I recently asked the I Bleed Basketball FaceBook page what topics people most wanted covered on this site. Two of the great responses I received included “player breakdowns” and “unsung heroes” which inspired me to start a Player Spotlight section which will highlights some of the great characteristics and qualities of players I have come across– some accomplished, some unsung– so that we can all hope to learn from them and embody some of their special attributes.
Now most of us have heard of Kobe Bryant’s relentless work ethic or how many jump shots Ray Allen puts up on a daily basis, so why not start with a player that’s maybe not quite as famous (until now) but still displays a magnificent quality that we can all try and incorporate into our games.
Who is this player you ask? That’s right, it’s Haralabos “Bob” Gouzinis.
I have played with and been coached by Bob on many occasions. Something we’ve had in common over the years is that we’re usually the last people off the court and this has given me a number of opportunities to pick his brain.
Some of the interesting things I’ve managed to learn are that he witnessed one of Michael Jordan’s first games as a UNC Tar Heel against the Greek gational team in a pre-season game, Magic Johnson was his childhood hero and he always wanted to play the point guard position just like him, he used to have a poster of the Temple University great– Mark Macon– on his bedroom wall with a matching Temple backpack; who in fact turned out to be the head coach during my spell as the team manager at Binghamton University and the crazy notion that after years of knowing him, his real name wasn’t Bob! But the thing that stuck with me the most is something he said to me after a game of 1-on-1 on a late summer evening a few months ago.
Despite being considerably bigger and stronger than me with a whole host of accomplished post moves to match, he played me as a guard even though I was faster and more agile. He was doing crossovers, in and outs and a whole host of fade-aways. I was confused. Why was he playing me this way?
After winning the series of 3… just… and after we both caught our breath, I asked him about what things I could work on with regards to my game. We discussed a few specifics with regards to ball handling and shooting, then he said something that demonstrated why he was such a great player. Why he had played me in such a way.
“Every time I step on the court, I try and learn something new. I focus on a part of my game and I improve it. If I had played you like a post-player, I wouldn’t have improved my game much!”
It is an uncommon way of thinking and understandably. We are taught to go to our strengths so that we have the best chance of winning the game. It is easy to get carried away with this mentality– especially to someone like me is who über competitive– and neglect our weaknesses. Bob’s ability to place a greater emphasis on improving than winning means he is able to develop a truly well rounded game so that he has more tools in his armory when it counts.
I promised Bob that next time we play, I’ll be posting him up!
When some players, like Kareem Abdul-Jabbar for example, catch the ball in the post; it’s a done deal.
All of us, at some stage or another, have faced a similar situation. The player was simply too big, strong, talented or whatever it may be that whenever they caught the ball in the post, you had little chance of stopping the ball from going in the basket.
So what are we to do?
Well, I think it all begins with a key misconception of how to guard the post. For most people, defense starts when the offensive player catches the ball. From the way I look at things, this is just all wrong!
Defense starts way before the catch! It should start the instant your player enters the 3 point line.
Every inch further you keep your player away from the basket, the harder for them to score. Defending the post should be a constant battle for position. Too many times are good post players allowed to wander down to their favorite spot on the court and catch the ball where they want to catch it. Why not take them out of their comfort zone?
The second aspect of defending the post is excellent ball pressure, making it harder for the post player to receive the ball. This again emphasizes my main point- post defense begins way before the catch!
As a rule of thumb; the simpler your jump shot, the better. The more unnecessary movements and complications, the harder it is to repeat consistently especially in game situations. Compare your shot to these following basics and see if you’re holding yourself back from a better J.
Square your feet and shoulders to the basket
Despite seeming like one of the most basic aspects of a jump shot, I can guarantee that this is where most people go wrong and I used to be one of them. As a right hander, I used to shoot with my right foot in front, forcing my chest to turn to the left.
When you’re trying to get the ball to fly through the air as perfectly straight as possible, why not align your body that way too? That includes standing completely up-right. If you don’t, all you’re doing is creating unnecessary angles and increasing the difficulty. Leave that to the defense.
Generate power from your bigger muscles
Generally speaking; the bigger the muscle, the greater its control and endurance. In basketball terms; the greater the consistency. With that being said, too many people rely on their arms and wrists to generate the power behind their jump shot as opposed to their legs.
As you get more and more tired, the smaller muscles will begin to waver quicker and that has detrimental effects to your jump shot. 95% of your jump shot should be powered with your legs which transfer this power through to the smaller muscles in a coil-like motion. Your arms and wrist are responsible for the release.
Lock your elbow, follow through with your wrist
Your release needs to be as consistent as possible. Bring the ball as close as you can to the center of your chest and use the power from your legs to push the ball straight up. Locking your elbow ensures that you release the ball from the same spot every time and that your arm is straight. The final detail is the wrist. Your hand should move in a perfectly vertical motion from 12 to 6 on the face of a clock as you release the ball.
Try these out and tell me what changes you notice. I don’t believe in completely changing someone’s jump shot but there is always room to make minor tweaks.
Remember that things might get a little worse before getting better so stay focused on the long run.
Defense is all about putting the other man under pressure and taking them out of their comfort zone. Take the player out of his stride and force bad decisions. Here’s how:
Anytime, and yes I mean absolutely anytime, a player holds the ball above his head you should get as tight as you can to the player’s chest with your own and raise one of your arms to put pressure on the ball and the player’s vision.
This takes away the player’s ability to shoot, drive or even pass if enough pressure is asserted. The only option the player has is to pivot away from the basket. In this case, you have accomplished what you wanted to achieve as with his back to the basket, the player is no longer an offensive threat. I guarantee that 9 times out of 10, you force players into bad passes and bad decisions. And if they’ve already used up their dribble, even better!
Try this the next time you play and let me know what you think!
A classic documentary that shows how the classic rivalry between Magic and Bird turned into a life-long friendship. You simply just need to watch this if you love basketball.