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I’ve had the pleasure of coaching Division III basketball for the past eight years. Despite some struggles and frustrations, I have loved every second of it. Giving kids, mostly inner city, the opportunity to earn their degree and play college basketball in the process was an honor. Mentoring them in their transition from a boy maturing into a young man was a privilege I took very seriously. Coaching basketball has given me so much in return. I will always cherish the relationships built through basketball. I was not a perfect coach or player but I never cheated the game.
Today’s inner-city player is not as good as they think they are. They’re not realistic at all about their prospects of where their talents can take them. Many believe they are scholarship players. If no school has offered you a scholarship at any point in your high school career, you are not a scholarship player. Dreaming of playing-big time basketball is great but at some point reality has to set in. Look, there are always exceptions to the rule but very few. Even worse, players think they will magically get noticed over a two month summer period playing the AAU circuit. Again, it happens on occasion but not the norm. Those instances are reserved for the 6’4″ and taller super athletes who were late bloomers.
Another major component is accepting you are a Division III player. You have to humble yourself and be coachable. If you feel you are a better caliber player, prove it on the court. Instead of talking about it, go out and let your play speak for you. I’ve had the pleasure of coaching scholarship players at the Division III level and it’s evident and obvious in practice and games to all who are watching. Inner city players, as a whole, don’t respect Division III basketball. For a lot of them, the jump from high school to Division III is significant.
Back to basketball, the fundamentals are getting lost at the high school level. The basketball IQ is getting lower and lower across the board. I believe AAU and ESPN “highlights” have helped deteriorate the learning of basic basketball. These players today coming into Division III don’t know basic basketball terminology. Terms like hedge, cut off and face guard is a foreign language. Communication on the court is missing as well. So much confusion can be averted by simply opening your mouth. A “switch” or “screen left” makes things so much easier. On offense, everyone is open and wants the ball and don’t get me started on the dribbling exhibition, move the ball!
This “all about me” attitude is cancerous in a team sport and teams win because each player knows their role. When players ask what can I do to help my team win, it builds chemistry. Each player knowing their role is essential to team success but today’s player feels he is not helping unless he is scoring. The player who sets screens or dives for loose balls is just as important as the leading scorer. There is so much more to the game where players can contribute. If you don’t believe me, look at the last five Division III champions rosters. Not exactly the best talent but all had a will to outwork, execute the game plan and play for each other. That is the recipe for success.