Reducing the annoying pivot foot traveling calls can be the difference between a win and a loss. I am consistently searching for drills that incorporate footwork to legally attack from the perimeter. The Merrimack College women’s team provided a remedy in their one hour practice I attended recently.
The toss-out series lasted only five minutes, but served a valuable purpose. Merrimack ran through three phases in a progression of simulating a catch and drive around the perimeter. Their assistant coach Tyler Patch told me after practice that the staff is confident players will grasp the system, but they need to put first things first. The fundamentals of pivoting and footwork are a prerequisite and a foundation to the system.
Phase I of the Toss-Out Series
The toss-out series had three phases that were executed around the three-point arch. The first phase was the most basic. Players tossed the ball to themselves and squared to the rim by pivoting on the left foot. They repeated the sequence about nine times around the perimeter. When they got to the corner, they repeated the exercise pivoting on their right foot.
The repetition and pace might appear to be better suited in an elementary school clinic for beginners – not scholarship collegiate athletes. John Beilein claimed Michigan practiced grade school pivot drills after losing the national title in 2013. Oregon Women’s basketball coach Kelly Graves recently tweeted that they had the fewest turnovers in the nation because they focus on passing and catching. Merrimack is on a mission to reduce turnovers. Not only will traveling be diminished teaching players to catch and square correctly, ill-advised passes will also be mitigated by the balance players maintain during the process. It is elementary school simple, but that is also why it is important to do.
Phase II of the Toss-Out Series
Phase II of the toss-out series advances to attacking the basket. Ideally players will always catch on a jump stop so that either foot can become the pivot foot. When catching passes along the perimeter it is not realistic to land on two feet. Thus, the angle of the self-toss simulated a perimeter pass. Once players gathered the ball in the focus was keeping the pivot foot on the ground through the first dribble. After each players went around the perimeter attacking the rim with a left foot pivot into a rip move, they repeated the action with a right foot as a pivot.
Phase III of the Toss-Out Series
The last step in the toss-out progression incorporated a jab step. The footwork of the two previous phases was built in to drive home the foundation. When players lifted the pivot foot too early the coach called them for traveling and forced the players to repeat the move. When players were forced to drive left and jab with the left foot it proved especially difficult in some instances.
The pace of these drills is a little mundane. I think one trip around the perimeter for each pivot foot at each phase is appropriate. Anything more can result in diminishing returns. Merrimack incorporated it as a station in this practice which is appropriate given the number of players that can play around the perimeter at a time and the ability for a coach to communicate in small doses rather than to a whole team.