I enjoyed watching your gym class (a.k.a. BB Practice) on Friday. Your coach appears to have a sound understanding of the game and the teaching ability to impart his philosophy of the game to his players. I know he is high on you. You have the great moniker called potential attached to your name. My favorite definition for potential is excellence unrealized, and it can stay unrealized if the individual does not have the passion, intelligence, persistence, and determination to exceed the expectations/goals that one sets for his/herself.
My sister gave me a poster with the following quote on it when I was about 12. It’s a great philosophy to abide by in your life and is definitely applicable in attempting to master the game of basketball.
Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence.
Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent.
Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb.
Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts.
Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent.
Tex Winter has many favorite sayings about basketball that I like. This is one of my favorite – “Basketball is an easy game to play, but a hard game to master.” Tex is an assistant coach with the Bulls and is the originator of the famed Triangle Offense.
Impressions of Friday: I’m wondering if you’re a little sick. Looks fatigued the whole practice. Stamina is lacking. Clutching side – may have cramps. Lopes through conditioning drills at the end of practice. Like passing instincts. Does a good job of feeding the post and facilitating the flow of the offense. Good shooting release but not always in balance. Fading on some shots. Gets down on self too easily when he misses a shot. Shows his emotions and frustrations – like an open book. Needs to focus on developing strength – gets overpowered by older and bigger athletes. Has inside rebound position and lets opponent go through him to claim rebound. Not a rebounder (yet). One effort player. Lacks awareness off the ball – defensively and offensively. Lacks focus – i.e., does not close out under control and check man off the boards after shot – shooter gets offensive rebound. Shoots the ball and misses but does not match up with anyone in transition. Decent dribbling ability – needs to continue to develop his left hand. Some concerns about his hands – Trouble handling a couple of passes cleanly. Lacks a defensive mentality – does not yet have the drive to be a stopper. Had a lot of good moments in this practice in making decisions and playing team basketball. Other players will enjoy playing with you on the offensive end. Why? You will give up the ball and you will be able to occupy the defense with your shooting ability and willingness to take an open shot.
The most concerning aspect of your game at this practice was your inability to sustain a consistent level of intensity, concentration, and effort. I have had the pleasure of watching Michael Jordan practice and play for 9 years. Michael practices as hard as he plays. That is one of many reasons why he is so good. When he steps between the lines, he gives it his all. He’s focused, determined, and smart. He is the ultimate competitor and warrior. He wants to destroy his opponent’s confidence. Simply put – he brings it. That’s what you must do to be the player that I think you want to become. I have included a lot of material for your to read and digest. As a bonus, I have included a workbook that Tex Winter has put together on the Triangle Offense and his philosophy of the game. Tex is one of the greatest basketball minds of all time. I want you to pay particular attention to “The Psychological Profile of a Champion” (page 47) and “Ingredients for Good Defense.” (Page 38) You want to be known as a pest on the defensive end.
One more thing – I already told you this at your house. Never again joke or make a statement like you are doing OK for a white player who can’t jump. Don’t buy into stereotypes – They give you an easy out. Tell Mom not to use your age as an excuse. Don’t you use it as an excuse? If you are going to compete with older players, you need to find ways to survive and thrive. There will always be someone bigger, faster, and stronger than you as you get older. You have to find a way to accentuate your strengths and minimize your weaknesses. I have come in contact with a lot of white players whom I admire. The majority of them have one quality that allows them to compete at the NBA level. Take a guess at what it is. Think about it. You might want to say skill level, intelligence, confidence, etc. Those are good answers, but the quality that almost every NBA player should possess is mental toughness. All of the ball players whom I admire have this quality.
Jerry Krause, General Manager of the Bulls, has this saying on his office wall. “You don’t teach toughness, you draft it.” Think about that statement – think about it hard – realize that he is not the only one who believes that. What do you want your high school coach to say about you when a college recruiter asks about your toughness? It’s in your hands. Bring it every day – Effort, Energy, Focus, Attention to Detail, Intelligence, Poise, Savvy, and Competitiveness.
I want to finish with the following story that I read in the L.A. Times a couple of years ago. Coach John Hooten made some comments about an athlete he coached. Her name is Anita Defrantz, she is President of the Amateur Athletic Foundation, and won a bronze medal in the 1976 Olympic Games in Crew (Rowing). Hooten said “ I would not put Anita at the top in any individual category, but she has presence in the boat. I learned from her that some athletes have this will to win, this aura about them, that things are going to go their way and they’re going to make it happen.”