Basketball skills for all – Dribbling

Dribbling is the first basketball skilled a player will learn. It is a great weapon for the offensive player when executed properly however it can also be misused and over-used. If you are being closely guarded the dribble may be used to create space for a pass to a team-mate or a drive to the basket. When teaching our junior players I often repeat the instruction “drive to score – not to explore.”

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This is a simple way to emphasize to the players that it is unwise to dribble the ball without good intentions. There are too many times when a player dribbles the ball around and through the defenders trying to find a pathway to the basket and almost inevitably gets into difficulty and loses possession or breaks down the team offense.

Dribbling, like other fundamental skills, must be practiced until it becomes a natural movement. A good player seems to control the ball so well that it becomes almost a part of his body, enabling him to move anywhere on the court with complete confidence.

More players these days are developing incredible skills dribbling the ball behind their back, or between their legs using cross-over dribbling and reverses. Good dribbling is no longer the exclusive domain of the smaller players. Every player on the team is expected to be able to control the ball under extreme defensive pressure, keeping their head up and able to make a pass to a team-mate or strong drive to the basket.

A low, or control dribble is used whenever a player is in a congested area. The ball should be pushed to the floor and not batted. Cup the dribbling hand slightly. The fingers and wrist should be doing most of the work. The hand goes down with the ball as it is pushed to the floor and comes up with the ball as it rebounds from the floor. The offside arm should be raised and held steady to resist pressure applied by the defender. Do not extend the protecting arm as this may cause contact which could be called a foul. The body should always be between the ball and the defender. During the low dribble the ball should not bounce higher than between the knee and the waist level.

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In a cross-over dribble the dribbling hand pushes the ball down and up to the opposite hand as the foot on the side of the dribbling hand comes forward. This enables a change of direction and protection of the ball from the defender. The cross-over dribble should only be used when there is sufficient space between the dribbler and the defender, otherwise a behind the back dribble may be used.

To help learn the behind the back dribble use a zig-zag drive down the court changing direction each time you change the dribbling had. Push the ball behind the back as the leg opposite to the dribbling hand comes forward. This keeps the opposite foot and leg out of the way as the ball hits the floor. As you change direction on the next half step your body will protect the ball until you make the next behind-the-back dribble.

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When advancing the ball down the court without defensive pressure use the high, or speed dribble. Push the ball further way from the body to enable a quicker drive. Sometimes several steps may be taken between each dribble as the ball is pushed well out in front of the body. Players at the higher levels may use as few as two bounces to take the ball from the centre-line to the basket while running at top speed. However at the younger age levels it is more important to maintain control of the ball and your body while learning how to use the speed dribble.

When practicing alone, always try to practice at game speed. Sometimes players may be able to dribble quite well when alone and moving slowly, but once the game has started and defensive pressure is applied they may lose their technique and control.

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Defending great scorers

Regardless at whatever level basketball is played it always seems as though there is someone on the opposing team who is their prime “go to” player, the leading scorer, the “clutch” performer. Players and coaches spend endless time searching for the way in which they might subdue the opposition star and thus pave the way for victory.

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© Sport the library/Chris Elfes/NBL Basketball-NBL/Sydney Kings 1990 Ian Davies 2001-0004-0627-109

One of the problems for the tacticians is the fact that quite often the talents of the star scorer and the team methods will vary significantly.

Eddie Palubinskas, one of Australia’s greatest ever scorers usually needed little help from his team-mates and could score equally effectively from close, or long range from the basket. Ian Davies was equally independent, but did most of his scoring from long range. Andrew Gaze has been the most prolific but, although he has great skill in creating his own scoring opportunities, depends more on team structure when racking up big numbers. Oscar Schmidt, the highest scorer ever in Olympic Games, also needed little help from his Brazilian team-mates and when the defence got tougher he just moved further away from the basket.

Perhaps, surprisingly, Australia had one of the best records of success over Brazil during the Oscar Schmidt era. This was mainly due to the emphasis that Australia placed on defending Schmidt. The theory being, if Schmidt is contained then there would not be enough score power from the rest of the team. No doubt other teams had similar intentions, but failed more often because of the spread of talent in the Brazilian line-up and the “conventional” way in which they would defend Schmidt. Oscar would just play further from the basket, receive the ball and blaze away from incredible range and still connect on a high percentage. Meanwhile his team-mates would reap the benefit of extra attention on Oscar and Brazil would be one of the highest scoring teams in international competition.

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The Boomers solution to the problem of dealing with a great shooter was to oppose him with a player committed to the task and prepared to use unconventional methods. Mel Dalgleish and Larry Sengstock each had their own way of dealing with the problem. Mel was more physical and Larry was more “cerebral”, but both had a mission to prevent the great scorer from receiving the ball no matter where he was on the court. Other players on the Boomers squad, understanding the prime objective, concentrated on pressuring the ball handlers making any potential pass to Oscar very difficult. Quite often the offence broke down into a series of one on one plays with lower percentage shots, which, on most occasions, worked to the advantage of the Boomers.

The strategy of “starving” great shooters of the ball becomes more difficult when team structure is geared to help the shooter get free and team defence, as compared to individual defence, is vital. The Melbourne Tigers “Shuffle” offence is a typical example. The offence is designed to set up certain players in certain situations and unless the defence does something special players will get free in their preferred positions and it just becomes a matter of whether they can convert the opportunities. Andrew Gaze has been the main force for the Tigers for many years and has experienced just about every different tactic imaginable, but has still managed to average over 30 points per game.

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LOS ANGELES, UNITED STATES: Michael Jordan of the Chicago Bulls (L) eyes the basket as he is guarded by Kobe Bryant of the Los Angeles Lakers during their 01 February game in Los Angeles, CA. Jordan will appear in his 12th NBA All-Star game 08 February while Bryant will make his first All-Star appearance. The Lakers won the game 112-87. AFP PHOTO/Vince BUCCI (Photo credit should read Vince Bucci/AFP/Getty Images)

Sometimes defenders choose to “concede” the points of a high scorer and concentrate harder on shutting down the others. An extra effort on players who may usually be the second leading scorer can prove successful. This usually means drawing the extra defensive help from another player who can be an acceptable risk. These tactics work best when teams have rigidly structured and predictable offences, thus allowing well prepared team defences to over play certain elements. The high scorer may still get his “quota” but without a balanced contribution from the others the team will fail.

When describing how to defend great scorers, John Wooden (UCLA) said, “High scorers usually like to get a good start in the game and if they don’t their anxiety can increase and lead to errors. Therefore it is often a good tactic to impose more pressure in the early stages of a game on the “shooter” and see if he has the patience to work through the pressure.” The great Larry Bird, while playing with Boston, was quite often subjected to this kind of pressure and in these circumstances would describe himself as a “decoy”.
It didn’t bother him to be subjected to extra pressure as he would welcome the attention and create more opportunities for his team-mates. His coach also acknowledged that you have to be a very good player to be a good decoy.

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Throughout history there have been very few great shooters who could be described as “complete”, i.e. equally effective close the basket or on the perimeter, able to put the ball to the floor on hard drives, or receive on the perimeter and go straight up for the long range jumpers. Oscar Robertson, Michael Jordan, Larry Bird and “Magic” Johnson are a few who could be mentioned. It was rare for them to be contained, no matter what tactics the defenders might use, they would still get their points and still be match winners.

There are others who have built reputations for being among the best, like Kareem Jabbar, Wilt Chamberlain, Bill Russell, Rick Barry, Shaquille O’Neil. All were, or are great scorers, but by comparison could almost be described as one dimensional. Kareem had his “sky hook” and during a time when the rules prevented zone defences, his hook shot became virtually indefensible. If the dunk had been barred Wilt Chamberlain would have struggled to earn half the number of points. Similarly “Shaq” has trouble scoring from anything except point blank range.

The mission for defending great scorers like those just mentioned is to force them to do something other than there preferred high percentage play. Of course achieving this is usually much easier said than done. Denying Kareem, or Shaq the ball close to the basket requires huge physical presence and team pressure on the passers. Denying Rick Barry his smooth perimeter jump shot required a similar team effort to that which was necessary for Oscar Schmidt. Teams in our NBL have been trying to stop Ricky Grace from driving left ever since he arrived in Australia a decade ago, but few have succeeded. Ricky goes to his right just enough to keep his opponent honest and unless there is a team defence approach the high scoring guard continues not only to score well himself but create high percentage opportunities for team mates.

The task of the defence to restrict great shooters has always, and probably will remain, very difficult. Players must recognise the special ways in which great shooters create their opportunities and then try to force them to their least preferred options. For players who have the benefit of well structured offences to help them get open the task for the defence is even greater. It requires determined individual pressure and skill and more importantly a coordinated team effort.

Source: betterbasketball.com.au

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Basketball Tips – Defence

Defensive stance and movement

The defensive stance and the ability to move while staying in that stance are two aspects that will define a good defensive player. The longer you can stay in your stance and apply pressure to your opponent, whether he has the ball or not, will be crucial to your team’s chances of winning a game and more. As the old saying goes: Offence wins games, defence wins championships.

Stance and slide

 

 

 

Crouch with your knees bent and weight evenly distributed on the balls of both feet. Your thighs should be almost parallel to the floor with head erect and back almost straight. When moving to defend an opponent who has the ball, the defensive player should take short sharp steps and the feet virtually slide across the floor. It is important not to bounce on your feet as this limits your ability to change direction quickly and adjust to the different pace your opponent will use to disguise his intentions.

Drop step

 

 

 

One of the most difficult things to learn is to move backwards quickly. The drop step is an essential skill you will need to retreat fast down the court, covering your opponent using a good defensive stance while being aware of the positions of your teammates and opposition.

To learn this movement, take up a good defensive stance. Try to imagine you are going to fall backwards and land on your right buttock. The only way you can stop falling is to move your right foot backwards and around very quickly. This movement will keep your stance low and in good position. Never cross your feet, but slide.

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Players move backwards down the floor, taking a drop step first then sliding a few steps while maintaining a good defensive stance, then taking another drop step in the opposite direction and sliding again. There would normally be about eight changes of direction to move from one end of the court to the other.

Source: betterbasketball.com.au

Tips for better defence

  1. Study every opponent and know each of your team-mates defensive assignments. If you are forced to switch, you will then know which man to take.
  2. All five defensive players should be in the keyway for defensive rebounds. After a shot by the opposition team your first job is to check your man and then go after the ball.
  3. Learn early in the game, or through scouting, what are the favourite moves, or fakes of your opponent. It is rare a player will change his normal habits during a game so being prepared will help you apply tougher defence.
  4. Always  be in a position to see your man and the ball, without turning your head. The distance you are away from your man will depend on whether you are one or more passes away from the ball.
  5. Be alert for screens. When your man sets a screen on a team-mate, you must warn him and be prepared to switch. Sometimes get reluctant to “talk” while defending. If you are defending a screener the typical instructions could include, switch, fight over, slide. Each of these instructions will depend on the skills of the opponent, the distance between the screen and the basket and the effectiveness of the screen.
  6. When  defending an excellent shooter the defender may have to fight over the top of the screen, otherwise he will be vulnerable and the offensive player may have a good scoring opportunity. While the defender fights over the screen he may need temporary help from the team-mate guarding the screener. Sometimes it might be appropriate for both players to double team the shooter. In this case the screener could be open for a return pass if there is not enough defensive pressure on the player who was being screened and a third defender might be called on to help. This will require a rotation of defensive assignments and a lot of communication between all defenders with quick adjustments to new assignments.
  7. The man defending the centre, or post man should also call help when he is required to front an opponent near the basket. When a man receives the ball close to the basket he has a high percentage scoring chance, so it is necessary to deny these passes as much as possible. When ‘fronting’ the post to deny a direct pass, the lob over the head of the defender is the natural option for the offence. That requires defensive help from team mates on the weak side to prevent, or intercept the lob pass.
  8. When caught in a two on one fast break situation, protect the basket first. Try to fake the ball-handler and force him to stop his dribble. Normally there is no way you can prevent a shot, but you might be able to force them into a poor shot, or delay them long enough for help to arrive. The instruction given to offensive players in this situation is, the dribbler should attack the basket until the defender gets into the driving lane and only then make the pass. So the defender must try to confuse the dribbler by faking and retreating in an effort to intercept a pass or force a contested shot.
  9. When defending a ball handler on the side of the court overplay slightly toward the baseline to prevent him from driving in that direction. You are more likely to receive help if the player is forced to drive toward the middle of the court. Some coaches teach the opposite, encouraging a drive to the baseline, with the expectation t help will be available from the centre, or postman close to the basket. This strategy is more common in the American NBA where tall, strong and aggressive players are common, but the ball-handling skills and quickness of modern players means that allowing players to penetrate the baseline will usually lead to a good scoring opportunity for the driver or the man he passes to.
  10. Do not foul un-necessarily. It is possible to play aggressive defence without fouling. Team-mates, opponents, spectators and officials always respect players who play hard but within the rules.
  11. There are many players who can score, but it takes a lot of determination and effort to play good defence. If you are not a great shooter but play tough defence, you will find a place on most teams.

Source: betterbasketball.com.au

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Basketball Tips – Introduction to Defence

Continuing in our series on playing the game – more tips from Lindsay Gaze and Betterbasketball –

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The era when a team expected to win with offence alone has passed. The only way to win consistently is to play alert, restricting defence. Defence is the great equaliser, the instrument that enables the underdog to rise to the heights against athletically superior opponents. It is the chief characteristic of the champion and the trademark of the underdog. Defence wins championships.

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If a player is sound defensively he can contribute to the team effort by containing his man. He must work conscientiously all the time and put a maximum effort into the defensive drills, which must be practiced regularly.

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More coaches these days spend more time working on defence than ever before and a greater variety of defences are used to combat improving offensive skills and team tactics. Teams may vary tactics from passive and conservative to aggressive and pressing. Young junior teams often choose to retreat close to the basket with only modest pressure on the ball-handler, relying on opponents not to shoot a high percentage. Others may choose to extend their defence well over the centreline to force errors or to disrupt the opposition’s offence.

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Before any team can use complex tactics to upset their opponents they must remember that a good team defence will depend on two qualities: the mental and the physical. Players must have a firm desire to play defence, they must concentrate totally and believe that saving a basket is just as rewarding as scoring a basket. Each player must be convinced of his ability to contain his man, to pressure him into making mistakes and to harass him to the point of desperation throughout the entire game. Many games are won when a sound defence forces opponents into errors that lead to steals and morale-boosting easy baskets.

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There are two basic defensive tactics: man-to-man and zone. In man-to-man defence each player sticks to his man, aiming to prevent him receiving a pass or harassing him continually if he has the ball. It may be desirable in certain man-to-man situations to switch opponents, particularly when the offence sets a screen. This requires good stance and positioning as well as good communication between the players.

With a zone defence each player is responsible for defending a particular area of the court. A zone defence usually allows the taller players to defend the area close to the basket and quicker players to defend around the perimeter.

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My advice to coaches of young teams is to stick with man-to-man defence until their players are thoroughly familiar with the execution of the defensive fundamentals. Many young teams get away with using zone defences because their opposition lacks skill and the ability to create easy scoring opportunities. But when they progress to tougher competition they often find their lack of defensive fundamentals will prevent them from improving.

One-on-one defensive drills should be run from all positions on the court: the forward spots on the wings, the point at the top of the keyway, the low and high posts and full court. Defensive drills are very physically demanding, but there are big rewards for those who work at them.

Source: betterbasketball.com.au

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Basketball Tips – Hook Shot

Since the advent of the jump shot fewer players are spending more time on developing the hook shot. But the hook shot is still and effective shot when taken close to the basket. Whilst it is usually a favourite weapon of the taller players all players should work on the skill so they can take full advantage of opportunities which otherwise might be wasted. A smaller player will often succeed with a hook shot, whereas a jump shot is more easily blocked by a taller opponent.

Perhaps the most famous exponent of the hook shot was Kareem Abdul Jabbar who, at over 217cm tall dominated the sport through his long career playing with the Los Angeles Lakers in the NBA after winning three NCAA championships with UCLA. Kareem exploited the NBA rule that prohibited the use of zone defenses and in one on one situations became almost unstoppable using what commonly became known as “the sky hook” No player has taken over the mantel of hook shot specialist since Kareem retired although there are many players at all levels of the sport still using the hook shot effectively.

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In cases where a team is lucky enough to have a tall player who is being covered by a smaller opponent, it is a worthwhile tactic to set up the tall player close to the basket and let him work on his hook shot. If he is able to convert a high percentage, which he should if defended one on one, then you have a valuable asset. However it is more likely that the opposing team will call for defensive help against the tall player using double teaming tactics. This should open up opportunities for passes to team-mates and uncontested perimeter shots.

When making the hook shot the object is to receive the ball as close as possible to the basket and then keep the body between the ball and the defender. If the shot is taken with the right hand the shooter jumps off his left foot and keeps the ball close to the body with his elbow bent as he is jumping. The balance hand is used to protect the ball but will be released from the ball before it gets to about head height. Although the shot is normally commenced with the player’s back to the basket you should be facing the ring at the completion of the shot and upon landing be ready to follow the shot for a possible rebound. The hook shot may also be used following an offensive rebound. After recovering the ball from a rebound the player makes a strong cross-over step turning his back to the defender and then pivoting toward the basket while protecting the ball for the hook shot.

Source: betterbasketball.com.au

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The Jump Shot

When a player is a strong driver and can advance the ball quickly up the court defenders will tend to retreat away from the driver to prevent him from going all the way to the basket for an easy lay-up. The counter move for the offensive player is the jump shot. In recent years the jump shot has become the most potent weapon for the offense. Players have extended their effective range to well beyond the three point line making it even more difficult for the defense to counter the offensive strategies.

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When learning the jump shot remember to practice within comfortable range of the basket. And then gradually increase the range only after high percentage accuracy is achieved from the shorter distance. Once again it is very important that the correct footwork is used. It makes no difference if you are a left handed shooter or right handed the player must stop on the foot opposite to the dribbling hand. It is desirable to commence this shooting drill standing close to the basket as demonstrated for the set shot, but this time the pivot foot stays on the floor while the other steps into it to gather momentum for a jump. The player carries the ball up to the crown line of the head as he is jumping and then at the height of the jump releases the ball with one hand for the shot. The drill is repeated from both sides of the basket using the foot closest to the centre of the court as the pivot foot.

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After the player is able to make a high percentage of shots from close to the basket the drill is repeated from close to the free throw line except this time the player starts with a dribble. Regardless whether the player is right handed or left handed the footwork will be the same. Start close to the edge of the free throw line facing the basket with feet about shoulder width apart. The object is to take just one dribbler as the right foot hits the floor the ball hits the floor. Take possession of the ball as the left foot hits the floor then bring the right foot back to about shoulder width apart coming to a quick stop. The player should remain in a crouched position with the knees well bent and the back almost straight up. The eyes should be focused on the “target” all through the routine and after coming to a quick stop jump vertically releasing the ball with one hand at the height of the jump. In the same way as practiced close to the basket, the ball is raised to about the crown line of the head quickly during the jump. When making the dribble the player should be moving laterally to get used to squaring off to the basket with shoulders virtually parallel to the baseline at the point of release. Do not try to jump too high as this might unbalance the shot and when trying to jump too high the player is likely to raise the ball too high above his head and therefore reduce his effective shooting range.

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The drill is repeated from the other side of the keyway starting the dribble with the ball hitting the floor at the same time as the left foot hits the floor and this time stopping on the right foot for the quick jump shot. When the player is able to execute the shot after taking one dribble in either direction and stopping on the correct foot, it is then time to use more than one dribble. The emphasis is on always stopping on the inside foot, that is the foot closest to the center of the court, coming to a quick stop after squaring off to the basket, making a comfortable but aggressive vertical jump and releasing the ball with one hand at the height of the jump. Common mistakes are releasing the ball after the player has reached the height of his jump, leaving the non shooting hand on the ball for too long thus making the shot almost a two handed shot, releasing the ball too early and shooting off the wrong foot. The work spent on a young player getting the technique right in the early stages will pay good dividends for the rest of his basketball career.

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Playing an ‘Offence’ game in Basketball

Here are some very good tips on Offensive strategies for Basketball teams. Playing on Sprung Timber Sports flooring creates a fast moving and very exciting game. Be ready for it . Practice the right moves as a team. For the next few weeks we will continue with more game tips as space permits.

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Implementing an offence can help your team with its structure, balance, performance and results. By offence, I mean an offensive structure or set play that is used to get players open for good shots.

There are many offences in the world of basketball, though several seem to have been in the game forever and have certainly stood the test of time.

I will discuss some of the standard offensive plays. If some of these patterns are learned they will provide a good basis for a team offence. I will devote more detail to what has become known as the Melbourne Tigers Shuffle but also include other well-known methods that have brought success to many teams over many years.

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Coaches should be encouraged to develop their own philosophy within the context of a thorough understanding of the game. While the following examples of standard offences have been tried and tested over the years, you can adjust them to suit your players and your philosophy so your chances of success will be improved.

The development of an offence takes time and requires considerable patience. There are no short cuts to success. The first step is to select a style of play that will suit the team and your own philosophy. The whole picture of the offence should be clear to the coach and he should make sure the players understand it. Once this is established the offence should be broken down into its parts that can be drilled. Two-man drills and three-man drills are used to develop the elements of the offence and then advance to four-on-four and five-on-five.

The structure of some offences may be quite complicated so coaches should be cautious about trying to include too much. It is preferable to include fewer elements and execute them well rather than try to include too much and execute them poorly. It is not advisable to change the offence constantly for this may create doubt or confusion in the players’ minds, but it is also undesirable to be too rigid to allow modifications to be used. The coach should be prepared to move with the times and make adjustments as the players’ skills improve and athletic abilities increase.

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There are a number of drills that are applicable to almost every offence. Apart from individual fundamental skills, one-on-one moves and rebounding, the give and go is the most basic of all two-on-two situations and is inevitably a part of every offensive structure. One player passes to a team-mate and checks to see how the defence reacts. If the defender turns his head and loses vision on the passer momentarily, or maintains poor stance, then he can be beaten with a change of direction and pace with a cut to the basket. A complete offence can be built on the give and go principle with good spacing of the players around the court, good passing and cutting. It will of course need to include individual one-on-one options that allow the player with the ball to drive to the basket when the defenders give too much attention to the cutters.

Perhaps the oldest method of team offence is what is now known as a motion offence, but was once known as a give and go offence. In simple terms this means that after each pass the passer should normally make a jab step away from his defender followed by a quick change of direction and hard cut to the basket. If the cutter is open for a return pass it will usually lead to a shot close to the basket. If the first cutter is not open for a return pass the receiver will pass to another team-mate and make a similar fake and cut to the basket. With this style of play it is important that if the cutter does not receive the return pass, he should continue his cut and clear away from the keyway, leaving the area vacant for the next cutter.

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When a team is using a give and go offence it is common for the defenders of players without the ball to sag toward the keyway with the intention of blocking the cutting lanes. When the offence recognises this tactic, the players should be able to create opportunities for perimeter or short-range jump shots. The success of the offence will depend on the players recognising what the defence is doing and making good decisions on passing to open cutters, to players free for perimeter shots, or making strong one-on-one drives.

To be continued…

Source: betterbasketball.com.au