PART 1: MOTOR
My name is Evan Lavery and I am an Assistant Coach at Emporia State University (KS), an MIAA school at the NCAA D2 level. I have coached at the collegiate level for nine years, and I have been fortunate to serve in a multitude of roles ranging from a Graduate Assistant to Head Coach. As coaches, we all have duties we like a little bit more than others. For me, developing post players has been something I have been passionate about since getting into coaching back in 2012.
Today, I am going to touch on posts having a motor. You can be a bad “basketball” player, have an incredible motor, and still impact winning. Please read that again. As crazy as it sounds, you can struggle to have back-to-the-basket skills, but still be effective on the court. Back on January 18, 2021, I spent part of my evening watching Baylor play Kansas. Both teams are incredibly talented, but one player that stood out to me was Jonathan Tchamwa Tchatchoua, a 6’8”, 245-pound sophomore from Cameroon. He was an absolute monster on the court. He finished with 8 points, 5 rebounds, and 2 blocks in 23 minutes. “Yo Lave, those aren’t crazy numbers.” True, but his impact on the game was just that – crazy. After watching that game, I wrote down a handful of motor-related abilities that any big can do if they make the conscious decision to go hard each possession.
*RIM RUNNING – This is less about speed and more about conditioning and want to. At Emporia State, we work daily on transition defense. The defense struggles when our bigs decide to sprint the floor. Not run the floor, SPRINT the floor. Our bigs will score a basket or two when they opt to run hard, but it is the pressure put on the rim that demands the attention of the defense. Open shots and opportunities to attack long closeouts get created when bigs run the floor hard. It is a decision bigs make each possession – sprint or choose to be tired. We are a lot better when our bigs run their motor and sprint.
*SHAPING ON DRIVES – To quote legendary Chuck Daly, “Offense is spacing and spacing is offense.” You do not need to be a deadeye three-point shooter to give your teammates room to create. We harp on our bigs about being in “no man’s land”. If they want to post up, great. If they want to stand around the block area, not so great. On middle drives, can you shape up to dunk position, show your hands, attack a pass, and finish though contact? Can you do the same on baseline drives while shaping up to the middle? Villanova does a great job of hiding behind the defense when dribble penetration occurs. Even if the post does not get the touch, help defense is required to collapse on the defensive breakdowns; this leads to our open shot. Being able to do this requires an understanding of timing, as well as the desire to do this each possession; this comes back to your motor.
*DUCK INS – While the ball is in flight on the perimeter, do your bigs work to carve out space? If your timing and toughness align, bigs can bury their defender in the post to gain an advantage. I watched a post development video from Wichita State this fall, and one thing that really stood out was how they would drive their knee up, and then directly towards the paint while carving out space. If you attend a player development workout with our posts at Emporia State University, you will hear “high knee” constantly. If you do this well enough, you will not need to do anything else besides lay the ball in the basket.
*RIM ROLLS/SLIPS – In that Baylor vs. Kansas game, Tchamwa Tchatchoua constantly set and slipped screens. The difference between him and many bigs is that once he screened, he would sprint causing pressure to be put on the rim. Perimeter defenders have a much tougher time defending a hard roll/slip than a lazy roll/slip. Open shots and opportunities to attack long closeouts get created when bigs roll/slip hard. Once again, choices – you can choose to have a motor or choose to be tired.
*OFFENSIVE REBOUNDING – This one is pretty self-explanatory. As a big, can you earn extra possessions for your team? This is a mindset more than anything else. As soon as the shot goes up, do you attack the rim? Can you get a hand on the ball? Can you secure the rebound yourself? You can choose to have a motor or choose to not work to earn extra possessions. Wedge rebounding is a great way to carve space early (and legally). When the shot goes up, attack the paint without using your hands. All work is done with your legs and hips in order to strategically position your defender as close to under the rim as humanly possible. If you have a motor, you can do this on every possession.
*RIM PROTECTION – As a big, do you allow penetration to get to your rim for scores? I love a big that can block shots as much as the next coach, but can you alter shots without fouling? It truly is an art form to be able to rotate to the ball as it drives, elevate off the floor as high as you can, and have the discipline to not break the vertical plane to foul the offensive player. You cannot be soft. You cannot be scared to get scored on. You need to possess the want to in order to protect the basket.
*DEFENDING ON THE PERIMETER – How limited are you defensively on the perimeter? Being able to utilize different defensive concepts and schemes as a coach makes your team that much more difficult to prepare for. There are bigs that despite them being as quick as dial up internet, they really sit down and work to keep the basketball in front of them. Bigs that can guard the perimeter and switch ball screens add another layer to making your team that much more difficult to score on.
In closing, I have a couple comments that I feel are pretty important to this subject matter. First off, that list is not the “end all, be all” of all lists related to successful motors in post players. There are coaches that have forgotten more than I know. There are coaches that do a fantastic job teaching in other ways to get the same results. This list was created with the intent to make you think, as well as highlight things I have worked to focus on as we develop our post players. We have some young, talented guys, but we have a long way to go. Second, make no mistake, the ability in which to do those things above are undoubtedly a skill. You can be a skilled big and lack the qualities listed above, too. A motor can be developed. It takes time, buy in, the ability to be comfortable being uncomfortable, and more. Outside of drill work, using film from practice, games, and watching elite bigs at higher levels are all ways to develop your motor to impact the game. Playing with a motor inside is a skill. It is simple, but it is not easy.
Evan Lavery is a college coach and clinician with Midwest Elite Basketball. To have coaches such as Coach Lavery come to your gym to work with your program, check out our Satellite Camps.