Charity Elliott, head coach of women’s basketball, preaches pressure and advantage.
On defense, harass the ball handler, go for the steal, create an advantage; on offense, exploit the advantage, attack the basket with greater numbers, do it quickly. Who is the shooter in Elliott’s fast-paced, running offense? The player with a good open shot.
Elliott says athleticism may mean many things, but in her game plan, it starts with running and conditioning. “We don’t rest. We don’t rest on offense, and we don’t rest on defense. Our team’s goal is to be in better shape than anyone we play.”
Being aggressive is not a personality type, it’s a strategy: “If you play with fear or become timid, that takes your aggressiveness away. If you don’t make some mistakes, then you’re not playing hard enough. Our defense requires players to be aggressive and take some chances. We want to be the aggressor at both ends of the floor.”
PLAY SMART, BE SMART
Elliott’s playbook demands intelligence and quickness of mind. “Some players may not be great in pick-up games, but they can thrive in our system because they’re very bright. For example, after we score a basket, we make a defensive call immediately. You must be able to process the information quickly. That requires not just experience but intelligence. That’s our expectation.”
TRAP, OR DON’T
Elliott’s defense is about disrupting an opponent’s game plan and how she thinks. “When a team plays LMU, I want their point guard thinking about the pressure, not about what’s open down the floor. Pressure also leads us into our trapping defense, which is based on surprise. We don’t want the other team to have any idea of where the trap will happen, or at what point, or whether it’s coming at all. There is a structure to the chaos.”
In Elliott’s plan, pressure produces loose balls, turn-overs and layups — and 5-on-3, 3-on-2 and 2-on-1 fast breaks. Players practice those scenarios. They’re trained to spot the advantage on the run and who has the best shot. “I want players making decisions on the floor as to who will shoot based on how the defense reacts. If you run the floor and beat your defender, then you take the shot. If you don’t take that shot, that’s a form of selfishness to me because the team needs you to take the shot.”
Who’s the shooter? They all are.