Skill Development

Basketball on the Edge – Simple Ways Any Player Can Increase Their Basketball IQ – Vintage Edition


If you watch or listen to basketball on tv or radio you will often hear analysts, experts, and coaches talking about basketball IQ. Some players have a high basketball IQ, others not so much. What exactly does it mean to have a high basketball IQ? Simply put, players with a high basketball IQ make the right play at the right time during the course of a game. Basketball requires multiple split second decisions to be made all the time as players react to what happens out on the floor. Players must decide whether to take a shot or pass to a teammate, to help on defense or stay with their own player, to pop out and receive a pass or cut backdoor. All of these decisions must be made constantly under the pressure and fast pace of game play. Players with a high basketball IQ are those that are able to process all of the available information and quickly choose the “right” basketball play.

The best way to develop a high basketball IQ is simple. Build your skills and spend more time playing the game. The combination of deliberate practice and putting yourself in game situations is the fastest way to improve your basketball IQ. Short squad games are a great way to get more opportunities to build basketball skills and improve decision making.

What about during time away from the court? What are some simple things a young player can do to improve their basketball IQ during times they are not playing or practicing?

1. Keep a journal

This is a great way to have a record of everything you’re doing to get better as a player. Great players have a plan. Writing down what you learned will help you remember so you can apply your newly acquired knowledge in your next workout, practice, or game. A journal is also a good source of motivation to keep you accountable. You will want to learn and practice more if you know that at the end of the day you’ll have to record your daily activity and learning. Refer back to your journal frequently to build your basketball IQ.

2. Make an “I Did” list.

At the end of each day, write down what you accomplished as a basketball player that day. You can add this “I Did” list to your journal. Writing down your accomplishments will help you reflect on how productive you were, what you learned and how you can re-structure your workout plans for the next day. Each time you write an “I Did” statement, your basketball IQ will be growing.

3. Instead of playing video games or watching tv, study great players.

Don’t waste countless hours playing video games or watching mindless tv shows. With YouTube you can watch video clips of NBA players and learn from the very best in the game. Focus in on the footwork of great players and you’ll see techniques that you can begin to incorporate into your game as your skills level improves. Watch the action away from the ball to learn how great players cut, set screens, and move without the ball. Watch how defenders work together to provide help for their teammates. These are all small details that you can learn by watching video. Then, take what you’ve learned out on the court to increase your basketball IQ.

4. Read books about basketball.

There are many great books available for free at your local library that can help you improve your basketball IQ. Take a few minutes to browse through shelves and pick out a book or two that will increase your knowledge of the game. If you are looking for one book to read that will definitely increase your basketball IQ, I highly recommend “Stuff Good Players Should Know”, by Dick DeVenzio. This book is full of simple tips that will help you think the game better!

Two other great books to check out from authors that have been guests on the Hoop Heads Podcast:

“Why the Best are the Best” by Kevin Eastman

“Raise Your Game” by Alan Stein, Jr.

5. Ask questions.

This might be off the court, it might be on the court, but asking questions is a great way to learn. Ask your coach what skills you need to improve. Then ask them to show you a drill you can use to improve that skill. Ask an older player about their experiences in the game or how they handled certain situations when they were your age. Ask a teammate to help you understand a certain play or defensive assignment that you may be struggling with. Asking the right questions will get you the right answers that can improve your basketball IQ.

There is no substitute for hard work and effort out on the court, but f you want to be a great player, you can also take advantage of your time off the court to improve your basketball IQ. Try to become one of those players that coaches and teammates love. One that always makes the “right” play because of their high basketball IQ.

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Basketball on the Edge – Steve Nash Shooting Workout – by Mike Procopio


Here’s a great post about the simplicity of Steve Nash’s shooting workouts when he was in the NBA with an accompanying video of the workout for you to watch.

Click here to read the article by Mike Procopio

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Basketball on the Edge – Talent vs. Grit – Vintage Edition


What makes a person successful in their life?  Is it natural talent?  Is it exposure to opportunities?  Is it measuring up to an arbitrary standard?  There is mounting evidence that grit is the one characteristic that successful people seem to have in abundance.  How does that apply to your young basketball player and the way they approach the game, their studies, and their future?  Let’s examine how those with grit gain an advantage over those without it.

First of all, what is grit?

“Grit is passion & perseverance for very long term goals; Grit is stamina; Grit is sticking with your future, day in, day out, not just for the week, not just for the month, but for years and working really hard to make your dreams a reality; Grit is living life like it’s a marathon, not a sprint”~ Angela Lee Duckworth of the University of Pennsylvania who has been conducting groundbreaking studies on grit—the quality that enables individuals to work hard and stick to their long-term passions and goals.  

This definition points out that grit does not occur at one moment in time, but rather is an ongoing process/personality trait that remains in place over an extended period of time.  The first thing that it requires is a vision of where a person wants to go and how the activity/skill/task they are working on fits into that vision.  For example, how does this math homework help me achieve my long term goal to be an accountant?  Or, how does taking 500 jump shots a day in the summer help me to reach my goal of being a starter on my high school team next year?  The connections between the action and the long term result produce grit.  The desire to make the dream a reality.

Talent on the other hand is often inversely related to grit.  The talented player or student often gets by on talent alone.  They can get an A with minimal effort.  They breeze through homework assignments in 15 minutes when it takes others over an hour.  They can score 20 points a game in middle school because they are taller, faster, or more naturally gifted than other players.  Their talent allows them to coast and they become satisfied with good enough.  The reach an arbitrary goal and they are through working hard, they have done what is required of them.  Talented players and students without grit do not maximize their abilities.

Grittier students and players are not satisfied with what they have achieved.  Their results are not measured by outside forces like grades or a starting position.  Gritty kids always want more.  They want to learn more and practice more.  When school or practice gets tough they keep working.  Gritty kids do not place limits on themselves.  There is never a limit to how much they can learn or how badly they want to succeed.

Grit allows kids to keep plugging away at skills or problems that are difficult.  As parents, we have all sat with our kids helping them with homework and they just can’t seem to figure out a tough question or a difficult math problem.  A kid with grit wants to figure it out, wants to get it right, wants to understand.  A less gritty kid is more likely to give up, or say the problem is too hard.  In basketball, a kid with grit keeps working on a new skill until he or she gets it, and then asks for more.  A kid with less grit says, “I can’t do that”, and doesn’t put in the time to master the skill.  It comes down to the growth mentality that I have referenced numerous times.  Kids that attribute their success to hard work and seek out challenges are much more likely to develop grit than those that are always making excuses, avoiding challenges, and focused on trying to make themselves look good.  Kids with grit aren’t afraid to make a mistake or look silly while learning a new skill.  Grit makes them determined to push through the difficult times to achieve their goals.

Greatness comes when there is an intersection of great talent and grit.  When you are raising a talented athlete or student who also has grit, then there is a tremendous chance that your child will be successful in whatever they choose to do with their life.  Grit is a valuable skill in sports, academics, and most importantly the real world.

How can we help our kids develop more grit?  First of all, I believe we must allow them to fail and make mistakes.  In today’s society parents are often there to watch over everything their child does, especially when it comes to sports.  From a young age it is important that we allow our kids to struggle.  Don’t try to step in and “fix” things when they go wrong.  That is not teaching kids anything.  Someone won’t always be there to bail them out of difficult circumstances.  Secondly, teach your young player to look inward for the solutions.  The answer lies in what they can do to figure out a math problem or improve their ballhandling.  Hard work and persistence  usually  lead to change and improvement.  Those are under your child’s control.  That doesn’t mean that hard work always leads to success, but without hard work failure is guaranteed.

I believe grittiness had a great deal to do with my success as a player.  I didn’t know it was called grit back then, I just knew that I wanted to maximize my talent.  I did that by trying to outwork my opponents year round.  I took basketball more seriously than anyone I knew.  I had a relentless desire to improve and get better.  Grit is still a part of my personality today.  I can’t put a project aside until it is finished.  Working on a computer problem keeps me up all hours of the night until I figure it out.  I don’t know for sure whether my grit was innate or I learned it through my upbringing as a kid, but I know it has served me well in basketball and in life.

Commit to making your kids and young players grittier and the benefits will last a lifetime.  Here’s a quote from former N.C. State Basketball Coach Jim Valvano,

“Every morning when you get out of bed, you have a choice to make. You can choose to work hard or you can choose not to work hard. Not working hard is actually a choice.”

Let’s wrap up with this TED Talk as Angela Lee Duckworth explains the importance of grit in success.

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Basketball on the Edge – Top 8 Ways to Impress Your Basketball Coach Vintage Edition


With basketball season upon we thought this would be a great time to revisit this article about how to impress your basketball coach. If you want to make a team, earn a starting spot, or get more playing time this post can help. You can also listen to Coach Mike and Coach Jason go into more detail on the Hoop Heads Podcast Episode that we linked to below.

Episode 4 “Top 8 Ways to Impress Your Basketball Coach”logo2





How can any basketball player catch the attention of their coach at tryouts or during practice? What are the things good coaches are looking for when they watch a particular player? This list is a great place to start when you want to make a team, earn more minutes, and gain your coach’s respect.

1. When your coach is talking, listen and pay attention.

This may seem simple, but for young players with shorter attention spans it can be difficult.

Try to make eye contact with your coach. When they look at you, your eyes should be looking back at them.

Don’t dribble a basketball while your coach is talking!

If your coach is speaking directly to you, nod or respond verbally when your coach is done talking. That way they’ll know that you have understood what they said.

Don’t fool around in line or on the sideline when you are not participating in a drill. This is the quickest way to turn off your coach. If you have a friend on the team that is always playing around, don’t stand by them! Guilt by association is powerful.

Coaches HATE when players don’t listen! Coaches LOVE when players listen.

2. Hustle.

Your coach can teach you how to shoot, pivot, execute a crossover dribble, etc. but they can’t teach you how to hustle! That comes from inside of you.

Hustle during drills, hustle to the coach when they gather the team together, hustle during games and scrimmages, hustling is NEVER wrong!

Hustling is not a skill that can be taught. It is a mindset that you must bring to everything you do on the basketball court.

3. Be the best at something on your team.

A coach will always have room on the team for someone who is the best at a particular skill.

The Best Shooter.
The Best Rebounder.
The Best Passer.
The Best Defender.
The Best Ballhandler.

Become the best on your team at a particular skill and your coach will notice!

4. Communicate.

Good coaches love it when players talk out on the court. Talk on defense, talk on offense.

Communication helps make your teammates better. It makes it easier for the TEAM to function together as a unit.

Great players are talking to their teammates constantly. Call out screens, direct teammates where to be, point out cutters, encourage your teammates with positive talk. “Hey, nice pass!” is an invaluable comment that goes a long way towards building up team spirit.

5. Don’t let mistakes affect your effort.

Everyone makes mistakes. That is how learning occurs. Don’t compound your mistake by pouting or not continuing to give your best effort.

Never let a mistake become two mistakes through lack of effort or concentration.

Learn from your mistakes and try to correct them.

6. Be a Leader.

Demonstrate good sportsmanship at all times.

Be enthusiastic at practice. No coach wants to beg and plead with you every day to get you to play hard.

Be a good teammate that other players want to play with, share the ball, be positive, and play with passion.

7. Show up early.

If you are the first player at practice every day and the last to leave your coach will notice the extra work you are putting in.

Be ready to go the moment the tryout or practice starts.

8. Be Confident.

Skill building is confidence building.

The more you train and develop your basketball skills the more confident you will be.

Great players are confident, not cocky. Great players have the attitude that they can compete with and beat anyone. Great players know they put in the work. All great players have a little swagger that says, “I’ve worked harder than you and I believe that I can beat you!”

Coaches love confident players who will take on the challenge of guarding the other team’s best player or taking the last second shot.

Put in the work and be confident!

Coaches love to find players who fit this description. 6 out of the 8 items on this list have nothing to do with basketball. Developing those skills is a mindset. Combine that mindset with relentless practice and you’ll be on your way to impressing your coach and reaching your basketball goals!

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Basketball on the Edge – 3 Things I learned from Picasso


I came across this story about the famous artist Pablo Picasso this week and it made me think of the way we should approach player development. Here’s the story.

A woman approached Picasso in a restaurant, asked him to scribble something on a napkin, and said she would be happy to pay whatever he felt it was worth. Picasso complied and then said, “That will be $10,000.”
“But you did that in thirty seconds,” the astonished woman replied.
“No,” Picasso said. “It has taken me forty years to do that.”

Three quick takeaways from the story.

1. Greatness doesn’t happen overnight.

It took Picasso 40 years to be able to do a simple drawing flawlessly and beautifully. I’m guessing the sketch on the napkin was pretty basic since it was done in 30 seconds and yet it was a “Picasso”. You can’t expect to work on something for a week and reach the Picasso level of greatness. Simple and basic skills executed flawlessly and with apparent ease make a player great. That mastery of fundamentals happens over long periods of time and requires a lot of work.

Lesson – Don’t expect overnight results. Sustained effort over time leads to greatness. Keep working, and if you do, you’ll end up far past what you may have thought was possible.

2. The best make things look simple.

We take for granted how skilled the best players in the world are in the same way the woman in the story took for granted how great Picasso was as an artist. There’s a reason NBA players make things look easy. It’s because they’ve put in countless hours honing their craft and learning to make basic skills automatic. “He made it look easy.” Really means “Wow! Did he put in an unbelievable amount of time and effort so he could execute simple things flawlessly.” The best players are the most efficient. They can produce a “masterpiece” very quickly.

Lesson – Put in time on the basic skills every day. Form shooting, pivots, and crossover dribbles may not get you excited, but simple skills like these are the secret to improvement. As my friend Alan Stein told me, “Don’t confuse basic with easy.”

3. Willing to work? Success is coming!

Picasso spent 40 years developing his artistic skill. The end result is that he became one of the world’s greatest painters. What if he had stopped after 5 years? Would he have been as good? Highly doubtful. He may have had more innate artistic ability than other artists, but I’m willing to bet that what set him apart was hard work. Sure, LeBron has physical tools that most of us can only dream of, but his hard work is what has enabled him to have the career he’s had so far. If you are willing to get after it every day success will come your way.

Lesson – There is no substitute for doing the work. Over long periods of time working hard at your game will yield results that can be difficult to see in the moment.

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Addicted to Getting Better - On and Off the Court