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Basketball, Sports, Uncategorized

Which NBA Rookies Have the Highest Ceilings?

With NBA Summer League action in full swing, we’ve seen flashes of greatness from this year’s rookie class, disappointments, and everything in between. Those who were expected to dominate may have been underwhelming in their first few games, while players who weren’t given a second look in the draft have proved their worth thus far. The following rookies are, arguably, those who have stood out the most so far, and those who could have the biggest long-term impacts on their respective teams.

DeAndre Ayton, Phoenix Suns

Given the fact that Ayton was the number 1 overall pick in this year’s draft, it should come as no surprise that his collegiate skills have, thus far, translated well to the NBA. In his first few Summer League games, Ayton posted two double-doubles, then went on to have fairly quiet showings. Of course, the Summer League is not always an accurate portrayal of one’s potential, but it can showcase certain skills.

Ayton’s defense has been under the most scrutiny since entering the draft. Many suggest that his defensive prowess will not translate well to the NBA, but if he is able to utilize his size for scoring, he should see success. Paired alongside Devin Booker, who is likely to garner the attention of most defenses, Ayton should have no problem getting to the basket with his combination of size and finesse.

Trae Young, Atlanta Hawks

Young seems to be standing out for mostly the wrong reasons in this year’s Summer League. His shooting has been subpar following an impressive, almost Steph Curry-like range during his time at the University of Oklahoma. However, he has since improved since his first few games, scoring 24 points against the Bulls recently, and going 7-for-13 beyond the three-point line.

Young’s consistency will be the center of attention in his time with the Hawks, as he is fully capable of making some pretty miraculous shots while not having the most athletic build. Only time will tell if Young proves to be a boom or bust.

Jaren Jackson Jr., Memphis Grizzlies

Coming out of Michigan State University, some analysts had Jackson as a possible first overall draft pick ahead of DeAndre Ayton. His size and capabilities have all the makings of an NBA star, so his development in Memphis will be crucial to his success.

On the defensive side of the ball, Jackson has shown his skills in his first few games as a Grizzly, but failed to generate much flash on offense. Memphis still has veteran players in Marc Gasol and Mike Conley Jr. This may make it difficult for Jackson to see a decent amount of playing time, which could stunt his development. However, utilizing his abilities in the times that he does play should remind Memphis why they drafted this collegiate star in the first place.

Wendell Carter Jr., Chicago Bulls

A player that was once overshadowed by Marvin Bagley III at Duke University, Wendell Carter Jr. has come into his own during his short time with the Bulls in this year’s Summer League. Carter posted 23 points, 6 rebounds, two blocks, and two assists in his last game despite Chicago falling to the Atlanta Hawks 101-93, showing that he is more than capable of scoring on all three levels.

The Bulls have struggled in recent seasons without much leadership at the helm, but if both Carter and Zach LaVine can prove themselves as future Chicago stars, the team may be on an upward trend sooner than later.

Kevin Knox, New York Knicks

Drafting Knox with the ninth overall pick seemed like a head-scratcher to some Knicks fans, but few would argue against the Kentucky star after his Summer League performance. Knox put up 29 points against the Los Angeles Lakers in his final summer game in which he went 5-for-7 beyond the three-point line. He averaged 23.3 points and 7.3 rebounds per game, and is looking like a promising addition to New York’s struggling offense.

Assuming the Knicks are able to retain Kristaps Porzingis, Tim Hardaway Jr., and some of their other core players, Knox could be a shining light in a somewhat dismal locker room.

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Basketball, Sports, Uncategorized

3 Early Shockers in this Year’s NBA Season

Now that we are just over two weeks into this year’s NBA season, there are a few growing trends that many did not predict to see prior to this month. It’s easy to claim that the super teams of last year will have success again early on, but it does not always pan out that way.

For example, the Los Angeles Lakers, who recently acquired a legend in LeBron James and were expected to improve substantially because of it, are currently 2-5 and in 11th place in the Western Conference. Similarly, the Houston Rockets are struggling to win games as of late, with a record of 1-4 despite boasting reigning MVP James Harden, and now both Chris Paul and Carmelo Anthony.

Sports are highly unpredictable. That is nothing new. With that said, however, the following are just a few of the many surprising trends we have seen lately around the NBA this season.

Sacramento Showing Signs of Life

The Kings looked as though they were on a long, downward slope after the departure of Demarcus Cousins in 2017. Their bench was failing to support their starters, but they were seeing promise in their younger players (see Willie Cauley-Stein, drafted from the University of Kentucky in 2015). Early into this season, it appears as though somewhat of a solution has been found.

Sacramento has taken advantage of their luck in the NBA Draft these past few years, taking NCAA stars De’Aaron Fox and Marvin Bagley III, while also acquiring Buddy Hield from the New Orleans Pelicans. Combined, the Kings roster has posted a respectable 4-3 record, sitting above the Timberwolves, Rockets, Lakers, and Thunder. Fox himself has seen a huge improvement since his rookie season last year, and Hield has been shooting three-pointers like a seasoned veteran. While they have a ways to go, Sacramento could potentially be a playoff team in the near future with their young talent.

Steph Curry’s Immense Success

It shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise that Steph Curry is having yet another impressive season. What is surprising, however, is the numbers he has already put up through just 8 games this season. Curry has now made at least 5 three-pointers in 3 of their 8 games, which is an NBA record. He is also hitting 51.7% of his shots, with the highest attempt average at 12.7%; something truly remarkable.

Lakers Woes

As mentioned in the intro to this blog, the Lakers haven’t really found a rhythm this season despite having a fairly impressive roster. However, it is far too early to hit the panic button just yet. We are just 8 games in. While most NBA fans failed to predict Los Angeles and the King sitting at the bottom of the Western Conference, there is hope.

James is, arguably, the best to ever play the game, and is leading a young Lakers team that shows a lot of promise in their rookie stars. Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram, and Kyle Kuzma have all proven their abilities (some more than others) between this year and last. Paired with a number of other competent veterans in Rajon Rondo, JaVale McGee, and Lance Stephenson, they should be able to train and learn enough to make themselves playoff contenders once more, even if it does take another season or two.

Basketball, Uncategorized

Motivating and Inspiring Your Basketball Team

Every basketball team deals with highs and lows throughout the season, but it’s the motivation from the coach that helps pull each player up when they need it. Every coach is different in their approach to motivating and inspiring their players. While some stick to traditional methods, others use an outside-the-box approach to effectively motivate their team. The following are just some of the ways you as a coach can motivate and inspire your athletes.

Productive Discipline

The best way to enforce good discipline throughout the team is to remain calm, create consequences and be consistent with discipline. Discipline starts by establishing a strong philosophy and culture with your players and their parents at the beginning of the season. It allows them to know the expectations and sets the tone for the rest of the season.

The Positive Coaching Alliance suggests coaches use a three-pronged approach to discipline. They recommend reinforcing good behavior, ignoring the behavior you don’t want and if needed, intervening with a ‘least attention’ manner. When a player misbehaves, it is more effective to ignore the player and their actions entirely.  As a coach, ignoring a player will make them crave attention, and they will often go back to following the previously established rules.

Positive Reinforcement

Positive reinforcement, or simply praise, is always welcomed no matter what was done to deserve it. As a coach, you should be praising and congratulating your players for their successes, as well as their defeats. Simple words of encouragement and praise will give players the boosts they need to finish a game or practice harder. Positive reinforcement does not just have to come from a coach. Encourage your players to praise each other for great work on the court. Not only does it help to create a positive environment on the court, but it also helps foster a stronger team mentality.

Be Honest

While your players might not want to hear what you have to say, they need to listen to the truth and will ultimately respect you in the long run when you are honest with them. Letting a player know that he or she might have decreased responsibility during the season will not only allow you to be open with them, it will also help them stay motivated when they do see playing time on the court, essentially lighting a fire in those that truly want bigger roles.

While these are just a few ideas to motivate your team, sometimes stepping outside of the traditional motivational box will help inspire your team in a variety of ways.

Coaching, Sports, Uncategorized

Managing Anxiety in Youth Athletes

Anxiety is common in young adults, and many teenagers experience anxiety on a daily basis. The thought of keeping up with grades and dealing with peer pressure on a regular basis can be quite stressful. However, young adults who compete regularly in sports may find themselves more stressed out than those who do not compete.

It is common for young athletes to stress themselves out before competing in an event. Pre-competition anxiety can stem from a lot of different areas and can ultimately affect the way they perform in their games. Here are some techniques that your student athletes can practice to alleviate this anxiety, and ways to help them improve their focus when it comes time to compete.

Meditation

One of the best ways for teens to calm themselves down if they are experiencing anxiety before a big game is to practice meditation. This ancient technique has been scientifically proven to help people relax and re-focus their attention from negative thoughts to positive ones. Encourage your students to practice meditation before they play in a big game for optimal stress-relieving effects.

Face Your Fears

Young athletes oftentimes have irrational fears about competing. They fear losing and rejection is a common problem that many athletes will face. It is important as a coach to help them remove the fear that they experience from their minds to improve their focus. One of the best ways to accomplish this task is to make your students face their fears. This means having them play as many games as possible in skirmishes to get them to become comfortable with the thought of losing. Remind them that losing is simply an opportunity to improve and that it should not always be seen as a negative thing. Changing perspectives is key to overcome anxiety and improve their confidence as an athlete.

Nearly everyone in society experiences anxiety at some point or another in their daily lives. While some may experience it more than others, it can be debilitating if it is not taken care of. Fortunately, these two techniques will help condition your students for greatness and shape their minds to resemble that of an all-star athlete. Understanding where anxiety comes from is key to ensuring that your young athlete faces the problem head-on and develops into a better person because of it.

Basketball

Rising NCAA Stars

Originally published 8/13/18 on SeanLeBeauf.net

Duke’s Marques Bolden, Kentucky’s Quade Green among NCAA stars set for impact seasons.

The college basketball season is quickly approaching and some teams will be trying to fill the voids created after top players left to play pro ball. For example, the Duke Blue Devils lost a number of talented players including Marvin Bagley III and Wendell Carter. The Texas Longhorns lost Mo Bamba, while Kentucky lost guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander to the NBA. The good news, however, is that several of these teams have players ready to step into those vacant spots.

At Duke, Marques Bolden found himself riding the bench as a freshman. Last season, Bagley and Carter were the top guys for the Blue Devils, so Bolden didn’t see much spotlight. That should change this season. He’ll look to improve upon his 12 points, 11 rebounds, and three blocks per game averages. Based on his athletic ability, he could very well have a stellar season as Duke tries to contend for another title.

The Kentucky Wildcats have several talented freshmen coming in at the guard position. However, Quade Green will be a player to keep an eye on. He was alongside Gilgeous-Alexander last season, who surpassed expectations and become a legitimate pro prospect. Green had averages of 9.3 points, 2.7 assists, and 45.1 field goal percentage last season. He will have some experience in his favor, but could easily boast a 15 points per game average alongside the new freshmen talents.

Big man Mohamed Bamba grabbed all of the attention last season at Texas, but Jericho Sims may get the headlines this season. He played limited minutes and averaged five points per game with a 61 percent field goal rate. He’s got the size at 6-foot-9 and 240 pounds, as well as the strength and agility to guard multiple positions. Sims may not be quite the defender at the rim that Bamba was, but he’ll have a chance to show off rebounding skills and could help the offense move more effectively.

Kansas’ Charlie Moore will help fill the void left by guard Devonte’ Graham. Moore spent a season with California and it was a lackluster year with 12.2 points and 3.5 assists a game. However, he’ll have two returning Final Four players on the starting lineup and a few other highly-regarded transfers. He could become a top role player for the Jayhawks as they look to once again march into the tournament.

A few other college basketball players will be worth watching this coming season. At Purdue, Matt Haams will get more playing time next season as he attempts to fill the space left by rim protector and scorer Isaac Haas. Haams may become one of the top defenders in all of the Big Ten. Over at USC, Derryck Thornton was playing behind Jordan McLaughlin. Now that McLaughlin’s out, Thornton is going to get more chances to shine. As a guard, he has issues with decision-making and confidence. That could change as he develops more of his game this coming season.

One final player that college basketball enthusiasts shouldn’t sleep on is West Virginia’s James Bolden. He averaged 8.7 points and hit over 41 percent of the three-point shots he took last season. He’s also a tough defender who works well in Bob Huggins’ system. It’s possible that Bolden will emerge into a player capable of scoring 15 or more points per game as he replaces Jevon Carter and Daxter Miles.