Offensive flow & efficiency in the Belgian Euromillions League ’17-’18

During this FIBA national team break, the Euromillions Basketball League 2017-2018 is more or less halfway. Time for a team analysis that focuses on offensive flow and efficiency from a coach’s point of view. By calculating more advanced and meaningful numbers, I want to make some conclusions about the playing styles, weaknesses and strengths of all teams in the league.  Throughout this analysis we will go deeper into these ratings for every team so far this season

You can download the complete PDF report right HERE.



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Visiting Lithuania, a BALL-in’ country

Since a couple of days, the spotlights of international basketball are aimed more then ever on the LKL League, the 1st Division basketball in Lithuania. For the wrong reason. Because LiAngelo (19 years old) and LaMelo (16 years old) Ball signed for the remainder of the season a contract with the Lithuanian club Vytautas Prienu. Whoever follows basketball in the USA knows for sure father Lavar Ball, which oldest son Lonzo plays his rookie season for the L.A. Lakers. On a daily basis father Lavar gets into the sports news with provoking quotes, mostly about the enormous talent of his sons.

About a year ago I decided to visit Lithuania, see picture gallery below. Ever since I wrote a couple of years ago about Lithuania as a talent hotbed for basketball, I got intrigued by this tiny basketball nation. With 3,3 million habitants, Lithuania was a contender almost every time the past decades on the Olympics, World Cup and Eurobasket. On top, they delivered several NBA players as Valanciunas, Motiejunas and Kuzminskas behind earlier legends as Sabonis and Ilgauskas.

The pioneer of Lithuanian basketball, Arvydas Sabonis, founded in ’94 his own basketball school in Kaunas and is since ’11 president of the Lithuanian basketball federation. Visiting his basketball academy was an absolute must for me. In Kaunas I attended also another basketball school of Aisciai. I went to the Euroleague game Zalgiris Kaunas – Darussafaka and a domestic LKL game at Vilnius Rytas. Where-ever I came, from the old-fashioned school gym next to my hotel to the big arenas of Zalgiris/Rytas, the Lithuanian basketball world pays respect to its former glories. The aspect of ignition to the kids is enormous in the rich basketball tradition and culture. Consequently, it is every kid’s dream and proud to play for their team as good as they possibly can. It translates into a huge respect on all levels of young players for their coaching, enhancing deep learning every single practice. This became even more clear when on a Thursday evening I went for a drink in the main street of Kaunas. Every bar had a couple of big screens showing a Euroleague game (between Milan and Bamberg, which as far as I know are not situated in Lithuania 😉 ).  Literally everybody in the bar, women included, where focusing and discussing the basketball game over a beer. Where I come from, as in every other soccer dominated country, this is a wet dream of everybody in the basketball community.

The combination of ignition, deep learning because of the highly motivated kids, and master coaching by that much talent over the past decades seem to be a perfect cocktail for all of their successes. Another proof for the excellent overall youth program is the fact that Lithuanian players are generally known to be good shooters with a proper shooting form. And that’s exactly why the arrival of the brothers Ball is ironic. Formed by their selfmade coach/dad, Lonzo is also known for his odd shooting technique, as you can see below:

In fact, his shooting technique is so odd, that he never can take a shot when coming off a ballscreen to his right. Being right handed, he brings his ball so far to the left that in this situation he brings the ball too close to his defender coming over the screen.

Let’s say that how his two brothers ended up in Lithuania is at least equally odd. The story is that LiAngelo with a couple of teammates in China for stealing and ended up in jail, just before UCLA’s season’s opener in Nov ’17. With the help of president Donald Trump, the got back to the USA after a couple of days. UCLA decided to suspend these athletes indefinitely, upon which father Lavar withdrew his son from College looking for a professional contract overseas, which they found in Lithuania.

So far, the whole operation seems to be a money gig for both the club and the family Ball. The club, that has been struggling financially, upgraded ticket prices, caught huge amount for company names on their jerseys, … while Lavar Ball sees his opportunity to introduce his own sports brand to Europe. Yesterday, the club announced to withdraw from the Baltic League (!!) and will be playing games in the “Big Baller Brand Challenge Games“. I kid you not.

Oh yes, talking basketball again… Will we be discussing a lot the extra value of the 19 and 16 year old Ball brother to the Lithuanian basketball history? Probably not. They haven’t shown at any point to come close to players as Ricky Rubio or Luka Doncic, who played at a very young age at the highest European level.

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A closer look to the defensive ratings in the EuroMillions Basketball League (Belgium) ’17-’18

Except for three delayed game because of the European club competitions, one quarter of the Euromillions Basketball League 2017-2018 is finished. Every team played each opponent one time, with three more meetings to come. Time for a first team analysis of the stats from a coach’s point of view. The source for this report of all traditional stats is the Euromillions Basketball League website.
By calculating more advanced and meaningful numbers, I want to make some conclusions about the playing styles, weaknesses and strengths of all teams in the league. Therefore, it is important to look beyond the traditional stats and to look at the numbers that are statistically more relevant.

You can download the complete PDF report right HERE.

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Why I choose NACsport / KlipDraw for my video analysis

Both individual as team tactics in basketball are very complex. That’s why I think the use video analysis is crucial for a coach in order to teach his basketball philosophy to his players.

For my current season with T71 Dudelange, I chose once again for NACSport software for my video editing. Integrating KlipDraw, it is now very easy to highlight players and actually move them on the court.

Here I show you a sample I made of Serbia (Eurobasket 2017) on how they can improve their spacing in a set play. Judge for yourself. Do you think the software tools help to bring over your message to your players? Have a look:


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How Estudiantes Madrid shook my idea upon basketball in 2010 (and embarrassed me)

2009 was the year that I started to take my coaching career more seriously.  I was completely fond of Spanish basketball and recognized the different skills sets of the players in the so-called ACB compared to Belgium. To improve as a coach, I really wanted to find out how the Spanish youth program worked. At that time, my basketball network was very close to unexisting. So I did not have a better solution than to write e-mails to some Spanish clubs with the question if I could come over to watch and learn.

Without any connections, I started writing mails to the adresses I found on the internet. I seriously doubt if my e-mails in English to or ever reached an English-speaking member close to the staff. After several months (!) I got a short reply by a certain Pablo Borras, youth director of Estudiantes Madrid (next opponent of Donar Groningen to qualify for the Champions League)I did not hesitate for a second, and the very first break during the season, I took a flight to Madrid. I spent four complete days in the gym of Estudiantes, watching practices from the U8 till the professional men’s and women’s team in first division. For days and days, I looked away from the beautiful city of Madrid to take notes while my ass was freezing off in the hard stances in a gym with broken windows.

I must also admit that my very limited basketball philosophy at that point shook on its foundations… I saw U10 players:
– taking three-pointers
– making the craziest hop lay-ups
– learning to make one handed passes off the dribble
– continu their practice after 90′ on an outside court while it was almost freezing
– …
Discussions with the local coaches and youth director made me understand all the “WHY’s” behind every drill and I must say that I still use some of concepts and drills today.

In the stances over there, I also got to know a young Brittish coach named Joe Riley. Basically, he gave up his life in the UK for two consecutive seasons to invest in himself as a coach.  He absolutely wanted to discover all secrets of the Spanish youth program to take one day to his home country.  He spent every day in the gym, taking notes.  Since a couple months, Joe and I got in touch via Twitter.  Joe is organizing all his notes into practice plans for youth programs. This is extremely valuable resource for every young coach! It shows the secrets behind the youth program that produced players like Sergio Rodriguez, Juancho Hernangomez or Felipe Reyes. Please have a look at his Twitter account or website and show some love for his unpaid efforts back in the days. Tremendous respect, Joe!

My trip to Estudiantes was also an eye-opener to the important step from a talent to a basketball team at the highest level.  I saw a 16 year old Jaime Fernandez which grew later to a franchise player for the club (now playing for the first time for another club in the Liga Endesa).  In 2013, I saw him again as one of the key players of the European Championship U20 in Estonia.  I remember him (21 pts, 6 ast, 5 reb)  killing Antetokounmpo (5 pts) and Greece for a spot in the semi-finals.

My love for Spanish basketball only grew during that trip in 2010 and it was for sure not my last trip over there, which you will read about in one of the next stories.

Well, after all, I can’t finish this blogpost without telling this embarassing story… I was sitting in the stance with youth director Pablo and asking why they would teach U10 players to throw one-handed passes off the dribble, even when some players were definitely not ready to do so. I explained Pablo that in those days you could almost get fired in Belgium by doing so.  I will never forget the look on his face at that moment. He started laughing out loud and told me: “Watch a high-level game and count the number of two-handed passes… The only one you will see is the pass from the referee to a player on the free throw line”.  I quickly realized he was right and how stupid it must look to practice two-handed chest and bounce passes then… Quite embarassing… Common sense, right?

When it comes down to teaching the skills set for a modern basketball player, 20 year old textbooks aren’t the best resources… Watch some Eurobasket & Euroleague games and its best players! Basketball is a quickly evolving sports, one of the reasons I love the game so much!

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“The Four Factors behind a good offensive rating” applied on the Euromillions Basketball League

This report handles another look on the Belgian League from a coach’s point of view. More specifically, I want to use advanced basketball stats to find the crucial factors behind the best and worst offensive teams in the League.

In this analysis, I will focus on the secrets behind the offensive ratings. Having a better “offensive system”, what does it mean? How can you recognize it? Too often, verbals like a “solid offensive system” are very trendy to use, but where should you focus on as a coach? I will discuss the four crucial parameters behind a solid offense and compare the performances of all teams in those aspects to the general standings.

You can download the complete PDF report right HERE.


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VBL Blog: “Basketbalstats: van hightech snufjes tot nuttige tools voor jeugdcoaches” (dutch)

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Pascal Meurs’ blog: “Analysis of the first part of the Belgian Euromillions League (’16-’17)”

For This Is Basketball I made an analysis of the first part of the Belgian Euromillions Basketball League. I compare the type of play and results of all teams by taking a closer look to some more profound statistical parameters.

You can download the complete PDF report right HERE.







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International coaching clinic in Doha (Qatar)

This beginning of May I was invited for the second time by the Qatar Basketball Federation (QBF) and the Qatar Olympic Academy (QOA) as a lecturer for several clinics. Around 80-90 coaches from all over the Arabic world showed to attend this International Coaching Clinic in Doha, supported by FIBA.

Many thanks to the hospitality of the QBF and QOA and to all the participating coaches.


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My season in the Dutch Basketball League

Last week our season already ended with BSW Weert in the Dutch Basketball League, (1st Div men’s basketball in Holland). The days after a season’s ending, as a coach you always make some reflections and an evaluation about your journey. As I did the exercise, I want to share some of these thoughts with the readers of my blog.

BSW Weert - season 2015-2016 (not on picture: Thomas Dreesen)

BSW Weert – season 2015-2016 (not on picture: Thomas Dreesen)

Well, we ended last in the ranking with only 3 victories over the season… So this could be a very short evaluation, no? Well, maybe not. But if you evaluate a player, a coach or a team only based upon whether he wins or not today, you can stop reading right here.

The season of BSW Weert was generally known as a challenge. Due to two consecutives bankrupties of the capital sponsor, the club has by far the lowest budget of the DBL. The difference with for example title contender Donar Groningen is huge. Donar is a team with a budget which is estimated more then 10 (!) times the budget of BSW Weert and has 7 imports (4 USA + 2 naturalized USA/CAN + 1 CRO). Weert has no import players at all (allthough we could add the Belgian Thomas Dreesen as an “import” in January). But also for example the second last team in the ranking, Aris Leeuwarden, plays with three American imports. Therefore, before the season we kept on repeating that we wouldn’t measure the success of this season by the number of victories in the DBL.

Our championship started with a game on the road against Donar Groningen, who also competed in the FIBA Cup. The game ended with a historic 122-57 blow-out… Probably I do not have to sketch our moral after this opening loss to anyone who ever has been part of such a loss as a player or coach. One of our last games of the season, we played again Donar, a game which was important for them to capture the first spot of the regular season. The game ended 95-98 … with a buzzer 3 pt shot of Groningen in overtime… Close, but no cigar!

Well, you are absolutely right, in sports everything can happen and these surprises make our sports so exciting to watch. One can definitely not evaluate a season based upon the result of one single game.

So, I will look to another way to evaluate our season, in order to check whether we reached our individual and collective goals.

Collective progression
As for the collective progression, let us compare the result of our 5 last games, compared with our first games played against the same teams, which I think is quite remarkable:

Collective_progressionI do respect ALL of my players because of the way they kept on working hard this season in very difficult circumstances. By sticking together as a team and continous hard work on a daily base, they kept on growing. I know a lot of other examples where the lack of victories resulted in a misery season which turned out to be lost time for everybody.

Individual progression
As for the individual progression, the focus of the club was on a couple of young talented players on the roster, which are possibly the future of the club. Let me focus on three young talents on the team who didn’t play in the DBL last season and see how they had a huge role on the team during the final part of the season:

statsDoes this mean that in any way that I can be satisfied with this season? Hell no!! Definitely NOT! I’m a winner and one can only be happy or satisfied with a season when results (short term) are combined with individual and collective progression (middle long term). But I can say that this season has been by far the most instructive in my evolution as a coach and I am more ambitious than ever to convert this experience into successes!

Making an evaluation, also means looking to the future. From my very first meeting with the club – the manager and president – when I accepted the challenge of BSW Weert for 2015-2016 (1y contract), I made it clear to be interested to build a program and a plan for several years, on the absolute condition that the club had to grow on all levels in order to become a worthy D1 club: staff, staff support, medical staff, budget, fan base, collaboration with the youth academy, equipment,  … This past season the poor financial situation of the club even got worse, which blocked any improvement of the conditions around the court. The future of the club looks uncertain today (where the decision to start in D1 next season has been postponed), which means that I keep my eyes open for other projects with a better perspective to build a program over several years.

Dutch press:

iBasketball TV – Episode 23
Thanks for the compliments and I completely understand your funny laughs at the end about the upcoming match-up with Donar,  and I would have loved that the buzzer shot had fallen on the other side in our overtime loss… 🙂

Limburgs Dagblad, 10/10/2015

Limburgs Dagblad, 10/10/2015

Blog basketball analyst Leon Kersten,

Blog by basketball analyst Leon Kersten,

Het Laatste Nieuws, 14/10/2015

Het Laatste Nieuws, 14/10/2015

Full games:

           Game 3, Den Bosch SPM Shoeters vs BSW Weert, 15/10/2015

          Game 26, BSW Weert vs Donar Groningen, 5/4/2016

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