Rarely do Division I men’s basketball coaches collectively greet a new NCAA rule with open arms. But for years coaches have been asking for more ways to impact player development. The NCAA has taken a step in the right direction by allowing coaches to work with their entire team for a maximum of two hours per week during the preseason. At the present time NCAA regulations state that a program is allowed up to 8-hours of team-related activity during the week. Prior to the new rule teams are able to use up to two of those hours to work with groups NO LARGER than four at a time. Generally the remaining time is spent on wind sprints and weightlifting -- activities without a basketball.
The rule has been met with unanimous favor, but each coach features a different theory on how to utilize the chance to “get a leg up” on the regular season. Some stick with smaller groups or more specialized individual sessions while others employ 5-on-5 opportunities to the max. Which begs the question, how did Kansas spend their two hours per week? Phog.net spoke with Kansas Head Coach Bill Self for some insight on how the Jayhawks have benefited from the increased access and how the rule can help the future of basketball.
Collecting positive quotes about the newest rule change is not a difficult task and Self offered nothing but praise for the NCAA’s preseason regulations. For the 3rd year coach the implementation of the rule was not only necessary, but well-timed for KU.
“It’s been good for us. It’s a good rule change. It also helps schools with limited facilities and we’ve been in that boat because we’re sharing the same gym with women’s basketball and volleyball,” continued Self. “(Phog) Allen (Fieldhouse) was under renovations, without the rule change we would have had to be in different gymnasiums all over campus and it really would’ve made for some tough times with facility usage especially with intramurals and everything else going on on campus.”
Time is of the essence for coaches. The hours spent on recruiting, alumni relations, teaching, and being a spokesperson seem endless. The rule change allows coaches additional “free” time, one of the biggest pluses according to Self.
“I think it benefits the coaches more than the players. It allows us to do other things. We’re able to knock most of our stuff out in the morning before school ever starts. It definitely frees us up to recruit and do things like that which is really going to be beneficial to us,” said Self. “Although you have different guys working at different stations, it allows me to watch everybody. It only takes 40 minutes out of my day as opposed to watch everybody it could take 3-4 hours out of my day.”
When a coach states there’s more time available for recruiting, that’s music to any fans ears. But what kind of effect has the rule had on the KU staff’s planning? What have the Jayhawks done differently as a result of the additional two hours? While some schools have used part of their two-hour time frame to watch pick up games, that’s not the direction Self favors. “When you watch them (pickup games) it’s included in your two hours. We’ve used it some, but not a ton,” said Self. Instead the Jayhawk coaches and the players have definitely focused on making the preseason a much more team-oriented affair.
“We still do our individual improvement but instead of doing four at a time we have our entire team in there. If we’re doing 40-minute sessions we can spend 20-25 minutes on individual improvement and spend the rest of the 40 on team-type things. So we can bring them together and that way you can kind of teach the ‘whole-part-whole’, so to speak – I can kind of watch you while you’re doing your thing, then come back break it down, and then go back to it.”
Though coaches are still testing their hypothesis on the best ways to operate the rule’s umbrella, getting everyone together early and often is a plus for any school. It’s a chance for a team to get a head start on learning a system, a press, or some prominently featured drills that will soon be staples of everyday practice when the season commences on October 14th.
“We got a head start on defensive principles and a little bit of a head start on some other stuff. The biggest thing is you can have everybody together so it’s like a themed practice. It’s kind of like a bonding time,” Self stated.
Coaches are jubilant but the lobbying for more won’t stop now. Most coaches are also in favor of another rule; one that would allow them to work with their players individually throughout summer sessions and take more responsibility for player development.
“Part of our package that we thought could assist coaches is allowing us to work with our kids during the summer but that was shot down. But hopefully that will change if in fact we are able to prove this rule is good for all student-athletes,” Self continued. “Everything is about student-athlete welfare. If access and things like that prove to help student welfare in the way that it’s being done during the academic year, then hopefully it will be allowed to be done during the summer academic sessions as well.”
After witnessing the recent failures of several United States national teams against their seemingly higher-skilled international foes clearly something needs to be done about improving the game in this country. Plenty of concerns have been expressed by those closest to the game and everyone seems willing to do their part to overhaul the overall product. In an ESPN.com article former St. John’s coach Fran Fraschilla, who’s been outspoken about U.S. failures, states a rule change like this one, that gets coaches more involved in player development, is a bold step forward. Self believes we need to go even further to reap the benefits and help get basketball in the U.S. back on track.
“The way the rule is now won’t necessarily help the overall product because we would’ve got the same thing out of them from skill development…But if you were allowed to do it during the summer, I think in the next five years you would certainly see an improvement at least in us narrowing the gap in skill in the U.S. as there is overseas,” Self noted. “The thing about it is kids won’t work on their own on skill development very often – a very small percentage will. They just want to play. For the betterment of our game over time, we need to spend a lot of time with these kids in skill development. Taking coaches away from kids over the summer-time I think is contributing to us being behind internationally.”