It astonishes me how so many players get overlooked because of weaknesses that appear in their game. Coaches want to go on and on about a player not being tall or athletic enough. They use coaches speak about them not being a good second jump rebounder, play off the bounce, or my personal favorite can’t score the ball.(what else are they going to do with it?)
Too many times coaches talk themselves out of a player because of things that a player can’t do. In pro scouting negativity with players runs a muck as well. I was perfectly guilty as well being to harsh on players. One of the people that I trust the most in scouting players once told me in evaluating players the first thing that you look at is what skill will get them in a game.
Every time I would mention what a player couldn’t do he didn’t want to hear it. He’d tell me “Mike you are wasting my time with this nonsense, what skill will get this person in an NBA game today”. That has stuck with me when evaluating or working with a player on the court. Don’t concentrate and be too negative about a player’s short comings, just make sure that they have a skill that can get them in a game.
Another aspect of recruiting that drives me crazy sometimes is taking players that have potential. I have no problem with players that have potential, but you have to identify their one redeeming quality on the court. Do they have one skill that will impact winning? I’m not down on athletic players, they are a quality that is needed at every position. If you look at the top 5 players in the game Kobe,LeBron, Durant, Pau Gasol, and Dwight Howard athletic ability is one trait that sticks out on all of them. All 5 impact winning on in at least 1-2 other ways besides being just athletic.
So lets talk about some of the redeeming qualities players should have I don’t care if you are a college coach at D1-D3, NBA scout, or Club Team Coach. Lets spend some time talking about traits that I like in players besides being athletic.
What is the 1 skill that can get them in a game for you
Forgetting what this player can’t do for a second what is the one thing that they can do that can get them in a game?Can they shoot the ball and space the floor? Can they pass the ball? Can they get stops and guard people? Name the one elite skill that can get them in a game for you. If you can’t name one then you are in trouble
Do they impact winning?
Major question that you have to ask yourself. This is where most talent evaluators make mistakes with players. I don’t care about what the kid points up for numbers. There are plenty of players that score 30 and their teams win 20% of their games and not only lose, but get destroyed. What that tells me is when the game gets hard all this player will care about is getting their touches. They need to find a way to get on the floor and help their teams win. They don’t have to win championships all of the time, just compete and keep their teams in it. Players that impact winning are worth their weight in gold. Everyone wants winners from 1 all the way down to the 15th best player on a team must impact winning.
Are they tough?
I don’t care how good a player looks when giving them the look test if they aren’t tough then I want them as far away as possible. Your team needs to be comprised of at least 70% foxhole guys. Toughness is a trait that few have. It’s being able to dive on the floor for a loose ball. It means that you will take a charge or sacrifice your body for the team. I think toughness or shall I say lack there of is a deal breaker all day long. There are going to be times throughout the season especially on the road when shots aren’t falling and the referees aren’t giving you any calls. That is where toughness could bail you out.
Can they make a basketball play in the half court?
Any player can put numbers up in transition, but what happens when the opponent slows the pace down and forces their opponent to play in the half court. I think there are too many players that only play in transition and that when the dfense has a chance to setup it’s impossible for them to make a reasonable basketball play to get an easy shot or setup a teammate. I think players need to have some type of basketball IQ to play for me
Are they coachable?
This is one of the more important things to look at in a player. Look everyone, especially the great ones are a little bit chippy. They say some things that they didn’t mean in the heat of the moment. What I am talking about is a player that shows little respect for his coach when he’s instructing him or teammates in most situations. You need a player that will take instruction as well as criticism. Not every player is going to be a yes coach no coach guy. You have to check in to their character as if a player is found not to be coachable usually becomes a cancer in their locker room at some point. Character can take a team so far.
Being able to evaluate talent is a must at any level as a coach. You need to be able to look at players regardless of where they are being recruited. You need to be able to know what types of players work at your level and what don’t. As you know college coaches don’t get too many chances to get it right. I can’t believe what goes on in some programs where all they recruit are these so called “potential superstars”. SOmetimes a player isn’t ready to physically compete right away and that is common. The one thing that you have to look at is what a player does to help your team win. Take an inventory of that.
Try to stop the negativity about players. Look, they all come from the Land of Misfit Toy. Most players are going to have a flaw somewhere. The question that needs to be asked and answered is do they have enough traits and skills to outweigh the flaws in their game.
The most recent example of how negative thoughts talked NBA teams into drafting a talent was Denver’s Kenneth Faried. Coming into the draft process the most common things you heard about him wasn’t his non stop running, toughness, or his ability to impact winning with his rebounding. No the common things were he was too small or couldn’t score. When looking at a player like Faried by himself he’s not going to carry a team, but put him with 3 players that are better than he is where you are asking him to set screens, rebound, and play hard he will impact your team. Faried is considered one of the better young power forwards in the game. The question people should have been asking is what is does he have a skill to get him on the floor? The answer is yes his ability to impact the game with his energy and rebounding are skills that impact winning at any level.
I think recruiting players that impact winning is something that isn’t done enough. I think you have to look beyond what they do in the stat sheet and see for your own eyes the things that they do to pt their teams in position to win. Besides lack of skill development college coaches are very weak in evaluating talent. I think you can see it in a lot of low,mid, and some high major programs where coaches take all of these athletes without skills that can get them in a game and impact winning.
This type of thinking is what sinks programs. If I’m a head coach and hiring evaluators to recruit I want them to be able to sit in a gym without looking at a scouting service or asking who is recruiting the players on the court to identify players that can help the team win. I think it’s a lost art in the game. There’s one coach that I think is the best evaluator in the country hands down in college basketball and that is Bill Cohen Head Coach Northeastern University(Boston,MA). He can go to a big time summer basketball event filled with 1,000 players and can tell you about the 7-8 sleepers that no one writes about that can impact his league. He’s made a living at it being an Assistant at URI as well as Boston College before coming to Northeastern.
In closing all I can say is that before you want to dismiss a player for what they can’t do ask yourself is there 1 skill that can help you win. In basketball you can cover up a lot of mistakes that a player makes when planned properly. As long as a player can get on the floor and do at least 1 thing at a high level then they are worth having. Everyone is going to make mistakes with evaluating talent. The trick is to chart the players that you have brought in and identify why they were successful and why they weren’t Tis will help you in your development as a talent evaluator. It’s very easy to fall into the trap of being too harsh. Just remember not anyone is perfect, just find that one reason why that player will take you one step closer to winning a championship. In the end that is all that matters.