have seen VCU three times this season and they are tough. Wichita St., though, is very good as well.  Although it pains me to say it, the match up of mid majors will end with Shaka getting out smarted by the Shockers.  Wichita St. wins.

New Mexico St. vs. Indiana: No brainer. Indiana is back an proved it this season with wins over Ohio St. and Kentucky when both were 1 in the polls.  Indiana advances.

UNLV vs. Colorado: Vegas has a win over North Carolina and Colorado is only in the tournament because they won the PAC 12 tournament. Enough said. Vegas wins.

Baylor vs. South Dakota St: Baylor finally got a big time win last weekend over Kansas and South Dakota St. is no match for their athleticism.  Baylor moves on.

Notre Dame vs Xavier: With St. Patrick’s Day looming is the luck of the Irish enough to push them past Xavier? After all, Xavier has ganstas in their locker room, or so they say.  The luck runs out Irish it’s the X-men on to the second round.

Duke vs. Lehigh: I hate Duke…but they win.

Kentucky, Indiana, Baylor, and Duke advance to the Sweet Sixteen, with Kentucky over Baylor to advance to the Final Four.

West

Michigan St. vs. LIU: Most notable basketball alumni for each school Magic Johnson or Charlie Parker.  Sparty marches on.

Memphis vs. St. Luis: I love St. Louis coach Rick Majerus and he is on my list of people that I most want to eat with but his Billikens will struggle with this very underated Memphis squad. Memphis moves on.

New Mexico vs. Long Beach St: Another tough Mid Major game.  I love it and I also love New Mexico in this one.  The Lobos are onto the second round.

Louisville vs. Davidson: Louisville is brutal to watch because they have a hard time scoring but are hands down one of the best defensive teams that I have seen.  Davidson is not match for the Big East tournament champs. Cardinals advance.

Murray St. vs. Colorado St: In a winter where the skiing was weak in Colorado, Murray St. is far from it.  They can flat out shoot the basketball and will win this one over the Rams.

BYU vs. Marquette: Marquette is many people’s sleeper for a Final Four Run.  I at least like them over this BYU team who should be spent from having already played a barn burner.  Marquette wins.

Florida vs. Virginia: Virginia boasts one of the best defenses in the nation and Florida boasts a loss to Rutgers…Ouch. Sorry Florida you get shut down by a stingy Cavaliers defense.  UVA moves on.

Missouri vs. Norfolk St.: Norforlk St…Seriously.  Mizzou in a rout.  They are for real.

Michigan St., New Mexico, Marquette, and Missouri battle it out in the Sweet Sixteen with Tom Izzo and Michigan St. moving on to the Final Four once again.

East

Syracuse vs. UNC-Asheville: UNC! UNC! UNC! oh wait I thought we were in Chapel Hill. Even though Syracuse’s big man can’t pass a test, the team will pass this one with flying colors and move on to the second round.

Kansas St. vs. Southern Miss: I’m watching this one just to see how many Frank Martin expletives CBS will accidentally show on tv.  Beyond that, this could be a good one as Kansas State has been inconsistent enough all season and Southern Miss is good enough to keep it tight.  In the end its K-State moving on.

Harvard vs. Vanderbilt:  Is Jeremy Lin starting for Harvard these days? Nope. Is Vandy really everyone’s sexy pick for the Final Four? Yup, but they are definitely not mine.  Bye bye Commodores the Crimson are sending you home early.

Wisconsin vs. Montana: This one is easy.  Wisconsin wins.

Cincinnati vs. Texas: Can’t wait for this one. Texas is young but highly talented at the guard spot. Cincinnati is athletic and big.  This should be an exciting back and forth contest with Cincy edging Texas out.

Florida St. vs. St. Bonaventure: Florida St. is senior laden, huge, athletic, and talented. Need I say more. Florida St wins easily.

West Virginia vs. Gonzaga: This should also be a close game. The difference? Kevin Jones and Truck Bryant. Jones might be the best player in the country and how do you pick against a guy whose nickname is Truck.  WVU wins in a close one.

Ohio St. vs. Loyola:  This isn’t Loyola Marymount, it’s Loyola Maryland and Ohio St. could end up in the final four. Good luck this lacrosse season Loyola. Ohio St. moves on.

Syracuse, Wisconsin, Florida St., and Ohio St. move on and Ohio St is coming out of this bracket.

Midwest

UNC vs Lamar or Vermont: I had a player named Lamar once and I also had a player play for Vermont.  Either way, the Tarheels win.

Creighton vs. Alabama:  I like Doug McDermott and you should watch this game just for him, but Alabama is tough coming out of the SEC. But the SEC doesn’t reign supreme like it does in football and Creighton wins one for the little guys.

Temple vs. Cal/South Florida: Temple after losing in the conference tournament will defeat either one of these weaklings from the big boy conferences. Go Owls.

Michigan vs. Ohio: This game will definitely be closer than everyone thinks.  Michigan won the Big Ten, kind of.  But Ohio can play and will give them all they can handle.

NC State vs. San Diego St: I love the fact that Steve Fisher was able to reload after such a great season last year, but NC State is playing with a chip on their shoulder and will move past the Aztecs in this one.

Georgetown vs. Belmont: Georgetown is young and talented. Belmont is the best 14 seed in the tournament.  There style of play will make Georgetown have to work for this one.  Hoyas in a close one.

Purdue vs. St. Mary’s: It was nice to see St. Mary’s finally dethrown Gonzaga but the oddsmakers favor the Boilermakers in this one and so do I. 9th year senior Robbie Hummel and company move on.

Kansas vs. Detroit: Detroit point guard Ray McCallum is as good as they come at that position and will pose a small problem for this Kansas team.  However, the problem will only be a small one and the Jayhawks move on.

UNC, Michigan, Georgetown, and Kansas move on and its the Tarheels whose talent proves to be too much for this bracket taking them to the Final Four.

In the end, its the blue bloods squaring off in the championship in a rematch of the early season game that went down to the wire between the Kentucky Wildcats and the North Carolina Tarheels.  I have said it all season that there are only two teams in the country that can beat Kentucky.  One eliminated themselves when their center decided not to pass a class or five.  The other is the North Carolina Tarheels, and yes, its the Tarheels avenging their last two losses to the Wildcats and cutting down the nets in 2012.

Take it these picks for what they are worth but in all honesty I hope you enjoy the madness and use it as motivation to take your game to the next level.

 

I’m Looking for a Team…

Once again, I’m pumped.  Last week, I sent out congratulatory messages to two of my Elite Basketball Trainees, Kaitlyn Borghese for being selected to the Monmouth Ocean County Parochial Basketball League All Star Game and Chris Tsatsis for being named to the Brooklyn Queens CHSAA “A” All League Team.  Just as an aside, Chris hit the game winning three pointer last week to send his high school team, St. Edmunds Prep to the City finals (they lost in the finals, but they had a great and unexpectedly succesful season).  This week I would like to add another player to the list of Elite Basketball Trainees who have been honored recently.  Congratulations to Keegan Woods for being named Co-MVP of the President’s Weekend Tournament at Rebounds in Neptune.  Keegan currently plays for the fifth grade Mid-Monmouth Team from Fair Haven, NJ. 

It’s that time of year again.  I’m not talking about March Madness and my oh so terrible NCAA Tournament picks, that’s next week.  I’m talking about the end of the basketball season for many players across the country.  Basketball season is starting to wind down for almost every level, and in most cases, it has already finished up.  As this occurs, many of the players and parents are still in the basketball groove.  Consequently, they are either looking to continue moving forward and build off a great season or try to better their skills based on a not so successful one.  With this in mind, I often receive many emails around this time of year from parents and players looking for teams to play on in the spring.  Although this may seem like a great idea, it definitely is not the soundest approach to developing and improving your performance on the basketball court.

Game play is great and an obvious part of a player’s development, but it should not be the foundation of a player’s off season developmental program.  The off season should be reserved for the improvement of the areas of a player’s game that they have desginated in need of improvement, namely skills and sports performance.  There is no way that playing on a team and focusing on games in the off season can help you accomplish this goal.  Often times the primary focus of a team’s practice is to work on their offensive plays and build their team defense.  This leaves little time for skill development.  Skill development which should be one of the essentials to a solid off season program requires endless repetition, and the repetitions necessary to become a knock down jump shooter or an excellent ball handler simply cannot happen throughout the course of a team practice (unless that is the focus of the team practice).  Furthermore, the current state of game play throughout the spring and summer in many cases has turned into glorified “slop.”  The market for travel teams and AAU teams has become over-saturated and simply stated, there is just not that many good basketball players out there to make all of these teams competitive.  As a result, you end up with weekend tournaments that have a few good teams and an excessive amount of bad teams.  This leads to blow outs during games in which the play turns poor very quickly, and creates a situation where no one on the court, good or bad, is learning anything.  This creates a situation is definitely not good for the development of anyone’s game.

So if game play is not the answer, than what is?  Honestly, what you as a player work on in the off season is up to you and how you evaluate your current status as a player.  When the season ends, take some time (two to three weeks) to rest your body and evaluate your season and your game.  Be honest with yourself and write down a list of your strengths and weaknesses based on the season.  I also recommend seeking out the opinions of your coach, your parents, and maybe even opposing coaches whom you may have a good relationship with.  Opposing coaches are the ones who design game plans around players’ strengths and weaknesses so they should be able to give you solid advice on this subject. 

Once you have written down your list of the areas of your game that you need to improve develop a step by step plan to improve.  Chances are there are skills that need improving as well as strength, power, speed, agility, etc.  With this in mind, the foundation of your off season player development program should be primarily based on basketball skill development and sports performance training.  In order to develop your skills as a basketball player, it requires a lot of repetition.  This can only be achieved by making it one of the bookends of your developmental program.  By doing so, you will be forcing yourself to take the necessary repetitions it requires to shoot the baksetball well off the catch and the dribble, handle the basketball effectively, finish in various ways at the rim, make different moves out of the triple threat, and pass the basketball with accuracy from a stationary position and on the move.  Consistent repetition is the only way for any player to become better at any basketball skill they are seeking to improve.

Beyond basketball skill development, sports performance training needs to be the other bookend to your off season basketball development.  I hear the phrase, “I don’t have the time to lift.” from athletes and they could not be more right.  No athlete has the time to lift or train their body, they must MAKE the time, and the time should be in the off season. Sports performance training is the only way to develop your body and better yourself as an athlete, and being a better athlete will make you a better player on the basketball court.  A well designed sports performance program aside from the obvious health benefits will serve to make you stronger and more explosive.  It will help increase your vertical jump, your quickness, agility, conditioning and flexibility.  Finally, sports performance training will increase your confidence and give you a mental edge over your competition.  Ultimately, this is an absolute must for any basketball player who is looking to be successful on the court. 

Basketball skill development and sports performance training need to be the foundation upon which you build your off season basketball training program.  Game play on the other hand should only be a supplemental portion of this program.  Basketball skill development requires consistent repetition that cannot be achieved during games.  Furthermore, sports performance training is essential to your development as an athlete and a basketball player and time needs to be made during the off season when you are not bogged down by game play.  So save the search for the team for the fall leading into the winter and devote your time to becoming a better basketball player this off season because the off season is where players are made.

Committed to taking your game to the NEXT level.

Rich Stoner

USAW Sports Performance Coach

Elite Basketball Training, LLC

 

Ps. Don’t forget to let us know your thoughts in the comments section below, and make sure you visit www.basketballspeedandagility.com for the hottest basketball speed and agility product on the market.

Sports Performance Training for Youth Athletes

I have to say, I am really pumped this week.  I just found out that two of my players that have been training with me over the last year have received some great accolades.  With that in mind, I would like to take the time to congratulate Chris Tsatsis for being selected to the CHSAA Brooklyn Queens “A” All League Team and Kaitlyn Borghese for being selected to Monmouth Ocean County Parochial Basketball League All Star Game.  Both Chris and Kaitlyn have been committed to taking their games to the NEXT level through basketball skill development workouts and sports performance training.  This comitment has really shown in their play on the basketball court and consequently they have been rewarded appropriately for their hard work.  Great job Chris and Kaitlyn keep up the good work.

Now, on to today’s subject of training youth athletes.  The question is posed to me all of the time, “Is it okay for my son/daughter to be working out at a young age?”  My answer is always a resounding, “Yes…if done properly.”  Obviously, the key to this is the, “…if done properly part.”  Studies today have shown that athletes can show benefits from sports performance training as young as seven years old (believe it or not, I have worked with a seven year old).  Under the supervision of a trained professional and by choosing the correct exercises,  results can absolutely be produced and these athletes will see improvements in their overall health, sports performance, and confidence.   The key is choosing the correct exercises, adhering to strict form, and making it fun. 

All of the youth athletes that come through Elite Sports Performance (the sports performance training branch of Elite Basketball Training, LLC) are first evaluated based on their general physical preparedness.  This evaluation includes tests for speed, agility, core strength, upper body pushing and pulling strength, and much more.  Based on this evaluation, a program is the developed to improve the areas of weakness for that athlete as well as their overall physical performance.  This is not much different from my older athletes however, in the case of the youth athletes, the choice for their main exercises differs.  In the case of all of the youth athletes at Elite Sports Performance their initial programs consist primarily of body weight exercises.  An example of some of these body weight exercises can be seen in this video below:

 

*Please note that this athlete is very strong for his age (he holds the pushup record of 73 in a row for my gym) and easier variations of these exercises can be performed.

Youth athletes  must master their own body weight before they are allowed to progress to the use of weights (medicine balls then actual bars, kettlebells, and dumbells). 

One of the major concerns for parents who seek sports performance training for their young athlete is the risk of injury.  Injuries often occur, not as a result of the athlete’s age but because failed instruction on correct form.  Strict attention must be paid to their form during this developmental age.  Primarily because poor form can cause injury.  Furthermore, these athletes have most likely never lifted before therefore and they can be taught the correct way to to perform the movements leading to benefits in the long run. 

Finally, it is important to remember that these are afterall just kids.  With that in mind, there may be days that they are pumped up to be there and others where they are simply there because Mom and/or Dad made them go. Either way, it is important to keep the program and the atmosphere fun.  Develop a relationship with these athletes and let them know that you care and that you are there to make them better.  Furthermore, make the workouts competive and lively.  Use games like “Tag” or a relay race as speed and agility or conditioning drills.  Doing so will keep the atmosphere light and eliminate the feeling of working out.

In today’s time, working out in a well designed sports performance program is not only acceptable for young athletes, but in many cases, recommended.  The key to designing this program is choosing the correct exercises in particular bodyweight exercises.  Once the correct exercises have been chosen, it is imperative that there be a strict adherence to form. Doing so will ensure that the athletes avoid injury and learn the proper form for more difficult lifts in the future.  Finally, making the program fun is a key factor for the young athletes.  It will lighten the mood of the workout and ensure that they keep coming back.  Following these parameters will improve the athlete’s overall fitness, their sports performance, and their confidence, and will ultimately go a long way towards building the fundamental base these athletes need to be successful in their sports as they become more competitive.     

Let us know what you all think about sports performance training for youth athletes by writing in the comments section below, and of course, if you are part of the Elite Basketball Training family and you have had success on the court this season please email me personally at rstoner42@gmail.com so that I can personally congratulate me on my blog. 

If you haven’t already done so, don’t forget to get your hands on the hottest product on the market at www.basketballspeedandagility.com and increase your speed, agility and quickness on the court.

Committed to taking your game to the NEXT level.

Rich Stoner

Elite Basketball Training, LLC

Do You Have the “Big Four?”

Just got back from a great weekend of hitting the slopes in Vermont.  It’s always nice to get away with some friends and do some skiing especially when the conditions are good and they were surprisingly good.  Now that I’m back and rejuvenated from the long weekend, I wanted to continue with my recent post on attacking out of the triple threat.  Last week’s post entitled, “What I Witnessed Looked Like Rec Soccer (Part 3)” discussed the importance of being able to attack from a triple threat position.  From a basketball skill development perspective coming to triple threat is one of the essential keys to the game and is always one of the initial skills taught to youth players and a key focal point for the older players at the Elite Basketball Training Academy.  Coming to the triple threat position allows the attacking player to be able to dribble, pass, and shoot.  Once in the triple threat position there are a series of basic moves that a player can complete that includes:

  • Jumper
  • Jab and shoot
  • Jab, shot fake, shoot
  • Jab, shot fake, and go (rocker move)
  • Jab opposite, rip through, and go

Using this series of jab moves will help you create space for you to either shoot or put the ball on the floor to get off a jumper off the dribble, get to the rim, or draw two defenders and create an open shot for your teammate.  However, there are times when the defense is better and more advanced moves are necessary to counter the defense and create space.

In order to create space for yourself and your teammates, in these more difficult situations, you must have what I call the “Big Four. The “Big Four” includes:

  1. Step back
  2. Step back/Pull back/Crossover
  3. Pullback/Spin Move
  4. Step Back/Pull Back/Crossover/ Spin Move

These moves require a higher degree of difficulty than the fundamental moves mentioned earlier.  The key component with all of them is to maintain your low center of gravity as you step back and pull back.  This will help you keep your shoulders over your feet thereby keeping your entire body in a balanced position to the make the move or shoot the jumper.  Overall, mastery of these moves requires time, effort, and repetition but they will ultimately prove useful in creating when encountering better opponents.

Let us know if you have any other Big Time moves out of the triple threat to add to my Big Four by commenting in the comments section below.

And, don’t forget to get your hands on the hottest basketball specific speed and agility product on the market at the low low price of $14.99.

Committed to taking your game to the NEXT level,

Rich Stoner

Elite Basketball Training, LLC

 

 

 

 

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