Plenty of college hoopsters choose to play in local leagues during the summer. Such leagues -- like the S.J.G. Greater NC Pro Am summer league, which comprises college players, NBA stars and local recruits from the Durham and Raleigh area in North Carolina -- give players a chance to play semi-organized ball with fellow teammates and other talented players in a game setting. It's not exactly a structured setting, but it is a type of practice, and you know how you get to Carnegie Hall, don't you?
NC State coach Sidney Lowe isn't quite so convinced. Several of his players are playing in the aforementioned S.J.G. league, including senior forward Tracy Smith and highly touted incoming freshman C.J. Leslie. Those players seem to be enjoying themselves. But Lowe is worried the lack of structure in summer leagues leads to bad habits:
Wolfpack coach Sidney Lowe remains a bit wary, though, of the benefits to be gained from playing in a casual summer-league setting where players are cheered for dunks and circus-style shots, not a well-set pick. When Lowe was a point guard at NC State, he said, he played in a total of four summer league games in two years. He thought it was a better use of his time, Lowe said, to "work on his game."
He lets his players participate, however, with one caveat. "Don't go pick up bad habits," Lowe said. "You pretty much play the same way. I know it's going to be a little looser than normal, but don't go out there and pick up bad habits."
As someone who displays horrendously lazy pickup basketball habits on a near-daily basis -- phew, I'm gassed, no way I'm hedging out on that screen -- I can kind of attest to what Lowe's concerns. (Not that my laziness and college basketball-level laziness are anywhere near one another in the Laziness Galaxy, obviously.) There is a major gap between casual summer league hoops and the way college coaches want their teams to play. The work rate is entirely lower; team defense can become nonexistent. The little things that make basketball teams successful can get lost in the fray, while the bigger, flashier plays -- not to mention prodigious scoring -- are celebrated above all.
At the same time, basketball is basketball, and Lowe (or any college coach) has plenty of time to iron out the bad habits his players pick up over the summer in intense practice sessions come October. They don't run sprints in summer league, either, but they're a remarkably effective motivational tool.
(Hat tip: Mike Miller)