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June 21, 2016

Hand Jive on the Basketball Court

Hand Jive on the Basketball Court

TEAM TUESDAY – Today in camp, I called it “hand jive,” which was not exactly correct or even close, but it sounded cool. I was telling the kids how important it is to speak with body language on the court. There’s no need to clap or call “ball” because by the time you’ve said, “Ball,” you’re often not open anymore, not to mention that you sound selfish. I said you need to show what you want with your hands and your eyes. You want the ball, show your teammate full palms in front of your chest and step to it. You want to dive, flash or go backdoor? Sell it with your eager eyes to trick your defender, and hope your teammate knows you are selling it well and reads that three-degree tip of your head along with your wide eyes and your hands leading the way. Your hands on the dive, flash, curl, reverse pivot – they say give me the ball here. Kids need instructions. So do adults who don’t like to pass or never took enough time to learn it. Even if you don’t get the ball, you must keep doing it to keep the defense honest. Otherwise they’re looking at you like you’re a chump, if they’re looking at you at all.

I told the kids the story about how I went to watch my sister play on her company team several years ago. I think it was one of the final games she played before she retired from her short-lived career in the NY Urban League (will save that story for another entry). I walked into the gym near her apartment and my eyes locked immediately on a big girl who was flashing to the high post, hands saying, “Give me the ball NOW!” and that’s when I knew we not only had a ballplayer, we also had a ballgame. That one player’s eyes, energy, hands changed the gym. The defenders on her and not on her had to respect her. They could not take a nap. Other players benefitted from her aggression in simply wanting the ball. Whether she received it or not did not matter.

What you want to tell all of your players: “Fake it ‘til you make it.” It’s the old David Letterman rule. “If you’re not confident, fake like you are, and eventually you’ll get it working for you.”

If five out of five players are talking with hand jive – if they’re saying without any words, “Give me the ball, I am a threat,” then you have five threats on the floor. You get 1-2 players out there who are passive, then that’s more hope for a slow player/defender like me who can read them like a book and know that I can get an edge by not guarding them, by guarding someone else, or by simply not having to do much at all.

I often have this habit where I say, “Don’t pass me the ball,” and I say it firmly. But then I cut and move with my eyes and hand jive and I sell it so well that the kid in the demo passes me the ball. That’s aggression – wanting the ball – and it does not mean everyone gets to receive it the same number of times or shoot it or make it the same number either. It means much more than that – it means you have a real team on the floor. It’s a team that knows the difference between a weak, five-fingered slap and the power of a fist where everyone is believing, doing, repeating, and showing that they want to win as a team every time down the floor.