Don’t Pigeonhole Your Assets on the Perimeter

Big Man Physical Play

I hear modern day basketball philosophers say they don’t believe in “pigeonholing” players; which often means they don’t want to force anyone to play inside just because they are tall.  The success of outside shooting by Steph Curry and other Professional Basketball Players recently, has created a love affair with the 3-point shot for high school players and coaches alike.  So now it seems more and more teams are shooting up 3’s and ignoring any semblance of an inside game using Post Players.  

Two of the more popular ways to use Bigs now-a-days on high school teams seems to be:

  1. Let them stand outside, avoid contact, and shoot 3’s; or, if they can’t do that,
  2. Let them sit on the end of the bench.

To me, that’s what’s known as “Shrinking your assets.”  A tall player on the bench is certainly not much help to his team.  And a tall player who always stays outside and never takes advantage of one of his best assets isn’t being used properly either.  As a career-long Big Man Coach and author of the first book on post play, Complete Book of Basketball Post Play, I was always able to find ways to use my taller players inside on my teams.  Without their contributions, we certainly wouldn’t have had the success we did over the years.

With the recent popularity of 5-out offenses, it often means no one ever has to play inside.  So, the Bigs have to shoot outside well enough to play or they sit on the bench.  I don’t buy that philosophy and never have.  Taller players have so much that they can do to help a team win:  

  1. They can intimidate with the threat of shot blocking.  

2. They can reach rebounds that other players may not even be able to jump and get.  

3. They can score over shorter defenders.  

4. They can see over defenders to make passes that lead to assists.

And that’s just a few of the bonuses that taller players can give a team.  So this begs the question: How can a coach not take the time to develop his Bigs inside and use them in his system?  

A taller player without a good outside shot can be taught to score with inside power shots, short bank shots, and close in jump hooks. This can all be accomplished in much less time than developing a consistent 3-point shot.  All it takes is a little direction by the coach and an 8-12 minute session each practice to work on some inside skills.  Also, taking an excellent shooter and putting him at the low post once in awhile, to use his touch for shooting over shorter defenders, is a high percentage option that should not be denied.  Actually, if a coach is not working to develop all players into tough, inside finishers, he is doing a disservice to his players, whether tall or short.

While young Big Men do need to learn to protect the ball and use their teammates, they also need some basic footwork and finish moves too.  These include the baseline, drop-step, power shot; the face up, lift fake, go by; and the jump hook to the middle.  Eventually, all moves can be combined to give players a basic, inside game.  The jump hook can be considered advanced and only used when a player is comfortable with it.  Some may never use it, but will have the ability if ever needed.

In my training, Bigs also spend time shooting 3’s from the top of the key.  I want them to learn to shoot outside too, no matter what their scoring potential might be from that distance.  The Delay Man (4) on my fast break stopped at the top of the key and if he couldn’t hit a shot from there once in awhile, his defender might just back off and jam the high/low play that I liked so well.  Bigs also do ball handling warmup drills and other perimeter skills along with the guards.  I believe in well rounded players who can play inside and outside.  But often times, a young Big has very little experience or skill from the perimeter, so he learned the game from the inside/out from me.  My plan was for inexperienced, taller players to learn to use their size inside and then gradually build their perimeter game.

All players need to learn how to accept contact and play inside.  If a coach never teaches his shorter players to play inside, that is no different than never teaching Bigs to play outside.  Teach everybody how to score inside and you will have a more versatile, tougher, and better team.  And when it comes to the Big Man, Don’t Shrink Your Assets.  Let the Pigeons Come Home to Roost – in the Low Post – once in awhile.

For more information on Post Player and Big Man Development, check out my website: http://coachbattenberg.net/

Or get my book, Power Post Play, at http://coachbattenberg.net/books.htm

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