Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Where have you gone, Keith Parsons?

A lonely nation ... yada, yada, yada. I believe I've actually used that before, so my bad.

Not much to go with, so I haven't blogged lately. Is that even the correct term? "Blogged?" Should it be "posted," or something else? Either way, I haven't updated this little creation in a while, but with college hoops season just around the corner, I figured it was a great time to start with the 4-1-1 on a couple of college teams running The System.

Surely you remember what that is, the most entertaining, creative, exciting way to play basketball? OK, good, I was worried.

So, anyway, back during the summer, I contacted a couple of coaches: Doug Porter, the women's coach at NAIA Olivet Nazarene University, a full-blown System team who plays in the Chicagoland Collegiate Athletic Conference; and Ron Rohn, who formerly ran The System at NCAA Division III Muhlenberg College before scaling back to a more traditional, yet still fast-paced, style of play.

Here is what Coach Porter left me with back in July. I know, I suck for not getting this out there sooner. I was hoping to combine it with other information, never really sought it, then never really could find what I thought was the perfect time to drop this on you. Totally my fault, and I appreciate Coach Porter giving me the time. Here is what he said about his offseason, and remember, this is from July. He and the Tigers already have begun practicing for the upcoming season:

Doug Porter: "We are at the mid-point of our summer conditioning program, and I'm occasionally asked about how we get kids in shape. Partly it depends on your situation. Here at Olivet, we don't keep our players on campus during the summer, so we give them a written program that they can do anywhere, with minimal equipment. We do expect them to find a weight room from July 5 onward, but early season work is almost exclusively body-weight work. We do no long-distance running, because the experts I've talked to say it doesn't have much carryover to our style of basketball. So, almost all our running is 200 meters or less, working towards shorter 'back and forth' court conditioning drills as we near the beginning of practices in November.

"But if I was coaching in a high school setting, I doubt that we'd require any summer running. You have enough time in the fall to get players in shape to play system ball, just using a combination of preseason pickup games (requiring them to really push it, of course), and any variations of the short, back and forth running like suicides, sidelines, etc. The thing that makes the system work is intensity, and you can't run at the intensity level we expect if you are running long distances.

"As a gauge of our conditioning, we like to use a test we developed that we call the '300 Shuttle.' Simply run sideline to sideline and back for a total of 9 round trips. Since all regulation basketball courts are 50 feet wide, this distance totals 18 x 50' = 900' = 300 yards, with lots of accelerations, stops and turns ... a great tool for assessing system-specific conditioning levels. For college women, we expect 70 seconds or less as a target time, but our quicker players are often able to finish in the 65-66 second range. For boys, I imagine 60 seconds would be a realistic goal, but can't be certain."

Great stuff, right? Most everyone to whom I talk about The System always mentions conditioning and now much running these teams do. I figured you would love an update there.

Now on to Coach Rohn, who took his team to Italy for eight days in August, just after he e-mailed me his update. He had been talking about possibly returning to The System this season, given his depth and talent level, but it appears that he's holding off going full bore for now. Here is what he wrote to me before venturing across the pond:

Ron Rohn: "Just got off the recruiting trail for the month of July. So two weeks to call and write high school kids, and then my team heads to Italy for 8 days - not a job if you can get it!!

"I've been tinkering with ideas all summer as to what will be best for this year's team. It might be our most talented team ever, and definitely has more offensive firepower than any of our past teams, better depth at each position, and better size. I think we are three deep at several spots, and my freshman class is 6-3, 6-2, 6-1, and 6-1 to go along with a decent point guard from Philly. All the big kids are pretty athletic, not the usual D3 projects you get at that size. Really Ivy League type D-1 kids. We had only two true posts last year, so it was a need for us against other nationally ranked teams.

"We will be VERY uptempo this year to take advantage of that depth and talent, I just have to figure out how crazy we want to get on defense. I have one of the best point guards in D-3 as a senior (and good back ups but still a drop off after her) and maybe the best 3-point shooter at the 2. While I have really good players behind them, I'd still like to maximize their minutes, so a pure Grinnell type shifts mentality is unlikely unless I see that they can be double shifted so I can get them 24-26 minutes vs. top opponents. I think it is more likely to be like the old LMU days where Bo Kimble and Hank Gathers and Jeff Fryer got that many minutes. But we'll see -

"I do know this, if this team ran the pure Grinnell type mentality like we did in 2004 and averaged 90+ per game, they'd have a chance to be close to 100+. That idea really intrigues me, but I'm not sure if that style would fit best come the postseason, and this team really wants the Sweet 16 and beyond. So I'm going to have to figure out some kind of hybrid to try and do it all. It will be worth following us - that's for sure."

Good luck to both of these coaches. As we get closer to the season, I'll hopefully hear from more coaches and give you a peek into their seasons. Until then, keep your feet on the ground and keep reaching for the stars.

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