How scripts can help basketball coaches From Matt Herting, Bishop Verot High School, Ft. Myers, Florida

There are not many things that transfer from the gridiron to the basketball court. But using a script at the start of a game, quarter or half is something used in football that basketball coaches should consider.

As basketball coaches, we pride ourselves on being prepared for everything. Sometimes we over-prepare. Yes, you can be over-prepared. By incorporating so many set plays into your offense for each particular game, you actually confuse your players, especially if you run a lot of motion-style offense with a few quick hitters in the mix (as we do).

The problem is that sometimes it’s difficult to get into a set play while the ball is in motion. There are times when players don’t hear the play call, or they already have started moving in their motion offense. Then, you are forced to have the point guard pull the ball back out and you shout out the new play, all while the point guard is being pressured (or the defense has the time to set itself). Thinking about all of this one night prior to a big game, I decided to be innovative and creative. I devised a group of five set plays in a specific order — a script — and we would start every game by running through the specific script.

Implementing the script

No matter what happened, we would stick with the script (five plays) before going into our base offense. To keep it simple, we used five plays already in our playbook so we weren’t throwing new plays and a script at the team all at once. Another way to keep it easy on your players is to have the same five plays as your script all the time. You simply say “script,” and your offense knows the next five plays to be run. Thinking then is limited and doesn’t have to be done on the spot.

If you have the luxury of having talented assistant coaches, put them on assignment to scout the opposition prior to your game. The assistants are looking for tendencies in the defense, and which plays in your offense that can work against them.

Keep in mind, you may need a man-to-man script and a zone script, depending on who you are playing.

Benefits of scripting

Using the script does five things for your team:

1. It produces easy baskets early in a game when players tend to be nervous, flat in an unfamiliar gym, or any of the other problems that arise early in a contest.

2. As mentioned, you take the thinking out of running plays. Players know when they are receiving the ball and who is taking the shot. They know their duty and carry it out. This provides a level of comfort for players at the start of the game (or half).

3. The more players run these plays, the better they become at executing them. If you generally have the same five starters running the same five plays to begin a game, all players should be hitting their spots with little or no shuffling.

4. You’re still in a position to confuse a defense, even when they have scouted you well, because you implement a series of cuts, screens, etc., when the defense goes into overplay or denial mode. Sure, you’re running the same five plays, but you aren’t static about it. If the defense knows what’s coming, a quick backdoor cut puts them back in their place. Honestly, I don’t believe any team figured out we were running the same five plays all season.

5. When things are wild, it’s a way to rein in your players a bit. The script provides you with a way to add some structure to your team, without taking away a player’s individual skills. If your team misses a few long shots in a row, or players aren’t passing enough, just call out “script” and run the original five plays. You most likely are going to have some easy looks at the hoop, things settle down, and you are back to your base offense again with a little more confidence.

Keys to the script

Having a script is a great idea, but be sure the plays are good for the players in your program and place them in a position to succeed. Plays may look great on paper, but if the five people on the floor can’t execute it, the script fails.

Keep these three keys in mind for utilizing a script.

1. The order of the plays is critical. Our most effective play in the script is a simple slip (fake screen) and dive by the post. The post shoots a layup about 80 percent of the time.

Is it a great play? No. It just happens that in the two previous plays, the post sets a screen for the highly skilled guard and, after the defense has been beaten with this twice in a row, the post defender is eager to jump the screen, which sets up our post player for an easy slip and layup.

2. Commit to the script for it to work. Don’t change things by skipping a play or changing a play on the fly. It doesn’t work.

Trust your script, otherwise, you are back where you started and potentially have to blow a timeout.

3. Have one defensive key you are watching in each play — and manipulate it later. Watch how your opponent defends cross-screens, ball screens, staggered screens and how much help they provide to each other.

This provides you with a huge advantage later in the game if you decide to call out a single play, or if your players are skilled enough to pick up on the defensive tendencies and take advantage of them.

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