Guard Development Notes from BA Emerging Coaches Zoom

Posted on Sep 29 2021

Former National Basketball League guard Nate Tomlinson is now forging a successful coaching career at the collegiate level, working as an assistant coach at George Mason University. He recently joined coaches from the Basketball Australia Emerging Coaches Initiative via Zoom to talk all things guard development.

Thanks to Coach Tomlinson for sharing his thoughts on developing guards and thank you also to Brisbane Bullets assistant coach Greg Vanderjagt for putting together these excellent notes from the presentation.

  • Guard development has changed a lot over last 5 years with the evolution of style of play
  • More pick and roll
  • Need to develop skills for the modern game

Look for the intangibles – things that are hard to develop:

  • Leadership – playing to win, not just playing the game. Everything they do is competition
  • Has a belief and gets people to follow them
  • Is an organiser on the floor and off it

Areas of development for guards:

  • Shooting – have to be able to shoot it. Other skills will compliment this. Have people respect you as soon as you step over the half court line.
  • Be able to shoot the “deep 3” – 2-3ft off the 3pt line
  • Developing their passing – be able to make every type of pass – especially in the PNR
  • Finishing – off one foot, two feet. Play off two feet off a pivot. Villanova example – best at playing off two feet + ability to get to the FT line
  • “If you can’t finish, they will make you finish” – help will stay at home and the defence will force you to finish at the rim
  • Make plays “OUT not IN” – decisions at the end of penetration, finding open people against collapsing defence – drive and kick game

PG Index at GMU –

  • 80% + from the FT line
  • 3:1 assist to turnover ratio
  • PG’s being vocal – help every be comfortable and organised
  • “Punch the air with your words” – importance of communicating and impacting the game with your voice
  • 100% d-trans on “rise of the shot”
  • AC stats in game on every shot

Practice environment – “winning time:”

  • Specific scenarios within practice – time and score, foul situation
  • Let the PG run their team.
  • Understand what we are trying to achieve in each scenario
  • Will do 2-3 times each practice to develop guard leadership and communication

Questions –

Luke McGuire – how much practice time spent on off the bounce 3’s?

  • 30% of shots in practice environment are completed off the bounce

Ash Arnott – how much time do you get per week for specific player development? How much of this is competitive?

  • “Daily vitamins” – 1 hour per player per day at present (pre-season)
  • This will reduce somewhat in the season, but there still be an element of player development every day

Greg Vanderjagt – how are you developing decision making?

  • Playing off a close-out
  • Haven’t done a lot in the “individual” environment yet – an identified area of development for guards in being able to read the game, read defensive coverages at speed.
  • Use of film is important in this area

Renae Garlepp – how do you repair players confidence?

  • Use of film to demonstrate to players their behaviour – skill or body language
  • Practice environment is key to helping players bounce back – currently their players taking too many bad shots in practice.
  • Knowing that you’ve done the work to build confidence in your game

Peter Lonergan – How much film to you use in guard development?

  • Part of daily vitamins – 10 – 15 mins a day
  • Make the film specific to them in the individual feedback environment
  • Used to teach and also to reinforce teaching points

Billy Akalo – Finishing for guards – are there some finishing moves you prefer? Individualised teaching?

  • All guards will need to be able to do things differently
  • 15 minutes per day either in vitamins or within team practice
  • Must have different types of finishes for who you are
  • Mentality of “if you can’t finish, they’ll make you finish”

Liam Flynn – pick and roll reads

  • Having guards understand who they are playing with in the PNR. Roll / pop guy.
  • Others around the PNR need to make reads dependent on the actions
  • Will use “GETS” if spacing isn’t right – especially vs “ICE” coverages
  • Be able to put 2 on the ball and create an advantage
  • If there is no advantage – get off the ball
  • Vs hard show – emphasis is on the players behind – shorten the pass

Jack Fleming – Philosophy on floaters? How do you use it in guard development?

  • Feel it is an essential part of guard finishing package
  • Being comfortable when you get in the paint off both hands

Dom Linossier – teaching at variable skill levels – how do you manage this?

  • Have a belief that we work on everything with all athletes
  • Depends on periodisation – stage of season

Peter Lonergan – reference to NBA/elite players – how is this valuable in guard development?

  • Helps build belief with the athlete – reference to pro level skill
  • Resonates with this generation of athlete

Bill Tomlinson – instruction to guards in the first 5 seconds of offence?

  • The first 7 seconds is your time – get on the rim – kick aheads (30 second shot clock in college)
  • 3 “play the game” options
  • Kick ahead 3’s, Kick ahead penetration
  • Drag screens, double drags, “terror” screens
  • Play the game, play freely in this time
  • Work on “play the game” reads with PGs
  • The last 7 seconds is yours – create a shot – paint or kick-out 3’s

Peter Lonergan – balance between playing out of drags vs second touch basketball?

  • Be able to play at pace – advance the ball on the pass
  • Create the same thing without using the drag screen
  • Teach the reads and progressions that can come from the drag screen
  • What are the reads once you get two on the ball
  • It’s playing basketball – dribble penetration creates the same situations

Will Lopez – thoughts on developing the “floor general” mentality?

  • Real time feedback in the practice environment – coach the situation as it unfolds
  • Engage the player in the decision-making process
  • Don’t over coach – let them play and make the mistakes then use the film

Brenton O’Brien – Defensive development – how much time and what do you work on?

  • Defensive dog mentality – the possession starts with the PG on defence. Transition and late clock situations
  • Not a lot of time in daily vitamin environment – coached very hard in the team practice environment
  • Use of film to provide feedback as a collective

Peter Lonergan – what does an elite guard need?

  • Every player is different, so there is not two set things to develop
  • Will depend on size, strength, areas of strength in their game
  • Has developed his coaching over time to understand there is no one way to teach and develop a player
  • You need something that is an elite measurable – be elite at something
  • Guards need to their point of difference – shooting, quickness, strength, passing – Josh Giddey example
  • Toughness is a big one



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