You still never really know. As a coach you spend a lot of time recruiting players and getting to know them before they come on board, but you still really don’t know what you are going to get until they come to school and become a part of your program. Once you get them in the gym and see how they handle things every day – school, workouts, the weight room, the social life – you really start to get to know what they are all about. Until that point, we are all making the best educated guesses we can.
So what separates you as a player in the fall when school starts up again? As coaches we are forming an opinion from day one, and that’s not day one of practice. We are learning who you are as soon as you get back into school and we see how you operate. It’s not as simple as you just showing up when practice starts and producing on the floor – I’m determining who you are well before that.
These are the things I love to see from kids in the fall that help me form an idea of who is going to play and who isn’t.
Reliability. Perhaps the worst thing you can be as a player is unreliable. Even if you are only going to give me minimal production, I have to know that I’m going to get that production every day. Your teammates and your coaching staff need to know they can count on you. This starts in the classroom and with how you carry yourself off the floor.
You are in the gym. You don’t need an invite or a “captain’s practice” to get into the gym. We are all looking for guys who want to be in the gym, who really love it. Not guys who just do what they are told.
Communicators. Guys who aren’t afraid to speak up tend to have a little more confidence in their ability – even if they are young. I always like the guys who come into the office and ask me what is going on with recruiting, or just to check in and see what’s going on. A guy who communicates on the court is comfortable with himself and selfless.
Love to win. When you are playing pick-up you are working on your game and practicing habits, but you are also practicing how to win. I’m riding with the guy who gets bothered when his team doesn’t win a pick-up game and he has to sit. He takes pride in the fact that the score matters, even if just internally to the guys on the team. I feel like that’s a guy I’m going to win with down the road.
Don’t take yourself too seriously. The best players I’ve ever coached have things in the right perspective. I know this matters to you a lot, but don’t be the guy who kicks a chair over in the gym after losing a pick up game. There’s no reason to punt the basketball after you lose. To be great for us, you’ll have to be able to handle winning and losing with the right perspective.
Take care of your classes. Get to your meetings. Get to study hall. Talk to your advisor on your own. Don’t make me chase you down and tell you what you have to do academically and then expect me to play you.
Make your teammates better. Don’t just think about yourself. Look out for other guys. Show a curiosity about their success. Remind them what time you need to be in the weight room. Make sure everyone is on time for study hall. Guys who are only focused on themselves are hard to win with.
Pay attention. Don’t be the guy that has to be told something three times. When you get the schedule, take a look at it. Don’t use ignorance as an excuse. We aren’t going to make you guess about your responsibilities as a player. Take care of them.
Win the sprints. Nothing tells me you have taken the off-season seriously as much as being in great shape. Run your ass off and fight through fatigue. Coaches love to see the guy who attacks sprints like they matter. That guy is a guy they want to play.