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  • Jack Fleming

Reducing Turnovers in Junior Basketball

When I put 'turnovers' into google images this is what came up, Apple Turnovers so I figured this might ease your mind when the topic of turnovers came up.

I still remember the anxiety of being a 12 year old point guard, coming into the game with Ben Simmons guarding me with longer arms than my whole body. Do you think making that initial entry pass was easy? Is there any chance that guy on the wing could get more open?

Anyway, the point being as the levels in basketball go down the turnovers generally go up. The more turnovers we have, the less shots we get, the less chance we have of success. Turnovers usually ending in open right hand lay ups, the shot we just spent 5 minutes on in the warm up most players make those. I also feel there might be a few extra ones here in Victoria after so many months off basketball.

Here's some ideas on reducing your turnovers:

  1. Evaluate the Who

  • Is it time to give your point guard a break and try somebody else there.

  • Maybe throw the ball back to your trail and initiate your offence from there.

  • Usually the big slow kid is parked in the key on defence, maybe whoever is being guarded by them can dribble the ball up.

  • Is it time to change who passes the ball in? Often it can be just too much anxiety and indecision for some.

2. Evaluate the What

  • Is it time to take that high post entry play out of your offence for a quarter, or a few weeks?

  • Is there multiple entries to your offence? Dribble, pass, reverse and go away from pressure.

  • Are your after timeout plays too complicated? Too abstract? Can we simplify?

  • Are the player too limited in 'running the play' that they can't make a decision?

3. Speed Kills, Slow the Car Down

  • A lot of turnovers happen in the first 6 seconds.

  • Most U10/12/14 games as soon as there's a numbers advantage here's what I hear:

Parents of player with the ball: GO GO GO, ALL THE WAY ALL THE WAY

Other parents: PASS IT PASS IT PASS IT


Kid: Gets so scared they dribble it off their foot or throw it out of bounds.

  • And we wonder why they panic.

  • I believe for the most part, you shouldn't coach fast break/transition on the fly from the sideline.

  • There's already very little time to make decisions, let alone if you're trying to dictate them as well.

4. Passer & Receiver Need to Connect - Visually & Verbally

- With my U14 boys team we used simple 'yes' with an open palm if we wanted the ball and 'no' and a closed fist if we were back cutting to ensure there was nothing in-between.

5. Shorten the Pass

- It's important to give up position to get possession, especially in the post. By getting our 'feet to the ball' and 'long arming' the catch the pass becomes shorter.

- Versus pressure receivers often don't 'run through the ball', on our cuts, as junior players might stop and let their defender steal the ball. Especially against the press.

- The player with the ball can use the dribble or pivot to shorten the pass.

6. Spend More Time Practicing Interior Passes

  • The 'Spurs Drill' 3v0 working on dribble penetration is great, but I would challenge coaches to add an interior player earlier and work on those drop or lob passes to the big. A lot of turnovers occur here.

  • Instead of doing guard/post work separately work together - helps your guards pass to bigs in pick and roll and inside the paint. Helps your bigs be active receivers.

  • Reduce time where the coach is passing to cutters in breakdown drills. As much as we like to throw dimes, it will be the players who do it in a game.

7. During 'On Air' or Warm Up Phases - fall in love with the weak hand.

- We often unconsciously bias the right hand, right side etc.

- Kids are already going to predominantly use their preferred hand in games, 1v1 so what if we spent 70% of our 1v0 time on our other hand/foot?

Ideas for Practice

  1. 3v3 No Dribble Keep Away

  • No dribbles, players are trying to get 25 passes for a win inside the 3pt line.

  • As soon as the defence gets a steal or deflection, they begin on offence and the third team of 3 runs in on defence. Allow some fouling and physicality.

  • You continue your score when you come in offence again, if you got 11 passes the first time your next pass the second time would be 12.

  • Add constraints: weak hand passes are worth 2, can pass off 1 bounce, have to win on a behind the back pass etc.

2. Dynamic 2v2 - Interior Passing

  • The defence can (a) chase around the cone or (b) deny and go around the cone the other way.

  • Giving the offence two reads, and invites the passer to also read the cutters defender.

  • 2v1+1 with the post getting into vision of the ball.

  • Working on your drop or lob passes and bigs catching and finishing quickly.

3. Make a Lead Drill - Paul Mellett

  • Players on the perimeter are working on (1) Timing their lead (2) Making contact (3) Visual and verbal confirmation

  • Passers are working on shortening their pass through the pivot and outside hand pass, as well as looking into the post

  • The passes are scripted around the perimeter and the drill is live once it goes into the post.

Possible Constraints to Add

  • Passing off the dribble

  • Throwing the ball into the post at any time for extra points.

  • Allowing players to back cut with a 'no' verbal if they definitely cannot get open.

  • Playing live any time the coach puts their hand up.

I hope this gives you some ideas! Enjoy and good luck with your coaching.

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