Ball Reversal: Defining it, the importance of it and improving upon it

Coming into a new program allows the coaching staff to take a look at last year’s film and see where their current team and opponents are from a talent and x’s and o’s standpoint. 

One of the main components that I look for when watching tape is does our team or do our opponents get adequate ball reversal. 

DEFINING BALL REVERSAL: First, let’s define ball reversal. Ball reversal to me is any time the ball moves, with pace, from one side of the floor to another. That is, if the ball starts on the right side of the floor and has to be dribbled to the left side of the floor in a non-attacking manner, then that, to us, is not a true ball reversal. However, if the ball is reversed via the pass, with pace, or off the bounce relatively quickly, those actions do count as ball reversals. 

THE IMPORTANCE OF BALL REVERSAL: As most basketball coaches know, ball reversal is key for running a successful offense. For our program, we want to play on at least three sides of the floor. That is while under the restriction of a 30 second shot clock in the women’s game, our team strives to move the ball via the pass or attack dribble from the left-right-left or from the right-left-right. 

Moving the ball allows the defense to make a mistake. Whether it is lack of communication, slow help rotations or poor closeouts on shooters or drivers, playing on three sides of the floor is critical for our program’s offensive success. 

IMPROVING UPON BALL REVERSAL: In order to ensure timely and adequate ball reversal coaches need to continually teach, drill and emphasize their teams on:

1. How to move on the weak side of the court without the ball.

2. How to use timely cutting action to relieve pressure.

3. How to get receivers open on time via L-cuts/V-cuts from all spots on the perimeter, especially those spots in their offensive system.

4. How to clear space on the catch via jab steps and rip throughs to allow ball reversal passes to get to their intended target safely.

5. How to use dribble penetration, with a purpose, to attract multiple defenders.

Continual training on these techniques will improve the ability to play on multiple sides of the floor in a fluid manner. As an added bonus, playing on 3 or more sides of the floor keeps all members of the team engaged on each possession because the ball is being shared. In addition, increased ball reversal will most likely result in increased offensive production due to the defense being caught out of position, being physically fatigued and/or being mentally disenfranchised. 

Follow Bert DeSalvo on Twitter @CoachDeSalvo

The Drive

Little did I know that when I started my coaching career it would take me to gymnasiums all over the country. As a head college basketball coach, I have expanded my gym list tenfold, as I have spent countless hours driving all over the east coast, Pennsylvania, Ohio, DMV, etc. seeing prospects. 

From carpeted middle school gyms in Providence to Big 10 Arenas in Iowa, I have coached in tons of gyms just about everywhere (Phog Allen is still on my bucket list!). No state is too big; no court is too remote.

However, some of my favorite moments are on the blacktop of the outdoor courts I grew up on. As a South Kingstown, Rhode Island native, I was fortunate to have access to Wakefield School, Tuckertown Park, Potter’s Woods, Old Mountain Field and my personal favorite, the Damn Street Courts.

Little did I know that all of my time spent by myself working on my game was really just preparing me for when my playing career ended. When I went to college, I missed the orange ball bouncing so much that I decided to get into coaching immediately. I have spent nearly half my life coaching at this point and the rest they say is history.

I tried to instill this same love for the game with all of my players. Some had the itch more than others but I was fortunate to coach some wonderful young men and women during my various coaching positions.

Yesterday, I was blessed to make the drive to see one of my favorites, Kate LaBelle get married to Mike McCord. During the drive to Lake George, I started thinking of all of the time I spent with her and others getting them one-on-one workouts at the aforementioned courts. The hours are countless.

I used to tell my players that “nobody cares about you on a Tuesday night in the summer, but you!” When their friends were off having fun or lounging in an air conditioned room my players were working on their game. It was a sacrifice. But the sacrifice paid off in the form of an affection for the game. It was a sacrifice for me too I suppose. However, it was an investment in my future as a coach and it was a chance to build unbreakable bonds with some tremendous people.

I coached Kate at the AAU and High School levels. She was always one of the hardest workers I have coached. Her passion, enthusiasm and her ability to overcome adversity (ACL injury) have undoubtedly helped to shape her approach towards life. They are forever linked.

Kate went on to be the captain of her High School basketball team and she then played at the NCAA Division III college level for Springfield College.

More impressive than the love for the game was the love that she displayed teaching children. Kate honed her leadership skills at the beautiful Silver Bay YMCA, where her wedding was held and where she eventually met her future husband. Kate is now a teacher and middle school head coach in Vermont. Very fitting.

To see former players grow up as responsible adults, contributing to society is truly a rewarding experience. I joked with some of the staff at Silver Bay that I wrote Kate a letter of recommendation for her job there so I kind of played match maker. Honestly though, that is not the case.

The real truth is that Kate made great decisions and maximized her potential to EARN where she is. However, I tend to believe that some of our workouts/practices may have helped her achieve this success.

I’m glad that I had the opportunity to make “the drive” yesterday. I would not have missed it for the world. July recruiting can be a “grind” as many of my colleagues complain or boast (…that is another subject for another blog). However, nothing would have stopped me from attending. All of my hard work getting to where I am coaching is just so I can make “the drive“. Without the opportunity to make “the drive” you have to ask yourself “is it even worth it?”

The fact that my players remember the lessons learned and time spend together almost a decade after I last coached them is flattering to me. I never thought I would have this sort of an impact on my players. It is truly an honor.

Coaches teach their players to drive middle or drive baseline and score it. However, as coaches “the drive” is the real reward.

I feel as though I will have many more graduations and weddings to attend, and many more letters of recommendation to write.

The players I have coached truly are family. They don’t have to tell me that and I don’t have to tell them that.

“The Drive” says it all.



Follow Bert DeSalvo on Twitter @CoachDeSalvo


How Student-Athletes Can Help Themselves in the Recruiting Process

I went to evaluate an AAU practice last evening and during the practice the Head Coach came up to me and asked “What do you look for in a recruit?” 

I told her “Great question.” 

My first response was that first the player has to be of caliber and have a certain skill set in order to even be considered. If they do pass the “eye test”, then other factors come into play. 

She then asked me another great question. “How can players help their cause in the recruiting process?”

Here are some things that PSA’s can do to help their cause during the recruiting process:


1. Respond Quickly to College Coaches 

There is nothing worse as a college head coach than having to wait to receive NCAA Clearinghouse numbers, unofficial/official transcripts, game tape, etc. I want PSA’s who are eager to be a part of our program and show me by responding quickly to my requests. 

Being sharp and on point with paperwork and deadlines is very important especially for coaching staffs with limited resources and time. If players can handle this aspect during the recruiting process then more than likely then will be able to handle the rigors of balancing college academics, college basketball and social life.

2. Attend College Basketball Games

I believe that PSA’s do not have an accurate picture of what it means to be a college basketball player. I encourage all PSA’s to watch D1, D2 and D3 college basketball games in order to self evaluate their skill set. Only by doing this will PSA’s know what it takes to compete at a certain levels of college basketball. 

3. Introduce Yourself

College coaches attend numerous recruiting events where they evaluate countless PSA’s. Differentiate yourself. Reach out to college coaches with thoughtful mailings and emails. Coaches are human; they also like to feel wanted in the recruiting process so showing them interest can be helpful for PSA’s.

In addition, I know from personal experience that I do my best to respond to each and every email I get from PSA’s regarding their interest. Although many do not have the ability to play at our level, some do and that initial connection and persistence that the PSA may make, can make all the difference. 

These factors, along with other criteria specific to each coaching staff/program, will definitely have a major impact on the recruiting process for many PSA’s who are competing for limited scholarship and roster spots in the competitive world of college basketball.

Follow Bert DeSalvo on Twitter @CoachDeSalvo