Hoops 101

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Wednesday, February 12
Breaking down Wooden's 'West Coast Offense'

By Fran Fraschilla
Special to ESPN.com

One of the best compliments a coach can receive is when another coach "borrows" his offense and names it after you or your school. It has been 27 years since John Wooden's final game, the NCAA championship victory over Kentucky in 1975. But, the "UCLA High Post Offense" is, still today, one of college basketball's most popular offenses and timeless in its effectiveness.

Interested in the X's and O's of college basketball, but don't understand the terminology? Read ESPN's Fran Fraschilla's introduction to Hoops 101 on ESPN.com for a crash course in the basics of basketball.

Although Georgia's Jim Harrick never worked for John Wooden, he was an assistant coach under Wooden disciple Gary Cunningham at UCLA, where he absorbed the Bruins' philosophy, including the high post attack. He passed on the UCLA system to former assistant coach and current Alabama coach, Mark Gottfried.

This man-to-man offense is run out the 2-3 set (also known as a two-guard front). It brings the defense away from the basket, can be run to both sides of the court, and has a variety of options or "reads". In addition, the two-guard front keeps the pressure off a team's point guard from having the ball in his hands all the time. And, finally, it is an effective offense to post up a team's big guards.

Here is a look at the UCLA High Post Offense's basic plays with an few reasons why it is remains an effective attack.

The Alignment: Here you can see the 2-3 high post alignment and why we call it a two-guard front. Notice the spacing of all five players away from the basket.

The Entry Pass: On the guard-to-guard pass, the small forward (4) makes what we call an "L Cut" on the wing to get open to receive the pass. The post man, or center, (5) moves to the elbow on the ball side.

The Guard Cut: The off-guard (2) makes another familiar cut in today's game -- the "UCLA Cut" -- off of post man's screen (5) and posts up. Again, this is an excellent way to post up a big guard like Georgia's 6-foot-4, 235-pound Ezra Williams. As this happens, the small forward (3) moves to the opposite block and the point guard (1) slides to the foul line extended.

The second part of this motion is on the pass to center (5) at the high post. The power forward (4) down screens for the off-guard (2), while the small forward (3) posts up on what we call a "duck in" move. Notice, that if X3 is caught on the inside, the center (5) will reverse the ball to the point guard (1), who has a great angle to feed the small forward (3) in the post.

One thing to watch is if the center (5) is overplayed at the high post. If this happens, it's the job of the point guard to "read" and cut to the ball to become the pass outlet.

As this happens, the small forward and center set a double-down screen for the off-guard and small forward sets up at what we call the "pinch post" -- on the opposite elbow. it not time for the off-guard to come off the screens looking for the jump shot.

Now, if the off-guard doesn't free himself for a shot, the point can pass out to the small forward (3) and run a "two-man game" with the small forward (4). In this example, the small forward hands the ball back to the point guard, who drives to the basket.

If the point guard isn't able to pass to the small forward (3), he can use small forward's screen in a "screen-and-roll" play.

Reacting to "Overplays": What if the wings are overplayed by the defense? Well, if the guards cannot pass to the wings, it's time to use a dribble entry. Here, the point guard dribbles to the wing as the small forward cuts to the post.

Another option when the wings are overplayed is for the small forward (3) to screens across for his power foward (4), and the center (5) then down-screens for small foward. This is what we call a "screen-the-screener" triangle play.

If the guard-to-guard pass is overplayed, it's up to the power foward to be aware of what's happening and anticipate his next move. It's the power foward's responsibility to flash from the the opposite wing to the ball and, when he receives the ball, the offf-guard (2) cuts back door for the layup. The old-school coaches call this the "blind pig" play. It's an offensive option that allows an opening for the point to pass to the off-guard (2). Again, the power foward must anticipates this happening.

The "X Cut" Off the High Post: The guard who passes to the center (5) at the high post, cuts first and the wing (3) on his side clears to the other side of the court.

The next move in this set is for the off-guard to cut off of point -- the "X Cut" -- and take a handoff from center (5), clearing out the entire side of the court for a 1-on-1 opportunity.

The Guard Around: In this set, the off-guard (2) passes to the power foward (4), follows the pass and receives the handoff back from the power foward, as the small foward clears out to the ball side corner. Once the power foward hands the ball off, he cuts off the center's screen to the basket and looks for the lob pass from the off-guard.

If the lob pass is not open, the center simply screens on the ball for the off-guard, who drives to the lane. He can go all the way to the basket, pass to the point, if his defender leaves to help, or to the power foward, if his man leaves to help.

Above are all some of the basic plays of the "UCLA High Post Offense." The beauty of this offense is in its court balance, spacing and opportunity to involve all five players in the attack -- all things John Wooden preached.

Keep an eye on Saturday's Georgia-Alabama game, where it will be "the teacher vs. the pupil" in a huge SEC contest. Somehow, I think there will be a retired coach in Westwood section of Los Angeles that will be keeping an eye on that game, as well.

Q & A with Fran Fraschilla

Send in your Hoops 101 questions. Fran Fraschilla will answer a few each week as the season continues.

"I am a head coach for a high school boy's basketball team, and we have never shot over 50 percent from the foul line in 10 games. I have done everything possible from pressure situations to game-like situations and we still have had no luck in increasing our percentage. What can be done to improve our situation?"
Jeff Myers,
Altoona, Fla.

You ask the age-old question in coaching about free throw shooting. If you were coaching in college, I would have an easy answer for you: Recruit good shooters! Although, I can't remember the last time I heard a college coach say he was recruiting someone solely because they were a great free throw shooter.

The first place I would start would be with proper technique. Especially at the high school, junior high, and youth level, I think it is important to make sure your players have the proper mechanics. You may even consider having a uniform way of shooting free throws as a team. And, teach your free throw mechanics to all of the teams (junior varsity, freshmen, grade school, etc.) in your program.

Once you're are comfortable that you are teaching proper technique, you should spend as much individual development time with each player to master the technique. Good shooting habits are formed through thousands of repetitions. Every great free throw shooter I've been around has honed a sound routine.

Developing concentration is also critical. Continue to put your guys in game-like situations where fatigue and pressure are involved and, then, focus on blocking everything out so that proper technique can take over. It sounds like you are doing that.

"I was just curious how you teach blocking out in a zone defense? I often have trouble with the guys just blocking out their area rather than finding a man. Any tips would be greatly appreciated!"
Muncie, Ind.

You ask a great coaching question. I believe it is important to have a philosophy about drills, so that you create drills in practice that will make game situations like blocking out in a zone defense easier.

First of all, good drills should create good habits. And good habits are only developed if they are, obviously, done repeatedly with proper technique. If you play a lot of zone and blocking out is a concern, then block out every day. What you emphasize, as a coach, your team will get good at.

Secondly, I believe in the "overload" theory when it comes to drills. Create drills that are more difficult that the actual game situation. This might mean blocking out 5 vs. 7 every day in your zone defense. It seems logical that a 5-on-5 situation in a game will become easier.

Put pressure on your team to complete a drill correctly by making it completive. In a block-out drill in your zone, make the defense come up with three successful block outs in a row before you rotate, and "reward" success.

Finally, keep in mind that zones will give up long rebounds because of the amount of outside shots you'll give up. It is, therefore, important to find a "body" and block out outside the lane, but, also, teach your team to chase down long misses -- especially your guards -- that will help you start your fast break.

"What kind of system does Rick Pitino use, on both offense and defense? And where did this system derive from? Thank you."
Jeff Hall,
Louisville, Ky.

Thanks for the question on the Louisville Cardinals. Rick Pitino's best teams have always been about "maximum pressure" on both the offensive and defensive ends of the court.

First of all, Louisville is a tremendously conditioned team and the Cardinals have 10 players who average 10 or more minutes a game. This has always been important to their frenetic pace of play. They make "fatigue a factor" in the game as they've outscore opponents by an average of 11 points a game in the second half this year.

Offensively, Pitino's team runs the fast break and is one of the few teams in the country who consistently shoot the 3-point shot in transition because they practice playing that way every day. Keep in mind that in 1987, the first year of the 3-point shot, it was Pitino's Providence Friars who took advantage of the "3" and played themselves into the Final Four.

In order to set up the 3-point shot in their halfcourt offense, the Cardinals utilize penetration into the lane off the dribble to collapse the defense and, then, make the "kick out" pass to a shooter, who spots up on the 3-point line. You'll hear during the course of the season this described as "penetrate and kick", or as Dickie V. would say, "The 3-D -- Drive, Draw, and Dish!"

Defensively, Louisville plays aggressive man-to man, complemented by the "match-up press". In this press, the Cardinals pick up man-to-man in the full court, and when they can speed up a dribbler with their pressure, a second defender will leave his own man to run at and trap the "uncontrolled dribbler". This is effective at creating turnovers because most players with the ball don't make good decisions on the move.

I hope this gives you a good scouting report on the Cards' style of play this year.

Fran Fraschilla spent 23 years on the sidelines as a college basketball coach before joining ESPN this season as an broadcast analyst. He guided both Manhattan (1993, 1995) and St. John's (1998) to the NCAA Tournament in his nine seasons as a Division I head coach, leaving New Mexico following the end of the 2001-02 season.

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