A Change for the Better

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. Though coaches are still testing the waters and learning the best way to operate under 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 a staple of everyday practice when the season commences on October 14th. The University of Connecticut men's basketball program has used a unique and uncommon approach. Head Coach Jim Calhoun and his staff maximized the additional two hours per week to watch pickup games.

"I like it. We've maximized that time watching the guys play. Whatever staff is in there the quality and level of basketball increases and it becomes much more serious and much more crisp," stated UConn Associate Head Coach Tom Moore. "The quality of our pick up games has gotten a lot better with us in there. It really gives us a lot more insight as we start to plan lineups and playing time. It gives us a head start on things like that."

The Huskies are looking to fill some holes in the starting lineup. The versatile Charlie Villanueva now belongs to the Toronto Raptors, and with point guard Marcus Williams' status still in doubt, it has given UConn the opportunity to observe different combinations on the floor. It's a rule change that coaches and players view as beneficial.

"I think it's good. I think the amount of hours is good and I think it's well thought out. It appears to me based on face value right now, its' going to be a real beneficial rule to coaches," said Moore.

Coaches are jubilant over this preseason rule change but don't expect the lobbying to stop there. Most coaches are also in favor of another rule; one that would allow them to work with their players individually throughout summer sessions and during the offseason. Today's coaches would like to have more an impact and increased responsibility for player development. So far the idea of supervised summer workouts has been shot down, but should this rule continue to prove it's beneficial to student welfare, additional workout time could be added.

"Having the ability in the postseason to do something like this and even in the summer, that's an important time. We've asked for it," Moore confirmed. "Once they get out of school and they're in summer classes, it would be nice to have 2 hours a week we could go in there and instruct in the same type of format as during school."

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 quality of basketball 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. Coaches are ready to take on the additional responsibilities.

"The pace of their (the players) days are a lot slower in the summer. A lot of the rules were put in, these hour limits were put in, for student welfare to stop abusing kids and in terms of how many hours they were asked to spend on the court," Moore continued. "Well in the summer they're in a much more casual, relaxed pace to their day and to squeeze 45 minutes or a half an hour in the gym with them a day is, I don't think, unrealistic. Summer is a time when they can get a lot better."

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