• Jack Fleming

Technical Observations & Trends From Europe: Mike Czepil + Free Bonus Playbook

Mike Czepil is the Basketball Victoria Metro High Performance Coach and returned recently from Germany in his role as Assistant Coach to the U19 Australian Men who competed at the prestigious Albert Schweitzer Tournament. The men finished the tournament with a silver medal, here are Mike’s observations about the international game.



Spain — Basketball Victoria Annual High-Performance Tour:

o Madrid — TBS Academy (Basketball academy)

o Valencia — CB Picken Claret (SEABL equivalent)

o Valencia — Valencia Basket (Euro League and ACB club)


Germany — Albert Schweitzer Tournament:

o Bi-annual invitational event

o We have a strong relationship with the German federation

o Best Australian results: Gold — 2010, Silver — 2018 and 1998

European basketball has a major influence on how the game is played globally:

· Our challenge in Australia is access — the NBA/NCAA has great exposure on TV and in the media

· Our visitors are generally U.S. influenced


The current state of NBA play:

· Five teams averaged 25+ assists/game this past regular season

· Only one team averaged below 20 assists (Portland = two ball-dominant guards)

· Twenty teams made a minimum of ten 3-point shots/game this past regular season


And NBA Coaching staffs:

· Mike D’Antoni, Houston Rockets HC: spent 20 years in Italy

· Ettore Messina, San Antonio Spurs AC: won four Euro Leagues, ex-Italian NT coach

· Quin Snyder, Utah Jazz HC: CSKA Moscow assistant, 2012–2013

· Igor Kokoskov, Utah Jazz AC: Slovenian NT coach, won EuroBasket 2017

· Jordi Fernandez, Denver Nuggets AC: ex-Spanish U19 NT assistant coach

· Darko Rajakovic, Oklahoma City Thunder AC: Serbian, HC in the European leagues


Offensive Concepts & How We Handled Them

1. Allowing the opposition to initiate offense in the middle third of the floor, without disruption is dangerous, and how the Europeans would like to play.


a. 1–2–2 zone press


i. Length at the front

ii. Second line behind half court


WHY: Shorten the clock, put the ball in a non-primary ball-handler’s hands, and take them out of the middle of the floor.


b. Sideline Pin


i. Initially in defensive transition, square the ball up

ii. Secondly, funnel to the sideline and pin it

iii. Third, square the ball back up, and pack principles now apply


WHY: Keep the ball to one side and out of the middle of the floor. Italy initiated every set, for the entire tournament, from the left side of the floor. What if you make them start on the right-hand side?


2. The pick and pop four (any post really) is a major part of ball-screen concepts and is key to ball and player movement. One that can shoot it is a huge asset:

Australia: Dalton — 37.5%, Germany: Hollersbacher — 50%, Israel: Levinson — 33.3%, Japan: Wada — 52.4%.


a. X-Out from the NAIL in ICE coverage


b. X-Out from the CAPTAIN HARD SHOW coverage (side on-ball)


WHY: Rhythm jump shots at the international level, for skilled post players, are as good as down. Take away their rhythm, make them beat you in a way they would rather not.


3. The seam on-ball was prevalent throughout the entire tournament, with nearly every team having it a part of its package.


a. Seam on-ball, going to the empty corner = MUSH/WEAK


b. Seam on-ball, loaded corner = ICE


WHY: Shrink the floor and take away the space the guard as to operate in.


The Prototypical European Athlete

1. The Burkhard Wildermuth Prize — the most talented prospect at the tournament, as evaluated on:


a. Anthropometric measurements


b. Projected athletic prowess


c. Basketball ability


i. 2006 — Alexis Ajinca — New Orleans Pelicans

ii. 2008 — Enes Kanter — New York Knicks

iii. 2010 — Dario Saric — Philadelphia 76ers

iv. 2012 — Cedi Osman — Cleveland Cavaliers


Who and how are you evaluating at your club/school/state sporting organization? And how patient can you be?


2. Shooting is still the Master Skill:


a. It comes from all five positions


b. “Go under” or “closeout short” did not get spoken one time across the event


Do your coaches, athletes and parents understand the importance of being able to shoot the ball? Is there some inherent pressure to become a better shooter? Ever charted how many shots are shot in your practices?


3. Their fundamentals and hand/foot dexterity are born of elementary, repetitive skill builders:


a. “The pain and boredom we experience in the initial stage of learning a skill toughens our minds” — (Mastery, Robert Greene)


b. Nobody is above form shooting or Mikan Drill


Are you comfortable with teaching the fundamentals? Do your athletes understand its value? Or do you both get bored with it?


Fundamental Player Development Drills



Favourite Sets From the Albert Schweitzer Tournament

  1. ITALY — Staggers

a. Step-up seam on-ball

b. Kick-back Flare

i. Side on-ball (rejecting the on-ball is definitely encouraged)

c. Curl and Pop (CAP) à screen for the top of the stagger (4/5 on-ball)





2. ITALY — X

a. Quick middle on-ball action for their best player (6’5” ball handling guard)




3. Israel — Wide Pin Down

a. WPD à Slip à Middle on-ball

b. Wing dribble hand off (DHO)

c. Slip middle on-ball à wide pin downs both sides






The Fundamental Skills Required to Playing International Ball

1. It is physical, and the officials reward fundamentals, tough plays and tough players

a. POE: 2-foot stops and wood-chops

b. DRILL: Quick Swing




2. A hand down on the catch is as good as three points

a. POE: high-hand closeout, and carry a hand at all times

b. DRILL: Closeout Weave



3. The ‘throw-down’ is an important part of international player development –preventing travelling

a. POE: Footwork habits. Built them at morning shoot around with four to six minutes of 1v0 breakdowns

b. DRILL: Post player reverse pivot à throw down. Guards = wing catch à throw down.


How We Found Success at Albert Schweitzer

1. We became habitually and fundamentally more consistent in our ball containment as the week went on:

a. High hand closeouts

b. Carried a hand

c. Followed the scout (high IQ athletes)


2. Tagging-up was a point of difference for us:

a. It is difficult to prepare for in tournament play (especially if you do not know it is coming)

b. Overwhelmed less athletic, less determined and inferior rebounding teams

c. Subconsciously — keeps you in an aggressive state of mind


3. Our athletes played with great IQ and made sound decisions:

a. Organization — in the flow of the game, OOTO and on shot clock resets

b. In the paint à reading the X’s on the floor, not the O’s

c. Scout — clear, concise, and able to be layered through the week

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