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Putting on the Pressure

SCRANTON, Pa. – Scranton Prep used pressure defense and a running offense to score the most points of any boys’ basketball team in northeastern Pennsylvania during the 2015-16 season.            

Cavaliers coach Andrew Kettel shared some of the concepts behind that success when he stepped in as a lecturer for the first time while hosting the second annual Scranton Prep Basketball Coaches Clinic prior to the start of the 2016-17 season.

Among other topics, Kettel shared with fellow high school coaches suggestions on when to trap, how to avoid foul trouble, and how to get a fast break started off a rebound with proper placement of the outlet pass.               

Scranton Prep repeated Lackawanna League Division 1 and Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association District 2 Class AAA championships last season. District 2 takes in 43 schools in the northeast corner of the state.

Kettel defined when and where the team wants to trap.

“If we can get them in the corner, we’ll get them in the corner,” he said. “Ideally, we want to get them at the half-court line.”               

There is another time when his team is quick to trap, when a dribbler gets turned around under pressure.               

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“If he turns his back, there’s no question, we’re trapping,” Kettel said.               

As a Cavalier goes in for the trap, he’s yelling out the trap, not trying to make a sneak attack. He needs his teammates to know to make their adjustments.               

Kettel said that is more important than catching the offense by surprise.               

“Everybody in the gym knows you’re trapping,” Kettel said.               

Once his players know the moment a trap is being placed, priorities kick in. Those not involved in the trap rotate to try to make sure they are denying the shortest pass out of the trap.               

“We’re trapping the ball, jumping in the passing lanes, giving the longest pass, but still trying to steal it,” Kettel said while demonstrating how he uses drills to teach those concepts.               

Kettel discussed two ways the team tries to avoid the foul trouble that can go with a constantly aggressive, full-court defensive approach.               

Players are taught to put their lead hand — the one closest to the ball — in the passing lane and to use that to knock away passes. Reaching across with the opposite hand is more likely to create contact or the appearance of contact.               

“If he comes through with the strong-side hand, he can tip it and go get it,” Kettel said.               

The two players performing a trap must show patience when they have an opponent double-teamed. They don’t have to be reaching in to knock the ball away as much as they have to be making it difficult for the player to see and get off an accurate pass.               

Kettel teaches the concept of “not breaking the glass,” telling his players not to reach through the space occupied by the opponent.               

“We’re not reaching through,” he said. “We’re straight up and down. We don’t want to get ourselves in foul trouble.”               

Many of Scranton Prep’s quick strikes are generated off of steals in the backcourt or at midcourt.               

When the team runs full-court off a defensive rebound, the positioning of the first pass is important.               

Kettel teaches his outlet recipients to get wide to the sideline. That quickly spreads the court, but creates a more important advantage.               

“We teach butt to the sideline, so we can see everything in front of us,” Kettel said. “We can go to the ball easier than when we don’t know where the defense is.”               

Once the player receives an outlet pass without fear of a steal from an unseen opponent, he can be off and running.

From GameChanger and Tom Robinson. 

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