by Michael Bowen

Okay, you're out of shape and you haven't played much (as in, since last year). But you've stocked up on Gatorade and Power Bars, and your shiny new Nikes aren't causing too many blisters. (So far.) Your team has these really cute uniforms, and you're all set for Hoopfest -- except that you still need some magical X's and O's. Otherwise, you won't have the tactical advantage you need in the highly competitive over-45 under-5-foot-6 got-cut-in-junior-high coed division.

Well, hoopsters, we've assembled your dream faculty. Today's professors include the head basketball coaches at WSU, EWU and Whitworth College -- Dick Bennett, Ray Giacoletti and Jim Hayford -- along with the executive director of Hoopfest, Rick Steltenpohl. (Gonzaga guru Mark Few was on vacation, so his secrets are safe.)

Seriously now, what's your basic advice for teams?

Dick Bennett: "From what I have observed, you need one great rebounder who you can keep at the basket, a really skilled ballhandler and an excellent spot-up shooter. I prefer lots of movement and cutting, but you have to keep in mind that you're trying to last the whole tournament, and often, in the heat, players lose energy."

Ray Giacoletti: "When you're outdoors, don't settle just for jumpers -- go to the basket. And it depends on the weather. The wind can throw off your shot."

Jim Hayford: "Don't give up defensive rebounds: You're giving the other team extra opportunities to score. Also, I'd tell 'em, play with more energy. Because defense wins championships. I tell players, remember back in the schoolyard, when you tried so hard to win because it meant so much to you? Play like that."

Rick Steltenpohl: "You just have to be more active. It's a matter of energy, of showing them that you're in better shape. You know, simply wanting it more counts for a lot. And you have to know when to double[-team], when to sag, when to go for the steal, when to challenge them or just let them have the [2-point shot]."

In general, would you prefer height or quickness in a Hoopfest team?

Bennett: "The 3-on-3 game favors height. Because it's always a half-court game. If you're good at it, it should be a quarter-court game."

Hayford: [long pause] "That's a tough question. You ask different coaches, you'll probably get different answers. [pause, then laughs] I'm gonna go with answer c) skill. Because you need both."

On offense, what about on-ball and off-ball screens? Is there any advantage in setting a pick on the player who's guarding the ballhandler, as opposed to screening defenders away from the ball?

Giacoletti: "On-ball screens, at every level of the game, cause havoc."

Bennett: "In 3-on-3, on-ball screens are very effective, because you don't have the number of helpers." In setting an on-ball screen, Bennett says, "you're creating essentially a two-man game. The defense either has to switch, or help and recover."

Hayford: "Do both. If you just set on-ball screens, eventually they'll develop a strategy to defend that. Though of course, in 3-on-3, the pick-and-roll is pretty basic."

What about defensive strategy -- to switch, or not to switch?

Giacoletti: "It depends on how effective the guy you're guarding is with his jumper. Is he a shooter, or does he drive to the hole? Failure to switch [causes more of a problem], especially if teams are about the same size."

Any other defensive advice?

Hayford: "Deny [the lead pass] hard, because not too many teams at Hoopfest will be able to execute an effective backdoor."

Okay, you're behind late in the game. What do you do?

Steltenpohl: "I love the 2's. It deflates the other team just as much as it pumps you up. But you have to just take the best shot -- an open 2, or take it to the hoop. Too many teams rush it and throw up a 2 too fast.

Bennett: "There really isn't a need to shoot an abundance of [2's] -- only if you're behind and need to score quickly. There's no reason, with 3-on-3, that you can't get 5- to 10-footers -- or else drive and dish. But there's no need to shoot a lot of long balls, especially if there's a lot of wind."

What about giving fouls?

Steltenpohl: "We seldom if ever try to foul. Free throws are pretty simple. The chances of hitting a free throw are much greater than hitting a 15-footer with a hand in your face."

My own advice? I believe that in order to be successful at Hoopfest, you need to out-perform your opponents in three key areas: on offense, on defense and in number of points scored. Okay, class dismissed. (At least you can't say you didn't learn anything.) All you need to do now is eat another Power Bar.

Publication date: 06/26/03

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About The Author

Michael Bowen

Michael Bowen is a former senior writer for The Inlander and a respected local theater critic. He also covers literature, jazz and classical music, and art, among other things.