Coach John Saintignon is a former division-I assistant coach from Oregon State University, a former high school head coach from the state of Arizona and one of the all-time leading scorers at USC. Coach Saintignon also currently coaches and trains professional players overseas and will lead the Coach’s Corner series on Arizona Preps.
What do I look for in a player?
This is asked of me all the time. I am looking for something that is special beyond just basketball for example to begin with. I am looking for a person who has their shoes tied, shirt tucked in, shakes hands firmly, and looks you in the eye and can say yes sir/no sir.
This first impression is formulated in the first 7 seconds of us meeting. From that point on, if that first meeting is good, then I will give the player the benefit of the doubt for mistakes on the court. If the first impression is not like that, and I see a player with flip flops, hat on backwards, sloppy, can't talk, shake hands, nor look you in the eye and has no respect, well I will be tougher of the mistakes that occur.
I want players at different levels to have different expectations. But there are some major principles that I want them to have to go along with the obvious skill sets. I want the players to chase their dreams, by using basketball as a tool to get an education. With our Orange County (OC) Magic program, www.ocmagic.org, the lessons are taught early to use basketball as a tool to get an education, from our very young players, learning how to shake hands, be on time, and have an appearance.
Our High School division, is more intense as I want them to be able to talk to me about other things other than just basketball. I want them to have to think on the court, and most practices I will stop the activity to see if they can explain back to me what is going on, to have court presence. For the Professional athletes, I hold them to the highest standard, because I want them to think like business people. I want them to think that they are the CEO of their own companies and to think about profits/losses, and appearance and how they talk, act, walk and find solutions to problems, to have awareness and presence.
This is the question that I ask them: What do you desire? If it's money, then we are probably going to have a difficult time moving ahead, as I am more concerned initially in their abilities to handle the media; the ups/downs with winning; the discipline of being on time for morning practices; fighting fatigue to get through practice; facing those who blame them for non performance, etc.
I want players to demonstrate that they can show me that they want to Chase their Dreams. Be that a High School player going after his/her dream of playing NCAA basketball, or the NCAA player who wants to now play professionally for a living. I want to see that. How can that be shown? Body language, smiling, having fun, enjoyment in the game, talking to teammates, accepting responsibility for things going wrong, interaction on the sideline, timeout discipline paying attention, thanking teammates for passes, help on defense, rebounding. How to enter the ball into the post, how to make a wing entry pass, pressure reaction, calm or nervous? There is so much that I pay attention to, besides if a player can make a basket.
Once I see that, then I will look at the footwork, the separation skills, the ability to use 2 dribbles in the half court, the ability to use the floor horizontally. How they play defense, do they cut the court in half, do they force to the sideline and baseline, do they not allow middle, do they get deflections.