Coaching Basketball: Finish Your Cuts

Can This Be a Life Lesson?

“When you cut slow or without looking for the ball, all you do is help the defense and clog the lane. When you don’t ‘FINISH Your Cut’ you kill the spacing. It takes EFFORT and COMMITMENT to score off of cuts. Lazy players stop movement. Everyone can get better at cutting.”

Tom Crean, Ex-Georgia Head Basketball Coach

This is absolutely right. There are so many teaching points in this 270-character tweet. I’m going to go into some of them, but not all. The thing I wonder is can we all also learn a life lesson about finishing things all out and with a commitment we start with from the beginning?

What got me on this was an early August email from Coach Mac talking about this tweet he had come across. So, I got to thinking about why this happens. Probably the biggest reason for poor cutting at nearly all levels of basketball is that coaches don’t focus on it enough. Isn’t that what is always true? The squeaky wheel gets the oil concept. 

Focus

Then that leads to why don’t coaches focus on it. We all know that if a player cuts hard toward the basket and is looking for the ball then a lot of the time they are open. Don’t coaches want players to be open? Well yeah. Then why don’t coaches focus on making their players cut hard?

Honestly, I think it is because coaches don’t think about it, or they make excuses about it in practice. Many coaches will barely say anything other than we are making this cut towards the basket and you will end up over here if you don’t get the ball. That’s not enough especially the younger the player. Many coaches probably will go the entire season without sitting down with their players and talking about the importance of making strong and hard cuts.

Accountability

So, first of all, WE need to do better. Let’s hold coaches accountable. Let’s hold each other accountable. Let’s hold ourselves accountable before we even think about holding a player accountable. You can’t expect them to know what you don’t teach. Or to do what you don’t demand. Remember, the players will live up to the expectations you hold them to.

At the practices I’ve attended as a spectator (not as a coach), it’s almost as if the coaches are oblivious to all the weak cutting on nearly every possession. Their (coaches’) eyes are too busy following the ball to see it. Gee, I wonder why our players and fans follow the ball…because the coaches do. 

Part of holding yourself accountable and your other coaches on staff accountable is making sure that hard cutting and “finishing your cut” all the way through is something you are looking out for during games, film sessions, and practices.

Talking/Communication

One of the main reasons that relationships or marriages fail is because of communication differences. People don’t seem to want to talk to each other. Well, if you are teaching life lessons to your players then you should be getting them to talk to one another. I love Coach Steve Collins’ saying that a “quiet gym is a losing gym.” 

How do players learn how to communicate to you, to others on staff, to other players, to their parents, or even to the community through the media? Well, you have to role model that to them. Then you have to guide them through it. 

That means you have to speak to your team about the importance to your offense about cutting and carrying it all the way through. If you see a player making a slow cut because they know they won’t get the ball, then you have to pull them to the side and share with them why strong cutting is still important and that you noticed them.

The Why?

When you speak to players you have to give them the reasoning behind it. You have to get them to believe in the system and trust the process of your offense. Strong cuts put pressure on both the defender on the ball and the help defenders of the other team. 

Show them how if a player makes a strong cut, then their defender can’t help off them and clog up the lane. If that happens then your team must read this and reverse the ball to that player who doesn’t have a man guarding them. Help defenders then are forced to step across the helpline if the ball is driven towards the basket which can create opportunities for other teammates or for the cutter.

Players Knowing the Importance of This Action

The coach makes sure that the players know the importance of this by speaking to your team often about making strong and hard cuts. You have to keep watch for it during drills and scrimmages. Plus, coaches have to hold players accountable for doing the correct actions. 

Remember whether the opponents are in zone or man to man defense that strong and hard cuts have to be made or your offense will STRUGGLE. If a coach can get their team to buy into cutting hard then your offense will definitely be far more effective this coming season.

Life Lesson

Of course, the life lesson you are wanting to teach them is that they must be committed to whatever action they are taking. They have to put everything behind it as strongly as they can for it to work. They need to know that giving their all to something matters. If you aren’t wanting to truly make the decision and just go through the motions, then whatever you are doing is going to STRUGGLE. 

Always remember there’s more to coaching than just the game of basketball you are teaching.

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