Coaching High School Basketball

Talented Freshmen, What to do with them?

A talented freshman can be a double edged sword. I have had a few different types of talented freshmen since I have started coaching. They have the ability of any upperclassman, but can have several huge flaws. Any coach that has this kind of blessed problem knows exactly what I am talking about. Will the varsity boys except him into their elite group? Is a summer in the weight room enough for him to make a difference night in and night out? Below are some of the examples of trials and tribulations that I have gone through with some of my most talented freshmen.

Bringing them up for Basketball Camp

It was 2008 and we had this kid we had been watching totally dominate the middle school basketball league. We were drooling with excitement as he displayed unbelievable range from the out side. He could handle better than everyone on our varsity squad right now except our point guard, and just had a nose for scoring. We brought him up with only a few days of practice during June right before we left for camp. We could tell he was nervous as we placed him in a room with a senior (who we had told to take care of him). We were playing around three games a day and he was showing us some of the things we were hoping for. He continued to improve and become more aggressive against several of the teams. Then we played a 4A school with three division 1 signed recruits. The game was going great. We were holding our own being a 2A school playing a team of this caliber. We had not planned on playing the freshman in this game, but then the unexpected happened. We had a junior guard fall and hurt his wrist. I went down the bench and stopped in front of the freshman and said, "Brad, get in there." His reply was, "Coach, in this game. Are you sure?" This kid had all the tools, but apparently he need a little nudge. So what do I do? "Brad, yes I'm sure. Now go!" He went into the game and was baptised by fire. His first look at three got blocked and sent about three rows up. Now the good thing about freshmen is sometimes they don't know how to react. They just play off of raw emotion and instinct because that is all they know to do. He could of shut down, acted hurt, or gave me a, "I told you so," look. Remember though, this is a talented freshman. The next time down he caught the ball on the wing pump faked, the guy who sent his ball three rows up flew past him, and then side stepped and drained a three. We knew he was ready and so did he.

Crazy things freshmen ask.

I like to tell my players that there is no dumb question. I always tell them better to ask then do something that is wrong. However, during our 2010 spring basketball season where we work with rising freshmen and eighth graders. A freshman proved that there was a such thing as a stupid question. It was an AAU tournament and of course we got stuck with the 8:00a.m. game. We were about to play a team from Chapel Hill. The gym was surprisingly packed for an early game. While the boys were warming up my assistant coach and I were getting our match-ups written down and putting together the game plan. The buzzer sounded and the boys ran over to us. I spent the next couple minutes telling them who had who, what defense we were playing, what I wanted to do offensively, pumping them up, and then I ended the huddle with, "Does anyone have any questions?" That's when a freshman name Ryan raised his hand. I reminded Ryan that he didn't have to raise his hand and asked, "What's up Ryan?" He proceeded to ask as the ref was saying, "Second horn coach, Bring them out." "Coach, do you think the concession stand is open right now." Now me being the seasoned coach that I am remembered that this kid is a freshman and just looked at the ground and gathered my thoughts for a second. My assistant was not so kind. He was a great player and took coaching just as serious as any beginning coach. He was also use to how serious varsity players took the game. He followed Ryan's comment with, "Hold on Ryan." He turns to the crowd and yells out, "Hey, can somebody go check and see if the concession stand is open. Ryan needs a hotdog." Needless to say, I got a good laugh. Ryan learned what kinds of questions were acceptable and what kinds were not before a game.

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