This is a wonderful sequence and the key play in the victory by the Indiana Pacers over the Washington Wizards tonight. It starts with a great defensive play and leads to the 3-pointer the other way, a 5-point swing if you think about it.

Basketball is a weird game, you play 40 or 48 minutes, score 80-100 points, and its funny that one sequence can come to define a game, momentum is such a big part of basketball. I've coached many a game where in looking back, there was that one key play that changed everything. Anyways, watch the video and then you can read my thoughts below.

I've always felt that all great basketball plays have started out on defense, and it's no surprise that I'm really at heart, a defensive kind of coach. This sequence starts out that way with the tremendous block by David Harrison, can't say enough about that help-side block. This leads to a fast-break 3-pointer the other way executed beautifully by the Pacers. Here is how it breaks down,

I actually think the Wizards defended this play quite well, they get back into transition D very well and setup the triangle (if 2 players, setup an I). O2 penetrates and draws X1 and X2. O1 and O3 (Dunleavy) spread the floor beautifully.

After penetrating, O2 reverses the ball to O1. Notice how X3 comes up to cover O1 and X1 instead goes under to cover O3 (Dunleavy). Like I said, the Wizards actually play good transition D, as X3 communicates to X1 to cover Dunleavy. Finally the ball is reversed to Dunleavy in the corner who nails the 3-pointer as the recovery is too late.

Another great thing I like is how Dunleavy checks his feet to ensure he is behind the 3-point line (replay and pause the video to see for yourself again) before getting the pass. At the lower levels, you see a lot of long 2-pointers because players aren't aware of where the 3-point line is. These are the little things that you need to teach your players, they make a huge difference.

For fast-breaks, I love coach Roy William's DVD on his Offensive Philosophy. Coach Williams is the one behind the legendary Kansas fast break. For notes and other stuff, check out The X's and O's of Basketball Forum.

To Help or Not to Help

This is one of those in-game adjustments that I think is important when you are using a M2M defense. Knowing when to help and when not to help. Knowing the situation, knowing your opponent, are all critical factors that go into what you decide.

If the team you are playing is known to have a great 2-guard who can hit the 3, obviously you would want to stay at home.

What about the situation where your team is up by 3 late in the game, do you help on penetration and give up a possible open 3-pointer? Or do you take your chances 1-on-1 in the perimeter or in the post.

Or what if you are playing against a team that plays the AASAA Walberg/Calipari offense. Do you tell your perimeter players to help on penetration or stay at home on the shooters.

One way or another, I think the worst thing is indecision in both the players and you as a coach. I think if you are playing M2M, you have to either hedge and stop the penetration, or stay at home with the shooters. If your players don't really do either, basically if they are just stuck in the middle not doing either, it will result in both penetration baskets and 3-pointers. I think it's critical to prepare your team for both the situation and opponent and know when to help and when not to help.

If you are looking for something different in a M2M defense, take a look at Jack Bennett's DVD on a gapping M2M defense. Very much like a matchup zone with specifics on how to help and recover, doubling the post and much much more.

For notes or more discussions, check out the X's and O's Basketball Forum.

Bowen Ds Up on BRoy, Spurs Win

With the start of the official NBA season, I think it's fitting to have my first post about Bruce Bowen from the defending champion San Antonio Spurs. I love watching Bowen play, the Spurs superpest, because he's such a great defender. It's no secret that I'm a big defensive guy so I love watching guys like Bowen, Raja Bell, Battier, Camby, Okafor, etc... I posted earlier on Bruce Bowen doing his TNT fundamentals segment on becoming a better man-to-man defender. He's just so great at moving his feet and using his hands. Watch the video and then you can read my thoughts below.

Here are some more things that I love about Bowen,

- He allows you to drive but gives you a bump with his body to let you know he's there. Once you pick up your dribble, he uses his body to force you away from the basket.
- The charge, maybe a little embellishment, but at least he knows how to take a charge.
- Even when he gets beat, he uses the angle to his advantage by forcing BRoy into help.

BRoy's stat line, 39 minutes, 2-for-10, 7 points, 4 turnovers. Now that is what I call shutdown.

There's something to be said about a player who takes pride in shutting down the other team's best player. If you have a player like that on your team, it can be a god-send.

A great DVD that breaks down the man-to-man fundamentals is Geno Auriemma's 8 Essential Defensive Drills DVD. Coach Auriemma is the head coach of multiple national championship winning lady Huskies of UConn.

Go over the Coaching Basketball Forum to discuss.

Player Tryouts, General Concepts

As the real season approaches for many of you, this seems to be a topic that is coming up more often. Mostly team tryouts happen at the lower levels, when you have a bunch of players and only 25 or so spots for 2 teams. I'm not sure there is an exact science or a correct way to conduct tryouts, but here is what I've done in the past.

I think it's important to use both an objective and subjective approach for player evaluation. I usually try to incorporate a quantitative component and a qualitative component to the tryout. So basically part of the evaluation will be straight up numbers, how fast, how many wall bounces, how many baskets, how many side-to-sides. The next part will be based on scrimmages and observations.


The quantitative will measure certain athletic abilities, are they tall? are they fast? can they move laterally? can they jump? are they coordinated? So you want to have a spreadsheet and record how many each player gets in a certain time period,

- baseline to baseline sprint
- mikan drill
- wall bounces
- defensive slides inside the key, touch line to line
- alternating foot to ball taps
- wall taps


The qualitative will measure the tangibles, basketball IQ, do they make smart decisions? do they play under control? are they confident with the ball?

- 2-on-2 halfcourt
- 3-on-3 fullcourt
- 3-on-3 no dribble, to see how the players move without the ball

Doing both quantitative and qualitative is important for a couple of reasons. The quantitative will allow you to determine how athletic this person is. Maybe you come across a kid that can't do a layup yet, but if they can run a 4.5 40-yd dash, I think you'll be able to find a spot for that player on your team. The qualitative will allow you to determine whether the player is coachable and works well with others. Maybe you come across a kid that is slightly overweight but has a great attitude and is working harder than everyone else.

Most of the time, the top 50% of the players will be easy to pick. It's the other 50% that you'll need to worry about.

Now if you or your son/daughter did not make the team this year, there are some great videos to look at that will help you become a better player and hopefully make the team next year. Take a look at 5Star's DVD on the Individual Improvement plan. And lets not forget the famous case of Michael Jordan, who was cut from his Varsity team but made it a year later. If MJ can do it, so can you.

If you're looking for tryout stuff, I have plenty of notes so be sure to check them out at the X's and O's of Basketball Forum.

As I've written before, I think it's critical that as a coach you are prepared for every scenario in a late game situation as Rick Barnes states. This is a play that Illinois used in a late game situation to beat Michigan a few years ago. It's a simple play, but obviously well executed by Illinois and poorly defended by UM.


Illinois starts out as they usually do, in the box set. O5 is the inbounder instead of a guard as in late games, usually there is a taller defender attempting to steal the inbound.

O3 and O2 set downscreens for O1 and O4 respectively. O1 comes off hard straight coming to the ball. O5 should hit O1 and get directly to the ball-side elbow. O4 comes to the weak-side elbow and both screeners O2 and O3 go to the wings at the free-throw line extended to form a 1-4 high setup.

I like this 1-4 setup because it's good in late game situations when the team is playing aggressive ball pressure.

Quick Hitter:

Pretty simple play out of the 1-4. O1 will dribble towards the other wing. As that happens, O5 will come across the free-throw line and set a cross-screen for O4 who will curl around over top of the screen then cut directly to the basket. O3 heads to the corner for spacing.

O1 passes the ball to O2 who looks for the quick lob to O4 for the layup. O5 pops out again for spacing and to confuse the defense.


As I stated, nothing terribly complicated here. What happened in real life was on the O5 cross screen, X5 forgot to switch and so O4 was left wide open all by himself underneath the basket.

Personally, for last second plays, I've mostly just designed a play to get our best shooter the ball, we clear the side, and have one of the forwards come and set a ball-screen and roll. We tell our best player to shoot if open or hit the roll if the defenders trap.

Defensively, we tell our players to switch everything in a last second shot. The thinking is that regardless of a mismatch, we want everyone defended in a last shot, we can't afford to have an open man underneath the hoop.

Not entirely related, but if you're looking for a great Bruce Weber video, I highly recommend you take a look at coach Weber's DVD on 20 competitive defensive drills. Now, for a brand new video with sideline last-second shot special plays, check out Kelvin Sampson's DVD on Special Late Clock Plays.

Check out the X's and O's of Basketball Forum for the plenty of notes to download.

This I found from highlights on Sportscenter again the other night. This clip emphasizes the importance of your forwards running key to key in transition. When they do that, you get easy baskets. Usually you have guards getting out in the fast break, but when your forwards are running, it truly is unstoppable. Watch the video and then you can read my thoughts below.

The first thing you'll notice is that there are 5 Maverick players and only 3 Bulls players, you must create the numbers advantage, 5-on-3 in this case. The forwards are the trailers but they are running almost stride-to-stride with the guards.

Another key to this early offense is that the 2 guard is the one bringing up the ball. Again, I think it's important that both your guards have the capability to push the ball, if you have to always pass it to the 1 guard, I think that wastes some time that is always crucial in a fast break situation. The 2 pushes the ball and finds the 3 on the cross-court pass.

Once that pass happens, notice again the numbers advantage, we have 1 defender covering 3 players, 2 are forwards. It's an easy pass to the 5 which puts it away easily.

Again, I think it's critical that your forwards can get out and run on the break. In this case, it created a 5-on-3 for the easy finish. Now, I don't know the defensive circumstances that led to this break, but it very well might have been off a rebound or whatever.

If you want to be a good fast break team, make sure your forwards are running stride-to-stride with your guards. This will get your team a ton of easy baskets.

For a couple of great videos on fast breaking and early offense, check out Roy Williams DVD on the UNC Offensive Philosophy and also Lawrence Frank's DVD on the Early Offense. Personally, I like Roy Williams better, mostly because I'm a big fan of his, but Lawrence Frank is a really smart coach and his New Jersey Nets are a model when it comes to watching good fast break teams.

I have notes on both coach Williams and Frank so be check out the X's and O's Basketball Forum.

I recently watched Jerry Tarkanian's DVD on the Amoeba defense as a coach friend of mine is thinking of putting it in this year for his JV team. I think that there are times when this defense would work well. It's good at trapping the ball in the corner and fronting the post which will force some turnovers. Watch the video and then you can read my thoughts below.


It basically looks like a Diamond and 1 formation. Tarkanian says that X1 and X2 should be your best defenders as they need to be cover alot of territory and must be very aggressive ball defenders.

Trap in the Corner:

The key to the defense is to force the ball into the corner where you want your forward to aggressively trap the ball there. There is basically a double on the post with 1 person fronting and 1 behind.

The way this trap is setup is kind of unique. It's a jump switch as X4 jumps out to cover the corner man while X3 hops down to front the post. The way Tarkanian teaches in the video, the idea is that the post is open for a brief second and the corner may try to throw it inside, that is precisely when X3 is coming down and should intercept the pass, he says they practice this quite a bit.

X2 is in deny, X1 is in help. The only pass you want the other team to make is the long lob pass back to O1. The O3 skip pass is an option, but if X4 sets a good trap and is aggressive, O4 should not be able to make that pass.


I think this is a good defense to use at times when you want to take away the other team's best post player while aggressively trapping the ball. It will force some turnovers and against teams that haven't prepared against it, I don't doubt that you will be successful with it. The only thing is that I'm a little skeptical against the ball reversal and skip passes.

If you want to see his entire defense, take a look at Coach Jerry Tarkanian's Amoeba Defense DVD

Also, I have Amoeba defense notes so be sure to check them out at the X's and O's Basketball Forum.

As the season approaches, a lot of teams will be trying to put together a game plan on attacking various zones and matchup zones. I made this clip from Sportscenter highlights to show how you can attack a 1-2-2 matchup or similarly a pack-line type defense. Watch the video and then you can read my thoughts below.

So, what exactly is going on here. Pretty simple, it's a ball screen on Vince Carter's defender. Carter uses his speed to come off the screen and get into the high post area. X4 and X5 get sucked in allowing O4 to get underneath for an alley-oop dunk,

A lot of people make zone offense to be much more complicated that it needs to be. In this case, against a 1-2-2 matchup, you must get the ball into the high post area. Whether by dribble penetration or through a cutter, once you get the ball in that space, the defense must collapse allowing you to use baseline cuts underneath for easy backdoor plays.

I was watching a Bob Hurley Sr. video, and that's what he stresses over and over. Get the ball in the high post. When the ball is in the high post, the defense breaks down, and they start compensating.

Another key I believe is to put your best player in that high post area, don't put a marginal or role player there, it should be a player that is a threat to score, that way the defense will collapse naturally.

I've recommended Coach Mike Krzyzewski's Zone Offense DVD before but I'm also recommending Coach Jim Boeheim's DVD on the complete zone offense. Coach Boeheim is a pioneer of his famous 2-3 zone defense, what better person to explain how to attack it.

As usual, I have plenty of notes on zone offense so check out the X's and O's Basketball Forum to request them.

I know a lot of you out there are ball pressure and trapping teams so I thought i would give you all a pretty good drill that helps practice some of the concepts of forcing turnovers. If you want to run a press like Bruce Pearl's 1-2-1-1 press, the two defenders must work together to force the turnover.


Pretty basic, 1 ball, 3 players per group. Try to matchup talent, so don't pick your point guard as the dribbler and your 2 slowest players to practice trapping. Make sure the levels are appropriate to help build confidence in your players.

The Poke:

Start the drill with the 3 players across the free-throw line. If you are just learning this drill, best to keep the players close together, so the 2 defenders are at the elbows. As your players get more comfortable with the drill you can spread them out or start them well behind the dribbler.

O1 starts dribbling first out towards center-court. The other 2 defenders trail and attempt to poke the ball away without bumping the dribbler. They 2 defenders should work together in poking the ball and recovering the loose ball. This is important for any trapping, pressing team, to steal the ball properly.

The Trap:

Once the 2 defenders reach the same level of the dribbler. If the dribbler still has possession of the ball, he will reverse direction.

The dribbler must dribble backwards. X1 and X2 will turn around and attempt to trap the dribbler. Once the ball is dead, both defenders should practice setting the 'T' between their legs making sure the dribbler cannot pivot and split the defense to pass out of the double-team. Freeze your players and correct their position if they aren't doing this properly. Any trap or press must be executed properly so as to ensure the offense cannot pass out of the trap.

As the players get better and better, you can add points. The players that have the least amount of points need to do lines, wall taps or pushups.

If you're looking for more info, I recommend Jeff Lebo's DVD on half-court trapping techniques and doubling down. Coach Lebo is head coach at Auburn and provides a ton of great info on trapping and doubling. I also have lots of notes so head over the X's and O's Basketball Forum to take a look and see what I have.

After going through highlights, I found this gem showing you exactly how to beat a 2-3 zone or matchup zone. The video shows you all the key principles of beating a zone, ball-fakes, dribble penetrate the gaps, ball-reversal and slip underneath. Watch the video and then you can read my thoughts below.

First, you'll see the wing attack the middle defenders with the dribble then reverse the ball. Then you'll see Nate Robinson use the pump fake beautifully to take the defender closing on him out of the play, again he attacks the gap with the dribble. He reverses the ball again to the other wing. Now that the zone has shifted a couple of times, O4 (Chandler I believe) slips underneath the zone and the wing finds him open down low. Much like this diagram here,

It's really just a great clip. I really like attacking the zone underneath because the zone keys on the ball and it's easy for a forward or center to slip underneath. We also teach all our bigs to slip underneath for the offensive rebounds because in the zone there is no block out responsibility and it is much easier to clean up the glass.

I love the shot-fake and dribble penetration. It's amazing to see that zone shift around and by the time the ball gets to the wing the second time around, it's moved around so much they've lost 2 players underneath.

For more great ideas on attacking zone defenses, you must take a look at Coach Mike Krzyzewski's Zone Offense DVD. Coach K does a great job showing you how the fundamentals in how his Duke team attacks a 2-3 or 1-2-2. As usual, I have plenty of notes on zone offense so check out the X's and O's Basketball Forum to request them.

There are situations where you must never allow one of the opposing team's players to get the ball. This is especially the case in late game situations where you want to deny their best free throw shooter, or you are up by a basket and you know the other team has a play for their star player.


I saw a team that ran this last year and it worked like a charm. For personnel, you want a couple of really good defenders to double their star player, O1 in this case, the entire time. X3 is your best on the ball defender.

So basically the setup is a full-court M2M full denial press with a face guard on O1, the star player. No matter what happens, O1 will never get the ball. X3 is in the chest of his man, X4 and X5 are in hard denial, even if they come up to help. Many times, the other team will get a 5-second violation the first time they see it.

Ball Pressure:

If the ball is inbounded, the only pass we want to allow is to O3 in the corner. X3 is your best on the ball defender and will be in their face, making O3 work.

We allow the reverse back to O2 or whoever is the safety, and X3 will run over and pressure the ball again. If O2 passes back to O3 then X3 will shift again to cover. The key is in-your-face aggressive ball pressure. Again, if the other team hasn't seen this yet, they will probably turn the ball over because many times, the star player is the one that usually handles the ball in pressure situations.


Once across half, we still want 2 defenders on O1. If this is not a late game situation, you may want to switch back to a M2M, zone or junk. But in this case, if it is late, you may elect to stay with the double. Many times, a late play is designed for the other team's best player. If they can't get the ball to that player, they are often lost.

Of course, ahead of time, you want to do your proper scouting. Find out which of their players is the weakest offensively. That player is the one we want to double from. Your other 3 players should be able to play good enough help defense to at least take away any layups. You can live with the other team's weakest player shooting open jumpers, because they will probably miss.


I've watched a lot of teams that were one-man teams. Make someone other than their 30-point star player make a play. The team I saw this defense from completely shut down the other team's star player. In fact, the star player got so frustrated, he got 2 technical fouls and was ejected before halftime. It was a gamble by the other coach, but it paid off as they won by 20.

If you are looking for more defensive breakdowns, I highly recommend Tom Izzo's Defensive Drills DVD. Coach Izzo does a great job breaking down the fundamentals of man-to-man with progressions from 1x1 to 5x5. Plus coach Izzo goes through rebounding fundamentals. Check out the X's and O's of Basketball Forum for more defensive notes to download.

Earlier, I posted an article on Gonzaga's Flex offense. Today, we look at Al Skinner and the Boston College flex. I would say, BC plays a more pure version of the flex than Gonzaga does. Gonzaga uses most of the flex screens and cuts but they've started to move away from motion and use more set plays. BC pretty much uses their flex motion exclusively. Watch the video and then you can read my thoughts below.


Boston College has had a couple of good big men in the past like Craig Smith and Jared Dudley. The key to the flex is constant movement. It's a patient offense focusing on precise screening and cutting action waiting for the defense to make a mistake.

In my opinion, you must have a balanced team with players that all can shoot, finish, pass, and make good decisions. If forces you to share the ball and all players play all positions.

Down screen:

The flex is all about reading your defender coming off of the off-ball screening action.

Against a M2M non-switching defense, you want O3 in this case to take the shot because X3 is in a trailing position. Now against a M2M switching defense, O5 can pick and seal X3 and O2 can look for that down low. Against a M2M non-switch where X3 cheats underneath on the overplay, O3 can curl around O5 and look for a quick pop from O2 for a short jumper in the middle of the key.

Flex Screen and Cut:

The flex screen and subsequent flex cut is at the heart of this offense. This is where you'll get most of the scoring.

Once again, it's critical that O2 reads his defender before choosing which path to take. Most of the time, O2 is going behind O4 looking for the pass underneath the basket by O5 in this case.


The flex is a very patient, deliberate offense. One high school coach around here who is basically a legend, runs the flex as his base. It can be adapted to any good team. It's advantages are that any player can be a threat to score and if run patiently, will almost always result in an open shot.

You can take a look at Mark Few's DVD Flex for Success, but Gary Williams of Maryland is probably a bit more pure in his teaching of the Flex so I'm recommending Gary Williams DVD on the Flex this time.

Also, be sure to check out the X's and O's Basketball Forum for the plethora of notes that I have including flex stuff.

Defending the ball screen is a key to any defense, pros, college or high school. There are many different ways to defend the ball screen, but the key to all of them is communication. When the communication breaks down between the 2 defenders, that's exactly when you get burned by the offense. Watch the video and then you can read my thoughts below.

I wish I had paused the video midway so that you can see it clearly, but you can pause midway to see it for yourself. Bargnani's defender decides to stay underneath as he anticipates Calderon driving towards the baseline. Calderon's defender has no idea what Bargnani's defender has chosen to do and so he follows Calderon. After Bargnani sets the screen, Calderon decides not to use the screen seeing Bargnani's defender cheating underneath. He makes a quick dribble towards the baseline and when he sees the communication breakdown he feeds Bargnani who is wide open for the 3-pointer as diagrammed below,

You must teach your players to constantly communicate with each other. This is how teams get broken down defensively when they don't communicate with each other. Players end up blaming each other for missed assignments.

For more ideas on the pick and roll and how to defend it, take a look at Jeff Van Gundy's DVD on the pick and roll. Van Gundy goes through both executing and guarding the pick and roll. Also, I have a some Jeff Van Gundy and Stan Van Gundy notes that might be useful, check out the X's and O's Basketball Forum to check them out.

I usually don't scheme press breakers for our team. Instead we teach our players to play with confidence and face the pressure head on with a just few simple rules. But there are schemes you can incorporate to not only break the press but get easy baskets. Louisville is one of those teams that not only pressures full-court, but really gets out and runs in the open court. This is one of their press breaker sets they use to get out and run.


It's a 1-3-1 shallow look. The key here is to get the ball in the middle where you can then hit the outlet runners.

O4 is the inbounder, O1 is middle, O3 and O2 the wings and O5 in center-court. O1 does a v-cut to the ball, the wings do v-cuts away from the ball. O4 can hit O3 over the shoulder, or O2 if overplayed and finally he should be able to hit O1 coming to the ball as the safe option.

Fast Break:

Now that the ball is inbounds, the idea is to advance the ball up the middle while the wings run the outlet.

If O1 can hit O5 at center-court, he does so. O5 will execute a simple pivot and find the outlet. Now if that option isn't available, he can hit O1 on the handoff. Another option is for O5 to come down and set a downscreen for O1. O4 is the safety and will look for the reverse pass from O1 if in trouble who is looking for the reversal to either O5 or all the way to O2.

Getting the ball into the middle is key, many presses like the 2-2-1 or even 1-2-2 are weak in the middle. You must get the ball in the middle of these presses where everything breaks down. If your team is more athletic than your opponent, you will get plenty of easy baskets.

For more great press breakers, check out John Brady's DVD on the press-break offense. I have some more notes on Rick Pitino and John Brady, so be sure to check out the X's and O's Basketball forum to see what I have.

One of the things that you need to do as a coach I think is to adjust your system to your players and not the other way around. Case in point, the Ohio St. Buckeyes last year. Thad Matta had Greg Oden and Mike Conley, 2 of the best players in college basketball, one a dominant center, one the best point guard of his class. Now, coach Matta has traditionally ran all of his sets out of the box formation. What they did last year was adjust a lot of their offense to pick and roll and hi-low action to take advantage of their offensive weapons while keeping the box set. Watch the video and then you can read my thoughts below.


Coach Matta still uses the box set here, but what he does is incorporate a quick hitter from the box. If the quick hitter is not there, they'll start their pick and roll hi-low action with dribble handoffs.

Pick and Roll:

If you had 2 players similar to Greg Oden and Mike Conley, the pick and roll is the perfect play for them. Add in hi-low action, to Oden down low and you've got the perfect offense.

In many ways, this is very similar to the Louisville women's play that I diagrammed earlier in the month. But this time, the pick and roll action can lead to an immediate score. Also, coach Matta emphasizes that his guards can drive to the rim after the ball-screen, and we saw Conley take advantage of that last year.

Hi-low action:

The hi-low action is the second option. If the pick and roll isn't there, the guard will hit the post coming up who will look for the other post who has sealed his man outside.

If the hi-low isn't available, the guards on the strong-side simply do a dribble handoff and the action repeats with the high post setting the pick and rolling to the basket while the low post comes up.


With both Oden and Conley gone to the pros, I expect coach Matta to go back to a lot of the traditional box set that he's run in the past.

For a great look at a pro-style pick and roll offense, take a look at Jeff Van Gundy's DVD on the pick and roll. Van Gundy goes through both executing and guarding the pick and roll. Also, I have a some Jeff Van Gundy and Stan Van Gundy notes that might be useful, check out the X's and O's Basketball Forum to request them.

I posted earlier in the month about monstering the post. I made this clip of a recent preseason game where the Lakers Kobe Bryant demonstrates beautifully how you can double the post from the weakside triple 'I'. Watch the video and then you can read my thoughts below.

Notice how all 3 players form the triple I, #4 Luke Walton from the Lakers comes up to cut off a pass to either his man or Kobe's man when Kobe goes to double. Much like this diagram here,

I also like how Kobe waits for the post defender to put the ball down first. I bet if he left before the post defender dribbled, the ball probably gets passed to Kobe's man on the weakside for the 3-pointer. Also, #21 Ronny Turiaf knows Kobe is coming from the middle so he just stands his ground, keeps his arms up straight and waits for the help to come.

For more great ideas on the post-defense amongst other defensive topics, check out Jeff Lebo's DVD. Coach Lebo is the head coach of Auburn University of the SEC. I have plenty of notes on low post defense so check out the X's and O's Basketball Forum and request them.

With less than a couple of weeks left before the start of the NCAA basketball season, the Memphis Tigers look better than ever to get to their first final four in the Calipari era. I posted earlier this month with a breakdown of one option out of the Dribble Drive Motion Offense that the Tigers use. Here is a video clip from Coach Calipari's staff that highlights their style of play. Watch the video and then you can read my thoughts below.

You just have to admire the pace of this style of offense. Now, the video does appear to be speeded up, but still, these guys are going fast. I love the dribble handoffs, I think I will post on that the next time I breakdown this revolutionary offense.

Here are some thoughts from the video:

- pace, talked about it above, just all out speed
- crisp passing, you must be good passers and receivers to play this offense
- catch and shoot, you don't see any hesitation, players pivot and shoot. You can't be afraid of the 3-pointer
- post player always moving, you'll notice the post player is moving from weak side block to the elbow and diving on penetration
- read the defender, the dribbler is always reading the defender. Is the defender on-balance? Can I cross him over?

Now, as I posted earlier, neither Walberg or Calipari have made a DVD yet with the system. But you can check out Phil Martelli's DVD on becoming a better 1-on-1 player. Many of the drills taught in the DVD are the same ones that Walberg and Calipari use to drill their perimeter players. There are also plenty of notes from coaching clinics each has done over the past year or so which can be found by heading to the X's and O's of Basketball Forum.

Looking through my inbounds play stuff, I came across this play that Gonzaga runs on occasion underneath the offensive basket. I like it because it spreads the defense out and what I really like about it is that it's a safe one to use. Sometimes, in finding the perfect scoring inbounds play, you can get too cute that actually result in turnovers. I would much rather a safe inbounds play that scores less than an inbounds play that scores slightly more but is prone to the turnover.


My personal belief is that the majority of the time you should have a guard inbounds, in this case it is the point guard. The other players are spread in a 4-high set. It's important that both forwards or posts play the side of the ball.

O2 will do a v-cut to the basket looking for the quick hitter from O1. If you want you can substitute v-cut for L-cut or whatever you think will get O2 open. O5 and O4 will set a stagger screen for O3 coming over the top. O1 will hit O3 as the second option.

After inbounds:

After the inbounds, you want another quick hitter opportunity before setting up your offense.

After O1 inbounds, O4 and O5 will set a double screen and O1 will maneuver in between O4 and O5 to the top of the key. O4 will quickly seal his man and look for the post entry from O1 as option 1. If not there, O3 will simply pass to O1 and in this case Gonzaga will setup their flex offense.

For more information, there is a Winning Hoops DVD with over 70 baseline inbounds plays. I also have lots of inbounds stuff so head over to the X's and O's Basketball Forum to take a look and see what I have.

Recently I was at a varsity game that was very close at the end, Team A was up by just 1-point over Team B. Team B had the ball with 11 seconds left but it appeared that they didn't know the clock situation and the point guard held the ball too long. With just 3 seconds left, he passed the ball to another player who didn't look like he knew what to do. Everyone in the gym was yelling "shoot" and so he tried to heave something resembling a shot only to get blocked badly. The game ended and Team B won. This was a fall game, so I wasn't even sure the coach was their regular in-season coach but it cannot be understated, the importance of preparing for close games.

I've posted before on the fouling situation, but I read through a set of notes from Rick Barnes, head coach at University of Texas that articulated very well what every coach should be thinking about in terms of preparing for end of game situations.

It is very important to not assume that your players know what to do! Try to work on special situations every day.

Here are some questions all coaches should ask themselves. The answers will vary according to your personal philosoply and your team's strengths.

- In a tie game, would you ever foul to get the last possession?
- Do you push the ball and play or call a timeout to set up the last shot?
- Is your team prepared to deny the ball to one great foul shooter?
- How do you intentionally miss a free throw?
- With a 3-point lead, do you foul before a 3-point shot is taken?
- Do your players know when to foul?
- Do you have a sign or call so your players know to foul witout alerting the other team?
- Do you have visual signs for all of your players to ensure communication in loud environments where verbal calls may not be heard?
- When do you start taking 3's in order to catch up? Do you have a hurry-up offense designed to get you quality shots in less time?
- Do you save your timeouts or do you use them eraly to keep you kids in the game?
- Do you have your list of special situation plays on the bench with you so you can refer to them in pressure situations?

For a great DVD from a great coach, check out Coach Morgan Wooten's DVD on Coaching to Win in Special Situations. Coach Wooten is the winningest high school coach in the history of basketball and one of my favorite coaching mentors.

Also, check out the X's and O's Basketball forum for both Rick Barnes and Morgan Wooten notes.

One of the fundamental parts of being a center or forward is following your shot until you make it. Sometimes, I watch players and when they miss a shot, instead of going after the ball, they'll be standing there maybe cursing or whatever. This clip is a highlight clip of one of the great centers of all-time, Moses Malone. What you'll notice in the clip is Moses Malone is constantly attacking the rim following up his misses until he scores.

This is really more about attitude than anything else. You must have that never quit, want the ball more than the other person, kind of attitude to play this way. What's even better is that if you're not having the best day in terms of your shot, you can at least rely on your ability to attack the glass and follow your shot. Force the defender to work to box you out.

The 5Star Basketball Series has a great DVD focusing entirely on the skill of rebounding. The DVD features Miami Heat Forward Udonis Haslem showing you the art of tipping the ball and various moves to attack the glass.

Don't forget to drop by the X's and O's Basketball board for more great basketball discussions.

I found this play from one of the plays that the Russian Women's National Team uses. They play mostly a 3-out 2-in hi-lo offense, but I found this 1-4 set that looked very interesting. It is a handoff play with several options. I think it would work really well against a team that is playing very aggressive pressure man-to-man defense.


It's a 1-4 high set. There are many options out of this set and you have to be patient, but I believe it will allow your guards and forwards some great penetration lanes.

So O1 passes to the right wing O2 who does a v-cut to the ball to get open. O4 will step out and set an upscreen for O1 who will do a UCLA cut to the basket. O1 is looking for the quick hitting pass back from O2 if it's there. If not, he rolls out to the weak-side corner.

Setting up the Handoff:

After O4 sets the high screen, O2 should pass the ball back up to the top of the key to O4. It's important that once the defense has adjusted a little to the play, that O4 works hard to seal the defender to get the ball up top. I don't like the v-cut here because I think it can lead to turnovers if O2 and O4 don't communicate properly.

O1 goes to the corner and O3 starts coming up to the top of the key towards O4 but at least 5 steps away.

The Handoff:

This part is the heart and soul of this play. Once O4 gets the ball, pivots to face away from the basket. O3 comes over the top looking for the handoff from O4.

Now what's happening here is a couple of things. First, how is the M2M defense playing screens, are they fighting through or switching? If the defense is playing through screens, you must read how X3 is defending the handoff, is X3 following or coming under anticipating the drive to the net. If X3 is trailing O3, O3 should receive the handoff and cut around O4 immediately attacking the rim.

Regardless of how the defense is playing, O2 should come and set the blind pick. Now if X3 decides to play under, O2 will need to split out. O2 will set the pick on X3 and O3 can either attack the rim if there is no help, or dribble out towards the wing and hit an open 3-pointer or mid-range jumper.

Against M2M Switching:

Against a team that is switching everything, you'll find that X2 will be told to anticipate O3 getting the handoff and to switch to defend O3.

This is a great counter for a defense switching on all screens. What's going to happen is O4 will fake the handoff, and will instead pivot and attack the rim. O2 will come of the blind pick and upscreen for O4. If the defense is switching everything, most likely they'll get confused with all the screens and O4 will have that brief opening to exploit, worst case is X3 steps out and defends the lane. Also, O5 will roll to the basket after O4 has passed the free-throw line looking for a pass back or an offensive rebound.


I like this play because there are many options and counters you can run. For example, after the handoff to O3, O3 can dribble to the wing and O4 can still use O2's upscreen and cut to the hoop, O3 can try to hit O4 cutting to the hoop. Or on the weakside, you can have O5 set a flex screen for O1 coming underneath the hoop for a quick backdoor cut.

The 1-4 set is an offense that Arizona uses sometimes as well. Lute Olson's DVD on the 1-4 offense is one that you might want to check out if you're looking for a set to run against aggressive ball pressure. Check out the X's and O's of Basketball Forum for more notes and downloads.

Teaching the Deflection

I was reading some more notes as I always do everyday and one thing that caught my eye was a note from a Tom Crean Marquette coaching clinic. In it, Crean was quoted as saying that deflections were one of the most important stats that they kept on their players for offense or defense.

Coach Crean is the head coach at Marquette and coached Miami Heat guard Dwyane Wade, 2006 NBA Finals MVP. Crean states that Wade was the best player he ever coached in terms of deflections, says Wade average 9.2 deflections a game. Coach Crean feels that in a 40 minute game, 35+ deflections a game plus allowing 42% or less opponent FG% will lead to a 85 to 90 win percentage (don't ask me how he came up with those numbers, they are his numbers.

There is a drill I saw recently that teaches the deflection quite well, plus it also teaches help defense and the baseline closeout.


You will need 3 lines, 3 players on the floor with 2 balls and 1 coach or manager. There are actually 2 parts to the drill, and we want to keep score defensively. 1 point for not deflecting and 1 point for an unsuccessful stop.

X1 starts off underneath the basket, as if playing the lowside I defender in a M2M help defense. O1 and O2 start out at the corners. O1 moves first running to the low block then L-cuts to the top of the key. X1 is suppose to move after O1's L-cut and beat O1 to the spot and deflecting or intercepting the pass from the coach. If the deflection is not successful, add 1 point for X1.

Baseline help:

After X1 deflects the pass, the coach passes the second ball to O2 in the nearside corner. O2 will wait for the pass, then drive baseline.

X1 will immediately go to cut off the baseline drive by O2 after the successful deflection. X1 should force middle then play tough 1-on-1 defense preventing O2 from scoring. Score 1 point for the X1 if an unsuccessful stop.

Unsuccessful Deflection:

If X1 is unsuccessful in the initial deflection, then play 1-on-1 defense up top after O1 catches the ball.

Score 1 point for X1 for an unsuccessful defensive stop.

Add retribution for the defense depending on the number of points. So 3 points, 3 sets of lines or 2 points, 2 sets of lines, etc...

For video info on individual defensive development and drills, I recommend taking a look at Tom Izzo's DVD on Rebounding and Man Defense. Coach Izzo is the long-time head coach of Michigan State. I also have lots of notes so head over the X's and O's Basketball Forum to take a look and see what I have.

2-ball Team Shooting

This is one of my favorite drills for team shooting. You have groups of 3, using both baskets. You setup the clock to 4 minutes and the team with the most made baskets wins. The losing team has to do a set of lines, wall taps, and pushups while the next set of 3 vs 3 go. I've seen Jay Wright at Villanova run it in one of his videos as well.

Keys to the drill are:

- focus on spacing, make sure the players are spacing properly
- make sure the players are stepping into the pass and that the pass is chest to chest
- catch and step into the shot, watch your form.

I don't set a pattern on where players shoot. Basically they shoot, get the rebound, pass and cut to the other side. No shots inside the key. 3-pointers count as 2 made baskets.

It gets really competitive and really works on game situation shooting. It's also good for rebounding, passing and conditioning.

I posted earlier with specific shooting coaching tips, I've recommended Jay Wright's DVD before, but a new shooting video you might want to consider is Steve Smith's DVD on team shooting. Coach Smith is the head coach of Oak Hill Academy, the prep school powerhouse featuring famous alum such as Jerry Stackhouse and Carmelo Anthony. Check out the X's and O's of Basketball Forum for more notes on shooting.

Executing Proper Picks

They say that 75% of offensive plays in the NBA are pick and rolls. At the college level, many programs make use of the pick and roll extensively such as UConn. While many of you coaches at the lower levels probably run much less than that, nevertheless, the screen, and specifically the ball-screen is probably the most utilized play in basketball so it's execution is nonetheless vital for both player development and your team's success. This is a good clip showing screening action and how to screen and how to come off screens properly. Watch the video and then you can read my thoughts below.

Here are some key points on setting screens:

1. Signal the screen, you must tell the player that you will be screening for him by raising your fist and using your thumb to gesture which way to go.

2. Jump stop. Use the jump stop to set your screen. Many times, especially the young players shuffle their feet because they aren't set properly.

3. Screen tight. You want your hands overlapping at the wrist over top of the groin. You want to be at a minimum 6-inches away from the defender. Let the defender run into you.

We'll cover the ball-handler using the screen in another post but the main thing for the screener is to signal the screen, set your feet, and stay strong. I see alot of kids that don't set their feet and get called for offensive fouls. Or they don't signal the screen and the ball-handler has no idea how the screen is going to be set.

There is a great DVD by former Houston Rockets head coach Jeff Van Gundy on the pick and roll offense. How to use it, how to defend it. Also, head over to the X's and O's Basketball Forum to take a look and see what I have on pick and roll stuff.

You'd be hard pressed to find a college team in the country that executes its offense as well as Duke does. Coach Mike Krzyzewski has been running his 3-out 2-in motion offense for many years now and with the talent he's been able to bring in over the last couple of decades he has the national championships to show for it. The offense is one that we use and in many ways is similar to the hi-lo systems used by Bill Self of Kansas.

What you'll notice is that Duke's motion offense is so simple. It's effectiveness relies on the players within the system. Coach Krzyzewski has had some great forwards and guards in the past and they have executed it so well. Duke uses it on both man and zone defenses and while it may be mostly looked upon as a post-based offense, a lot of perimeter action can be run out of it.


As mentioned, this is a 3-out 2-in motion offense. If you plan on running the offense for your team, I would recommend that you have a couple of really well-rounded posts that can score effectively both with their back against the net and face-up. If you have perimeter players that can make shots, that will be another huge bonus but not mandatory. Below is the basic setup of the offense,

3-2 setup with both posts playing down low and each perimeter player occupying a spot. O1 passes to O2 on the wing and screens away for O3. O4 (ball-side post) sets a cross-screen for O5. Now, if the defense decides to front O5 (ball-side post), then O4 will come out to the ball-side elbow. If the defense decides to play behind O5, then O4 will occupy the weak-side elbow.

A side point, if the defense deny's the wing pass to O2, then simply do a dribble handoff or have O1 dribble to the wing.

Straight up Post entry:

This is always option #1 as taught by Coack K. The most ideal situation is where the defense decides to play behind O5.

Since O5 is a dominant post player, we are confident that if O5 can get a good post-entry pass, 1-on-1, O5 should have a good look with a drop step, middle hook, or any variety of post moves to score. Duke has had excellent post players in the past such as Carlos Boozer, Shelden Williams and Josh McRoberts. If you have posts like them, you definitely want to get them the ball in a 1-on-1 situation to score.

Fronting the Post:

Now if the defense decides they want to front O5. O4 will flash ball-side elbow instead off of the initial cross screen.

The ball is passed into O4 who then looks for O5 who has hopefully sealed X5 outside and should be an easy basket or even an and1 play. We've seen that play with Duke many times before.

Penetration Option:

Now, normally, the offense will look to reverse the ball around to the other side if neither the post-entry or hi-low options are available and the motion continues on the other side of the court with O5 and O4 executing a simple X-cut or dive-fill. But this is a great counter play that Duke runs on occasion if the defense is overloaded on the ball-side or both O4 and O5 are being fronted.

O4 sets a ball-screen and O2 penetrates sideways into the lane. O5 flashes to the other block while the initial screen by O4 is being set, O3 and O1 spread and fill weak-side, O4 will roll off the pick to the ball-side block.

Once O2 reaches the free-throw line, there are 3 options. O2 can pull up for the mid-range (JJ Reddick took advantage of this beautifully), pass to O5 if X5 comes to help up top, or hit O4 on the roll off the pick.


Duke has been running this offense for years, yet it never gets old and they continue to win. If you have the players, specifically the forwards to run it, this is a great motion offense to use. Even against a 2-3 zone, O4 can get into the middle and exploit the zone there. I didn't show the perimeter weak side option, but the skip pass off the flare screen is also a great option. The beauty of the offense is its simplicity, coach K has very few rules with it and really allows his best players to be his best players.

If you're looking for more video instruction from Coach Krzyzewski, I recommend Coach K's DVD on post-play development as that is a key component of the 3-out 2-in motion. I have Coack Krzyzewski notes, so be sure to check out the X's and O's Basketball Forum and take a look at what I have.

I was doing my usual reading through the coaching notes that I have and came across this great quote from University of North Carolina head coach, Roy Williams, about in-game adjustments.

Coaching is about adjustments. Your game plan is only good for the first six minutes - the rest is all about adjustments. Coaching (and playing for that matter) is all about adjustments. You can and should formulate a game plan going in, but much of your team's success depends on your ability to make efficient and effective adjustments. As a coach you must be able make the strategic adjustments, but just as important, you must help your team make the mental adjustments that need to be made to manage the momentum of competition.

In reading the above, has led me to think a lot more about my past coaching experiences. To see if there were instances where an adjustment should've been made or when an adjustment didn't work. Or the mental state of players for a certain play or situation.

As coaches, I think it's important that we not only evaluate ourselves on the job we do in preparing for games but on how we do during the games. At our current school, the head coach and I talk constantly about how the game went and what adjustments worked, what we could've done better.

I highly recommend Roy Williams' DVD on Offensive philosophy. Not only does he talk alot about his offensive strategy but he also talks a lot about the adjustments that are mentioned. I have plenty of UNC notes so be sure to check out the X's and O's Forum.

This isn't really X's and O's but I love to watch coaches and their pre, post, and halftime locker room speeches. I could spend hours watching clips on youtube of Lou Holtz, Phil Fulmer, Urban Meyer, Bob Stoops and the list goes on and on. There aren't as many basketball ones out there but as I find some good ones, I'll try to post what I can find. This is a clip from last march with John Calipari and his Memphis Tigers after their win over Nevada to get to the sweet 16. Enjoy...

CBS produces a highlight DVD with all the major highlights from all rounds of the march tournament. The 2007 NCAA Tournament Highlight DVD is full of exclusive behind the scenes stuff if you're really into it.

Don't forget to drop by the X's and O's Basketball board for more great basketball discussions.

The Syracuse 2-3 Zone

Some people think that the 2-3 zone defense is always a passive one. Traditional thinking is that you sit back in the 2-3, packing the lane and forcing the offense to shoot over top. Syracuse's Jim Boeheim uses it to trap and create turnovers. Our 2-3 zone that we use is very similar.

Again, conventional thinking is to use the 2-3 zone if you are less athletic than the opposition. Syracuse uses it as their base by taking advantage of their athleticism to trap in the corners and even up top. Our team also uses the 2-3 zone as our base with extensive trapping. We switch back to man-to-man when we have some of our reserve players who are not quite quick enough to run the traps.


Personnel-wise, as I mentioned before, you must have athletic players that can anticipate passes in the lane and are aggressive trappers. Flat-footed or slow moving players will not work well in this defense. The year that Syracuse won the National Championship in 2003, they had Carmelo Anthony.

The setup is very 2-3 vanilla. When the offense brings the ball up the floor, you want to wait for them to enter the ball into the wing (probably the right side). Once they do that, either X1 or X2 depending on the side will force sideline to the trapping zone.

Trap the corner:

Once they pass the free-throw line extended, you want to aggressively trap with X1 and X4. X2 will come up and take away the pass up the top. X5 will front his man low side with X3 able to help middle. X3 is anticipating a long lob pass to X3 and denying the pass to P4 if P4 goes to the high post.

Now, if the offense is able to get the ball into P5 in the short corner. You want X4 and X1 to trap P5 there with X2 cutting off the pass up top only allowing the pass back to the ball-side corner where you will trap again.

Trap up top:

What you'll see alot of as well is the trap once the dribbler brings the ball across half. This is a surprise trap so you want X1 and X2 to wait patiently until the dribbler crosses half then go.

Once the trap is set, it's vital that X3 and X4 are already moving to the sideline to intercept the easiest passes to the wings. X5 needs to anticipate the long pass underneath to either post on the left or right.

You don't run this trap all the time, but it should be called on occasion from the sideline. 80% of the steals will come from a bad pass to P3 or P4 on the sideline which should be an easy 2 points the other way.


As you can see, the 2-3 zone does not have to be a passive defense. You can use it to create a ton of pressure and force turnovers. We like it a lot because contrary to our full-court press or even our half-court press, we can shorten the area where we have to pressure, thus we can use it all game without wearing out our top players.

It's a confusing defense to run as opposing teams normally think that you're running a vanilla 2-3. But with all the trapping, we create all kinds of chaos.

Like any defense though, there are holes that can be exploited. If teams adjust, we counter-adjust with a different defense. We had tremendous success with this defense last year, finishing 3rd overall in-state. We hope it brings more success this coming season.

If you want to learn the complete Syracuse 2-3 zone defense, Jim Boeheim's DVD on the 2-3 matchup zone is a must see. Coaches around the country have commented on coach Boeheim's 2-3 zone that has created havoc for many an offense. I have some Syracuse notes so be sure to check out the X's and O's Basketball forum to discuss or request them.