From the Xavier Basketball Newsletter


We use the 3 on 3 full court game to tell us who can play and who cannot. It gives us a truthful look into our future because this game exposes players in a meaningful way. Moreover, the coaching staff and players can see who is fit and knows how to win!

The game also improves cardiovascular fitness quicker than any track specific work that I know. Why? Because we are doing anaerobic and aerobic work without the players really having to look at it as conditioning”. In other words, we get to sing while we work, or should I say “play.”

The players like this game mostly because it emulates the game itself.

We use heart monitors during this game. This is an objective measurement. Our players heart rates are normally above 190 beats per minute. Ouch. We want to be as objective as possible when evaluating our players. This takes the guess work out of what you are doing. The more criteria/tests we can use the better. Yet, we do not want the players to think it is all an exam. If you asked me what one competition/game we use to assess our players, 3 on 3 full court is the game- the best of the best.

Smart coaches consider the advantages and disadvantages of any game! drill. The obvious pluses include:

1) The accurate measurement;
2) The easy evaluation of the who (i.e. which players and combinations know how to win by charting each win/loss); 3) The ability to see who can pass, cut, and score by eliminating the dribble completely;
4) The elimination of the dribble also creates “team first as the 3 players must assist each other to get the ball up the floor; this immediate adversity pushes the players toward each other;
5) The coaches can see which players want to play defense, and actually know to move;
6) The games are played to 2 points (i.e. one point/basket) because this allows you to quickly observe who knows how to win and play under pressure I either offensively or defensively.

I do not know any salient disadvantages to this game. While the players do not like 3 on 3 full court without the dribble initially, they eventually ask to play this game. You can add the dribble by saying that this will be a 1, 2, or 3 dribble day: you will be a hero–enjoy.

The Rules

1. No Dribble

Forces players to pass the ball
Cut-and-replace action by necessity
Fitness level improved
Footwork improved by necessity
Quick ball movement required

How? Tell players there will be no dribble until they learn that this is a team game.

2. Game played to 2 points

Quick games
Coaching staff can evaluate wins and losses
Who makes frequent game winning passes/shots under real game pressure
Who can get stops and/or defensive rebounds
Who is mentally/physically tough

3. Fouling

Defense calls fouls
The second foul by defensive team on the same possession results in a loss by that team.
Keeps the games moving and does not let games get out of hand.

4. Taking a charge

If defense takes a charge the game is won by that team.
Puts emphasis on taking the charge.

5. The long outlet

When the winners court has a team win they call over the team leading or who has won from the losers court. If there is a tie on That court then next point scored determines the winner.
The winning team may set up under the basket to inbound the ball with the other two players al half court ready to go as the winners. From the losers court sprint over to play. The winners may outlet the ball to half court but not over the half court line. This allows the other team time to get set. However, the winners from the losers court must sprint over and once the first playlr has entered the court the ball may be thrown to half court, but not over. This really keeps the game moving.

6. No cherry picking

Serves no real purpose.

Once the ball has crossed half court, either with pass or dribble, all three players on the offensive team must cross half cort as the ball is scored–period.

7. Ball must be picked up by three quarters court

Allows coaches to see who can play defense.
Exposes the individual and the team.
Exposes players and ultimately assists players to improve their fitness level.

If the defensive team does not pick up at three quarters court, they lose a point and, if it happens a second time, they lose the game.


1. Winners Court/Loser’s Court

Emphasize the “King of the mountain” cocept. You win and your team stays on the winner’s court. Hence, every team is looking to beat you as the wins accumulate.
Call it what it is–winner’s court and loser’s court
All teams waiting to play come here from the loser’s court. There is never an overflow on the winner’s court.
If the winners from the loser’s court finish before the winner’s court has completed their game, they will wait until the winner’s game is decided, and this happens very rarely.
The losers from the winner’s court goes immediately to the loser’s court to play. They do not go to the end of the line and wait to play.

2. Running Time

Put 20:00 on the clock for the first week you play this game.
The game will exhaust you players. You can add 5:00 per week. You wil see you players physically adjusing quality vs. quantity.

3. Changing Rules and Empahsis

You can add the dribble as time passes.
You can change certain rules per session or weeks. For example, the ball must go inside befoer it is shot. Or, we want one screen and roll before the bal is shot.
This allows the coach to see things and foces players to incorporate different situations.

In conclusion, the “try it, you’ll like it,” statement applies here. The 3 on 3 winner’s/losers’s court game is on the best instructional games we do in our pre-season. This game allows you to objectively evaluate your team.

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