I liked having tall teams. The taller the better. Size matters in defense and rebounding. It doesn’t hurt to have some tall players on offense either. But not every coach has an abundance of size at his school. I was lucky. At all six high schools I coached at during my career, there were Bigs already on the Varsity team or on their way up from the lower levels. All I had to do was develop them more or use the abilities they already possessed. Many coaches are not as lucky as I was, but they could improve their odds with some strategic recruiting and program organization.
As a Head Coach or even an assistant coach, what do you do to get the bigger kids to play and enjoy basketball? At a Private School or Open Enrollment District, you might be able to go out and actually recruit the taller kids you want. But for most coaches in public high schools, you have to settle for who walks in the door each day. However, I say you should still recruit. Recruit your own student body, especially the incoming freshman class each fall. Rather than the band having the tallest trombone section in the area, get some of those kids out for basketball. If there absolutely are no tall kids in your school, well, you can’t do much about that. But if there are and they haven’t been showing interest in basketball, maybe you can change some of their minds.
Here are 12 things my staff and I did at our high schools to get more tall kids involved in the basketball program:
- The freshman coach should know the players in the middle schools that will eventually feed your program. Who are the taller ones? Encourage them to play in high school too.
2. Summer basketball camp at your high school is another great way to get to know what talent and size is coming your way. It’s also a great way to touch bases with kids, train them in fundamentals, and excite them about a future in your basketball program.
3. Notice or find out the size (heights) of the parents of kids in your lower level teams and of the bigger kids in summer camp. Who is going to grow a lot more? Who has probably already topped out?
4. The Freshman coach should try to keep any taller kids who try out, even if it means having extra players on the Frosh Team or having to get more uniforms for them.
5. J.V. coaches or Sophomore team coaches should continue to carry taller kids on the squad, provided they have shown a work ethic and interest from the previous season.
6. Freshman and J.V. coaches should build a short block of time into all practices for Big Man Training. If not feasible every day, offer a session after practice.
7. The Head Coach and assistants should always keep an eye out for taller kids on campus that might be encouraged to try out for basketball. It could be a new transfer student or an athlete who has previously only played another sport.
8. Lower level coaches should look to play a bigger kid in the starting lineup when possible. He doesn’t need to be one of the “best 5”, just the “best Big.” He could get the tip, rebound, and block shots while getting a few minutes of game time at the beginning.
9. Keep encouraging Bigs with some meaningful playing time. If the team is better without them, sub and go small later. But keep Bigs involved when possible.
10. If you already have a good Big to play the 5-spot (post), use another as his backup to give the starter a few minutes of rest each game. Now a second Big gets some experience and keeps his interest in your program.
11. Good Bigs in 9th and 10th grade usually will develop into efficient perimeter players as they progress through your program. If you have been developing other Bigs, they may be ready to step into the lineup eventually. Now you will have two or more taller players on the court and in your lineup. That is a goal.
12. You can experiment with big lineups toward the end of regular season practices, in off-season workouts, and even during Summer League games. Your size can cause opponents problems that you might never have imagined. Don’t be afraid to take a look at a taller lineup that might just make your team feared and even better.
To develop bigger lineups, I experimented a lot in the off season. I encouraged the more experienced Bigs to expand their games and work on outside shooting, ball handling, and driving. If I could move a good (5) to the (4) spot, it would open up a position for a less experienced Big to now play the (5). As an example, one year I had a team of mostly Juniors, where a Senior (2) man graduated. Because a less experienced backup (5) developed over the summer, he was able to take the starting (5) spot his Senior year. That allowed an All League (5) to move to the (4) spot, the previous (4) moved to the wing (3), and the previous (3) became the (2). With these moves, we ended up improving our size by replacing the graduated 5’10” Senior (2) with a 6’7” player at the (5). Quite a change in size from one year to the next. And they became a pretty dominating team during their Senior year.
If you want more size in your program, you need to find size, develop size, and be willing to play size. They won’t help you walking the halls or sitting the bench.
Note: For more on Big Man and Post Play Development, check out my website: http://www.coachbattenberg.net
or my book Power Post Play at http://coachbattenberg.net/books.htm