MAY 1ST, 2018

Today we discuss what separates a good athlete/basketball player from a great one. I know people will think I am speaking about having higher statistics. There are so many ways to separate yourself from your competition that have nothing to do with how many points you score or what your shooting percentage is. The seven different topics that I personally think separate good from great are all things we as athletes control. You can’t control if your shot is falling that day or not. Sometimes the ball just really doesn’t want to drop for you. And that is ok! But these seven points I am about to talk about should never not be a part of your game because they are entirely in our control.

Being Engaged

This is a lot harder than it sounds for people. We all think we are engaged in whatever task we may be involved in at the time. But how many of us watch TV and also go through social media or play on our phones at the same time? We are doing multiple things at once instead of fully engaging into one thing. On the court I am talking about when athletes slide in and out of engagement. This can be in games, trainings, or practice. For example: Coach is talking and the athlete is staring at the ground daydreaming. Or maybe the athlete is in the corner waiting for the offense to find them, and they are standing straight up and silent. Perhaps they are in help-side defense and they are standing feet together without any clue of where their own player is? That is all disengagement. I understand that trying to get 5th graders to always be in a stance, always communicate, always know where ball and man is, and always ready to receive the ball is A LOT to ask! I am not that crazy. But I do think that there are a lot of high-level players out there who can say they have done this before. I know I am guilty of it for sure.

What is the trick? If I had a quick solution for helping people stay engaged in everything they do… I would probably be sitting on a private island somewhere that I owned. It is just a matter reminding them constantly until they stop forgetting to always communicate and always be in an active position. It is important for coaches and evaluators to see that you don’t get bored with what is going on during a game. Learning how to communicate and use your voice to lead is a huge way to show somebody that you are somebody who knows what is going on and you are ready to be the voice of their team. That quality is something college coaches are looking for in players. It is something you control. Open your mouth and don’t be scared to be that player. Being engaged is controllable.

Draymond Green Mic’d Up

Being Coachable

Raise your hand if you are a coach, parent or educator and you LOVE it when your pupil rolls their eyes at you? Ya. Nobody raised his or her hand. Because it is completely unnecessary. Especially when they are just trying to help you and have your best interest at heart. This one to me just comes back to being a good person who respects others. Because sometimes it is your own teammates trying to help you. And if you can listen to coach but not your own teammates you aren’t fully coachable. And trust me I get excited sometimes and in the heat of the moment I say something back to my coach. I have done it. GUILTY! But, it was usually just me being mad at myself for a mistake I made that my coach was just correcting me on. Sometimes I would ask questions of why we are doing something in practice or a game. I was never questioning the coach and what they were telling us, I just genuinely wanted to understand the purpose behind what we were learning. Which I know sometimes can come across sideways. I GET IT!

But there is a difference between being ultra competitive and just being flat out un-coachable. And everyone can tell the difference. You aren’t fooling anybody if you think you are. You can’t fake competitive spirit. Listening to your coaches, asking questions if you have any, and trying your best day in and day out is usually all coaches are asking for. Attitude is controllable.

Pitt head coach Kevin Stallings.

Taking it to the Next Level

This specific topic is not just to my high level players. I am not just talking about players who are trying to go D1 or Pro. This goes for anybody who is just trying to get better in whatever their field or passion is. But for today, I will talk about how this applies to athletes. Every time you get tired in a drill, do you push through and go harder than you were before? In the fourth quarter, are you communicating at the same level you were the first play of the game? No matter what level you play at, you will eventually get tired on the basketball court. It is an active game. Duh. But being able to take it to the next level is not something we always want to do. Because it is hard.

If you never push through being tired, how will you ever get better? Being comfortable and fully in control in all of your workouts will keep you at the same level and you won’t see much growth in your game. We really only start seeing growth in our game when we push ourselves out of our comfort zones. Your brain is going to tell you that you are tired or that you can’t go any harder. But your body can last. Now don’t go home and push yourself to the point of passing out. Don’t be crazy. But if you are doing sprints in practice and you continue to finish middle of the pack, push yourself harder each time until you start finishing in the top 3. Being tired is a terrible excuse to me. Everybody is tired in a basketball game or practice. Be different than everybody else and push through it. Once again this is totally under the players control.

Geno Auriemma - Great Players & Effort


This one seems obvious to me. If leadership were easy, everyone would be a captain. There is a reason that only a couple of players per team get the honor of being their team’s leaders. Being a leader is more than just telling people what to do. To be a leader you have to be thinking about your team and everybody involved with that team at all times. This is with all of your actions as well. How can your personal actions affect the team? If you do that, how will it make your team look? If I don’t speak up, will this hurt us down the road? Am I capable of holding my peers accountable? These are all questions that not everybody can answer the way a captain would. If you are a true leader you lead at all times.

Now there are different avenues to being a captain. Sometimes the leading scorer or best player is not the captain of the team.  A leader can be born in many different ways.

For example:

-Leader by voice

-Leader by example

-Leader by action

And I am sure people can come up with even more than what I listed as my examples. Which is exactly why being a leader is completely controllable. It is a decision.

Do the Intangibles

This is basically everything we have gone over so far: Being engaged, being selfless, being coachable, pushing beyond tired, and being a leader. These aren’t categories we look for on a stat sheet. These are the people that hold the team together and are the glue because without them we would have no guts. They are all around role player that is the one doing whatever the coach ask of them to help their team. And this may change by game. But they never have an issue with it because they will do whatever it takes to help their team be successful. Role players in today’s game seem to get mixed up sometimes (especially in high school) with the “weaker” players. Which is all up to personal perception of what is actually important in basketball. Yes they probably will not average 30 points a game. But if they need to score in a game and that’s what coach wants, they do it. If the other team has an amazing offensive player on their team, and coach asks them to guard them, its done. All of the little things that hold championship teams together are intangibles. And they have nothing to do with scoring.

Being Selfless

There is a lot more to this idea than just being a good teammate and showing up to practice. It is a very broad topic that could honestly be the umbrella for my other six points above. But it is everything. It can be calling out on all ball screen so your teammate doesn’t get blindsided, or getting treatment after practice so that you can go just as hard next practice. Being selfless is usually the home of things we do not see on the stat sheet. And I truly think that this is why it is becoming harder to find. And this is not something that is all on the player. I have heard plenty of parents that said their kid played terrible because they only scored 4 points. But if you talk to their coach, they tell you how well the player managed the game, dove on loose balls, and made sure we were always on the same page on the court. So this mindset is something that gets players and parents caught up.  College coaches and evaluators notice these selfless actions. And people who have been around the game long enough understand how important having players like this separates their team from others.  If being great were easy, everybody would do it. I know that is cliché, but it’s true! It isn’t easy to do all of these things all of the time. And that is exactly what separates the good players from the great!