Newsletter #209

March 17, 2021

Today's Quote:  "Be strong in body, clean in mind, lofty in ideals." - Dr. James Naismith, the father of basketball


Today's Theme:  Positionless Basketball?

You hear a lot about "positionless" basketball these days.

"What is Positionless Basketball?" - Positionless basketball means that instead of players playing certain positions (e.g. point guard, shooting guard, post player, etc), all players can play anywhere on the court.  Players aren't constrained to assigned spots on the floor. Having players with similar skill-sets, good spacing and passing are paramount.

You see this more at the pro and elite college levels, where you have 12 thoroughbreds who have the skill-sets to play anywhere. A big can go outside and shoot the 3-pointer, and tall athletic guards can take the ball inside, dunk and post-up.

This type of play is being promoted (as I believe it should be) by skills trainers, at camps, and by some elite AAU clubs.  But what about at the youth and high school levels?

Youth level - Youth players should be taught all skills, not just those skills related to either post or perimeter play. All players should do dribbling and ball-handling drills, learn to shoot from outside and learn to attack the defender on the perimeter, as well as passing, screening and cutting skills, and defending both inside and on the perimeter.

Youth coaches should spend most of their time teaching fundamentals - focusing on "players, not plays".  Winning games should not be the primary focus. You can put them in a positionless offense such as a simple version of the "Read and React" offense, a simple 5-out offense, or 4-out offense.

But about at the high school level? - Here's where I'm going to differ with promoters of the positionless game.  Rather than 12 thoroughbreds, most high school coaches have a hodgepodge of players of varying sizes and skill sets, perhaps a handfull of skilled players, and a bunch of "role players".  Role players are usually not going to be good positionless players. You can't play a sluggish "big" on the perimeter, or have your skilled, quick 5'6" guy spend much time inside.  Some players can shoot and some can't, some can attack with the dribble and some can't, etc.

Finally, there is more pressure to win at the high school level - so you have to put players in positions where they have a better chance to succeed.

We should prepare HS players for college and pro basketball 

Really? Let's looks at the stats. What percentage of high school players will ever play in college?

  • For boys, it's 3.5% overall, 1% at Div I, 1% at Div II and 1.4% at Div III.
  • For girls, it's 4.1% overall, 1.3% at Div I, 1.2% at Div II and 1.7% at Div III.

So it seems to me that for most high school players, it should be about their high school team experience. I have had former high school players who played in college come back and say that the most fun they had was playing in high school. Gifted college-bound players should continue to develop all those skills needed for positionless basketball.

So in summary, the concept for positionless basketball is excellent for training and developing players for the elite levels of the game, and for youth play, but probably is less practical for most high school coaches - but that's just my opinion!

See: Positionless Basketball

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