Tale of the Tape: FSU Men’s basketball

The Pioneer recently took an inside look into Ferris State’s three first place sports programs — women’s basketball, men’s basketball and hockey — in the heat of a conference title chase. This is the second story in a three part series examining how the programs utilize game film and technology to prepare for opponents. Today the Pioneer revisits a film session with the men’s basketball team. Tomorrow we conclude the series with a look at FSU hockey.

BIG RAPIDS — Bill Sall is preaching movement to his team, who sit quietly while breaking down film in preparation for a big week of GLIAC basketball action.

Movement, Sall said, will be crucial for the Bulldogs on the defensive end in the event that one of the Bulldogs get beat in a one-on-one situation.

STUDYING: Ferris State men's basketball players watch as film is broken down during a recent practice. (Pioneer photo/Martin Slagter)

The film confirms what Sall is asking for: Helpside defense arrives because players are thinking on their feet.

“With the defense, if you’re in a situation where you might make a mistake, what a world of difference it makes when people are moving (to help defend),” he said.

Heading into a weekend where they’ll face Wayne State and Findlay with a two game lead in the GLIAC North, the Bulldogs start off the week with a film session following practice at 5:30 p.m. on Monday.

The players sit in a semi-circle crowded around a video monitor inside the men’s basketball lockerroom. The film discussion, which goes for about 30 minutes, is led by coach Sall with only some interjection from his players.

Sall and his staff usually only show about 15 minutes worth of tape to their team in any one sitting. It helps to serve the players with shorter sessions of film because anything more can overload them with information.

“The one thing with tape is, you can overburden them,” he said. “Their attention spans tend to be about 15 minutes. After that, they’re lost. You just try to keep it short. It certainly helps you correct errors that are correctable.”

On Monday, the Bulldogs are taking a look at their own tape from a game over the weekend against Ashland.

Earlier in the week the FSU coaching staff will generally go over the team’s own film from the past week. As the games approach, players will watch film on Tuesday and then a final session on Wednesday at Sall’s house, where they’ll look at their opponent for about 45 minutes.

What is broken down will depend on the opponent, Sall said. Many times, the staff goes over individual players from opposing teams and how the Bulldogs should defend them. They’ll also go over the opposing team’s sets and tendencies on defense.

“When we get to them, we’ll go more to individual players, so that they can see what the tendencies are of the players that they’re going to guard,” he said. “We also go through (the opposing team’s) sets and what their tendencies are on defense.”

Sall makes a point of highlighting key areas of importance for Thursday’s game against Wayne State and how it applies to his team’s own film against Ashland.

The comments are quick and the film session covers a lot of ground.

“Loose balls were 50/50 (against Ashland),” he said. “Against Wayne (State) that’s going to be so important.”

The instructions also apply to his team in relation to where they are on the court offensively.

“We’ve got to get lower in the post,” Sall said. “We don’t want to be posting up more than 15 feet away from the basket.”

To get the film sessions down to a reasonable, digestible length, the coaches will work overtime to ensure they know their players are getting the most essential information.

That’s why Sall can spend between 36 and 40 hours a week breaking down tape earlier in the week. Typically, Sall said he’ll watch each opponents last five games on film, highlighting anything significant tendencies or changes in personnel the team might be undergoing. If the Bulldogs have two opponents that weekend, Sall will watch about 10 games worth of fim.

As much as his team benefits from scouting their opponent, Sall believes they actually take more beneficial information from watching themselves on video.

“One thing that is interesting is, as technology has advanced, it’s given you the ability to do more,” he said. “How much more you’re getting out of spending that time, I don’t know, as far as scouting goes.

“I think it helps your team out more to actually watch themselves more,” he added. “With the advances in technology, to be able to splice the film down and have them actually watch clips of themselves, you can certainly see the players use that.”

Film is seen as most beneficial to players, although some players use it to their advantage more than others, assistant coach Andy Bronkema said.

That’s why it’s important to provide the entire team with a variety of different learning tools to cover different learning styles.

“Different people learn different ways,” Bronkema said. “Some learn when you’re yelling to them on the court. They need to be able to see it, though. To be able to slow it down, break it down and have them see it is beneficial.”

During Monday’s session, FSU guards Kenny Brown and Dietrich Lever joke back and forth in the lockerroom about defending the screen and roll in preparation for a game against Wayne State.

For the most part the Bulldogs are quiet and attentive while Sall breaks down the film, but Lever’s critique of Brown’s defense breaks up the video discussion for a brief moment.

While Brown defended his positioning on the defensive end, Lever joked that Brown wasn’t in the right position.

“I didn’t know (my man) was gonna roll,” Brown said.

“That’s not a good excuse,” Lever countered as the pair laughed.

It was a short moment during the session, but was a prime example of what purpose watching film serves.

“The film doesn’t lie,” Sall said. “You can tell someone until you’re blue in the face that they’re not playing hard, or not boxing out. But if they see it, it’s more correctable.”

While technology has made scouting an opponent more accessible, it doesn’t make preparation a lot easier or give any particular team an edge with Xs and Os.

“We literally watch every game a team has played all season long,” Bronkema said. “There are no secrets out there.

“There’s overkill, too,” he added. “We’ve had some great game plans together on paper. Worrying about us before them is key. You can’t do one and ignore the other, but you certainly have to worry about yourself first.”

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