Summer Basketball - Did This Influence A Top NBA Draft Pick's Different Approach?

With this story, you'll learn a different approach to summer basketball. Michael Porter Jr. who is a potential top 5 pick in the 2018 NBA draft took a similar approach.

I don't know Michael and I don't know his family, but here's the connection...

A few years ago, Jim Huber was coaching a team that included Michael and a few other high level players. Many of you already know Jim. He's been featured in many videos on Breakthrough and is our Director of Coach Development for Breakthrough Camps.

Jim asked if I wanted to be an assistant coach. I respectfully declined because I didn't have the time. I just had my first child and I was focused on developing Breakthrough.

Well, one of our mutual friends Troy Slavin did assist. Some of you might know Troy because he is a Breakthrough instructor as well. During that season, Troy got to know Michael Jr. and his father Michael Sr...

A Unique And Possibly Better Approach To Summer Basketball

A year passed and Michael Sr. saw Troy again during the spring before the club season. Both Michael Jr. and Troy's son Nic were heading into their sophomore seasons of high school.

Michael Sr. asked Troy what he was doing with his own son Nic. Michael Sr. who is a long-time college coach was curious about why Nic wasn't playing on a club team for the spring and summer.

Troy told Michael Sr. that he decided to take a little different path.

Nic wasn't playing any club basketball. He was just going to focus on getting stronger, quicker, and more skilled. He also wanted to give Nic time for his body to rest and recover. More than 50% of childhood injuries are overuse injuries.

At the same time, he didn't want to emotionally burn Nic out. It's hard to excel at a sport if you play too much and don't want to practice to get better.

However, he was going to still put Nic & a few former teammates in four to five tournaments to also play a little during the offseason. They did not have any team practices.

During the games, Troy didn't want them to worry about mistakes as he wanted them to test their limits. His only rules were play hard, play unselfishly, and take open shots. It was about getting better, not winning. However, they still won a couple of tournaments.

Apparently, Michael Sr. was intrigued by the idea. Michael Jr. only played in a few selected tournaments that year. Since, he was on an elite Nike club called Mokan, he played in the EYBL on weekends and just a couple of other major tournaments. He played a condensed schedule compared to everybody else.

Both Nic Slavin and Michael Porter Jr. improved tremendously.

Huge Improvement! We Don't Want Him To We Can't Get Him!

Michael Porter Jr. went from a top 50 kid in his class to the #1 or #2 ranked player in his class. Many also projected him as a potential #1 or #2 pick in the 2018 NBA draft. However, Michael got hurt this year and missed most of his NCAA season, so his projection has dropped from #3 to #6 area.

And I don't know if I've ever seen anyone improve as much as Nic did in a two year span. He went from a decent JV player as a sophomore to a 1st team all state player as a senior. It was incredible. Troy did a great job with Nic.

I remember talking to a college recruiter about Nic before his sophomore season. The recruiter said, "He's not really on my radar. He's not good enough yet." During his senior high school season, the same recruiter said, "It will be a miracle if we can land him. He's beyond our level."

So I asked Troy what made you take that approach?

He said to me, "The articles on Breakthrough." You can read them at the bottom of the article.

But first, let's summarize the key points.

    1. Playing too many games takes away time that can be spent improving athleticism and skill set.

    There is a delicate balance. And playing too many games can set you back from developing into a basketball player.

    2. Playing too many games can lead to injury.

    You can't improve if you're hurt. You spend a lot of time just getting back to where you were before you were injured. Imagine if you spent all of that time getting better instead of just getting back.

    3. Playing too many structured or coached games can limit improvement.

    If you make more mistakes in a structured environment with a coach, your playing time is reduced. However, how can you improve if you don't ever make mistakes and test your limits? If you play too many games, when can you do this? The offseason is a great time to play in unstructured situations to make mistakes, try new things, and improve your game.

    4. Playing too many games can lead to emotional burnout and no desire to practice.

    This one is pretty self explanatory. However, there is an additional element to this that confuses parents. Many times, you don't know until it's too late.

    It can take a few years of playing too many games until the burnout hits. This means that the first few years that you play a bunch of games, everything is fine and dandy. Then bam... it hits and the kid is just done with the sport. And it's really hard to backtrack from this feeling. This can happen after one or two years. It can happen after seven or eight years.

    It's always better to leave them wanting a little more. And if your child really has that internal passion, they will find games. They will want to attend summer camps. They will want more basketball... this is way better than the alternative.

    5. We need to let kids be kids.

    Kids are not little professional athletes. However, we have a problem where we treat them like that. We need to step back and take a hard look at what is best for their long term athletic and emotional development.

Final Thoughts And More Resources...

If it's my child, we won't begin to play in a structured environment more than four or five months a year until 15 or 16 years old. Maybe never.

Will we play 3 on 3? Will we get the team together for a few offseason tournaments? Will we do some camps? Absolutely! But we aren't going to be playing 30 to 60 organized games during the offseason.

Also, I'm not against spring/summer club basketball. I'm against playing year round in a structured environment. It might work best for you to play on a club during the spring/summer season and not during the fall/winter season.

And as you can see in past articles, the NBA, USA Basketball, and International Olympic committee supports this approach. Here are some other resources:

Steph Curry & Fear-Driven Early Sport Specialization

No Summer Basketball Under 14 Years Old? Here's Why NBA, USA Basketball, and Olympic Committee Agree.

Youth Basketball Guidelines: From NBA & USA Basketball!

What do you think? Let us know by leaving your comments, suggestions, and questions...


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Kevin H says:
5/3/2018 at 10:43:00 AM

I agree totally, we should give kids some time to do other things and not get burnout. Learning fundamentals in a fun and energetic way is also important.


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