Thursday, January 29, 2009

Game Log 1/29/2009: Movin' on up...

Top big school girls' against middle of road school girls. Top school was up by 10 out of the gate, middle school hung around between 5 and 8 in the second quarter, and top school blew it open in the third. Oh, and the JV game was barely memorable.

Partners and I worked well together and also didn't work well together. In the first half of the JV game, I really felt like we were on a string, rotating very nicely together. It got a little ragged as the players did, but hey, it was a fine 3-person rotation we had going.

However, in the Varsity game, there were times when I didn't feel like I was on the same page as what my partners were calling.

The first half, they called a few more than I do. Was I taking passes? Nothing too serious, I thought. Our assignor had watched the second quarter and gave us a quick halftime critique, saying that he felt like we weren't protecting the shooter too well. He did, however, say that I had a good and-one at the end of the half. But I can recall one or two light-contact shooting moments that I deemed not enough to call.

In the second half, my partners called quite a bit more than I did. Some of this was simply the luck of the draw...there was a long stretch where I was the C and all the action on both ends of the floor was very far away from me (may have even stretched to 4 or 5 minutes of play). I'm not going to reach to call anything in T or L's area, especially on a shot, unless I have a really, really good look (and I recall one of those, actually, that I took). But they kept calling loads of stuff. I only had a few.

I don't want to get overly worked up about this, but I'm noticing I've been calling a little less than partners have lately. Maybe my instinct to notcall stuff until I see a result isn't what's wanted in this association. And I want crew integrity. So I'll have to keep an eye on that.

Not a bad night, though. One of my partners put it well in the locker room after the game: "You know, I can't think of a single call I want back tonight. Not one "oh, man, why'd I blow that whistle?" And neither can I. I probably could have whistled one or two that I didn't, but it was a perfectly adequate evening.

Assignor said I'm rotating too late and too quickly (running rather than the preferred brisk walk). It doesn't take a rocket scientist to see that these two criticisms are related...cause and effect (I go late, so I have to run). I'll solve the first (not waiting so long) and the second will follow.

THINGS I DID WELL: "Looked good after blowing the whistle," I'm told. Picked up rotations well as T and C.
THINGS TO WORK ON: Consider passing on fewer calls, especially on shooters; rotate earlier as Lead.
NEXT UP: Massive blowout JV/Varsity game on Monday night. (First time the teams met, one team scored over 11 times what the other team scored.)

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

A tale of two emails

In ten years of officiating, I had only once heard about a parent responding to my work. I'm certain that assignors filter almost all of the bitching out and shield it from officials, but one day in about 2000, after a smooth-as-silk varsity game between tiny schools...awesome flow, lots of running up and down the floor, quality play, and minimal assignor called me to say that there was parent complaints of terrible pushing, and rough play.

Apparently I'd reffed a game at the Academy of Bizarre Hallucinations.

I told him nothing of the sort happened. He said "Thanks, buddy! That's all I need to know!"

Now I've had two game-related emails get to me in a week--about consecutive games.

The first email was a parental complaint that might have been about these very run-of-the-mill games, or maybe the C-team game that night that I didn't do, or maybe about a game that took place somewhere in the upset mom's brain. Mom claimed that there a player slapped her daughter's face during a jump ball, that one official closed with a jump ball call while "the other" (funny phrasing for a 3-person game) closed with a T, that we ignored the T and continued play, that her daughter was so upset that she removed herself from the game and asked the coach not to be reinserted.

I can certainly understand why this mother is upset, except for the fact that the entire story is fictional.

Seriously, loyal readers...would something like that (a T and a jump ball double-whistle! and conflict about what to call!) have not merited a mention? Would neither coach have uttered a peep about it?

I reviewed my game log, wrote a probably-too-long email back to my assignor, CC-ing my partners, and let it go. Both of my partners followed up thanking me for the email and saying they agreed with my assessment. Assignor loved my email so much that he sent it back to the AD who sent him the mom's letter in the first place. Ah, the advantages of being a writer-ref!

So that's over.

Then, today, another one, about my most recent boys' game.

It was very brief and from the losing coach to the assignor, who forwarded it to my partner and me:

I just wanted to let you know what a great job our officials did Monday night. It was by far the best we have been officiated all year. I don’t remember their names but they did a great job.

Wow! And hmmm...

It's clear that this coach didn't remember me from the previous Monday, when he was as annoyed as any coach all year long. It would have been funny if he'd said "They were WAY better than that last clown we had!" I guess you're only as good as your last call.

So I can't take either comment too seriously, can't say that the coaches/parents who like you are correct and the ones who hate you are delusional. That's some weird kind of critique cherry-picking. But still...what a weird week. Emails about consecutive games!

Monday, January 26, 2009

Game Log 1/26/2009: This was a great, great night.

I returned to the scene of last week's somewhat difficult ballgame for another boys/girls varsity doubleheader. A very unskilled girls' team was playing the number one microscopically-small school in the whole state. (When they played each other the first time, they lost by nearly 80 points.) The boys' team had lost by 40 points as well.

I was a little bit nervous...I don't like returning to a coach who isn't happy so soon after he's unhappy. I think I'm learning most coaches have bad memories, however. I got there my usual hour early to discover that the junior high games in the same gym were running very, very long and that we'd likely start about a half hour late. Our changing room is the coach's office, and he wound up coming in and bullshiting with us (mostly my partner) for about a half hour. I'm not a huge fan of kibbitzing with coaches, but there was nothing we could do (leaving would have been highly rude, there was nowhere to go, and we can hardly throw a guy out of his own office). So we talked about his school, the weather, and guys he's reffed with (he reffed in a nearby town until recently). It calmed me down considerably.

The girls' game was about what we expected. The score was 30-2 after the first quarter, then 57-10 at half. The winning team took off the press early, but had a halfcourt trap that the losing team couldn't figure out. I wish they'd taken it off way earlier. We wound up calling way, way more fouls on the winning team than the losing team, mostly because the losing team was so timid. There were a few passes that I wasn't entirely comfortable with, but everyone in the gym knew what was going on, so it wasn't that big a deal.

I geared myself up for a blowout second game as well.

Not so much. What I got was my first good, close boys' varsity game.

The favored team was trailing at half. They threw the ball away quite often, and the underdogs kept hitting threes. The atmosphere in the gym was really, really intense...I think everyone was surprised to find a ballgame. But the favorites clamped down on D and hit their late free throws to win by 8.

The game was as smooth as anything. I had a fairly big moving screen call late against the winning team, when they were up by 3 with about 3 minutes to go. The coach for them shouted "What did he do????" I said "Hang on, coach," reported the foul, and then went to him. "It was a pretty ugly one, coach...he threw out a hip and a knee."

The coach then yelled in response.

At the player. "Come ON, Eddie! We don't need that!!!"


Two things to work on: I'm falling into some old habits that I need to eradicate, namely shaking or nodding my head when I'm passing on a call (as if to say "No, that's not a charge" or "Clean block!" in my head). That's got to stop. Because I had a kid who I felt was flopping to try to draw a charge in front of me (if you're going to go down like you've been shot and scream a Charlie Brown-like "AAAAUUUUUUGGGGGHHHH!", players, this actually decreases your chances of drawing the foul. Make a note of it, kids.) I shook my head at the flop as my partner called it from T. I was a little annoyed that he called something that was about two yards away from me, but he later explained that he'd seen the offensive player get frustrated during the drive and throw out his arm (which he did, albeit not as much as the defender's bad acting made it look). Anyhow, if I hadn't shaken my head, the call would have been a much better sell to the coach.

The other is that I'm getting too loud. My voice is a little strained, and with my past vocal cord injuries, I need to keep an eye on that.

But on the whole, tonight was about 15 different kinds of awesome. I'm making really good progress, and might make a good boys' official down the road, if I'm not already.

THINGS I DID WELL: Call selection, hustle, coach communication
THINGS TO WORK ON: Quiet down, project more calm late in close games, no head-shaking
UP NEXT: A fairly big girls' game on Thursday night. Not hella-huge, mind you, but first place against middle-of-the-pack. Assignor said he put me on the game because the senior officials I'm working with told him I'm ready. They're all correct. I am ready. Bring it on.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Game Log 1/21/2009: Cruisin'

Winless against sub-.500 tonight in a JV/varsity doubleheader. There were almost no problems.

The first game was a particularly icky blowout early. The winless girls, I think, were accustomed to getting creamed, as there really wasn't any frustration about them. The coach was a good guy who tried to find positives everywhere he could. He got frustrated late in the first half. A player for White had a fairly ugly reach...and it got all ball. I saw no contact and heard nothing but leather. The player still got the pass off to her teammate, who double-dribbled. As I ran down the court, winless coach said: "That was OBVIOUS." I told him no, I had all ball, and she got the pass off anyway. A minute later, the half ended.

As the second half began, winless coach said "I know I was upset in the first half, but here's what bothers me. I tell these kids that if they work hard, good things will happen...and then something like that happens and it's not rewarded." I responded as clearly as I could: "Coach, I understand your frustration, but I had all ball, and at halftime my partner said he had all ball too. Still, I'll keep an eye out. And whatever they're paying you, they should double it."

No more problems all night long. It wasn't a perfect game...we probably let a little too much go...but it wasn't too bad.

Varsity was as smooth as silk. Again, it was a total blowout--about a 40-point loss for winless, who often lose by 60 or more. This one, however, didn't have players as unskilled as the JV game, so we didn't ever ease up or take real passes. If anything, there were one or two I could have taken passes on.

The only real issue was rotating. Both teams were playing zones, and the offenses loved the big skip pass above everyone's head. It seemed like every time I would rotate, they'd throw that damn skip pass as soon as I got there. But partners had no issues with my rotation, and we only missed one or two.

No real issues here. Now, I've got a few days off. Actually, I only have 8 more nights I'll be working (2 a week for the next 4 weeks...I'm actually available for a few days where I am apparently unneeded). And I feel like it's been a good year. I hope to finish strong.

THINGS I DID WELL: Coach and partner communication
THINGS TO WORK ON: Resist temptation to let too much go in blowouts
NEXT UP: Boys/girls varsity doubleheader on the same school that loved me (not) so much on MLK Day.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Game Log 1/19/2009: Growing a bit

Girls/boys varsity doubleheader today...tiny rural school visits tiny religious school.

I was a little trepidatious about the girls game, because when I checked out the teams, one of them was losing by 60, 70, or even 80 points. Sure enough, the press was on in the first quarter, and the score was 27-4 after 8 minutes. Ouch. Thankfully, Blue took the press off from there and coasted to a 50-point victory. The losing coach wanted some calls that I think weren't there. I put up with what he had to say...didn't seem fair to get after him when his team was getting his butt kicked, and besides, he wasn't rude or crossing any lines. If anything, we let White get away with too much in the second half. If I had it to do over again, there were a couple of ones I let go that I could have called, even in such a massive blowout...but the game went off cleanly and safely, so it's all good.

The boys' game was far faster and more challenging than my first boys' varsity game a couple of weeks back. I had to adjust my game and my brain to the higher speed, and on the whole, with only one exception, I think I did.

Blue lost by 18, and the coach was a little annoyed. He wanted a call early--he felt a White rebounder jumped through the back. I was lead and saw the rebounder reach over the Blue kid's head. No contact, no foul. He said the rebounder also put a hand on the opponent's back. If he did, I was unable to see it from my perspective, but there sure wasn't much movement as a result.

Similarly, I had a no-call late in the first half on a play that resulted in a bit of a pileup under the hoop. I was lead, and I had the defender standing and waiting. Blue went up and sort of grazed White as he went down...hip glanced off of hip. No-call. Then, each of them got tangled and went down in a heap, along with a third player (where'd he come from?). I explained to coach what I saw...couldn't call a PC foul on your kid, coach, not enough contact. "What about the other defender who pushed him from behind?" he asked. "I couldn't see him through your kid," I said. This is, by the way, a perfect advertisement for a 3-man game.

So he was annoyed, but I felt fine about where I was.

The only mistake I wish I could rectify was a missed travel. I honestly think this came from me not quite being up to speed with this, the fastest game I've ever officiated in the season (had some quicker camp games this past summer). There was a fast break, and I got down the court. I focused on the defender and picked him up. OK--he's there. But while my attention was focused on the defender, the pass came in to a player who took 3 steps. I caught it peripherally, but because I didn't see it well, and because it happened pretty quickly, I didn't call it. I do think this sort of thing will come with time.

There was one other he didn't like. Twenty seconds left, and his team is fouling (why??? they're down by over a dozen!). The player wrapped his arms around...we called it a simple hold, as it didn't merit an intentional. both partner and I had the hold. Coach said that there was an elbow, "and that's why my player held." (The latter phrase doesn't make logical sense to me.) I didn't have anything to say back to him beyond thanking him for the information and telling him we'd look for it over the last few seconds. Under his breath, he said "God." I don't think he was worshipping me. But he was asking for so much all night that I don't trust his word much.

So, Blue is a little annoyed with me. He'll be thrilled to see me a week from tonight when I return to his gym.

All in all, it wasn't perfect, but it wasn't bad for a new level of challenge for me.

THINGS I DID WELL: Stayed under control. Kept boys' game from getting ugly in the fourth quarter.
THINGS TO WORK ON: Don't take so many passes in girls' game. Don't miss the offense's feet on fast breaks.
NEXT UP: Girls JV/Varsity on Wednesday.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

This happened recently

"Have you had Seuss High School's girls' team yet this year?" a fellow ref, John, asked me before the game. I was about to do a freshman game, he was about to do the JV and Varsity games.

"Yeah, I have," I replied.

"What's their coach like?"

"She's not a problem. There was barely any lip at all, but when I talked to her it all ended quickly."

"No. That's not what I mean. I hear she's really good-looking. Is she?"

I pause. "Well...yeah. Yes, I guess she is."

Another ref jumps into the conversation here. "You know, I don't even notice that stuff anymore. I've been married for 41 years!"

I think, then come in again. "I've only been married three and a half years. But I suspect I'll never stop noticing if a coach is good looking."

My long-married partner replies. "Well, John here wants to do far more than just notice."

John says: "Yeah. In fact, when I work Seuss next week, I'm going to make it a point in our pregame to say that I'll head over to talk to the good-looking coach about any close rulings or bizarre situations."

I wish John luck, but there a worse situation to begin a romantic relationship than by interacting as ref and coach?

And how cool is my wife that I can relate this story to her and have her laugh?

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Game log 1/15/09: One interesting dilemma in a good boys' game

Tonight's boys game was quite good for us. There was whining throughout...a walk here, a moving screen here...and a little of it may have been warranted, but on the whole it was a strong day. I can see where it's a lot harder to ref lower levels of boys' ball than higher ones (except for the pressure from testosterone-addled coaches). But on the whole, no real issues.

Screens at the elbow. Damn hard in boys' ball. C's call! I'll keep my eye out, since I have a few 2-person (very small school) varsity games coming up.

Here's the dilemma I faced.

Third quarter of a close game. Suddenly, Red coach is annoyed. He says "If he gets to [don't know what he said] than I get to [unclear]."

At the next dead ball, it turned out what he was complaining about was that the White coach was out of the box.

I looked up. He was. Just a step or two, but he was near the table.


It's my job to keep coaches in their box, and I honestly hadn't noticed until the coach said something. I decided that, although it might make me appear weak, I'd tell him.

Coach was annoyed--"I'm barely out!" he said.

I said "Well, coach, the other coach is complaining, so I need to keep it fair."

Probably shouldn't have said that, as White coach started jawing across the table at Red coach. Thankfully, it ended quickly. If it hadn't, I'd have called a double technical...and BOTH coaches would have lost their box privileges!

Anyway, I guess I had three options:

1. Ignore the Red coach's complaint.
2. Do what I did, but not blame the other coach.
3. Do exactly what I did.

And, of course, one more:

4. Pay closer attention to the coach so that I can take care of this myself.

Any suggestions? Which would you have chosen?

The game was close late, and everything went all right...I was happy with how it went. I even handled strategic fouling correctly!

THINGS I DID WELL: Communication with partner, felt more confident, handled end of close game well.
THINGS TO WORK ON: Elbow screens, coach management,
NEXT UP: Doubleheader on MLK day. Boys' and girls' varsity, tiny little schools.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Game Log 1/14/09: Thanks, coach

Just what I needed. A smooth, easy boys' JV game to get me out of my recent minor funk. Never felt out of it; always felt confident, and had my partner say to me a couple of times "Thanks for that get--I missed it!" No issues at all--save the losing team's captain.

He was carping and bitching at one point early in the third quarter. He believed he was being hand-checked. Neither partner or I had it, mostly because it wasn't happening. "Call it both ways," he yelled at me from about 15 feet as I was about to inbound the ball.

Since he's captain, I decided to approach him before inbounding. "Captain, I'll talk to you, but you can't talk to me like that." As I did this, he rolled his eyes and started walking away.

"No, captain, you need to stay here. If you want to talk, you can't bark at me like that."

I cut my losses (in retrospect, I think the "you need to stay here" was a high-risk statement...what if he hadn't?), and headed back to the sideline. As I did, I looked up and saw a sub coming to the table.

Loudmouth captain was out.

Coach is a stud...and yet he was about to grow even more in my estimation.

I was right in front of his bench when one of captain's teammates was taking the ball across halfcourt. An opponent was right there on him. He briefly put a hand on him...not even any pressure, really just a couple of fingers. Captain yelled: "Call him for the hands!"

Coach turned to him and said: "It's called good defense. Have you heard of that?"

Loudmouth captain said, in that inimitable 15-year-old sarcastic know-it-all voice, "No."

After the game, I told the girls' head coach, as he let me into the locker room, that I'd appreciate him passing on my gratefulness to the JV boys' coach. He asked for the story, and when I told him, he said "Let me guess. Short kid, dark hair, point guard?"

Apparently refs aren't the only people this kid gives trouble to!

Anyway. Awesome game. Minor complaints from coach, both of which were factually accurate and which I was able to explain. He wanted an "over the back" call on rebounds where the opponent was jumping straight up behind his player and plucking the ball from the air above him. I said to him: "Coach, I just see him jumping straight up and reaching over." He said, bafflingly, "Yeah! That's right! Reaching over!" My response: "Coach, if there's no contact, there's no foul." He had nothing to say back to that.

Great night. Tomorrow, I have the same team that didn't like me the other day, but I feel all fresh and new. Looking forward to a great game.

THINGS I DID WELL: Call selection, coach management, didn't get beat
THINGS TO WORK ON: Captain management? Maybe try a slightly different approach next time, even though this one went well. Also, my partner apparently wanted me to bail him out of a bad out-of-bounds call he made, but I was running downcourt and couldn't do it. Stay around for that.
NEXT UP: Boys' freshman game tomorrow.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Need a little help--de facto caseplay I'll see in boys' games

Here's one that never happens with girls, and that I'll need to get right for boys.

Defender jumps straight up.

Shooter driving jumps quite a ways away, headed towards a layup or dunk.

The two collide in midair. Big collision...both players wind up with limbs flailing. Shooter gets off a shot.

By the book, this is a player control foul, since the defender is entitled to his vertical space.

How is it called in the real world? How do you call it? What do you look for?

Monday, January 12, 2009

Game Log 1/12/09: A mistake I won't be making again

Sometimes this blog feels like a confessional booth. One who reads this would probably think that I'm not a very good ref. I hope that my continued upwardly-mobile varsity assignments would counter that. But if I'm gonna do this, I've got to do it warts and all. And I learn a lot more posting warts than posting airbrushed-centerfold games.

Boys' freshman game tonight. Quick kids--challenging game. I actually think that all the girls' varsity I've done this year has been bad for my boys' games. Last year, before they started giving me varsity, I went back and forth between boys' and girls' freshman games most of the year. This year, this is only my third boys' game. I think that my brain and my demeanor are a little different...I'm less confident than I should be.

Nonetheless, the game went fairly routinely, except that there was a bit of a foul disparity in the first half. Blue had a bit more than White. Wasn't a huge deal. Blue didn't care for one or two calls, and I explained them. Blue players and fans got a little bitchy. I dealt.

It was close late. I felt like we were adjusting well to the game (my first call of the game was a good blocking call). I wasn't 100% comfortable with my partner, not because he was bad, but because he seldom made eye contact with me. But hey, nobody's perfect. Calls felt good. Partner was supportive. And then Blue trailed by 3 points with 40 seconds left.

Strategic fouling time. I told myself to get the first one.

They called time out. White inbounded the ball. A few passes, and then I got the first one, a little touch foul.

The place erupted: players, coach, fans.

Damn. They weren't fouling.

I went over to the angry coach and told him the only thing I could possibly tell him--the truth. "Coach, I thought you were fouling. If you weren't, I shouldn't have called that, and I blew it."

Blue coach said "OK." Class act.

As it turned out, I did Blue a favor, since White missed both free throws. Blue had several shots to either tie or bring it to within one. They missed four shots (getting every rebound) before time expired.

OK. Now the kicking-of-self will go on until my next game. If you wipe away this late mistake, the calls were OK, but I felt timid, sort of like it's my first year all over again (which, for boys' ball, isn't far off). I'll get a chance to go back into the fire again on Wednesday, when I do a JV boys' game which includes one of the better programs in the area (in other words, a really fast, challenging game for me). I'll get that one right.

I simply won't coach anymore. I'll be aware of what could happen in a situation, but I won't anticipate it and take the move out of the coach's hands. If I won't call it as a normal foul, I won't call it as a strategic foul.

Seems like such a stupid thing to have to learn. There shouldn't have been a first time for this mistake--although I can hardly be the first one. Or, more likely, there are others who make the mistake the other way around...don't call the first strategic foul, so the second winds up being ugly or violent.

Maybe I just got too amped up late.

In any event, I'm looking forward to getting back out there so that I can get this damn thing out of my craw.

Oh. My partner stuck around on the floor after the game (NOT what I want to do), so I wound up getting back to the locker room alone. It was locked. So I had to walk back out into the hall to get the key. Much to my surprise, a guy said "Good game, stripes." (Of course, another called me horrible just as I passed. I elected not to turn around...)

THINGS I DID WELL: Actually pretty consistent on foul calls, wasn't beat more than once
THINGS TO WORK ON: Don't anticipate strategic foul, get brain going faster, project less timidity
NEXT UP: Boys' JV, big schools, on Wednesday (with no attached varsity game...interesting).

Saturday, January 10, 2009

So what is an illegal screen, anyway?

Because of the title of this blog, in addition to my small number of loyal readers (and I thank you guys), I get a very large number of people who hit this page searching for information on illegal screens. For instance, just in the past month or two, I have had hits (often way more than one) on the following search terms:

illegal screen
basketball illegal screen
illegal screen in basketball
define illegal screen
is an illegal screen a foul?
team control foul examples illegal screen
shoot 1 and 1 on illegal screen?
illegal screen out of bounds

The fact that so many people come here indicates to me that there might not be other, better information up higher on Google than this humble little ref blog. So I figure I might as well try to do a little education here by laying out the illegal screen rule as clearly as I can.

Please note that all of the following information refers to NFHS basketball rules for 2008/09. Interested in NCAA, FIBA, or NBA rules? I don't have them. (If you read this blog and are an NCAA or FIBA official, feel free to put any variations in the comments. If you read this blog and are an NBA official, I'd love it if you did the same, but I'm also pretty danged sure you aren't allowed to comment in such a manner...)

Okay. Let's start basic.

What is a screen?A screen is a maneuver by a player (almost always offensive, although there's no reason in the rulebook that a defensive player can't set one) which requires an opponent to either run around or collide with them, usually to create an advantage a teammate of the screener.

What does a LEGAL screen look like?To be a legal, a screener must be:

--stationery (with two minor exceptions listed below),
--standing with feet shoulder width apart or less,
--standing without extending the arms, elbows, hips, or knees outside the frame of the body.

So that's it?

Nope. There are restrictions on where and when a screen can be set. As the NFHS rulebook says, time and distance are factors in a screen's legality.

In general, the following rule of thumb must be followed:

The screener must give the screened player a real opportunity to avoid contact with the screener.

That means different things in different situations. where and when can a screen be set?Keeping the above rule of thumb in mind, the answer depends.

If the screener is within the visual confines of a stationary opponent, he/she can set the screen anywhere short of touching the opponent. A millimeter away would be legal because the screened player would be able to avoid contact since he/she could see the screen.

If the screener is outside the visual confines of a stationary defender, he/she must set the screen at least one step away from the opponent. This step gives the screened player the legitimate chance to avoid contact. Think about it...if the player the opponent is guarding runs in that direction, the opponent more than likely will turn his/her head at least a bit in giving chase, thus putting the screener into his/her visual field.

If the opponent is moving, the same rule of thumb applies: there must be a legitimate chance to avoid contact. Here's how NFHS spells that out:

If the screener is screening a moving opponent, he/she must set the screen somewhere between one and two strides from the opponent, so as to give the defender "time and distance" to stop or change direction. The distance will vary based on the speed of the screened player. NFHS does not distinguish between whether this screen is within or outside the screened player's visual field, so the 1-2 strides applies to both.

Ouch! If the screened player can't see the screen, there could be a big collision. What's the call?
It could be nothing. If the screener remains more or less stationary (allowing for minor movements to protect him/herself), and the opponent is unaware, then POW, but neither player has done anything illegal--no foul to call. If the screener throws forward hands, pelvis, knees, chest, etc. and initiates contact, that's an illegal screen. If the opponent is aware that the screener is there but runs through and knocks the screener over, that's a foul on the opponent. Even if the opponent is unaware of the screener, if he/she actively pushes or grabs the screener once the collision begins and he/she becomes aware, that's also a foul on the opponent.

But, to reiterate, a nasty collision between a stationary screener and an unaware opponent is a stone-cold no-call unless the screener has the ball and is knocked back, in which case a foul must be called on the opponent--since that'd be a terribly unfair travel call otherwise.

(NFHS puts it this way: "[T]he opponent may make inadvertent contact with the screener, and if the opponent is running rapidly, the contact may be severe. Such a case is to be ruled as incidental contact provided the opponent stops or attempts to stop on contact and moves around the screen, and provided the screener is not displaced if he/she has the ball.")

Is there any acceptable way that a screener may move?A screener is allowed to move in the same path and direction as the opponent. So, for example, if the opponent is moving towards the sideline, the screener may legally move in front of him/her towards the same sideline.

Also, once a screener has established position, it is perfectly legal for him/her move a little to brace him/herself in anticipation of contact, provided he/she does not initiate any part of the contact. That's a key distinction.

However, other than that, no, a screener may NOT move. If they do, it's an illegal screen.

Common illegal screen movements include the aforementioned throwing out of a knee, hip, elbow, or shoulder to try to clip an opponent going by, or throwing the pelvis, stomach, forearms, or chest forward to make contact a bit more painful when it occurs. Both of these are no-nos, and if contact occurs, it's a foul.

What's the penalty for an illegal screen? Do we shoot free throws?

It depends on when it happens.

Most illegal screens are set by the offense while team control belongs to the screener. This is considered a team control foul. No free throws are shot on team control fouls.

However, not all illegal screens are during team control. For example, there is no team control on a throw-in until the ball is controlled in-bounds. (This is why a team can chuck the ball from its own endline into its backcourt on a throw-in and not get called for over-and-back...they never had team control in the frontcourt.) This is NOT considered a team control foul, and the non-fouling team would shoot free throws: one-and-one if the bonus is in effect, two if it's double-bonus time. (Please note that the opposite is true in NCAA and NBA basketball, where the offended player would not shoot because there is team control on a throw-in under their rules. See Massref's comment below.) (UPDATE:  NFHS has changed this rule.  As of the 2011-12 season, there is team control during a throw-in, and there is therefore no shooting if an illegal screen occurs then.)

The same would be true in other situations where there's not team control, like after a shot is released but before it is gathered on a rebound, although I'm having trouble imagining a screen at those times. Still, if it happens then, it's not a team control foul.

Can you sum all that up for me?

Sure! Happy to. The screener has to set the screen in a way that gives the opponent a chance to avoid contact by stopping or changing direction. The distance that must be given varies by situation; namely, the visibility of the screener and the speed of the opponent. The screener may move in the same path and direction as the opponent.

The screener must stay within his/her vertical plane: no throwing body parts forward to maximize pain, damage, or psychological trauma to the opponent.

The screener must also keep body parts, from feet up through the shoulders, inside the usual bodily throwing out extremities to the side to clip an opponent, "bump a cutter," or make him/her run farther.

The screened player must attempt to avoid contact. No intentionally plowing through the screener, or pushing or grabbing to clear up their path.

If an unaware opponent collides with a stationary screener, the result may be quite a spectacular crash...but there's no foul unless the screener has the ball and is displaced (i.e, is forced to travel). (And yes, you can set a screen with the ball.)

We don't shoot free throws for an illegal screen if the screener's team has team control. However, remember that there is no team control on throw-ins, and so illegal screens committed before the ball is secured in-bounds on a throw-in are NOT team control fouls. The aggrieved team will shoot free throws on those fouls if they're in the bonus. (UPDATE: as of 2011-12, they don't shoot them anymore as NFHS changed that rule so there is team control during a throw-in.)

I hope this clears things up for the many illegal screen Googlers who land here. Best of luck with your seasons.

Friday, January 09, 2009

Game Log 1/9/2009: A mistake and a T

Not the best night tonight. Nothing cataclysmically bad; no big fights or tragic errors or anything like that. But I didn't feel like we had a good night as a crew. I'll have to shake these off and move on.

The JV game (between two nearby tiny rural high schools...the gym was rocking) was very, very low quality. We probably passed on dozens of travels just to keep things moving along. I don't remember much from the game. My partners had a minor issue with lining up on a free throw, and there was something else I forgot, but it was a blowout. Between games, I said we needed to get back into things mentally.

Then something bizarre happened and I didn't respond well. I need to do the right thing in bizarre situations right off the bat.

Partner calls a foul as C, opposite table. There are two Red subs waiting at the table. From my position as T by the table becoming L at the other end, I turn around to start heading downcourt as partner is approaching to report his fouls. The two subs start running onto the court. I hold up a palm. "Wait! Stop! Don't go! Hold on!" The Red coach is yelling the same thing. But these kids are hell bent at running into the game. They pass me by as I'm trying to keep them from kid on either side of me!

This has never happened to me before at any doing this. It's so terribly rudimentary. Maybe that's why I kicked into 5th-grade-game mode and turned around and said "No, kids, get back on the sideline." They did, and I headed downcourt.

This is the primary mistake that led to the bigger, uglier mistake. I should have simply T'd the kids. This is freaking varsity. They need to know the rule. There would have been zero coach pushback. He was trying to keep them from going in just as much as I was!

But instead, I sent them back to the sideline. And ran downcourt (second mistake) assuming that my partner would beckon in the subs after the foul and handle them (third mistake). I needed to take charge; instead I sort of ceded it. They were his subs...he was at the table...but I was sort of involved at this point.

Then White inbounds the ball. Two dribbles into them walking the ball upcourt, a Red player dashes to the bench. They'd had six on the floor. It was fast enough and far away enough that I didn't call the required techincal foul (the one that I should have called when the players ran by me in the damn first place). That's the fourth, and probably the worst, error. I damn well should have called the T there if nothing else. I think somewhere, in my mind, I rationalized that that six-player situation was sort of my fault, and I got timid and just said "let's get on with it." Of course, the White coach wanted to know what the hell happened. She chatted with my partner, who said "it's not a correctable error, coach, and I didn't see it." I'm glad it wasn't me in that conversation. Not because coach was mad...she was civil...but because I had absolutely zero leg to sound on.

Stupid, stupid error...TWICE. It is a crew partners had chances to make it right just as I did...but I need to learn to be less timid and more of a leader. And teach kids the rules not by "being nice" but by assessing penalties for stuff like this.

Anyhow, none of this is related to the T, which was my first in over two years. And while I didn't feel we had a great game tonight, the T was rock-solid. The losing coach was getting pasted, but he was also bitching a lot...about nearly everything. I talked with him once or twice. In the third quarter, as kids ran in for a time-out, he yelled across the floor and across the gym at me: "Three seconds! DUH!!!" [The "duh" was done in unique 14-year-old fashion...see those mouth corners goign back and that beginning to an eye-roll? This junior-high moment has been brought to you by a man in his 40s or 50s.]

That move certainly made a T warranted--it's pretty lousy sportsmanship. But I decided to cut the guy a little bit of slack--he was losing, and the time-out moment didn't feel right. So during the time out I told my partners I'd be warning the coach as soon as the time out was over. I did. I said that shouting "Duh!" across the gym wasn't appropriate sportsmanship. His response was predictable: "Well, you've got to call the push on 22 White!" (Funny...he didn't even remember the three-seconds call he wanted when the time-out began!) I said "I'll watch for it, coach, but no more from you tonight." Well, I did see 22 White pushing right away, and I called it. But three or four trips down the floor later, I was C right in his pocket when, at the end of his offensive possession, he shouted, "You call that on us, why not call it on them?"

Technical foul. When I say "no more,' that's exactly what it means.

Hooray for the warning. When partner seatbelted him, partner said that the coach said "You guys need to call some hand checks!" (Again, changing to some other thing.) "All I said was you need to call it on us if not them...well...I guess he did give me a warning." HOORAY FOR THE WARNING. Coach actually joked with me later in the game, and honored the seat belt rule.

There was a pretty ragged 4-5 minutes that followed though. He was better, but his team was sort of pissed off (they were down by 30), and a lot of crap went on. Nothing ugly, just crap. We called what we had to, passed on what we could, and got out.

So, even though it wasn't a great night, my coach management was pretty good (I also had told an assistant coach--via Red's head coach--that she couldn't yell for calls, that I'd talk to the head coach but not the assistants). But that one mistake...ick. At least it happened in a blowout small-school game I'll get it right next time.

THINGS I DID WELL: Coach management, physically better
THINGS TO WORK ON: Don't use varsity ball to teach rules; use it to enforce them. Better crew communication, better leadership.
NEXT UP: Freshman boys game on Monday. I'll lay low this weekend...I've been busy lately, and while I'll be glad when the check comes, I do need a bit of a break. My wife and cat miss me.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Calling all trainers

The quadricep is slightly sore. It hurts when I lift my foot off the ground, particularly in a full run. I noticed it first late in the second quarter of the boys' game. I think it actually got better in the second half, and I was only beat down the court once. I've iced it twice (for about 20 minutes each).

Any recommendations for how to get my 3-person girls' games in tomorrow? Do I stretch it while I work (I'm a teacher), ice it up, heat it, attach electrodes, do self-acupuncture?

Then, any recommendations for what to do over the restful weekend to get it back for my games next week?

Seriously...give me your advice.

Game Log 1/8/2009: This one is memorable.

Two first-ever occurrences tonight. My first-ever double-overtime game, then my first-ever boys' varsity game.

Damn it, why did they have to occur in that order? I'm a non-athlete, damn it!

First game was kind of fun. Really intense late. Partner and I had it under control. Green had a large lead early when they couldn't seem to miss a shot, but next thing you know, the game was tied with three minutes left. Then, NEITHER TEAM SCORED for the last three minutes! Ick. I did have a pretty big Player Control foul that I had to sell because I didn't see it as well as I would like. No complaints, but hey. It was one of those two-person things...I took my eye off the post as lead to pick up the drive coming from the same side, and a defender up a little ways, but out on a wing, seemed to be there. In 3-person, that's trail's call all the way. In 2-person, it's a bit of no-man's land, so I picked a call and sold it.

The girls were not terribly skilled--these were, after all, a couple of really tiny schools--so we passed on a fair number of travels (and also called quite a few of them).

The boys' game went strangely. In the first half, my partner called 7 fouls while I called only 2. I honestly didn't see anything that I needed to get on. For a while, I was wondering if I was missing something...but ultimately, I think my partner, while a good guy, was overzealous. I don't partner bash here (and wouldn't bash this nice guy even if I could), but there were enough that were sort of in my area that I'm pretty sure that he was reaching a bit. I had a few more in the second half, and there was barely a peep from either coach (one wanted three seconds on the opposition...he kept asking for it when the opponent was in the paint for about 2.5 seconds, and I was consistent about not calling it so vigilantly on both sides).

So it's all good. I did make it through the second half of the second game with my right quad barking a bit. It hurts (not much, but a little) when I take my foot off the ground and push it forward as I run. Even with this hampering me, I only remember being beaten twice in the second half. This makes me feel a bit manly. Not as manly as not getting hurt in the goddam first place would make me feel, but I still played through pain. I've iced it twice now, and will ice it and take Advil tomorrow. The goal is to do my girls JV/Varsity doubleheader (3-person, thank goodness) and then rest all weekend before 3 subvarsity (2-person, damn it all) boys' games next week.

Thus--my deflowering for boys' varsity. Not bad overall.

An experienced official was there, and watched the second half (and overtimes) of the girls' game and the first half of the boys'. He came at halftime and gave some constructive criticism to my partner (said he called some things in my area). His question for me was thus: "Late in that girls' game (actually the second overtime), you called a pushing off foul on the offense while they were inbounding the ball. Why did you give them free throws?" Hell, that's easy. "No team control yet on the throw-in, so we shot the double-bonus." His response: "That's what I thought. I figured it wasn't team control because you can throw the ball to the backcourt and it's not over-and-back." So a compliment! No criticisms! Yay! I know the rule!

So, quadricep permitting, we move along. We'll see how I feel in the morning.

THINGS I DID WELL: Kept cool in pressure situations, had a weird rule call correct late, had a patient whistle, especially in boys' game
THINGS TO WORK ON: Conditioning, damn it. That and picking up more defenders when lead in 2-person. Too much tunnel vision.
NEXT UP: Small school girls' JV and Varsity (albeit not microscopic like tonight).

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Singing on the sideline

As I was waiting on the sideline before tonight's Varsity game, it occurred to me that maybe "Stacy's Mom" isn't an appropriate song for the high school band to rock out to. I mean, seriously, I love the song (probably should get it on my iPod). But a high school band? Ick.

So I sidled over to partner #1 and said "Do you know this song?" He didn't. So I sang the chorus to him. "Eww! That's disgusting!", he said.

I sidled over to partner #2, who, in spite of being about my age, also did not know the song. Sang the chorus to her as well. "That's sick! That's just wrong!", she said.

I've got to admit that, if I were a HS band director, I'd lay off of it. But it's singable enough that I sang along in my pregame. I like that.

I guess I'm torn.

Game Log 1/6/2009: Some thoughts about running

JV/Varsity girls, each about a 20-point spread. No major issues to report in either that I remember...only one brief chat with a coach and nothing much else. We did fine.

At halftime of the varsity game, a partner had a pretty good observation for me that has led to my old bugaboo...running. I'm a slow non-athlete whose running style has gone from laughable to passable. (I'm happy with long as I'm not noticed for negative reasons, I'll take that.) She said that I'd been beat down the floor three times. I don't think that I had, but I'll take her word. (One of the cases we remember was actually me missing a previous rotation.) Her next comment was a bit of an eye-opener (in the positive sense). She said that getting beat wasn't bad--what was bad was that I seemed to always be running the same (molasses-slow) speed. If I kicked into a new gear, things would be better.

I declared at that moment that I would NOT GET BEAT in the second half.

And I didn't. Except once. (I was trail during a scramble near halfcourt that I had to step in on and hold up for...then Red passed the ball out and ran for a layup. I was doomed, and held up at the end to get an angle from on the floor rather than run myself into a crappy angle to get to the baseline.)

My partner said that she saw a new speed from me...and that that was good, as it gave the appearance of hustle.

It makes sense, actually. And I think it's one of the problems I have with the physical image I give off. I look like I'm not hustling.

It's not laziness that causes this, methinks. It's concentration...trying to get a good angle, trying not to be hauling ass (because one cannot make good calls at full speed). But the impression I'll give by having a new gear and committing to NEVER GETTING BEAT (even though I will) will likely help.

I'll get good practice at my next game. For the fourth time, I'm slated for my first boys' varsity game on Thursday. The first three were delayed due to (in order) floods, ice, and snow. I'm expecting locusts to descend on my city shortly to prevent me from making my boys' varsity debut yet again...Anyway. I'll make it a point to run hard and not get beat. Because even boys at this very very small school will be quite fast. We'll see how it goes, see how I look.

I haven't looked closely at my Monday night game yet: I will investigate to see if I'm getting beat. (I don't think I was, but it's worth a look with this new information.)

Anyway, this is what's on my mind after these games, which went fine.

THINGS I DID WELL: Good calls, good passes in JV game (we'd have been there all night)
THINGS TO WORK ON: Still poaching across key as L. I must stop. Also, don't get beat.
NEXT UP: Very small religious school vs. very small private school. Girls varsity and boys' varsity. Thursday.

Monday, January 05, 2009

Game Log 1/5/2009: Videotape night...

I had a buddy come and videotape the varsity half of today's girls' JV/Varsity doubleheader. I'll look forward to seeing how it went.

JV game was quite uneventful. I can't recall any calls I'd like back. It was a little some point I started noticing that most of my calls were going against White rather than Red. I'm sure I had at least one foul call against Red along the way, but about 6 or 7 against White (this in the third quarter, or maybe early fourth). It was just one of those bizarre things; the foul count was roughly even. Anyhow, I came in on a jump ball on the far side of the paint. I was C; it wasn't really quite my area, but it was my call, as neither L nor T could see the tie-up. Red coach was upset. "You're calling fouls down there, and they're all fouls, but my kid got knocked three times before you called that jump ball." At a loss (why didn't I fall back on "I hear you"???), instead I said "That's not what I saw." I wasn't in a position to see the knocks, of course, and my partners had taken a pass on them...Anyway, his response was "Of course you didn't!" Play then went to the other end of the court, and coach shouted something I forgot...something about arms or a street fight...some military metaphor, maybe?...and I showed him my palm from there. A couple seconds later, his girl bumped a shooter for an and-one. Coach thought the call was retaliation...muttered it, but didn't say it loud enough to matter. The rest of the JV game was uneventful. Liked my game.

Varsity first half was U-G-L-Y. My partners and I were clearly the best team on the floor. We probably called about 30 fouls. No fun. I remember thinking we could have passed on some of our first-quarter calls, but the second-quarter calls were all tired kids grabbing and slapping; nothing to pass on there. Coaches were mostly okay...I chatted with the White coach about shouting out calls, but it was a little deal.

Two really good calls and on bad one. Both good calls were player control. The first was on a fast break. I'm new lead. I'm ahead of the play (not bad for a slow guy). I'm looking over my shoulder and I see the primary defender is running parallel to the dribbler. All right. I'm not going to get a good look at that over my shoulder, and T is behind me looking right through the daylight between them anyway. My job: find that secondary defender; and there she was, waiting inside the block, right in front of the rim. Waiting for a while. Collision; easy PC foul, wave off the basket. It's not the call that's a big deal to me (like I said, she'd been there a while). It's that I consciously picked up the secondary defender and stone-cold knew that she'd been waiting. Yay me.

The second was weirder and more controversial, but my position made it a damn good call. I'm new trail when White retrieves the ball in the corner (along Red's end line). A Red defender comes and does what she should, which is stand stock still with her hands in the air in the corner. White gets a look in her eye and then leans in and bonks her (bicep/shoulder to the defender's belly) to get some room. Nope. Advantage gained, contact initiated, good defense established...Player control. In front of White's bench, alas...but since I was right on there in the corner with the players, I saw the player lean in. Coach only saw the defender's back. She was annoyed, but my positioning gave me exactly what I wanted. Twice. Yee-haw.

The only one I want back was a quick-whistle illegal dribble call. Red dribbled past half-court, then put both hands on the ball as White put a hand underneath it. Red sort of pushed through White's hand to put the ball back on the floor, and I too-quickly called it a double-dribble. It probably showed on my face, and if Red have asked, I'd have said "That's not my favorite call of the night, coach." As it is, during the subsequent time out, partner came over to say "I saw the ball knocked out of her hand." I said "Yeah, it was a terrible call." He responded, "What are we going to do about it?" I said "nothing." I guess I could have called an inadvertent whistle, etc., but with nobody complaining (and a 15-point fourth-quarter game), it was best just to tell myself to focus better and move on.

It proved to be a momentary lapse. Good game overall.

THINGS I DID WELL: Picked up secondary defenders. Called consistent travels.
THINGS TO WORK ON: Perhaps overzealous coach communciation. Mental lapse late. The rest we'll save for the video!
NEXT UP: Tomorrow. Another girls JV/Varsity doubleheader. Slightly smaller teams.

Friday, January 02, 2009

The European players loved me!

In fact, when I called one of them for a fairly obvious hold on a rebound, she looked at me and shouted "Nein!"

I think that was her ranking of the call on a one-to-ten scale! Yup...I was that good!

Game Log 1/2/2009: International night

A traveling girls' team from Europe played one of the strongest local teams this afternoon. JV and Varsity. Unfortunately, the barnstormers were not at all of the caliber of the home team, and in each game the fell behind gravely early due to the press. The brunt of both games was spent just keeping stuff under control.

The varsity game had a shot of getting quite ugly in the second quarter...I could see the European girls getting frustrated. But it all calmed down quite quickly after halftime...I think they had cooled off, and with the press off, the second half went quickly and smoothly...two teams just playing ball.

Only one I'd like back. There was an out-of-bounds violation. A player saved the ball under her own hoop, took three or four steps along the out-of-bounds side of the baseline. I saw her doing it, but the play was elsewhere, so I figured, no advantage, let it go. Then she stepped in bounds, got a pass, and fired it home. Should have whistled that as soon as she got the pass, but alas. That imperfection only serves to make the rest of my work more impressive...

And I'm curious as to your opinion about the following:

I twice had the following call: player from Red driving to the hoop. She picks up the ball low--about knee level--on her way to shoot it up high. A nearby defender reaches in. Gets her wrist. I toot it, and whistle continuation. Two shots (or one, had it gone in).

After the game, partner told me that when the ball is down at knee level, anything goes. I'm not sure I buy that. I do think I probably could have a more patient whistle to see if there's an advantage gained, but "anything goes"? A kid playing lazy defense and just reaching to take a slap? Do any readers have an "anything goes if the ball is low" philosophy on drives? I'd like a second opinion on this.

A smooth, easy night. Like stealing money.

THINGS I DID WELL: Kept it from getting out of control, mostly stayed mentally in two boring games
THINGS TO WORK ON: Still occasionally have trouble on V-back switches, still mostly only raising my right hand to signal fouls or violations (but I did do the left hand ONCE today! Yay!)
NEXT UP: Girls JV/Varsity tilt on Monday. I'm doing four out of five nights next week.

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