One of the things that I enjoy about FIBA basketball is how skilled the players are. Since beginning to study and learn more about international basketball, the differences in style of play, rules, and player development structure, the one thing that jumps out that changes the way the game is taught and played is the shot clock.
Let me expand on that that… It’s the shortened FIBA 24-second shot clock AND the inability to interrupt a play by calling a timeout during live action which makes the biggest difference, to me, around the international basketball game. It has forced FIBA basketball coaches to do two things:
- Develop the ‘global’ (multi-skilled) athlete
- Do their coaching in advance (i.e. strategy, tactics, late-clock situations, etc.)
THE GLOBAL ATHLETE
For a basketball player to excel in FIBA basketball, they must be multi-skilled and versatile in their skillset. Players that can dribble, pass and shoot – from all positions – will excel in the FIBA game. In fact, I’d go so far as to suggest that from I’ve learned, the ‘big’ who is the least effective shooter, regardless of height, becomes the ’5′ that plays more of a back-to-the-basket game.
DOING YOUR COACHING IN ADVANCE
Let me explain this notion by making a parallel to another sport loved by so many… NFL football. Think back to that fateful moment in the 2010 NFC Championship Game when the Minnesota Vikings’ quarterback, Brett Favre, was staring down the defense of the New Orleans Saints [video]. Viking ball… Tie game… 19 seconds left… 3rd and 15… Vikings with 1-time out… On the snap, the Saints come with pressure flushing Favre out of the pocket. Favre sprints right. He’s looking. Coverage is tight and is about to throw across the field into tight coverage when… the COACH CALLS TIME OUT!
What?! What’s wrong with that?
The coach sees that his star QB is about to make a fatal error and throw a pass that could get picked off. The defensive pressure is tough. Just call a time out and reset things, right?
Well, football fans would be irate. Deservedly so…
Well, what takes place with the use of time-outs in your typical NCAA or US high school basketball game is analogous to this scenario. Based on the current rules, a coach can call a time out on the fly when a turnover is about to occur… or, when they don’t like what they see… or, when the defense makes the ‘right call’ forcing tough decision making.
Ultimately, the game is coach controlled. So much of the decision making that needs to take place at the athlete level, can still be manipulated by coaches in North America. Now, there are those that argue, that that dynamic is inherently okay. That’s the way it’s always been. The challenge that gets overlooked is the impact it has on athlete development and in-game decision making.
This is the one thing that the FIBA coach understands, that most North American coaches have yet realize.
With a shot clock, on the other hand, a team has to get the best shot available within any given possession. This might not always be a team’s best scorer; which is especially true in the shorter FIBA 24-second shot clock. The net effect for the FIBA coach is that their team cannot waste time to advance the ball up the court to initiate offense.
IMPACT: More players have to be able to initiate offensive transition through the use of breakout dribbles or develop vision and passing skills to ‘head man’ the ball.
This is why Lamar Odom, Rudy Gay, Kevin Love, Chris Bosh, Amare Stoudemire, etc. prove so valuable in the FIBA game for USA Basketball. (There are other reasons, I know.) Each is multi-skilled and can initiate offense with the dribble or pass effectively.
Here’s another thing to consider… In a shortened shot clock basketball game, more late clock scenarios will arise where your best scorer will not be the only one with the ball in their hands.
IMPACT: More players have to have skills to initiate scoring; either by creating for themselves or for a teammate.
As a friend and mentor of mine, Mike MacKay, once wrote: “If at the end of a clock you: [a] always run continuity, [b] have to yell set up, or [c] rely on same size screens you may need to reconsider what you do late in the clock [in the FIBA game]. Your players need to DEVELOP THE SKILLS TO MAKE PLAYS, NOT RUN PLAYS.”
Here’s more from Coach MacKay…
PLAYERS MUST DEVELOP A SHOT CLOCK, TIME-AND-SCORE MENTALITY. The speed of the game and types of shots available to you will be the biggest difference within this style of play. FIBA coaches are forced to develop a time-and-score mentality in their players. Players must catch the ball “shot ready” or in the least with a mindset to be opportunistic and to create or maintain advantage situations for their team.
The ‘Shot Clock Game’ requires:
- Ability to execute skills at a higher rate of speed
- Athletes to know how to make late clock decisions and have an awareness of time-and-score
- Development of multi-skilled athletes
“Mack [was] yelled at by U.S. select team coach Jay Wright once during the scrimmages in New York — for not taking enough shots. Because they were working with a 24-second clock against a long-armed NBA zone, Wright pulled Mack to the bench to remind him that if he passed up one open shot, he might never get another one.”
You see, in a coach controlled game (i.e. high school, AAU and NCAA), one of the subtleties of the game gets smothered: The development basketball IQ in our players.
A LOOK AT THE NUMBERS
Let’s look at the numbers and the deeper impact of the shot clock in athlete development:
- High School-AAU (no shot clock) = (4) possessions minimum
- NCAA men (35-second shot clock) = (68) possessions minimum
- NCAA women (30-second shot clock) = (80) possessions minimum
- FIBA-WNBA (24-second shot clock) = (100) possessions minimum
- NBA (24-second shot clock @ 48mins/game) = (120) possessions minimum
For some reason, when people see this, they think it’s absurd to suggest that a high school level basketball game, in 2010, could only have four possessions. It’s seems archaic (circa 1970s), right?
Well, I challenge you to step into a high school basketball game between a big city athletic team and a small town less-than-athletic team and observe for yourself. It happens all the time. Every summer in “big-time” AAU tournaments across the U.S., one team realizes that they can’t out-athlete the other, so the coaching strategy is to take the ‘air out of the ball.’ They slow it down to minimize number of possessions to level the playing field.
The net effect is that yes, there are less possessions and an increased likelihood for the less athletic team to be able to compete for the win. But look deeper than that. There’s a much deeper problem… Less possessions means more “Set it up! Set it up!” It means that less players get touches where meaningful action-reaction and initiation needs to take place. It means that one player on a team can ‘dominate’ – as the Euros like to say – the ball for extended periods of time. And, ultimately, it means that the development of a broader base of skilled and intelligent basketball comes to a screeching halt.
In the ‘shot clock game’ with only 24 seconds, at a minimum you’re looking at 120 possessions. That’s 120 opportunities where decisions have to be made… a minimum of 120 late clock situations… a minimum of 120… well, hopefully you get my point.
IMPACT: Improved offensively skilled players.
By simply changing the rules within which we play, we could drastically improve the quality of basketball player that’s produced in North America. The rules alone would force us as coaches to teach more effectively.
What do you think about the FIBA game and the 24-second shot clock? Would it help or hurt athlete development?
FOOD FOR THOUGHT: There are 212 basketball playing countries in the world, only one doesn’t play FIBA rules… USA!