Evaluating Basketball Players Part I

This is the first part of an article that was written by the late Rick Majerus several years ago.  The focus is what he looks for when recruiting, but some of these concepts can be taught and others can be improved upon through work.

There are three major areas of consideration which I address in my evaluation of a prospective athlete.  Those areas of concern evaluated are attitude, athletic ability, and basketball skills.

The profession being what it is, one is often pressed to find an area in which unanimity of opinion prevails.  However, no matter how diverse our philosophies and the styles of play that we employ, I think every coach wants to recruit or coach players that enjoy playing hard.  Each of us has our own criteria whereby we assess selflessness, aggressiveness, poise, and many other personality traits.  Hence, I will not belabor the point but suffice to say we’re all in pursuit of the player who best demonstrates those personality characteristics that compromise having a good attitude.

Athletic ability is the measure by which many players earn spots on a team and often fill complementary roles.  I look first of all for a player with an explosive first step.  Quickness can sometimes compensate for a lack of fundamentals and skills.  An especially high premium is placed on lateral quickness because this single facet enables you to excel as a defensive player.  Anticipation can somewhat compensate for a lack of quickness, however, there is no real substitute for someone who is not endowed with innate quickness.

After assessing the quickness of an individual, I try to determine how good his hands are.  Can he catch a bad pass and make his own next pass a good one?  Does he come down with the ball in traffic under the boards?  Is he able to pick the ball up off the floor and convert in a transition game?  It is especially important that you ascertain the quality of hands in a pivot prospect.  Being able to catch it in a stationary post situation should be a given.  However, when sliding from the high to low post or when flash posting, can the man catch the pass amid other players and on the move?  These situations more than most others will illustrate his ability to catch the ball.  A well-coached player is one who meets the ball and locates the defense before making a move.  He knows or looks for the defender and moves accordingly.

Body control is another facet I look for and that doesn’t necessarily involve being able to make the circus shot.  Rather, it is a facet of play that can better be evaluated by watching for a man who pulls up in balance and squares to the hoop off an explosive dribble.  Or you can look for a guard who’s able to come to an abrupt stop at the foul line on a 3 on 1 break.  It is most apparent when playing defense because a man without good body control has a tendency to commit fouls by “reaching in.”  When challenging a shooter, I’m particularly interested in seeing if the defender can rise vertically, arm extended straight up, and not drift into the man taking the shot.

Last of all in my assessment of athletic ability, I look for the leaper.  I’m most impressed by those who can jump off two feet in a crowd.  Some players need a step to jump and others a run, but the athlete who can go up “right now” is someone who really possesses talent.  Then I watch to see if he can stay with the action by continuing to jump a second and third time.  When they go airborne for a layup, I’m looking for an individual who goes up with no fear.  I think a great athlete is best evaluated on a layup in traffic because if he’s quick, he’ll pull away from the pack, if he has good hands and jumping ability, he won’t lose the ball, and finally he will finish the play off strong.  This is what I feel the ultimate in athletic ability entails.

Here is a link to the first part of the article:  Evaluating Basketball Players Part II


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