‘Cloak and Dagger’ Diagonal Offensive Series By Brandon Anderson, Williamsburg, Kentucky

Photo: Chip Griffin

A good offense is based on several basic principles. The first is being able to start the play with a pass or a dribble entry. Good offenses also use ball reversals to make the defense change sides of the floor. It includes a backdoor game to release the pressure and uses the most difficult things to defend, such as big-on-little screens, pick and rolls, handoffs and backscreens. This gives every player an option to score, an essential aspect for team morale and chemistry.

The most important rule is to keep it simple. With these principles in mind, we believe the Diagonal Offensive Series incorporates these elements into a simple but effective attack by camouflaging the same play using different formations and entries.

First set   

The initial set in the Diagonal Series starts in a box formation. This set uses a dribble entry to eliminate the chance of a turnover with an entry pass to the wing. The play can be executed with or without a ball screen. The point guard has the option to run the play to the left or the right side of the floor. The first option is a clear out for the point guard as 2 sets the diagonal screen for the post.

DIAGRAM 1: 1 dribbles to the wing foul-line extended. 2 screens up for 5 at the elbow for a post up on the block.


DIAGRAM 2: 4 screens for the picker, 2, after the diagonal screen. 2 pops to the top of the key for a possible jumper or the high/low entry to 5. If 2 doesn’t have anything, he or she reverses the ball to 3 on the wing.


DIAGRAM 3: When 3 catches the ball, 4 pick and rolls with 3. 3 dribbles to the foul line looking for the shot or 4 on the roll. 1 and 5 set a staggered screen for 2, who floats over the top of the screen for a long jumper.


If we run this set with a ball screen, our posts start with one foot on the 3-point line and the other foot on the top of the key circle (DIAGRAM 4). The point guard starts one direction getting circle-wide before coming back the other way on a downhill angle to use the ball screen. The point guard then looks to turn the corner and score.

If the drive isn’t there, 1 dribbles to foul-line-extended on the wing looking to make the entry pass to the 4 on the block.


Second set

The second formation we use to camouflage the play is a four-high set. This eliminates the weak-side help by pulling the defense above the foul line.

DIAGRAM 5: The first scoring option occurs as 1 makes a dribble entry to the wing as 2 starts to backdoor cut. If the wing defender helps up leaving his man, that allows 1 to make a pass to 2 for an easy back door layup. 2 must maintain eye contact with 1 until he or she reaches the block on the back cut. After reaching the block, 2 sets the big on a little diagonal screen for the post.


DIAGRAM 6: 5 sets a screen for 2 (the screener) and 3 pops to the wing. 1 looks to reverse the ball to 2 at the top. 1 can throw the lob to 4 if fronted or throw the slip to 5 on the weak-side block on a switch.


Third set

Another formation we use to disguise the play is a two-guard front. This plays deploys our wings as the first scoring option. If the wing isn’t open on the rub cut, then we flow into Diagonal.

DIAGRAM 7: 1 dribbles on the wing, and 2 receives a diagonal screen from 5. 1 passes to 2 as 5 rolls out of the lane.


DIAGRAM 8: If 2 doesn’t receive the ball, he or she screens for 4 followed by a screen from 5 for 2. 1 can pass to 4, 2 or 5.


Fourth set

We keep the defense guessing about the dribble entry by mixing a wing entry pass into the offense. The wing entry pass creates scoring opportunities by employing a staggered screen to get open.

DIAGRAM 9: 3 cuts under the four-high formation giving the appearance of our previous dribble entry with a back cut. 2 breaks over the top of a staggered screen at the elbows from the post to receive the entry pass from 1. This presents an immediate scoring opportunity for 2 to reverse pivot and drive to the basket, because the defender trails the cutter on the high side the majority of the time.

After the entry pass to the wing, 1 makes a UCLA cut or a shuffle cut. This creates a scoring option for our point guard and another entry into Diagonal.


DIAGRAM 10: 1 sets the diagonal screen for 5, and 4 screens the screener (1). If 5 isn’t open, 2 swings the ball to 1 at the top of the key.


Fifth set

We also use the four-high set for our back door game to relieve the pressure on the wing entry.

DIAGRAM 11: 1 make an entry pass to the post. 2 back cuts to the block looking for the pass from the post. If the backdoor isn’t there, 1 takes a handoff from the post and looks to turn the corner.


DIAGRAM 12: If the drive isn’t there, we flow into the diagonal by 1 dribbling to the foul-line extended on the wing. 2 sets the diagonal screen for 5, and 4 screens the screener after the handoff.


Sixth set

This last set we call the “Campbellsville Diagonal High-Post Entry from a box set.” This variation of the offense uses a post entry pass from a box formation to flow into the Diagonal.

DIAGRAM 13: 1 makes a dribble entry to the wing foul-line extended and passes to 5. 5 may have to step out to receive the pass.


DIAGRAM 14: 1 takes the handoff from 5 and dribbles off-the-ball screen set by 4. 1 looks to turn the corner and score. If 1 can’t drive to the rim, he or she dribbles to the wing foul-line extended. 2 sets a diagonal screen for 5, and 5 cuts to the block for the post up. 3 pops to the wing, and 4 downscreens for the screener (2) after setting the ball screen. 2 then pops out to the key.


DIAGRAM 15: 1 swings the ball to 2 at the top of the key. 2 looks for a shot and high/low with 5 then passes to 3 on the wing. 3 pick and rolls with 4, and 1 and 5 set a staggered flare screen for 2.

The Cloak and Dagger Diagonal Series is effective because of its simplicity and camouflaged entries. It has created scoring opportunities for every player on our team, and when run correctly, it can do the same for just about any program.





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