How to Develop a Shot Fake Like Larry Bird

The key to develop a shot fake like Larry Bird is “ball up, butt sits,” Coach Randy Bennett of the AAU program Evolution told me this week. It is that simple. Coach Randy told me there are a number of pit falls in the execution of a shot fake. Here are the top four:

  1. Head jolts. The type of nod where it looks like you’re giving the “too cool for school” head nod to someone you know.
  2. Putting one foot back. Often times players use this awkward step in combination with bringing the ball up.
  3. Just putting two hands up. Not only does the butt not go down, but it naturally causes the elbow to be straight instead of at a right angle. The illusion that a shot is coming is missing if the arm is straight.
  4. The ball drifts behind or to the side of the head. It is awkward, but it happens.

Larry Bird had one of the greatest shot fakes in the history of the game and it wasn’t anything more than what Coach Randy cited. Michael Jordan and LeBron James are in the same category. All of them also happened to be at least passable outside shooters too. That always helps in setting up a shot fake. C.J. McCollum breaks down a shot fake well in this video. He uses the phrase “low base” instead of “butt down.” Same concept, I prefer butt down.

Five other enlightening thoughts that Coach Randy had on shot fakes:

  1. The speed. It does not have to be fast. Eventually players can get into a shot fake fast and do multiple repetitions with one catch.
  2. The timing. Hard defensive closeouts work best for obvious reasons. Players need to anticipate where they will attack after getting the defender out of position.
  3. Eyes. Coach Randy did not actually list the eyes. He said the eyes on the rim are a given on almost every catch regardless of if there is a shot fake or not. Details such as the eyes get ignored because players practice bad habits when going through the motions of a shot fake.
  4. Variety of locations. The perimeter, the high post, or the block are all good spots and the latter two often go untaught.
  5. Drawing a foul. He made a great point about drawing fouls on shot fakes in late game situations out of SLOBs. Defenses will certainly be over-anxious to closeout and could make a mistake.

On-Court Mistakes

Another perspective that I wanted to learn about from Coach Randy was his intensity. He is relentless in holding players accountable for doing little things correctly. Players might think they are setting a screen, but they are really going through the motions. Improper execution of fundamentals do not persist with his leadership style.

He made a few comments about mistakes that were helpful to me. First, he varies the methods he uses to correct bad habits. Verbal explanations, putting himself into the action, getting the players to simulate what they should have done, and getting them to see their flaws on film are all tools he uses to teach. When all that fails, he is not opposed to use old-school methods of getting on players like consequences.

Second, he said blowing the whistle every ten seconds would not be very much fun, but that’s typically how frequently a mistake takes place. He does not blow the whistle every ten seconds. As he stated there was a balancing point, “You can’t accept certain mistakes too many times.”

Third, he coaches every kid differently. Challenging the best players to be better than they are is a central focus for him. The mid-tier players are encouraged to “jump on the caboose” that is the best players rather than stay a constant distance from these players.

Fourth, players infrequently and inconsistently recognize their own mistakes. A player that comes out of a game often believe it’s the most recent mistake they made which dictated that decision, but it is just the straw that broke the camel’s back. In other words getting players to see their mistakes is a challenge.

Core Principles

The last question for Coach Randy is one I like to ask every coach. What do you do well or focus on that other coaches do not, but they could easily implement them with success?

His answer: The game is simple. A coach does not need one hundred plays. While coaching a high school team Coach Randy had only two BLOBs and two defenses. The game is mostly knowing how to play – especially at that level. Getting players to recognize that they only need three dribbles (if that) to get to the basket was a better use of your time than one more out of bounds play.

Teach great defense. His mantra is that defense should be played like you’re on offense. In other words, if there is a loose ball, the defense should pounce on it. He wants to play aggressively and relentlessly on the defensive end. By guarding the paint and closing out, a team can beat any opponent. Unfortunately, the opposite is true if those two things are not accomplished.

The game is moving. Put players in 4 out and 5 out motion. Let the kids play in these parameters and do not hold them to strict plays. They will enjoy this more, and there’s less to think about.

This is the fourth article of the off-season with coach interviews. Here are links to the others:

Coach Helen Williams

Coach Isaac Fowler

Coach Seth Stantial

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