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Tribe Spotlight: The next step in prep basketball’s evolution

Tribe Spotlight: The next step in prep basketball’s evolution

Written By JOE STEVENSON (as appeared in the Northwest Herald on Sunday, January 13th, 2013)

Every year, Rich Czeslawski heads to the NCAA Final Four to watch basketball, network and, perhaps most importantly, learn.

Czeslawski had just finished his first season as Crystal Lake Central’s boys basketball coach in 2007 when he headed to Atlanta for the Final Four. While there, he attended a coaching clinic and caught a glimpse of the future.

The clinician, Rick Torbett, is considered one of the foremost basketball teaching authorities in the world and distributes teaching videos on betterbasketball.com, many of which involve his Read and React offense. At that clinic, Czeslawski saw the future of his program with Read and React, an offense that can be taught in layers, offers flexibility against man or zone defenses and can be difficult to scout.

In the ever-evolving world of offensive basketball, Read and React is the latest system to offer coaches ways to attack by utilizing spacing, providing flexibility based on personnel and allowing teams to create offense through coordinated effort. Dribble-Drive Motion, motion and Princeton are other popular ways that use some similar concepts.

“We went to Read and React three years ago. It’s a very intelligent way of teaching a free-flowing offense,” Czeslawski said. “(Cary-Grove girls coach) Rod Saffert is running it. (Prairie Ridge boys coach) Corky (Card) is running it. I don’t really feel it’s a fad offense; it’s a way of teaching offense. You’re teaching offense and empowering players.”

While Czeslawski has had good talent with which to work in those three seasons, he thinks Read and React has helped the Tigers go 60-12 over that stretch.

When Czeslawski invited Torbett to Crystal Lake last summer, there were 40 coaches who attended a roundtable discussion to learn more about Read and React. Johnsburg boys coach Mike Toussaint was one of them, and while he had not fully implemented it with his varsity, the Skyhawks’ feeder program and lower levels are running it.

“I would say there is more freedom now with offenses,” said Toussaint, a 1986 Johnsburg graduate. “When I was playing, it was pass and screen away and everything was pretty structured. Players are more athletic now and there’s more freedom for players. Pass and cut, pass and cut. Everything is going toward the basket. It’s hard to scout because there’s no pattern to it. It used to be you could watch a team and see them do something and know what to expect.”

More offenses may look to screen for players with the ball, but don’t screen away from the ball as much as they used to. Huntley coach Marty Manning, who uses some motion offense principles combined with other offenses, says there usually is a trickle-down effect with trends like this.

“Ten or 15 years ago when the NBA started really calling handchecking, it opened up for guards to dribble and drive,” Manning said. “That filtered down to colleges and then high school kids saw that. And kids practice 3-point shots a lot more, so offenses are tailored around that. On AAU teams, they’re using a lot of dribble-drive.

“Kids today rarely like to sit inside and work on their post moves, they want to shoot 3s and work on ball handling. That’s kind of the way the game has evolved.”

Also, defenses have gotten better. And more physical. Czeslawski and Manning both say players don’t enjoy posting up as much because of the physical play inside.

“Along the block you’re going to get elbowed and pushed around,” Manning said. “It’s natural that kids don’t want to do that. That’s a negative for offenses because it’s harder to make a 19-footer than a 2-footer. That’s probably why you see lower shooting percentages.”

Jacobs coach Jim Hinkle runs a more structured flex offense, but also uses some motion offense with the Golden Eagles. But he prefers his offense to be unstructured.

“A perfect night is if we don’t have to set up, we just get the ball up the floor and run,” Hinkle said. “Half-court is our secondary game, but the half-court has become the primary game for most teams. Take your time, throw your 10 passes. I’m still like (legendary Ohio State football coach) Woody Hayes, who said, ‘When you pass, three things can happen and two of them are bad.’ When you shoot, two things can happen and only one is bad.”

Czeslawski likes the unpredictability that Read and React offers, along with the way it can be taught and added to as players progress. He has taught a couple layers in his feeder system, then they add more as players move up.

“Spacing is still the most important thing with offense,” Czeslawski said. “We’re teaching spacing and empowering players. What the guy with the ball does, people react to. There are aspects of other offenses with it. We were at a camp and three coaches saw snippets of what we were doing. One asked if we were running dribble-drive, one thought it was Princeton and one thought it was the triangle.”

5 Comments
  • Clara
    Posted at 16:21h, 27 January Reply

    What an encouraging and enlightening artical.

    The fun of Read and React is the “structured surprise element” …
    Which also gives the players a sense of “I (we) did that” …
    Personal and team pride.
    (Not just; the coach gets credit for a good play.)

    One player said, “NBA plays like we do”. A mother said the same, “Your team plays like the NBA”… likely because of the spacing, movement and attacking the basket.

    Now that my JV players have fair success with the first 6 levels they show a lot of energy and joy at hearing they just learned another level; like level 15, Power Dribble, Level 12 Ball screens and level 18 Press Break. Even though these levels are out of order. We can now pick and choose what we need next.

    I could never teach basketball with confidence if it weren´t for the Read and React. I always had a feeling of what should I be doing? I learned to coach by watching other coaches… now watching other coaches just messes me up and confusses me. I am a hard core Read and React coach.

  • Scott H.
    Posted at 03:05h, 13 February Reply

    great Article, would love to see more teams use the R & R especially teams that are less athletic and rely on execution to beat those more talented…I believe the R & R can be the “Great Equalizer”

    As a HS official myself, I see so many teams press the whole game even then they’re up big because offensive patience and execution in the half court are slowly dwindling or the kids don’t simply know how to be patient….I can understand you have to play to your strengths but teaching kids how to play offense is the premise of the R & R and those coaches that are using it are doing just that…

  • Brian
    Posted at 23:36h, 21 March Reply

    The more I learn about the R&R the more I can see how successful teams can be implementing it but it does take a leap of faith and dedication. You must expect a loss or two in the first few games for teams new to it. I have had to convince new assistant coaches who are purely defense minded (as it is easier to teach) that if they are patient they’ll get great defensive looks in practice and it’ll show in games. I had a coach tell me we weren’t all that great on offense yet (only 4 practices at that time before the games and I couldn’t be there for it..he took over for the 2 games we had that day) but the defense played well and as yet we hadn’t had any focused defensive practice. Why? We had only practiced the first couple layers but had plenty of shell drill looks. He wasn’t yet sold on the offense because his thinking was that that’s all we were doing…offense. He seemed to think the players were just naturally gifted defenders I guess. Also, my players who played a season in it have said how much they like it because it takes the “selfishness” out of the game. They all had their own opportunities in it. I’d love to be able to implement the R&R in a school program with 5 day a week practice (right now we have 2). I feel we’d have the advantage even with less athletic players.

  • Wade
    Posted at 21:11h, 27 March Reply

    Five years ago I wanted to find more information on the Dribble Drive offense, when I came across an add for the Read and React. I started reseaching the Read and React and was lucky to find that a clinic was taking place that weekend in Bufford Georgia. I called a couple of my assistants and asked them to pack, we are going to Georgia and learning a new way to teach offense. That clinic was awesome, we watched as Rick helped Emanual College install the offense. It was so simple, we have taught the Read and React since. The thing I like the best about the circle movement is, it teaches kids how to get out of the way when the ball penetrates and still gets them open looks.

  • Win
    Posted at 16:21h, 06 May Reply

    This is my 3rd year running the read and react and 1st year at another school. Three years ago I was looking for an offense that I could use against a man to man and a zone. At the time my main offense against man to man was the DDM and two zone offenses. The DDM to me didn’t have enough continuity, required to much thinking from the players and was disrupted by sagging defenses. The first year when I made the switch was the roughest, as a coach wasn’t a 100% committed wanted to still hold on to my favorite offensive sets. Went back, watched filmed an analyed our offense and realized we were more effective when we ran the R&R. Second year a 100% committed we ran 5 out set, with returning players our point total increased by 20 pts a game and our win total increased a 100% . Moved to another school this year an implemented the R&R as the season progressed points per game increased by 15-18 points and wins started to increase. Bottom line, as a coach I will never use another system other than the R&R.

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