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RACECAR: Seven Key Concepts that Every Good Point Guard Needs to Know by Dena Evans

With special permission from PGC Basketball...

PGC Basketball (originally "Point Guard College") was founded by Dick DeVenzio, continued by great University of Virginia point guard Dena Evans, and others.

PGC Basketball not only teaches the skills needed to become a great player, but goes far beyond that by imparting basketball knowledge and passion to players and coaches. PCG helps players to think and "play smart". It is an intense, no-nonsense learning experience for high school and college-aged male and female student-athletes.

Not like typical basketball camps, it's called a "college" for a reason. The course curriculum is specially designed to teach basketball players to play the game intelligently, to train purposefully, to be "coaches on the court," and to be true leaders during games, in practice, during the off-season, and in everyday life.

RACECAR: Seven Key Concepts that Every Good Point Guard Needs to Know by Dena Evans

Dena Evans was a truly consummate point guard, who in terms of sheer physical stature, probably did more with less than any point guard that ever played the game. Only 5'4" tall, Dena became a star at the University of Virginia, where she led her teams to three NCAA Final Four appearances and a 118-17 record during her four-year career.

As a senior at UVA, Dena was voted the Best Point Guard in the nation and received the Frances P. Naismith award as the country's top collegiate player under 5'7". In 2002, Dena was named to the Atlantic Coast Conference's 50th Anniversary All-Time Women's Basketball Team.

Dena is the Owner and Chairman of PGC Basketball (PGC), a series of basketball camps that use classroom sessions, video analysis, and specially designed competitive drills and games to teach sound fundamentals, smart basketball, and a complete package of leadership skills. The following article is excerpted from one of Dena's talks at a PGC session in Halifax, Nova Scotia (Canada) in March 2004.

We use a lot of acronyms at PGC Basketball. This acronym - RACECAR - stands for seven critical concepts that every good point guard should understand.

1, 2) The "R" and the "A" in RACECAR go together. A good point guard will always Race the ball from Arc-to-arc. By 'arc to arc,' we mean between the three-point lines. A good point guard is always racing the ball up the court and trying to get inside the three-point line as quickly as possible. But "race" doesn't mean "rush."

Instead, "racing" means bringing the ball up the court at a speed that makes the defense uncomfortable. You can race the ball up the court in two ways: (1) with a good, fast dribble, or (2) with a pass. But you shouldn't always walk the ball up the court. A good point guard will always race the ball up the court and take advantage of a disorganized defense. You should always put maximum pressure on the defense.

3) The "C" in RACECAR stands for Control - control of your emotions, control of your body, control of the basketball, control of the game. Control is the number one point guard commandment: There's nothing more important for a point guard than to be than under control.

I was watching a high school game a few months ago, and there was a point guard that was playing really fast and taking a whole bunch of shots. He was actually making some of those shots, but he was also making bad decisions, passing while in the air and throwing the ball out-of-bounds.

And the guy sitting next to me said, "Man! That point guard is keeping his team in the game!" And I didn't say anything out loud, but I was thinking, "Yeah, and he's keeping the other team in the game too." No coach wants a point guard who is keeping both teams in the game. When you have the ball in your hands, your coach should feel relaxed and calm and confident - not nervous and worried that you're going to take a bad shot or do something off-balance.

You should start to be almost arrogant about your control; you should look for ways to race the ball up the court and still show off your control. And one great way to show off control is to use dynamic jump stops in the lane. Anytime you can race the ball from arc-to-arc, get inside the three-point line and then jump stop, you'll get a chance to make something good happen for your team.

4) The "E" in RACECAR means that you Eagerly Hunt the Paint. The word "hunt" means "to seek out," "to go after." A great point guard - Chris Paul, Steve Nash or Jason Kidd - will eagerly, constantly look for opportunities to hunt the paint.

People always ask, "How does Steve Nash make those passes?" "How do Chris Paul and Jason Kidd get so many assists?" Well, watch them play. They're always eagerly trying to get into the paint. They know that's where they're most dangerous to the defense.

But you've got to know what to do in the paint once you get there. Lots of players get into the paint and then HURRY. And there's nothing that will make you look more out of control than hurrying when you get in the paint.

Instead of hurrying in the paint, you should stop and get FEROCIOUS. I like the word "ferocious" because it connotes, not just something physical, but also a mental attitude. When you get to the paint, you're going to get hit, you're going to get slapped, you're going to get bumped, you're going to get knocked around.

So the first thing that you have to do is to stop with one of those dynamic jump stops and get ferocious. Then you want to assess the situation. Instead of hurrying, I want you to HUPPPPY - that's spelled with four P's.

The first "P" in HUPPPPY stands for Powerful. You've got to get powerful, because you're going to get bumped, you're going to get knocked around. And, again, the best way to get powerful is with a dynamic jump stop, where you're tough, you're ferocious, you're on two feet, and no one can knock you off-balance.

The next "P" stands for Purposeful. You must be decisive! You can't try simply just to avoid mistakes. Dwayne Wade led the NBA in scoring this year, and Chris Paul led the league in assists. But both Dwayne Wade and Chris Paul were also in the top ten in the NBA in turnovers committed.

This doesn't mean that you should be sloppy or careless with the basketball; but you can't be tentative. You must be purposeful and decisive when you're in the paint.

And then, when you get into the lane, you want to Peek. That's the fourth "P" in HUPPPPY: Get into the habit of peeking at the rim. A lot of point guards get into the lane and only look to pass.

Instead, when you get into the lane, take your eyes up to the rim, and all of a sudden, everything will change: Defenders will start running at you; you'll see all four of your teammates; passing angles will open up. So get in the habit of peeking at the rim.

The fourth "P" stands for fake - which we spell PHAKE at PGC Basketball. A good fake in the lane takes only one-eighth of a second; but that one-eighth of a second will buy you the time to do something special for your team.

. 5) The next "C" in RACECAR stands for CLEVERNESS. Good point guards are very clever. They use a lot of fakes; they're tricky and deceptive. The number one rule for fakes is to use more of them. I'm talking about pass fakes, ball fakes, foot fakes, shot fakes. Use fakes, fakes, and more fakes.

Fakes don't require any special athletic ability. You just have to remember to use them. Good point guards - players like Sue Bird, Tony Parker and Diana Taurasi - are always toying with the defense. These players can make their opponents look foolish, not with their athletic ability, but because of their cleverness.

7) The next "A" in RACECAR is also related with faking. This "A" stands for ARRUM - or 'air 'em'. Anytime you get into the lane and you have doubts about your ability to get your shot off, add an ARRUM and get a defender to leave his feet.

If you stay low and on-balance, peek at the rim, and give one good pump fake, defenders will leave their feet again and again. That's because most fans love shot blockers who can slap a shot into the ninth row. And because most players love to please fans, from now until the end of time, you will play against players that love to leave their feet on defense.

You should be on a mission to make these big, athletic players look foolish. Add an ARRUM and get them to leave their feet. If you can get a defender up in the air, it's easy to create all kinds of passing angles, draw a foul, or even get an 'and-one.'

7) The last "R" in RACECAR stands for REMINDERS. If the only way you lead is to lead by example, then you are a very poor leader. At any given point in a game, there are at least thirty reminders you could give that will help your teammates play better: "He's a shooter. Get your hand up!" "Watch the screen! Get over the top!" "She's left-handed! Bring her my way!"

But reminders are only useful if you give them before they are needed. Let's say that Benny and I are teammates, and that it's an important possession at the end of the game; maybe the score is tied and we need a stop. And let's say that Benny is guarding the other team's best three-point shooter, and that his man comes off a screen and hits a three-point shot.

And I glare at Benny and say, "C'mon Benny! He's their best shooter! Get your hand up!" Does that have any impact at all on the play that just happened? No! I'm not really reminding Benny; I'm criticizing Benny for not doing his job.

A good point guard would recognize that situation before it happens. A good point guard would think, "Okay, this is a key possession, and Benny's got their best shooter." And, at that point a good point guard would say, "Hey, Benny! He's a shooter! Get your hand up!" Now your reminder can have an impact on the play. Now Benny's got it in his head, "Oh, yeah - he's a shooter. I'm can't let him get a shot off."

Get in the habit of giving constant reminders, but give them before the play happens, before it's too late.

Dick DeVenzio's legacy lives on in the programs at PGC Basketball, a series of basketball camps that use classroom sessions, video analysis and specially designed competitive drills and games to teach individual development, smart basketball, and a complete package of leadership skills.
(Copyright© 2006 by Dena Evans.)

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