October 22, 2016
UCSB Men's basketball practice at the Thunderdome
Eric Childress fully participated in this practice, unlike the last one I attended. Max Heidegger did not practice again, but he's no longer wearing the boot.
After a shoot around, practice started with a 3-man weave vs. 2 defenders, and would end in the other direction with a 2-on-1 fast break drill.
They changed up the 3-man weave drills to develop new skills. For instance, passing would be incorporated into the drill instead of dribbling.
The players looked much sharper than the practice I attended a couple weeks ago. Their cuts were crisp, and they hustled to the next drill.
Clifton Powell is playing better. His footwork has improved.
They practiced the 4-out offense, where the 4 player trails.
They were sluggish in Thursday's scrimmage, but looked much better today after Coach Williams dug into them. A bright spot in Thursday's scrimmage was that Ami Lakoju finished everything down low. His jump hook has improved immensely. You could count on him to be athletic, defend, block shots, rebound, be strong, and take up space underneath. It looks like he has added offense to his game.
In the inside-out game, after the post player passes it back out, he comes out and sets the pick for the player with the ball (the recipient of the pass), i.e. he "follows the ball."
They worked on finishing drills for the post players, with the defender using pads to push the finisher out. A point of emphasis was to finish with two hands, not just a one-handed layup, which players tend to do when anticipating contact. Coach Kevin Bromley worked with the big men on this drill. Later on, the drill was done with the defender not using pads. There was a lot of contact. See video below.
The wings also performed shooting drills.
Later on, they worked on out of bounds plays. Things got more physical as scores were being kept with the Blue teams vs. the White teams.
Jalen Canty just blew up Sam Wolters with a huge screen. Ouch.
Gabriel Vincent is not just shooting outsider jumpers. He is driving more to the rim.
Coach Matt Stock was emphasizing the use of the forearm when defending against the out of bounds play.
Tyler Jackson was fully participating in 4-man weave drills, so that's encouraging.
The missed 4-man weave layups and missed free throws were tallied up. That resulted in more wind sprints for all the players as punishment. As fast as we know Jalen Canty is (see Youtube videos of him out-running opponents' linebackers and defensive backs in high school football highlights), he finished last among the big men in sprints. That is encouraging. That means, not only are our post players big and beefy, but they can also run.
They then ran the Kentucky drill.
Ami appears to have a decent jumper from the elbow (high post).
Coach Williams and Coach Stock mentioned the flathead and switching. I have no idea what that means.
But the coaches were telling the players to move while the ball is in the air.
What I noticed with all the coaches were they coach all the players individually as well as collectively. The walk-ons received just as much attention as stalwarts Gabe Vincent and Eric Childress. The coaches were constantly grabbing teaching moments, whether the players were starters or walk-ons.
Christian Terrell is a natural passer. He sees the court better than most freshmen.
At one point, Coach Williams yelled "WTF are you running?" after players got lost on offense. lol
There is room for improvising on offense. If a cutter recognizes a mismatch in the post, he can halt and reverse, letting the passer hit the post. But the passer has to also see the mismatch, and not just drift outside, posing no threat.
Wow, our interior defense has the potential to be real tough. There's a lot of length and beef in the lane. And depth. Penetrators not coming in strong will get rejected.
Coach was adamant with the 3-2 zone defense that the ball does not go into the high post. "This is where we lose games, when the ball gets into the HOUSE (high post)." Because once the ball gets to the high post, the passer can pass it down low or to the weak side for an open perimeter shot. Defending the house meant the weak side wing or defender at the top of the zone had to prevent the entry pass. Communication is key.
With the 3-2 zone defense, the wing defender should be positioned and square to steer the ball into the trap up top. The bigger you are, the better the communication has to be if there is a deficiency in quickness. With Alex Hart up top, Christian Terrell and Jarriese Blackmon at the wings, the top part of the 3-2 zone defense is very long and intimidating. I saw a lot of deflected passes.
With the help defense, due to the rotation of the ball, the weak side defender cannot be in help position, but he has to be able to get to help position quickly. A lot of real estate has to be covered when the ball swings weak side and the defender must close out on the shooter.
When the ball goes to the corner, it is essential to prevent the entry pass into the high post. If the weak side defender cheats to the perimeter shooter, the top of the circle defender has to defend the high post.
In our zone offense, the ball goes from corner to corner, with the three guards twisting, or circling. The two post players must always be opposite-diagonal across the lane from each other. There's always the high-low pass option.
In the offense against the man-to-man defense (Big West schools play more man than zone defense), then the two post players may sometimes end up both in the high post.
JD Slajchert may be a walk-on player, but he might be one of the leaders on the team. He's always encouraging his teammates, and communicates loudly. So even if you may not see his name in the box score, he's got to be one of the more valuable bench players with his presence and knowledge.
With practicing closing, Coach Williams reminded the players to eat right and have the discipline to get to bed early (it was a Saturday). He said it was important for each player to transition from role to role, whether as a passer, a screener, a dribbler, a shooter, a defender, or a rebounder.
After practice, a few players worked on their perimeter shot, including Sam Walters, Alex Hart, and Felix White. The first two are natural catch-and-shooters, shooting in rhythm. White has a good stroke, but needs to work on his footwork and squaring up. The placement of his right foot isn't consistent.
November 22, 2016
UCSB Women's basketball practice at the Thunderdome
Coach Bonnie Henrickson and her staff put the team through some shooting drills, before running the St. Joe's drill. It's a transition offense drill, and forces the players to play through fatigue.
The drill starts with a 2-on-1 fast break, and then moves in the opposite direction with a 3-on-2, and then reverses again with a 4-on-3, incrementally adding one player in the opposite direction, until it ends up being a 5-on-5 drill. The goal is to pass and move, and not stand around.
It looks like the Gauchos run the motion offense. It requires a high basketball IQ, and the ability to recognize how defenses are playing. The goal is to take what the defense gives you, and if they cheat in one area, then take advantage and go the other direction. It requires constant motion and recognition.
The point guard is key to this offense. Coach Henrickson was urging her point guards "To be a point guard," and to not give up their dribble prematurely.
Other points of emphasis were the player with the ball to wait for the screen, and not just run at it (presumably to avoid a moving pick foul). The person with the ball can be late, but not early in waiting for the screen.
The Lady Gauchos will run more this year, and try to push it and get "numbers" (having the offense beat the opponent's defense down the court) if it's there. If the numbers advantage isn't there, then it's up to the point guard to pull it back and start the halfcourt offense. But the point guard shouldn't call the offense until she crosses the halfcourt line.
Coach Henrickson also emphasized the point guards to lead with a calm voice, and to sometimes slow down so her teammates can catch up to her. In other words, the point guard can get upcourt fast, but that doesn't help if her teammates haven't caught up to run the offense.
Tal Sahar really stood out as an overall player: she's athletic, aggressive, and a good perimeter shooter with range. She will redshirt this year after transferring in from Seattle.
The frontcourt looks much taller this year also.
The point guard must also recognize who the halfbacks and fullbacks are in the offense.
It's also harder for the point guard to make the entry pass from the top of the key, as the angle isn't there. They must also recognize which teammate is hot, and feed her.
On defense, staying in front of the opponent is key and the bias is to steer them to the sideline.
They practiced the Stanford out of bounds play, where the ball goes to the corner off the double pick.
More Coach Henrickson tidbits: "Don't jog! If you're not open, cut!"
They then practiced end of quarter scenarios, where they would execute 2 possessions for 1.
She urged the players to play to their strengths. For example, if finishing with the left hand is a problem, drive and finish to the right.
Practice ended with the 3-woman weave drill. Here is video of the drill.
Hoops ("GH"): Thanks for taking this interview, Coach Henrickson.
First off, I wanted to mention that I was in attendance for last
season's finale, the heart-breaking 71-67 loss to eventual Big West
Conference Tournament runner-up, UC-Davis. It looked like the Gauchos
were about to get blown out by the Aggies, but the Lady Gauchos battled
back and briefly took the lead before succumbing in the end. It was one
of the scrappiest efforts I've ever seen, and the team appeared so
focused, determined, and fundamentally disciplined.
Bonnie Henrickson ("BH"): Thanks for that. Yes, in the beginning of
the year, the team was content with close losses. We turned that
complacency around and played not just to compete, but to win games.
The team really thought they could win that game.
GH: With most teams, leaders emerge. Who are the leaders on this team?
BH:We have four captains which were voted in by the team: two seniors and
two juniors. Mi'Chael Wright is a senior forward, Onome Jemerigbe is a
senior point guard. Drew Edelman is a redshirt junior forward, who
transferred in from USC, and Chaya Durr is also a junior. All four are
very positive, and it's their responsibility to make sure each teammate
is accountable. They make sure we all check ourselves. The captains are pretty vocal, and they also lead by example.
GH: At Kansas, your recruiting base was nationwide. How is recruiting different at UCSB?
BH: Fortunately, the west coast has a deep talent pool, especially in
California. At KU, half of the time, we were recruiting in
California, so our staff had previously established relationships with high school and club coaches. That was a tremendous
advantage. UCSB has high academics, so we recruit smart players both on
and off the court. And yes, the location is nice and an easy sell, but
the players who want to come to UCSB are also very competitive
student-athletes. That's why they come here.
GH: I noticed that in the several players' bio's. Several won academic honors in addition to their athletic achievements.
BH: Yes, California is a #1 recruiting priority. Even our out-of-state transfers are from California.
GH: Let's cover the roster.
Onome has started at point guard for three years. She is being pushed
by Drea Toler, who redshirted last season after transferring from
Oregon. Onome is a real good on-ball defender, and can drive and kick
it out. She is working on her shot to keep opposing defenders honest.
is a capable 3-point shooter, and is very fast. Her challenge is
trying to slow things down. She's a good on-ball defender, is good in
transition, and incredibly unselfish.
That's an interesting point. Coach Williams [men's basketball head
coach] said the same thing about his incoming players. They try to do
too much too quickly, resulting in turnovers. Slowing things down lets
their athleticism take over.
BH: Makala Roper, was
an honorable mention all-Big West performer last season. She shoots a
high percentage from the the floor, and is our biggest 3-point threat.
She's often a catch-and-shoot 3-point shooter. She is working on
putting the ball on the floor, so she can get to the free throw line
Coco Miller was consistent last year, which is
remarkable for a freshman. Sometimes, it's not about making a brilliant
play, but more about not making bad plays. She's smart, and plays
within herself. She works hard, is a good defender, and understands
positioning within our team defense.
Sarah Porter is a big guard, who shoots the 3-point shot well. We need her size on the glass. She's the best kid
in the weight room, We're also working with her on putting the ball on the floor.
Hernandez' ability to shoot the 3 point shot allows us to stretch the
defense. We also ask her to put the ball on the floor. She's a smart
kid. We need her to defend and handle the
Tal Sahar will redshirt this season and will
become eligible in 2017 after transferring in from Seattle. She is a big guard with great length. She can
shoot it from deep, also.
Chaya Durr started all last year at the 4
position. She is the most competitive player on the court, and gets the
50/50 balls. She's a great defender and takes great shots--she shot
45% from the floor. She's really athletic and finishes well.
Taylor Farris will only play the 4 this year. She is a capable 3-point shooter. She's long and
lanky, and can dunk a tennis ball. She can be a good defender, and has good foot work and good bounce.
Edelman is physical and finishes well. She's a great
communicator, and was voted team captain in August, which shows you her
leadership abilities. She runs the floor well.
Newton is a former juco player who keeps getting better She brings size
to the position and finishes well around the rim. She's been out for a
week due to injury.
Bruening is a freshman who played both club volleyball and club
basketball in high school. Now that she is only focusing on basketball,
she has really improved. She has a high ceiling.
Mi'Chael Wright is injured and may be out for the year.
Melissa Maragnes is coming back from an ACL and should return after the first of the year.
GH: Overall, how would you characterize this year's team?
BH: We're bigger inside this year. We're playing well in practice. Our
depth has improved, so we are more competitive in practice this year.
GH: Let's cover some questions from Gaucho Soul, a fan..
1) How was the transition from a bigger women's basketball program like
Kansas to UCSB? What was the most difficult and the best part of the
BH: Historically, UCSB women's basketball has been a successful program. It's a priority here. So it matters to me that they care about winning. We had to build trust in the players. As I said, while
at KU, we were already recruiting California players, so that helped
the transition. With the storied history, and high academics at UCSB,
we've been able to attract competitors on the court and in the
2) What is the ultimate goal for UCSB and how high can this program go nationally?
Our goal is to win the Big West Conference regular season and
Tournament championships. Once in the NCAA playoffs, it's about
match ups. Our nonconference schedule is good preparation for league
play. The league is good. Our goal is to go
to the NCAA's and advance.
UCSB's WBB program was once a dominant program under HC Mark
French but struggled after his retirement. How difficult was it to
change the mentality of the players and how did you go about changing a
program that went 2-27 before you were hired?
It's about winning, not just competing. I got livid after we lost by a
couple possessions earlier in the season because some players were
satisfied that it was a close game even though we lost. The players'
mentality was that
it was an improvement over the season before. I had to instill the
mentality that competing was not enough. We were able to establish a
winning culture. We had to embrace playing the right way.
4) How talented is the 2016-2017 team and will they contend for the BW title and possibly more?
BH: We need to get better and stay healthy. We have to rebound better,
play better defense, and score more in transition. We
need to shoot the 3-point shot better. We are hungrier this year, and
the conversation is different, as expectations are higher. Practices
are much more competitive.
More and more the WBB programs from the bigger conference are
dominating the games and during March Madness with less and less upsets.
Do you feel that SB and other smaller program can catch up and what is
the best path to accomplish that goal?
BH:The power conferences have bigger, stronger, faster athletes. The advent of the 3-point shot can
neutralize size, athleticism, and speed. UCSB has a history of a Sweet 16 under Coach Mark French.
GH: Thanks for sharing your team, Coach Henrickson. Good luck this year, and see you at the games.
BH:Sure. Come on down. It should be an exciting year.
of the first drills was practicing the hand off. The post player
executes a jump stop, pivots, and hands off the ball to a curling
perimeter player. The ball should not be tossed up, but handed off to
The next drill was executing and defending
the entry pass into the low block. The post players would practice
establishing position and defending the position. Simultaneously, the perimeter players were making and defending the entry pass, so all four players
were getting coached up on offense and defense. The perimeter defender
is supposed to open up his hips and then defend the cutting offensive
player (the give-and-go). The post player on offense needed to chop his steps and shield the defender to maintain
balance before receiving the entry pass.
In the high post offense, a wrinkle was added to include a backdoor cut and feed.
The next drills incorporated the previous drills to run the transition offense, without and then against a defense.
Clifton Powell has an uncanny fade away jumper over his right shoulder
(he's right handed). He just gets so much lift that it is hard for the
defender to get a hand in his face. When he received a pass down low
after a cut, he would use that move to get separation from his defender,
and rise to release a feathery turnaround jumper.
and athletic power forward Felix White have major hops. White blocked
several shots from out of nowhere. He is a very gifted athlete. He may be "raw" and played against weak competition in high school, but I think the high-major schools
missed on him. He is going to be a good player. Coach Bromley stayed
after practice to help him practice finishing post moves with his back
to the basket.
Coach Williams strongly urged the players to
"Catch the ball, and only dribble it if you are going somewhere. If
you dribble the ball without purpose and pick it up, we are ****ed!"
"If I'm up top, and the wings are covered, bigs--you come up."
Direct, hard cuts to the basket were demanded instead of rounding off cuts.
bigs were coached to hold the ball high when switching sides,
consistent with how UNC post players are coached. This highlights the passing option. I
mentioned that Fresno City College players switch ball sides by
swinging their arms low. But Coach Williams said Fresno City College
has a dribble-penetration first offense, while the Gaucho offense is a
The next drill was an out of bounds play along the baseline. Included was the UCLA out of bounds play.
Note: Jarriese Blackmon's 3 point shot looks more solid this season.
came a defensive rotation drill. The goal is to close out on the right
shooters when the ball is reversed. It's not a trapping defense, but a baseline drive will
attract two defenders to stop dribble-penetration. Everybody else has
to rotate to the right perimeter shooter. Communication is key in this
Coach Williams mentioned he can field a big
lineup without sacrificing much quickness. An intriguing lineup in
one of the drills had Gabriel Vincent, Christian Terrell, Maxwell
Kupchak, Alex Hart, and Ami Lakoju.
When players were
talking out of turn and not paying attention to the coaches, all players
had to run wind sprints across the Thunderdome floor as punishment.
"Don't listen = run wind sprints."
resembles former Gaucho Michael Bryson, but he is bigger. Clifton
Powell resembles former Gaucho Chris Brew, but Powell is also bigger.
coaching nugget yelled by Coach Williams: "Don't stand around looking
for the ball. Go backdoor!" "Post players don't stand around in the
corner! Move toward the basket when the ball is reversed."
was a 5-4 with a twist transition offense. I believe this is the
offense they will run against a zone defense. Pass and cut into a 2-man twist.
during drills, Canty wasn't engaged. But once the drills were put
together in full court drills, he woke up. He's a good passer.
Coach Williams: "The best 3 point shot is after an offensive rebound, or when the ball goes inside-out."
then ran a 45-second 3-man weave drill. The goal was to complete 8
layups full court in under 45 seconds. Only two players managed to beat
the clock, while the goal was to incrementally increase that number
daily. Overall, this team is speedier than previous teams, especially the post players.
They finished off with free throws while
fatigued, and players who committed turnovers during the drills had to
stay extra to work on their shot.
finished practice reminding them to eat a good breakfast and lunch every
day. Listening to the coaches instructions was emphasized.
Gaucho Hoops ("GH"): Thanks for taking this interview, Coach Williams. In the Santa Barbara News Press article, you
mentioned you sat between George Karl and Mitch Kupcak (father of
UCSB sophomore forward Maxwell Kupchak). Did you pick up any particular
insights you'd like to share from them?
Robert Williams ("RW"):
I had the privilege of spending a couple days with Coach Karl. He
shared a ton of basketball knowledge, most of which I can't share here.
But he is a very knowledgeable basketball coach and he's super smart.
He spent a lot of time going over how to defend hand-offs, for both
perimeter and post defenders. He also covered one of the toughest plays
to defend, the back screens. What was particularly interesting was his
opinion of coaching post players. He said foot work is overrated.
What's more important is how post players catch and finish.
is one of your youngest teams, and they will require a lot of teaching.
Based on the few practices so far, what are the most pressing areas of
coaching that the players need? What are they good at already?
running very few isolates right now, because they need to take better
care of the ball. They don't value possessions. They don't make good
risk vs. reward decisions on passes. They don't maintain good balance.
They don't make good decisions on driving or passing. They need to
learn to slow down, because they are trying to do too many things
quickly. Slowing down lets their athleticism take over. This team is athletic. When a
player is off-balance, he gets exposed.
Terrell seems to be one of your tallest combo guards in a while. As a
pass-first point guard, how is his perimeter shot? Can he penetrate the
lane against smaller, quicker defenders? Does his size make him
disruptive as a defender?
Christian is a really good athlete. He has a good perimeter shot; his
shot is much improved. He has good range. He runs well, and is a
dynamic athlete in transition.
GH: What about Clifton Powell? How is his game?
is a really good athlete and very springy. He also shoots and runs
well. He just needs to get stronger. Both Christian and Clifton have
good upside defensively.
GH: What about Max
Heidegger--we know he can shoot. Can he penetrate
the lane against the trees inside? Is durability a concern given his
history? What's the status of his foot injury? How's his defense?
is very skilled on offensive. He can create his own shot, and he's a
good passer. His defense needs work. He's wearing a boot right now,
but he should be good to go in two weeks.
Childress and Gabe Vincent are the obvious leaders of this group. How
are their personalities as leaders? How have they stepped up this year?
are vocal leaders now, but with Gabe, he was already naturally vocal.
He just chose to let the seniors lead last season. As a junior this
year, he is stepping up. Eric developed into a more vocal leader, but
he was naturally quiet as a freshman. Both have improved in every
aspect of their games. Gabe really stepped up his defense last season.
He went from being a good defender to being a great defender.
GH: What makes a better defender?
RW:Commitment. Gabe committed to becoming a great defender last year.
GH: Let's talk about the bigs. RW:We
have some serious beef on the glass. Probably the biggest we've had
since I've been coaching UCSB. Jalen weights 276 pounds, X 230, Felix 240, Ami 270, and Tyler 290. We have five post players who are all
good rebounders. We have enough depth at the 5 spot to possibly play
two on the floor at the same time. It would be similar to having Jaime
Serna and Big Al [Alan Williams] both on the court. We have strength
and athleticism in the post.
GH: How is X [Alex Hart] playing right now?
RW:X is more aggressive this year. He's rebounding better and shooting with more confidence.
GH:What improvements have you
noticed with the other returnees?
[Kupchak] and Jarriesse [Blackmon] have been working on their perimeter
game. The key to improvement over the summer is not just working, but
working on the right stuff. Max playing some at the 3 position is partially due to necessity as we have depth at the 4 and 5 positions.
GH:You mentioned Jalen Canty
had a similar build as Big Al [former center Alan Williams]. Where does he fit in?
needs to increase his conditioning. We're confident our preseason
practices will improve the team's conditioning, in addition to the
weight room. Jalen is a natural rebounder. We will have to see how he
responds to adrenaline. Big Al stepped up the most of any player I've
coached. He was much better during games than in practice. He was best
at stepping up his game when the lights were on. We hope Jalen can
give us 20-25 minutes a game, that he is fit enough to play more
minutes. Big Al was a fouler. Jalen is not.
GH: What about Ami Lakoju?
RW:Ami is also a good rebounder, and big. He has improved his conditioning, runs well, and has improved his finishing.
GH: And Tyler Jackson?
RW: Tyler is rebounding better and may get minutes this season.He needs to continue improving is mobility.
GH: What about Felix White gets you excited?
is improving every week. He picks things up quickly. He's strong,
fast, and aggressive. He is a potential impact player. Despite our
depth in the post, he will not redshirt. He's too good to redshirt.
GH: Do you anticipate Clifton redshirting?
we don't have enough depth among the wings. He's too good to
redshirt. We have six guards for 3 positions. At the 1, we've got Tide
Osifeso backing up Eric. Max Heidegger is a combo guard. He's out two
weeks, and Eric is out today with a hamstring. Now we only have 4
players playing 3 positions.
year, the team's make up and personality are different. OJ and Nunn's
teams seemed to be very serious and focused. Bryson was more laid back,
less vocal, but led by example. How would you
characterize this team so far?
team is unknown. The strength is in the backcourt. But we have
surprisingly good rebounders at the 4/5 positions, probably the best
since the Jaime/Big Al team.
long do you intend on coaching the Gauchos?
RW:A couple more years, but when I do, it's important that I leave this program in good shape.
GH: It sounds like you really
enjoy the teaching aspect of coaching. What else makes it fun for you,
and keeps you coming back?
fun is the interaction with the kids, and the practices. What is
unexpected is the older I get, the harder it is when we lose. I thought
losing games would become easier over time. When I was younger, and we
lost a game, I was bouncing right back up the following morning. The
longer I've been in coaching, the harder it is to take game losses.
GH: Let's answer some questions from Gaucho hoops fans:
From GauchoFreg: "Who will be the top teams in the conference this year?"
RW:Long Beach State.
GH: Yes, they lost Nick Faust to graduation, but they bring in and bring back some great athletes. Which other teams?
RW:CSUN. They are very athletic. We'll see how their non-conference season plays out.
GH: From GauchoFreg:
"After your coaching career, what do you see yourself doing?"
RW: I'm not sure. Maybe broadcasting, consulting...I enjoy lakes.
GH: From GauchoFreg:
"Name your all time UCSB starting 5, only players you coached."
RW:That's a great question.
1) Big Al--he was our most productive player of all-time.
2) Orlando Johnson--the only question is at what position?
3) Mark Hull--he was just so good.
4) if I go with a big lineup, BJ Bunton at power forward.
5) Al Harris, at the 2 in a big line up.
the bench, James Nunnally, Branduin Fullove, and Michael Bryson. I
would add Jacoby Atako--he was good. So was Zalmico Harmon.
GH: From Charlie Hill Cannot Score:
"What kind of defense do you expect we will play this year: mostly man or zone?"
RW: Zone defense. Because we are big and we can clog up the inside. Our length at the top of the zone will help.
GH: From Charlie Hill Cannot Score:
"Do you expect Gabe Vincent will shoulder an even bigger scoring load?"
GH: From Charlie Hill Cannot Score:
"What improvements are you looking for in Eric Childress his final season?"
RW:His ability to communicate with the coaches. Understanding the flow and pace of the game.
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