Lady Panthers rely on fundamental skills for hoops success

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By Scott Akanewich

In order for any basketball team to succeed and win games, it must have a solid foundation upon which to build victories.

All of that begins and ends with fundamental skills that provide the platform from which to launch more complex systems that will ultimately lead to winning.

The Lady Panthers are certainly no different in their approach.

According to head Coach Chris Lange, one of the most important is ball movement.

“We don’t want any spectators out on the court,” said Lange. “We can’t have players spending too much time in one spot – we need to be constantly moving and setting screens, which helps the flow of everybody.”

Jessica Holliday is the point guard and knows the importance of being proficient in the basics.

“Without fundamentals, you can’t play,” she said. “For me, as a point guard, dribbling is the most important thing.”

Holliday takes one of the most basic basketball skills and breaks it down to a science in order to make herself a better player.

“I’ll work on my left and right hands instead of only focusing on my dominant hand,” she said. “When I was younger, my dad would have me dribble with both hands.”

The 5-foot-7 junior guard is also adept at shooting and said that’s also something she must constantly maintain to ensure her shots will fall.

“Shooting form is very important for me,” said Holliday. “My shot always changes depending on whether or not my wrist is straight, so I always need to work on it.”

Sophomore center Emma Hubbard finds herself on the interior under the basket most of the time, which means boxing out for rebounds is one of her most valuable assets, she said.

“I’ve already gotten better at it from last year,” she said. “I don’t think about getting pushed.”

For her, it’s a pretty simple concept, which is constantly reinforced by Lange, said Hubbard.

“Coach is always telling us to go butt to gut when we’re boxing out,” she said. “If you box out effectively, you can get rebounds, over-the-back calls and you can jump higher.”

Holliday said proper technique is critical in limiting the opposition offensively.

“Boxing out is important because we always want to limit their shots to one each time down the court,” she said. “People are always focused on post players when it comes to this, but as a guard if you block out well on long rebounds, it can lead to fast-break points.”

Lange concurred.

“If you’re blocking out properly, you automatically give yourself a chance to win any rebound,” he said.

Of course, as a point guard, Holliday’s primary objective is to pass the ball to open teammates as they work their respective ways around the court to get open looks at the basket.

“Passes are everything,” she said. “You have to find the open man instead of always trying to dribble through three people – especially against a zone defense.”

But, movement must have a distinct purpose, said Holliday.

“It can’t just be movement,” she said. “When your passes are clean and crisp, you can find the open person much easier.”

Hubbard said another aspect of fundamentals is knowing the offense and where teammates will be at various times during games and that it’s only the result of hard work and hours put in on the practice court.

“We practice enough so I know where I need to be,” she said. “But, I also have to know where everyone else will be during certain plays.”

Lange uses “shell drills” to help drive home the fundamental aspects of proper ball movement and said it’s a tried-and-true way of making players more responsible.

“One team tries to get open and score and the other tries to stop them,” he said. “The defenders keep rotating throughout. You do a lot of talking and it really encourages fundamental basketball – our kids like to play shell.”

Footwork is another basic skill, which must be developed, particularly for those who find themselves down low, said Lange.

“You can have a post player who is athletic and has good size,” he said. “But, their footwork has to be good.”

Lange added one thing that has to be in place for any system to succeed – fundamentals or not – is the belief in what they’re being asked to do.

“Players need to feel ownership,” he said. “They have to buy into it, which is why Xs and Os have never really been my strong point as a coach, but rather developing relationships with players so they’re willing to listen – you have to be able to trust your players.”

Despite fundamentals being what they are, Lange said they’re a bit more important in the girls’ game.

“I think most girls’ games you watch, you’re going to see more fundamentals,” he said. “Boys tend to have a little more freedom because they’re more athletic.”

However, in the girls’ game, employing proper basic skills can propel a team past superior opponents, said Lange.

“If you have a team, which is well-coached in fundamentals, it allows you to beat teams you shouldn’t,” he said. “If you’re running the right sets, hitting your screens, rolling and you’re more disciplined, you can beat a better team.”

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