I can across some notes the other day that outlined the rules for a matchup zone defense, they were created I believe by a high school coach and posted on the X's and O's forum. It can be run out of any formation (1-3-1, 2-3, 3-2, 1-2-2, etc...) and in my opinion, is probably easy enough to implement for any M2M or zone team. The idea of the matchup zone is play as much zone, but by covering a man at the same time. So without further delay, here they are:

P = point
L = takes first player to the left of P
R = takes first player to the right of P
M = matcher, takes any player right R or left of L on lowside
C = center, M2M in the paint on high side

Defining who guards who depends on who P guards. The matchup is framed around P and everyone else falls in line. Obviously, this matchup is easier with odd man fronts (1-3-1, 1-2-2) because the P is always up top. But it works with a 2-3 as well, depending on which side the offense usually brings the ball up on (right-hand, left-hand), P will play the appropriate side. The P does not have to matchup on the ball either.

Basic Switches:

As you've probably gathered, this matchup zone is based on the idea of constant switching, through the concept of bumping defenders. On all screens, cuts, and cut and replace, the defenders communicate and bump each other to maintain the formation. So, unlike a straight zone, each defender has a man to cover, but also a general area. As players without the ball move, the defenders move as well (all while also watching the ball), when you check moves outside of your area, you must bump him to your fellow defenders. Communication is key, you must communicate or the defense breaks down. Screens and cuts work the same way. There are 2 basic switches, on the perimeter and in the paint.

On the perimeter, any screen or cut is played the same way, with the ball and without. You move with your check until you reach another defenders area, then bump your check to the other defender. You wait until the other defender calls release before finalizing the switch.

In the paint, C is M2M and covers mostly the high side. M is on the low block running the baseline covering any right or left of R and L respectively. If the offense lines up with 2 high posts,

The M should get anyone going low. If the posts run an X cut, C and M call your basic switch each time with C taking the high, M taking the low.

Weakside Wing to Strongside Corner:

OK, so now that we have the basic screens/cuts figured out, time to go over the more complicated ones. The weakside wing cutting into the middle looking for a quick hit, then cutting to the corner. L is on helpside defense. M is strongside post. As O3 cuts, L follows to the middle of the post. L must communicate the switch, and M looks to switch and yells release for L to cover O5 in the post,

As the offense overloads, the defense reacts to the cuts, and each defender is once again matched up with a offensive player. M must take anyone on the baseline left or right, so obviously M must be very athletic. C stays with O4 whereever O4 goes, except if O4 goes to the low post, then C and L would quick switch,

Point Loop Cut to Strongside Corner:

A very common cut in zone offenses is the point loop cut. Slightly tricky here, but again, with good communication, it should work seamlessly. O1 passes to the wing, and cuts straight down the middle. P follows O1 into the paint. At this point, O1 approaches L's area so L drops down to replace P. L follows O1 through as O1 exits the paint. At this point, L calls switch and M takes O1 to the corner yelling 'release' for L to take O5,

So, you are back in almost the same as the weak to corner cut above. P has moved into helpside now checking O3. If O3 moves up to the point, P follows him up to the point,

Strongside Wing to Weakside Wing:

The last cut is the hardest one to cover because of the amount of off-ball movement. O2 cuts across the lane to opposite lane with the perimeter players cutting to fill. O2 passes to O4 in the corner and basket cuts. L follows into the lane but R drops down to cover as well and replace L. As O1 and O3 move, P moves with O1,

R calls 'release' and takes O2 to the weakside wing. L must sprint back to the strong side wing, taking O1 this time. Bumping P back to the top to take O3. All the while, if O5 drops down to the strongside post, O5 follows,

Final Thoughts:

Teams that scout you may resort to offenses that use a lot of cutting, like an X-zone offense. If your players get crossed up, you can always use a in-game call like base to go straight M2M or straight zone. Additionally, players should always be instructed to protect the paint first, then look to pickup their check afterwards if they get lost momentarily.

Because the matchup zone is relying on the basic relativity of players which doesn't change, you don't want to get too rigid on the roles. You adjust the matchup depending on your opponent, deciding how much help to give on the paint, which shooters you must close out on, etc.. The more zone look you show the better, because you are really playing M2M.

For more interesting perspectives on zone defenses from a M2M defensive-minded coach, take a look at Tubby Smith's DVD on Utilizing Zones. Coach Smith is currently the head coach at Minnesota.

This is probably mostly review or common sense for most of you coaches out there but since I was out the other day watching a youth practice and game with players who clearly did not have the fundamentals of rebounding down, I thought I would go over some basics and a couple of really easy drills for youth coaches to go through so that players get used to the idea of how the ball comes off the rim, how they should catch it, and how to block out.

The Basics:

Rebounding is all about attitude, determination, and aggressiveness. Some players have bodies that are better fitted to being successful rebounders (tall, long arms, high jumpers), but unless they have the right mindset, I've seen great athletes be average or below average rebounders because of their attitude. A great habit to constantly reinforce during practices is to keep the ball from hitting the floor at all during any rebounding situation.

For young players, they should be taught to rebound the ball with 2 hands at all times, and not to dribble the ball up to gain control. In other words, 2 hands, above the head, then chin the ball to secure it. Defensively, young players need to get into the habit of making contact each and every time on block outs. This is often a difficult concept for some girls which is all the more reason why it must be practiced.


Very basic here. 2 lines around the free-throw line. The coach shoots the ball to miss. Again, you should focus on:

- attacking the ball with 2 hands at all times
- rebounding the ball above the head, then rip it down
- using an athletic stance
- chin the ball to secure, outlet to coach

The coach switches to a different place after everyone has gone through once. Also make sure players observe how the ball caroms off the rim/backboard each time so that they can anticipate where the ball is likely to go based on where the shot is attempted from.

Over the Back 1v1

The natural progression from 1v0 is 1v1. The idea here is to pair up, one on offense, one on defense. The player behind is the offense and attempts to gain position to back-tip or outright gain the rebound. Therefore, the defense must make contact with their backside, maintain the balance while boxing out, then attacking the ball,

For more rebounding ideas, check out Jim Calhoun's new DVD on Rebounding and Basketball Wisdom. Coach Calhoun is the long time head coach of the UConn Huskies who made it to this season's Final Four in Detroit.

When I think of talent equalizers in basketball, I think of 2 things, tough hard-nosed defense and 3-point shooting. If I were to develop a high school program today, the most important skill I would have the pre-Varsity young players working on is proper shot technique. Unlike in college where you can openly recruit the best combination of athleticism and skill, in high school you are pretty much limited to the kids enrolled at the school. Whereas athleticism is mostly innate, shooting is a skill that can be taught and employed. Here are some notes I went through today of University of Florida coach Billy Donovan talking at a Nike clinic earlier this year on utilizing the 3-point shot,

At Florida, we try to gain an advantage at the three point line by creating situations offensively by using it and by taking it away defensively. What is the best way to do this offensively? At my level, get better shooters. At the high
school level, get your shooters better. Having a big man that can shoot creates so many offensive opportunities for your team

Four ways to get open 3-pointers:

1. Transition, push hard for early threes.
2. Dribble Penetration, drive and kick opportunities.
3. Post Kickouts, passing out of double-teams followed by ball reversal.
4. Offensive Rebounds, best time for open threes. Bigs feel that they’re entitled to shoot the ball off of an o-board, but this is a great time to find a shooter sprinting to spot up in an open area.

The more you force the defense to closeout on you, the greater chance you have of getting to the paint. So, your thinking offensively should be "how do I create closeout opportunities?" The flat ball screen is great because the defense has to go so deep under them to get through and also because if the ball screen is overplayed, it is so easy to switch the angle to catch the defense.

We want to keep the ball in the "alley" (middle of the court between the two elbows) because it prevents teams from establishing helpside.

Transition ideas:

A team changing from offense to defense is one of the most difficult things in basketball, therefore you must "Exploit this!"

-On a miss, free-for-all, score as quickly as possible.
-On a make, we want the ball the inbounded as quickly as possible by whichever big is closest to the ball and we want the ball advanced up the floor as quickly as possible as well.
-In practice, if the ball isn’t across half court in 3 seconds, it is an automatic turnover.
-No set lanes, we want players to play. Wings should run as wide as possible and sprint up the floor. If the two happen to be on the same side, it’s the 2nd player’s responsibility to call "push" and send the first wing through to the other side.
-Random ball screens. If our first big down the court is behind the ball or not in position to get the ball in the low post in transition, it’s an automatic flat ball screen for strongside wing (trailing big can run in to set a double).

For more ideas on incorporating the 3-pointer into your offense, check out Billy Donovan's DVD on Shooting and Defending the 3-pointer.

With all the bad publicity that college basketball coaches have been getting recently, its been hard not to become a complete cynic and write-off the whole damn thing. But as most of you have probably read by now, a feel-good story about Vanderbilt head coach Kevin Stallings "doing the right thing" by deferring $100K of a salary raise in order to fulfill his promise to his team that they would be going to Australia for a road trip this upcoming season, despite funding problems with Vandy's athletic department due to the current economic downturn.

Coach Stallings and his story remind me of that old adage "actions speak louder than words." We tell our players all the time, "don't just say it, do it," but do we as coaches practice what we preach? I know for myself I try to hold myself to a higher standard but I know that I can always do better. I am constantly evaluating my actions as a coach but also as a person to see how my actions are interpreted by the people around me and the students that I teach and coach in particular. Because ultimately, the actions you make will be reflected in the team that you coach and the players who play for you. Your actions will define who you are and how you are perceived.

In the 24-hour news cycle that we currently live in, its understandable why the negative stories get all the run and the positive stories get swept under the rug. I think of all the people I talk to everywhere and anywhere and I always listen to the great stories people like to tell about tremendous coaches, tremendous human beings doing great things each and every day. We should celebrate that, honor that. To remind each other as coaches of exactly why we got into coaching to begin with, and the greater responsibility which requires that we meet a higher standard as leaders in the community.

Found some good handwritten notes from a coaches clinic retreat several years ago where Coach Steve Alford, currently the head coach of New Mexico, talking about his 3-in 2-out motion offense (Download the video clip here). In my opinion, it is similar to the blocker-mover motion except it uses the 3-point line as the delineation instead of designating roles. I've inscribed them below:

1. 3 in, 2 out motion. The '3 in' players use the college 3 point line and 'in' as their domain. The '2 out' players use the above the college 3 point line and 'out' as their domain.

2. The '2 out' players can only become one of the '3 in' players if they are backscreened by a '3 in' player. Otherwise, the '2 out' players should be positioned above the college 3 point line.

3. The first screener always receives a screen after setting one.

4. The '2 out' players must be able to react and pass. If pressured, and as the '3 in' players move, driving opportunities will exist for these 2 players.

5. Breakdown drills '3 in' players play '3 on 3' live with the '2 out' players passing without defense. The '2 out' players play '2 on 2' live with the '3 in' players going 3 on 0 -- no defense. The '2 out' players work on getting open.

To learn more about the 2-out 3-in motion that New Mexico runs, take a look at Steve Alford's DVD on the 2-out 3-in Motion Offense.

Defensively, if there is one area that I haven't thought about too much in my past coaching experience is in the area of stunting and jump switching. I've done a lot of trapping and pressing both full court and half court but I think the idea of jump switching and hedging (fake switching). It can be incorporated into both zone and man defenses and its primary advantage is the element of surprise -- as an option call either from the bench or as an audible by your point guard.

Traditional Trap:

Here is your run of the mill full court trap, out of a M2M defense. X1 guides the dribbler towards the trap, X2 leaves his defender to trap O1. X3 splits O2 and O3 looking to intercept a lob pass,

Jump Switch:

The jump switch is a simple option you can add to change up your pressure defense. Works especially well after you've run a few traps and the offense has attempted to adjust by anticipating where the traps are coming from. As O1 dribbles toward the sideline, X2 runs at O1. Instead of the trap, X1 switches onto O2 leaving O1. The idea here is that O1 is anticipating the trap picking up the dribble to pass to O2. In doing so, X2 runs hard at O1 and gets into chest-to-chest hands-high position after O1 picks up the dribble. X1 is in hard denial looking to pickoff a bad pass. X3 and any other defender one pass away is also in hard denial,

If O1 manages to keep the dribble, X2 must continue ball pressure, but that is why it is essential for X2 to run at O1 under control. The jump switch can be re-run again.

Hedge (Fake Switch):

Another simple adjustment is to add a hedge or fake switch. The idea is for X2 to come at the dribbler like it is a trap or switch. The idea, like the switch, is to induce O1 to pick up the dribble to pass. Once X2 hedges, anticipates O1 picking up the dribble, X2 then recovers back to O2. O1 then gets chest-to-chest with high-hands making it very difficult for O1 to make a pass. All defenders one pass away are in hard denial,

If you're learning like me and want more information on run and jump techniques, you'll want to see Dean Smith's DVD on the Encyclopedia of the Scramble Defense. Coach Smith is the hall of fame former head coach of the University of North Carolina.

From NBA TV, this is a retro segment featuring the dynamic duo of John Stockton and Karl Malone during all those years together with the Utah Jazz. It's so rare to have 2 people so compatible for each other in so many ways, both athletically and basketball-wise, but also in personality. It doesn't even seem possible that we could ever see 2 players replicate what they brought to the game. Anyways, enjoy...

With this being the middle of August (wow, where did the summer go), and many of you coaches getting ready for the upcoming season, I wanted to talk about a recent and very relatable topic thread from the X's and O's Coaching forum debating the merits of having open practices. I've had the opportunity to observe several practices from local high school coaches around where I live and I've always appreciated that chance. As a result, my opinion has become more impartial towards the idea of open practices. But still, I can also understand why some coaches have serious reservations with the open practice concept. Here is a summary of the pros and cons:


- by being as transparent as possible, it helps with disarming the administration in that they can see for themselves how practices are run should it become an issue, and also to confirm who is present and who is missing.
- helps for parents to see what their kids are doing in practice, gives them an idea of the kind of offense and defense to be played in games.
- for parents of kids that won't play much in season, a chance to see their sons/daughters in action with the rest of the team, and not just sitting on the bench.


- distractions, if girlfriends and boyfriends are allowed to sit and watch, it can cause your players to lose their concentration.
- parental interference, parents who are used to coaching their own kids may not be able to resist the temptation to gesture or even pull their son/daughter aside and coach from the bleachers.
- performance anxiety based on Zajonc’s Theory of Social Facilitation as the audience can hinder skill development -- players tend to do what they can already do well rather than trying new skills.


I think most of the coaches agreed that possibly having a limited number of open practices at the beginning of the season is a good idea, but with the following rules:

1. Only parents/siblings and school staff allowed. No friends.
2. Observers must sit far enough away so as not to be a visual or oral distraction.
3. No open practices during tryouts.

Another possible concept is to have part of every practice, open. For example, during the first 1.5 hours of practice, you might want the full undivided attention of your players, and the final 30 minutes might be some full court continuous drills which you will allow outsiders to observe.

Hope that helps...

Here in Canada, we have an annual amateur national competition called the Canada Games where teams representing their province compete in a few dozen sports and it is held in August every other year. For 2009, the games are held in the province of Prince Edward Island (in the Atlantic region of Canada). Basketball is one of the marquee sports with both U17 mens and womens teams competing. Of course being from British Columbia, I've been watching and rooting for Team BC (2-0 for mens so far, 3-0 for womens so far). If you are so inclined, all the scores are here, and if you want to watch it on TV you can see the TSN broadcast schedule here. Team Ontario is usually the favorite for basketball in both mens and womens but Team Quebec is good too and of course I'm rooting for Team BC.

This post wouldn't be complete if I didn't plug the Basketball PEI Coaching Notes blog, a good resource for any basketball junkie.

Although I'm mostly a University of Washington Huskies fan, over the past decade or so, I've enjoyed watching plenty of Oregon basketball games, especially living here in the Pacific Northwest. I used to drive down and watch Luke Ridnour, then later to watch Aaron Brooks. Offensively, the Ducks have always been an uptempo team, and in the halfcourt, they run a lot of 1-4 high or 1-4 low sets. So much so, that I'm told that a lot of varsity coaches began running 1-4 sets. I put together some notes from a Nike Clinic and a FIBA assist article showing a couple of plays out of the 1-4, one high, and one low.

Some general principles from Ernie Kent:

- you always have multiple reads and at least 2 cuts on every screen
- on screens, the cutter must close the gap and cut off the pick with his shoulder on screener's hip

1-4 High

Ernie Kent calls this play 'Eagle'. They use it as one of their primary half-court offensive plays because it provides both inside and outside scoring opportunities. The 1-4 high difficult play to defend because the alignment forces the weak side defenders to make decisions about whether to guard the post or to concentrate
on covering shooters coming off double downscreens.

The setup is one point guard, two wings, and two big men at the corner of the freethrow lane.

O1 dribbles the ball to the right side of the court. As he does, the ball side post, O5, slides down the lane to the low post position and the ball side wing 2 slides to the corner. O4 pops to the top of the key as O1 reaches the wing area,

As O1 reverses it to O4, O2 makes a flex cut off of the screen by O5. While doing this, he is looking to bump O5's defender to clear some space for O5 to repost deeper in the lane. O2 continues through the lane to the weak side block area. O3 slides in toward the lane,

As O1 gets the ball back from O4, he immediately looks to dump the ball inside to the post if he is open. Otherwise, O1 looks back toward O2 coming off the double downscreen set by O4 and O3.

The tail of the play has O3 going out to the ball side baseline after he sets the double for the shooter, O2. If O5 cannot receive the ball in the low post, he turns and screens in for O3, who goes in the opposite corner, and O1 passes the ball to O3,

1-4 Low

Ernie Kent calls this play '3' because it is designed to get an open 3-pointer for your team's best shooter. The flex action is meant to disguise the movement with both a double downscreen and a screen the screener action to free up shooters.

The initial alignment is 1-4 low across the baseline, with the best shooter being O2 who is always in the right corner.

O1 dribbles to O2’s side, staying even with the lane line. O4 flashes up the lane to receive the ball from O1. O3 takes one step off the lane and sets a back screen for O2. Using O3’s screen, O2 makes a flex cut across the lane to the low block,

As O2 cuts off O3’s back screen, O1 should set a downscreen for O3 (his man should be helping defensively in the lane). O1 then clears to the corner. O4 hits O3 with a pass. If O3 is open, he can take the 3-pointer. O5 should slide out of the corner to get a better screening angle,

O5 and O4 set a double screen for O2 for the open 3-point shot,

If you want to learn more about Oregon's 1-4 continuity offense, then check out Ernie Kent's DVD on Motion Offense and Quick Hitters.

By far the most important factor in the success of any off-season training regiment is accountability. In my opinion, even the most well-thought out individual workout plan isn't going to be any good if you cannot verify that the player actually followed the plan. We've all heard of players saying they are going to work on their game all summer, only to find out they scarfed down Doritos all day and played PS3 with their buddies all summer long. Professionals do it too, Shaq always claims he's going to maintain his playing weight through the long summer only to come into training camp well over 300 pounds. It's human nature, people slack off in their days off and unless there is some kind of record keeping and accountability, it's nearly impossible for most people to stay on track otherwise.

So, how exactly do you accomplish it? I'm no expert but here are some of my thoughts.

Rewarding Attendance

Because accountability in staying with a training plan is arguably more important than the individual results, the incentives should ideally be structured in such a way that you reward attendance as much if not more so than the results. In this way, its slightly inverted than during the basketball season, where you want to reward performance, and not simply showing up. It matters less what your 40-yard dash time is, then it does how many days in a month you actually showed up to workout and the progress from week to week.

If you keep the attendance records or daily logs online or on a big board in the weight room, it serves as its own positive reinforcement, as social pressure between teammates helping to motivate each other and to keep each other honest.

Buddy System

Pair up individuals so that they have a training buddy. Working out in pairs helps keep both individuals on schedule and on task. Will it work all the time? Probably not, there will be times when both individuals slack off together, but it certainly helps to have that other person nagging them to work out.

Additionally, working out in pairs is safer and more effective. For example, nobody should be running alone in the park especially with iPods all the rage nowadays and all weightlifting should be done in pairs anyways. Working out in pairs is more fun as well as there are more activities you can do with 2 people that you can't do alone, especially basketball-wise.

Daily Log

The beauty of the Internet is that you can have players use an online dairy to post important information like daily heartbeat, lifting numbers, body weight, and even daily dietary intake. As a coach, you can login to track their daily progress. Now, of course, some players can and will cheat by not doing the workouts and just entering in phony information. But the reality is, if someone is so lazy as to not bother to work out all summer, they're probably even lazier than to go in and enter fake numbers every single day. This is also pretty easy to verify, because if players are paired up in the buddy system then its easy to know if one or both have skipped workouts and just entered phony info. Also, if they're entering in numbers every day and they show up 30 pounds heavier for the first day of school or training camp, it's obvious that they've faked it.

In terms of what specific individual skill development fundamentals players should be working on, I don't think there is necessarily one size fits all kind of system. Ideally, each player should have a program that specifically addresses the areas in which they need to improve on. On a more general level, players should be working on common fundamentals such as shooting, strength, and endurance. For more ideas on workout specifics, check out Alan Stein's Pro Power 2-Pack DVD which talks a lot about basketball specific strength training.

Another good full court drill to use which I got from the same French drill book. It emphasizes transition defense, rebounding, and 2-on-1 transition offense. You can make it a continuous drill with 3 new players each time.

3 Man Tap Drill into 2-on-1:

X1 will toss the ball off the backboard and sprint hard to the opposite baseline
becoming the defender in the 2-1 situation.

O2 will also tap the ball off the board and O3 will rebound the ball after O2's tap
out-letting the ball to O2 who has filled either the left or right corridor.

O2 will push the ball up against X1 looking for a defensive commitment, O3 will trail and fill the other wing,

For more practice planning and drill ideas, Bobby Knight's brand new Practice Drills DVD is now available.

From a French drill notebook here is a good full court passing drill you can use maybe as a warmup drill at the beginning of practice, or maybe at the beginning of the season to emphasis good sharp passes, no drops, and speed. You'll need at least 2 players at a time, but can go with as many as 8 at one time. If you want to use the whole team you can have a line at the baseline. For benchmarks, you can set a time of how long it takes for the whole team to go through X number of times and if they miss the benchmark the whole team does extra pushups or suicides. You can also choose to add pushups or suicides for each missed pass or turnover.

Inside to Outside Passing:

In this drill, the inside players run the lane making the required, passes (chest, bounce, behind back, volleyball etc.) to each other.

At the far baseline the players peel off to their side line and run the outside
lanes passing over the top of the inside lanes.

For more practice planning and drill ideas, Bobby Knight's brand new Practice Drills DVD is now available.

There is quite the debate going on since left-wing writer David Zirin's article was posted on the left-leaning Huffington Post the other day talking about the San Francisco school district's decision to allow the Junior Reserve Officers' Training Corps (JROTC) to run Phys. Ed. (PE) as an alternative to PE classes. Basically, it means that the SFSD will give PE credit to JROTC cadets who choose JROTC instead of regular PE classes. Zirin makes the following argument:

The idea that the programs of the Pentagon could serve as some sort of replacement for real physical education is Orwellian...Proponents of the JROTC option want more militarism integrated into education. They want the Pentagon in the public square.
In my personal opinion, I don't have any issue with allowing students the choice to gain PE credit in a JROTC-run program. And the notion that outcomes are any less satisfactory with a JROTC-run program as opposed to a public school run program are fundamentally based on opinion rather than fact. For me, as long as all instructors of the JROTC and public schools are certified teachers of the state or province in question, they really should be equivalent (and in fact the JROTC instructors are certified teachers as the commentors in the HuffPo article point out).

While I share Zirin's opinion that a full substitution of regular PE for JROTC-run cadet is not in the best interests of all kids -- especially if we want inclusive schools that respect the right of some families who object to any form of military-based education due to their religious beliefs -- I think Zirin's cynicism is excessive. Lets be real here, for every JROTC instructor that is a war-monger, ra-ra-ra, hoo-wa type looking to turn every 14-year-old into a GI Joe, I'll find you a public school PE teacher who represents the complete opposite of the picture of perfect health.

Additionally, I think there is a tendency for people who oppose the military to have a naive and overly simplistic view of people who are in the military and the kinds of instruction they receive. Most people who think like Zirin believe that all of those who serve the military were somehow brainwashed into joining the military and are therefore incapable of intellectual and critical thinking. I think Zirin underestimates both the quality and value of a military education. After all, West Point was just ranked as America's top college, higher than Princeton, Yale, and Harvard -- and best of all it is free to attend (well OK not completely free, there is the little issue of that contract you have to fulfill after you graduate).

The real tragedy here is that all around the U.S. and Canada, PE is no longer considered a core subject and is instead being relegated to optional status. If Americans want real health care reform, they ought to think long and hard about these recent changes to education policy. All of these issues are linked, you can't fundamentally change one without changing the other.

Any team that wants to run and play uptempo must utilize their forwards in their fast break and early offense. Roy Williams of UNC calls it going "key to key." Probably most of you coaches have heard of or run some variation of "Kentucky layups" -- not sure where the name comes from but I'm thinking its Rick Pitino. Anyways, here is a variation of Kentucky layups which should be good at working on those forwards going key to key and of course, conditioning. I got the drill -- called First Big Drill -- from the Coaches Clipboard website run by Basketball BC:

First Big Drill

First Big Drill uses four players, two post players and two perimeter players, and requires these players to make two trips of the floor.

O4 starts the drill by making a shot and immediately out-letting the ball to O1. As this is occurring, O5 sprints from the foul line to the front of the rim at the other end. O1 will pass the ball into space and let O5 run onto the ball for a lay-up. O2 and O1 must sprint the floor and touch the baseline at the other end. After out-letting the ball O4 must sprint to the opposite foul line.

After making the lay-up, O5 immediately takes the ball out of the basket and outlets it to O2. O4 touches the foul line, turns and sprints to the opposite basket, and looks for a pass over top from O2. O1 sprints to the opposite end and O5 tries to recover the ball out of the basket before it touches the floor.

After this group of four players has completed two trips the next group should be ready to go.

This drill cannot be done well without the players giving maximum effort. It is a great conditioner, teaches all players to run the full length of the floor, works on passing skills and the post players finishing at a high rate of speed.

For more ideas on transition offense, check out Lorenzo Romar's DVD on Finishing in Transition. Coach Romar is the head coach of the University of Washington.

It's August and no doubt many coaches out there are starting to think about next year. One of the big picture stuff to figure out is what kind of defensive team you will be. Depending on your personnel, you'll have to decide between either a pressing/attacking defensive style, or a "bend but don't break" defensive style. If you're aiming for the BBDB, then some defensive ideas based on Gregg Marshall's 50 Gap Defense (current head coach at Wichita State) below may apply to you:

Defensive field-goal percentage is the best indicator of how good a team's defense is. Our "containment" defensive philosophy is based on making our opponents beat us with a tough shot and eliminating easy baskets.

Two Players Back: When our team takes a shot, we send our 1 and 2 players back on defense. Our guards are typically our least effective rebounders. Sending them back hasn't hurt us that much. Our rule is that when a shot is taken, 3, 4 and 5 go to the boards every time, and 1 and 2 are back. If 1 or 2 takes the shot, we still have at least one player back. Our goal is to make our opponents attack us 5-on-5 and take a tougher shot.

Influence The Ball: We teach our players that once they get the break stopped, they should try to "influence" the ball toward the sideline and baseline. This is in contrast to "forcing" or overplaying the ball to these areas. We think it's more important to flatten or contain the ball than to get it to a particular spot on the floor. We want our players to stay wide and try to stop a direct drive to the basket.

Ball Pressure: When the player with the ball has it above his or her waist, we want to put lots of pressure on and prevent him or her from making an easy pass or taking an easy shot. Once the ball handler drops the ball below his or her waist, we step back and create some space. We stress active feet. Our objective is to bother the pass or shot but contain the drive.

Help Side. We want to give lots of help away from the ball. We don't deny any pass outside the 3-point line. For example, both of our defenders on the wings can be dropped in to plug up a drive from the point. We want to encourage a pass to the wing and discourage a drive to the basket. By giving this much help on the ball, we give added confidence to the on-ball defender to really pressure the opponent.

Protect The Paint. We want to be physical with cutters flashing to the ball and coming off screens. We want to dictate where they cut, especially when they're headed to the basket area. For example, if the cutter curls toward the basket off a downscreen, we ask that the defender guarding the screener "pop" the cutter and make the offensive player change the path of the cut. When a weak-side defender makes a straight cut to the ball through the lane, we ask that his or her man make contact and slow him down. Again, we want to stop direct cuts to the basket.

Get A Hand Up. Closing out on the basketball is a skill we work on almost daily. We never want the shooter to get an open look at the rim. We don't try to block the shot, although this does happen. We mainly try to get the shooter to alter his or her shot.

Post Play. Our normal way of playing the post is to stay behind or to side-front. We would rather make someone hit a tough turnaround jumper on the block than to pin or lob us while we're fronting. There aren't that many players who can stick this shot. When we do run up against one, we look at alternate methods of coverage, such as fronting or doubling down.

If you are looking for more M2M ideas, Bobby Knight's brand new 2-Pack Man Defense DVD is now available.

There's been a lot of talk the past couple of days regarding the formal announcement that the NCAA has allowed Simon Fraser University (SFU) to compete in Division II beginning this fall with all teams transitioning by 2012. I am an alumni of SFU and currently attend SFU as a post-graduate in Education, so I have followed this story for many years now.

Really, this story is a non-story. If you follow the history of SFU you will know that since its inception in 1965, SFU has always competed in the U.S. as part of the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA). When the NAIA realigned conferences in 1997, many schools in the Pacific Northwest made the natural switch to NCAA Division II, SFU also applied to the NCAA in a bid to join Division 2 in 2000, but was rejected because of NCAA rules on international schools. Left with no other viable alternative, it was only until 2002 when SFU decided to join the Canadian Inter-university Sport (CIS). Looking back historically, SFU has therefore been competing in the U.S. for 37 years compared to just 7 years in Canada. Essentially, the NCAA is just making up for what they should have done 10 years ago, and SFU is just returning to what its always been doing.

Contrary to the Sports Illustrated article, I don't think anyone at SFU or in Vancouver has any grand expectations that SFU will ever join Division I or that this realignment will fundamentally change how athletics are organized and managed in Canada. The full scholarship situation is unique and will give SFU a good recruiting advantage over other CIS-based Canadian schools. However, the blue-chip prospects will always compete in the NCAA Division 1. When Steve Nash was playing his high school ball at St. Michaels in Victoria, he always had the option of playing for SFU, against U.S. competition, he still chose Division I Santa Clara (incidentally, Jay Triano was the head coach at SFU when Nash graduated HS).

The fact is, college athletics have never really gained much popularity among college campuses in Canada, certainly nowhere near the level of the U.S. Just to give you an example, the SFU women's basketball team just won the CIS national championship in March, yet I can bet that if you asked 10 current SFU students at random, less than half could tell you who won or name a player or the head coach. Average attendance to college football games (SFU or UBC) pale in comparison to most American high schools (or even Canadian high schools for that matter). In fact, up until this past season, SFU has played the majority of its home football games, since 1965, at a public field located a dozen miles from the SFU campus.

Additionally, anyone who has attended SFU knows that SFU is a small commuter school by most standards. SFU's student body total is roughly 25,000. More than half of its undergraduates transfer in from local community colleges. In Canada, SFU is considered a comprehensive university, differentiated from the Medical Doctoral universities because SFU does not have Faculties in Medicine or Law. Which means, SFU is not a major research institution and doesn't get the big grant money for programs like medical research (but SFU is great for programs like Business, Education, Liberal Arts). SFU does not have a fundraising machine like most Division 1 schools, nor does it have a large endowment fund, nor a particularly influential alumni group. Simply stated, SFU is not financially structured to compete in NCAA Division I athletics.

So, while I'm excited with the increased prospect of competition with U.S. schools with this latest move to the NCAA division II (especially in basketball), I have no grand illusions of how this will fundamentally "change Canadian athletics." Lets not look into it for more than it really is, this was a decision made purely out of geographical and economical reasons, which I am fine with. For the decades that SFU competed in the U.S. as part of the NAIA, Canadian athletics remained about the same as it is today, and I don't expect that status quo to change anytime soon.

P.S. The picture above is of Bruce Langford, head coach of SFU's women's basketball team. Winner of 3 CIS National Championships in the last 5 years.

Reading the other day that Dave Leitao was being linked to a head coaching job in the NBADL, specifically with Rio Grande Valley, it had me thinking about his 32 motion offense and what went wrong there in Virginia. In my opinion, the offense is simply too complicated. But maybe I'm wrong. You can be the judge, here are some notes and diagrams of what I've been able to reconstruct of the 32 motion offense,

According to Leitao, the goal of the motion offense is "you want have an offense that has control and some freedom." The problem though is that motion offense is very good for really skilled players because you can trust them, or very bad for unskilled players because you can't limit them. The offense is based on a series of cuts and stagger screens, attempting to take advantage of mismatches. Forwards are mostly blockers setting screens but also ducking in looking for post-up opportunities. Guards are coming off screens looking for open shots. You can run it as a one and done quick hitter or delay by repeating the motion over and over. The five basic cuts are:

1) Away
2) Corner
3) Chase
4) Swing
5) Shuffle


The idea of the away cut is to run a wing player through the lane. O1 can dribble to or simply pass to the wing, then cuts to the opposite wing. The opposite forward comes up while the opposite wing cuts through the lane looking for the ball, then clears out to the corner,

O2 reverses the ball to O4 then to O1. O5 sets a short UCLA screen for O2 who uses it to cut over top and through the lane looking for the ball,

If neither cut is open, then O4 and O5 set a stagger screen for O3 in the corner. O3 comes off both screens, O1 looks for O3 for the open 3-pointer,

O5 and O4 set another stagger screen this time for O2 who settles into the opposite corner. If O3 is not open, he can dribble/pass to O2 in the corner for the 3-pointer,


In the corner cut, the guard at the top cuts to corner, same side as the pass to the wing. The goal is to setup a good post-up for O4. O5 comes up to the top of the key,

As the ball is reversed from O3, to O5, to O2, O4 goes block to block looking for a good duck in or post-up,

If O4 is not available, the offense goes into a stagger screen, O3 and O5, for O1 who comes over the top of the stagger and receives a pass from O2 for the open 3-pointer,


The idea of the chase is like the fill in the DDM. When O1 dribbles towards the wing, O3 shuffles while O2 trails and fills up top. O1 passes to the trailer O2, then O4 comes up to set a screen for O1 who locates on the wing,

There are a series of screens by forwards for guards, O5 sets a baseline flex for O3 looking to curl into a mid-range jumper. O4 screens for O1 coming over the top for an open 3-pointer,


In the swing, the idea is to get the defense to chase. O1 passes to the wing, O5 sets a UCLA screen, O4 sets a baseline flex, and O3 makes it a stack screen. O1 goes through all the screens and comes out the other side. O2 can dribble/pass to O1. If O1's defender goes over top, then O1 can flatten out for the open jumper in the corner. If O1's defender trails all screens, then O1 should be able to come up to the free-throw extended for an open jumper. If the defense switches everything, then O4 and O5 should have mismatched post-up opportunities,

If nothing develops, O5 steps out to set a ball screen for O2 to drive for the open mid-range or dump-off if help comes,


The shuffle cut is your basic cut for spacing. As O1 dribbles towards the wing, O2 shuffles down. O5 comes to set a mini-flex baseline screen for O2. O4 comes up to receive the pass form O4 and O3 flattens out,

The next two sequences are just flex downscreens to setup both 3-point opportunities and reverse seal post-ups,

If you are intrigued and want to learn everything there is to know about the 32 motion offense, then check out Dave Leitao's DVD on the 32 Motion Offense.

It's amazing that every year you just keep seeing more and more great technologically innovative ways to help us improve both as players and coaches. The Internet has allowed us as coaches to connect, communicate, and collaborate with each other -- to share information like never before. A great site with tons of free and innovative information on shooting I came across recently is Shot Science. Its run by a youth and high school basketball coach in California. Check out their interactive shot troubleshooter below in Youtube, you click on your "trouble" area and it takes you to another video with tips,

If you are looking for a good continuity zone offense, probably the best one that I've come across is Bo Ryan's "X" zone offense. The only drawback is that if you run Bo Ryan's Swing continuity offense against man defense like Wisconsin does, you'll need to make quite a few adjustments to teach the "X" zone offense from the Swing.

The X Zone Offense:

Bo Ryan calls his zone offense, the X zone offense. Like any good zone offense, it takes advantage of some core principles of going underneath, using the high post, ball reversal, screening the zone, and attacking the gaps. The X zone even works against matchup 2-3 zones because the posts cause problems by the "X'ing" action. The keys to the offense are to use vertical and horizontal speed, and to play off the "big on big" screens. The baseline rover, O3, needs to follow 3 basic rules:

- ball location, how is the rover being defended?
- ability to flash into another gap
- flash into the paint from screen by big

Ideally, you want to run the same lanes as you would in your man offense so that getting into the X zone offense is the same. The offense starts with O1 dribbling up the right side of the floor at O3 in the right corner. O5 steps out to the perimeter while O4 cuts into the low post. O2 is flattening out on the back side to stretch the zone defense horizontally, this is very important and Coach Ryan stresses this point continuously,

If neither the post nor the corner player receive the ball, O1 reverses it to O5 up top. O4 steps in the middle of the lane and tries to post for a "2" count while O3 runs the baseline looking to step into the short corner. When O4 posts in the
middle, O3 should have an open seam underneath in the short corner because O4 is occupying X5, the post defender. If O5 is unable to locate O3 or O4 with a pass, the ball is swung to O2 on the left wing,

Because the action in the beginning by O1 and O5, both perimeter defenders should be guarding O1 and O5 so when the ball is reversed to O2, X4, the low defender, has to come out and close out on O2. This situation leaves O3 open in the short corner running along the baseline,

After the ball reversal, O4 steps out of the lane and cuts to the
top of the key. O5 cuts down to the ball side low block. Just as O2 did in the beginning, this time O1 flattens out on the back side to stretch the zone defense,

O2 can pass to O3 in the corner at anytime for the corner 3-pointer. O3 can also go inside for a post entry if the defender is playing on the high side. If O5 gets the ball in the post, O4 can dive to the basket or hold while O5 turns and looks to score or kick it out opposite to O4 or O1,

No matter how which way the X zone offense is initiated, the ball is continually reversed, O5 steps in the lane and posts for a "2" count while O3 runs the baseline looking to sneak in behind the low zone defenders at any open area,

The offense is now in the original alignment. Emphasis with good spacing, with all players able to "touch" the post as they call it (pass or look inside to the post), while stretching the zone with O2 on the back side of the floor. They will continue to run this movement from side to side.

Interior Screening Option:

At anytime O5, the post man on the perimeter, can back screen the back side defenders. There are 2 options: screen the top guard defender or the low defender on the zone. O1 would look to skip the pass to O2 while O3 runs the baseline looking to receive a pass if O2 does not have a shot,

High Ball Screening Option:

Another screening action can occur when the two post players screen for
each other on the perimeter. This screen can come from any direction at
any time. It will be an option read as to when and where the other post player will
come from when the screening action takes place. The post should be naked coming off the ball screen, forcing the low side zone defender to choose between dribble penetration or the corner 3-pointer,

I got my X Zone video from Amazon but I believe they are no longer available there. If you are looking for more zone offense video info though, then check out Mike Krzyzewski's Attacking the Zone DVD. Coach Krzyzewski is head coach of Duke University and of Team USA in the upcoming 2010 Olympics in London.