The outline below, from Dick Tarrant, originally appeared in the Winter ’82 edition of the NABC Basketball Bulletin. It can also be found in ‘Coaching Basketball’ by Jerry Krause.
Essentially, this outline is a guide to follow when scouting an opposing basketball team — it is essentially a guide to help you better understand how to scout a basketball team!
Learn to properly prepare for an upcoming opponent with the following tips and techniques. Watch games with a purpose and a plan — this guide will help your skills and organization!
Before a game begins, a scout should follow these guidelines:
- Gather general information before entering the gym (from local newspapers, coaching friends, and so on).
- Get to the game site early.
- Obtain a program — if none is available, get the players’ numbers from the scorer’s table well in advance of tip-off. If stats are available, get them.
- Sit halfway up the bleachers, not at courtside.
- Avoid all distractions.
- Sit alone or with a person you brought along.
- Observe the warm-up routine carefully.
- Assess the players’ sizes if a program is unavailable.
- Try to perceive their “readiness” to play.
- Become a fan – tonight you analyze!
- Get irritated and distracted with inept officiating.
- Take a lot of notes – especially early in the game.
- Get distracted by those around you. Try to isolate, if possible.
- Leave the game early.
- Totally concentrate. The only note-taking should be jotting down the starters by number and position.
- Observe carefully the general flow of the game for a few minutes. Take no notes. Zero in on no individual or particular phase of the game. Be patient.
- Try to determine your opponent’s game plan tonight. Might that also be the game plan for us?
- Jot down an early substitute or two. Why was this change made? Are they far less effective?
III. Team Defense (Basic Defense):
- What is their basic defense they employ?
- Do they change their defenses? How do they defend out-of-bounds plays?
- Are they aggressive or passive? When and where?
- Do they press and trap? Can we expect it?
- How well do they transition to defense?
IV. Sample Notes on Team Defense:
The following are points you may want to make after the game:
- How is their Man-to-man at the arc? Do they pressure the ball? Do they play good helpside?
- If they played zone, when and what kind did they play? Did they trap? Was it tougher inside or outside?
- Were they a good defensive rebounding team?
- Did they press? How did they press and when did they press? (after made baskets, free throws, timeouts, etc…)
V. Individual Defense (Matching up):
- Who was their starting five and where did they play defensively. (esp. if zone)
- Establish the following in your mind (no notes needed):
- Can we get the ball inside against them?
- Can we attack the middle?
- How do they defend the post?
- Do they influence the ball a certain direction? Is it real pressure?
- Do they deny or overplay the passing lanes?
- Do they ‘sustain’ in their defense or will they falter?
- Do they have a defensive star? A stopper?
VI. Team Offense:
A. Do they fast break? When?
- Is it controlled or wild and crazy?
- Do they cherry pick?
- Do they break only off of steals or on missed field goals as well?
- How can we prevent their fast break?
- Do we need disciplined shooting – high percentage shots?
- Do we jam the outlets?
- Are there special areas we should defend in transition?
B. The halfcourt game?
- In our man-to-man defense — What can we do to stop them? What needs to be taken away?
- In our zone defense — Do they have a good zone attack? Should we key on anyone? Who are their perimeter shooters?
- Must our team be alerted to anything special on their out-of-bounds plays?
VII. Individual Offense:
- Can they handle pressure? Do they have good ballhandler’s?
- Are their guards one-side dominant?
- Do they move well away from the ball?
- Do their lane players work hard for position? Do they go after rebounds — from inside or utilizing ‘flyers’?
- What is their individual strength?
VIII. Miscellaneous Notes to Take:
- Do they have an unusual jump ball alignment?
- Any unusual OOB situations?
- Do they have a delay game set? When?
- Anything special about their substitution pattern?
- When you should do the majority of your note-taking and what to write:
- Time-outs and halftime
- Write in your first thought on your matchups.
- Their style of play.
- Their team defense.
- Their team offense.
- Their individual offense.
IX. After the Game:
- Review game and notes. Prepare a brief, concise, to-the-point report for your head coach or team. This report could also be broken up in the following manner:
- Starting line-up, with position, size, grade, etc…
- Individual analysis (be brief but evaluate player preferences)
- Comment on team’s style of play.
- Team defense(s).
- Team offense(s).
- Miscellaneous information — out-of-bounds plays, etc…
- Personal recommendations.
X. Preparing Your Team for an Opponent:
At a pre-practice meeting:
- Type a one- or two-page report for each player, if possible.
- Read the report with the team before working on game plan on the court, or ‘key’ points at end of practice.
- Don’t overrate opposing individuals or the team. Don’t make your players fearful of an opponent, regardless of their skills.
- It is essentially important that you emphasize keys to winning. Be certain you know what has to be done to win. Be honest.
- Ignore trivia (such as player’s favorite moves–personal preferences are important though, i.e., does a player only go left, do they pull up or drive all the way, etc…)
- Pump confidence into your team during the scouting report. Assign match-ups.
- Ask players if they have any ‘pointed’ questions before keying on the floor. Don’t take more than 12 to 15 minutes with the report.
XI. On-the-floor Keying:
- Have an assistant coach take the reserves or scout team to the opposite end of the floor to go half-speed through the opponents’ halfcourt man-to-man offense.
- Spend no more than five minutes on readying your reserves in the above manner.
- Key your top 6 to 7 people against the reserves (opponents). Play man-to-man against their offense. Walk it first. Take away what they want to do! Make points of emphasis immediately, such as taking away certain passing lanes, putting pressure on their guards, stressing blocking out, and so on.
- Key their zone offense against your zone defense, if you play it. Know your individual opponents (reserves) now! Who do you shade off of? Who do close out on very closely?
- Key their out-of-bounds plays.
- Key stopping their transition game, if necessary.
XII. Offense versus Opponent:
Use your regular practice to prepare. Run your regular practice with emphasis on points of attack (toward their center, transition to offense, and so on). Work against your opponent’s basic defense as part of your regular practice. Let your reserves emulate the opponents general game strategy. If your opponent presses a great deal, have your reserves press all day in practice without necessarily telling the team this is what to expect from opponent “X”. NOTE: You do not necessarily need to stress this however. Be aware that your opponent may make subtle or obvious changes in preparing for you!
XIII. Game Night:
Place or use the whiteboard in the locker room to illustrate your game plan, including the following:
- Your defensive game plan.
- Your offensive game plan.
- Miscellaneous information.
- “Keys” to winning tonight — review your basketball philosophy.
Need a place to chart your opponent’s strengths and weaknesses? Get the Basketball Scouting Report Notebook!