Continuity offense creates post opportunities without a true post player
High school coaches don’t have the opportunity to scout and recruit players to fill roles on their teams. They must play the hand they’re dealt. That means some years you have a big front line, while other years you have to play with four guards and a forward.
No matter who you have on the floor, there are four key elements to a successful offense:
- Ball movement from side to side.
- Getting high-percentage shots in the paint.
- Getting to the free throw line.
While some coaches may think they only can get high-percentage shots with big post players, that’s not always the case. In fact, putting perimeter players in post-up positions also creates high-percentage shots. A perimeter offensive player in the post has a distinct advantage, because typically a perimeter defensive player is not used to defending the post. To create a true continuity offense, every offensive player has to learn to play the post. To keep it simple, teach your perimeter players these important fundamentals:
- Stay above the block.
- Keep a wide base with hands up.
- Always meet the pass with a hop to the ball to establish either foot as the pivot foot.
Once the fundamentals are established, move on to teaching them two basic moves:
- After receiving the pass, drop-step away from the pressure. (Show a ball fake in one direction and go the other way.)
- Reverse pivot out of the post (just like Kevin McHale) and square up to the basket while keeping some spacing in front of the player. This allows the player to take a jab and go to the basket. Perimeter players feel more comfortable facing the basket.
Now that your players established the fundamentals and learned a couple basic moves, emphasize the following five teaching points to make this continuity offense successful. Once these are understood, transition into running some of the plays of this offense.
5 keys to the continuity offense
1. Keep good spacing. When a player comes off a screen and doesn’t receive the pass, that player must get to the 3-point line.
2. Sprint into screens. When setting a screen on the defender, make it a solid one. Many times, after setting the screen, the screener then receives his own screen.
3. Wait for the screen to be set. This is the most critical element of the offense. If a player leaves too early, it’s very easy to defend the screen. Plus, waiting for the screen allows for better spacing coming off screens.
4. Reading screens. Players must know when to curl or fade off the downscreen from the wing. Using motion principles, your team needs to drill in practice everyday on reading the defense.
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When the defender chases the cutter from the wing on the downscreen, or the diagonal-screen from the top, your offensive player has to curl tightly. On the curl, the screener needs to create space by cutting toward the baseline. If the defense cheats and goes over the top of the screen, the offensive player flares away from the defender. Players have a tendency to straight-cut every screen, which creates easy opportunities for the defense.
Players also need to open up to the ball when setting screens on a switching defense. By doing so, the switching defender is on the screener’s back, creating an easy entry or scoring chance.
5. Penetration. Every good offense needs to put pressure on the defense through penetration. This continuity offense gives players some easy options in penetration situations. For straight dribble penetration, players on the block make L-cuts out of the post. On baseline penetration, the players in the post make L-cuts through the lane. For middle penetration, the post player L-cuts toward the baseline. For every penetration, there can be a skip pass to the wing or to the top of the key.
Entries & offense
The first four diagrams show four different ways to get the continuity offense started. From there, you’ll see what the offense looks like and what to look for when the defense starts to cheat or switch on screens.
DIAGRAM 1: Downscreen & pop. 4 and 5 set screens for the perimeter players, 2 and 3. 1 passes to either 2 or 3 — who ends up open on the wing.
DIAGRAM 2: Cross underneath. 4 and 5 set screens for the perimeter players, 2 and 3. But this time, 2 and 3 cross under the basket and use the opposite player’s screen from diagram 1. 1 passes to 2 or 3.
DIAGRAM 3: Backscreen pop. 2 and 3 come to the wing and set screens for 5 and 4, who go to the post. 2 and 3 flash to the wing after setting their screens. 1 passes to 2 or 3.
DIAGRAM 4: Dribble through — loop. 1 dribbles right. 3 fills back to the top if the defense isn’t allowing passes to the wing.
DIAGRAM 5: 4 and 5 set downscreens in the post for 2 and 3. 1 passes to 2 on the right wing to get the offense started.
DIAGRAM 6: Once 2 catches the pass on the wing, 4 screens across for 5. 1 sets a diagonal-screen for 4 to come high. 4 has to wait for the screen to be set by 1, and 1 has to bury 4’s defender in the post. 2 passes to 4 at the top of the key.
DIAGRAM 7: When the ball is at the top of the key, there’s always a downscreen from the wing to the block. When 4 receives the pass at the top of the key, 3 downscreens for 1, who pops to the wing. 4 passes to 1 on the left wing. Once 1 catches the ball on the wing, the screener (3) posts in the block area.
DIAGRAM 8: If 3 isn’t open in the post, 3 screens for 5. 4 cuts through the lane and screens for 3, who pops to the top of the key.
Many times, the defense switches when screened, so there are adjustments to make on your end. The golden rule is the screener always is ready to open up to the ball after the screen is made.
DIAGRAM 9: 4 screens for 5, but X1 and X2 switch defensive responsibilities. When this happens, 4 seals X1.
DIAGRAM 10: If the defense switches on the diagonal-screen, the screener (1) has to find and seal the defender (X2). When 4 catches the pass from 2, 4 looks to the post to 1, who should have X2 on his or her back.
DIAGRAM 11: If the defense switches on the downscreen from the wing, 2 looks to slip and seal the defender in the post (X2).
Kevin Wolma is the athletic director and former boys basketball coach at Hudsonville High School in Michigan.