This article was written by Mike O'Donnell who is the director of basketball operations at the University of Central Florida. Coach O'Donnell joined the Knights coaching staff in 2011. Mike has not only coached, and been around great coaches, but he was also a standout at UCF during his college basketball career. He brings the experience of having played the game of basketball at a high level, as well as coaching it. Along with coaching and playing, Mike is also a very good personal skill development trainer as well.
1. Mentally Tough
- Ability to think positive and be constructive in every situation
- Ability to self analyze/self diagnose
- Makes free throws
- As primary ball-handler expect to be fouled in late game situations
- Play through injuries
- Accept criticism from coaches and teammates
- Be great in your conditioning all through the season… always ready to play entire game
- Stay focused and in tune with the flow of the game while on the bench
- Hates losing
- Relentless worker
- First one in, last one to leave
- Challenge teammates
- Challenge coaches (respectfully)
- Watches film/studies opponent
2. High Basketball IQ
- Great in the open floor
- Navigate the ability to always know time, score, and possession
- Coach on the floor
- Ability to control tempo
- Recognize flow of the game
- Don’t be perfect
- Voice in the huddle. Doesn’t always matter what you say, just that you are saying something
- Comprehension of scouting reports
3. Solid Defender
- Great point guards find a way to affect the game in any way possible
- Becoming a respected defender makes opposing coaches strategize for it
- No player is a perfect defender. Perfect your craft… be a lock down defender in the half court, be a pesky in the full court, have incredible awareness as a help-side defender, and focus on never getting beat off the dribble
4. Physically Tough
- First to the floor
- Put in the time in the weight room
- Lead team in charges taken
5. Excellent Ball-Handler
- Doesn't have to be flashy.
- Be efficient… don’t use 4 dribbles when you are quick enough to beat your opponent with one. Think about it, you are wasting energy.
- Be a great ball-handler in the open court and in tight spaces (there is a difference)
- Creating distance is the most import thing
- For you shot, the offense, and tempo
6. Strategic Passer
- Every pass MEANS something
- On time, on target
- Recognize the hot hand
- Don’t be afraid to enjoy the hockey assist (make the extra pass that leads to the assist)
- Great passers actually practice passing
- Become a great “post-feeder”
7. Have a Go-To Move
- Key for shot clock, end of regulation, or if team is stagnant on offense
- The step back jump shot should be your best friend… just ask Chris Paul
8. Respected 3-Point Shooter
- Stretches defense
- Takes pressure off your scorers
- Opens up your penetration
- Keeps defense honest
So why do you not see “Leader” listed in the group of eight? Well, what does a leader even mean? All of the above listed qualities that equate to a great leader… but that does not define leadership. A player could have only three qualities listed above and still be considered a “leader” or having “leadership type qualities”.
I did not use leadership as a point guard essential for a reason. The term “Leadership” is the most overused, misunderstood, and misinterpreted word in sports. A player could be stubborn, unapproachable, and un-coachable and still be a leader… if he starts affecting his teammates in a negative way he is still a leader… just not the kind of leader you envision when you hear that word.
That negative player that was just described can create followers and he/she may not even know it. A point guard can yell, scream, pound the floor on defense and be perceived (to the fans) as a great leader. However, yelling and screaming does not mean that the player has control of the locker room, huddle, or off the court scenarios.
Acting on your emotions are the complete opposite of what true leadership is all about.The ability to affect your teammates on and off the court, in a positive way, to maintain the overall goal of winning (as a team) makes you a truly good leader.
You don’t have to be a leader to be a point guard… but it sure will set you apart… You don’t have to have all of the eight point guard essentials listed above… but it sure is coveted by basketball coaches… you don’t have to do half of that and be a good point guard. The choice is up to you to go from good to great. The margins are so small and yet so far apart. Focus on closing the margins and you won’t have to worry about being good, rather, people will tell you that you are great.
Thank you to Brendan Suhr, Donnie Jones, Chris Mayberry, and Drew Speraw for their input and guidance in this article.