This is one of those very rare weeks in which we have six practice days. No games or scrimmages, just all zone work, all the time. Except today.
To break things up and provide a quick refresher, we went back to work on our M/M attack (remember, we just call it "Man!" while our zone attack is simply "Zone!"). We've been using our half-court 3 on 3 drill (HC 3/3) all week to help the PG see her middle break options, so it's not like we haven't been doing any work vs. M/M, but with the long week, we needed one day to connect with our intensive M/M work from week one.
And our most pressing need was to improve our Drive & Kick execution. Our wings have not been doing a good job of sliding (curling) up the arc when the PG penetrated, which makes it harder to find them in the middle break because they are literally standing behind their defender. Another flaw in our execution of this option by our wings was that when they were open for the "pitch" pass from the PG as they curled up, they've been hesitant about penetrating "downhill" (as Vance Walberg puts it).
The key to effective wing drives (an important aspect of our Drive & Kick option), is that the wing must attack directly off the catch. No hesitation... just catch the pitch from the PG and penetrate to the inside. It is often this "second drive" by the wing that really breaks down the defense, especially when combined with their first option (shoot the three!) As any defender knows, the hardest player to guard is a good shooter who--if you cover them tight enough to take away their shot--can put the ball on the floor and beat you with a dribble. Darned if you do, and Darned if you don't! This "double threat" option by the wing is the essence of the drive and kick game. And it explains why someone as slow as Larry Bird could beat people off the dribble: since you had to guard him on the arc, he'd get you off your feet with that little shot fake and go by you. Doesn't matter how quick you are... it's pretty hard to defend Bird when your jock is up around your ears.
Moving on, the thing that makes it possible for the wing to catch and go "downhill" is a good pass from the PG! That pass has to be a "lead" pass slightly ahead of the receiver as she slides up. If she has to reach back for it, she has no edge.
So, to develop this part of our "DK" game, we use a simple 2-line Drive and Kick drill: lines of 3-4 players on each fade spot, one ball, penetrate in an arc from the wing towards the rim, while the first player in line on the weakside starts to slide up. Kick to her and go to the back of that line. Receiver catches and drives (1-2 dribbles) hard to the inside, turning the corner (downhill!) and attacking the rim (not a "side-ways" drive). This continuity drill is simply for the purpose of giving massive reps at penetrating and executing a lead pass off the drive. We do it for 50 passes, while the other half of the team makes 50 passes on the far end. Boring, but effective teaching tool.
Next we progressed to our "4-Spot DK Drill" which teaches players to maintain spacing as penetrators drive and kick and replace each other at the curl and fades spots. Can't explain all the details here, but it's in the book and videos.
We ended up today playing our 4/4/4 Cutthroat game ("Stay on offense if you score. If you don't, get off the floor while the defense gets the ball at HC and immediately attacks a new team of four coming in to play defense.") We love this game, and play to 5 points (by 2s and 1s) with losing teams sprinting to HC and back (not much, just enough to reward the winners). Great drill for developing HC execution in a more open floor environment. Lots of full speed reps!
We saw great improvement with this teaching sequence today... but of course when we started playing 5/5, all the players did was Drive&Kick every time. I suppose when we work on Pass-and-Screen-Away series next week (our other main offensive option), then that's all the kids will do that day! Oh well, eventually they'll learn to use all their options, when the "light bulb" goes on. And when that happens, we'll be really "hard to guard!"
Tomorrow, back to Zone work to cap off the week.