Steal a bucket by dominating special situations From Julious Coleman, Assistant Men's Coach, California Baptist University, Riverside, California

Special teams aren’t just for football. There are special teams on the basketball court as well.

Think about how a kickoff return, a blocked punt or a long field goal changes the dynamics of a football game. Now, think about how a team has a chance to get off to a great start simply by stealing the opening tip and scoring quickly. Or, consider when your opponent makes a free throw and doesn’t hustle back into defensive position. This is another prime opportunity to steal two points without having to do much work on the offensive end.

Of course, winning special teams in basketball takes time and preparation. Dedicate some practice time to the following plays and you are sure to gain a little edge in your next matchup.

Jump ball

Typically, when a team controls the tip on a jump ball at the start of a game, the other squad doesn’t think about setting the defense immediately. Players are scrambling to figure out who they are guarding.

Disorganization is the norm in the seconds following a jump ball. Use this thinking to your advantage.

When defenses aren’t set, you have an advantage when running a perfectly scripted play just for that situation. The play we run is designed to get your wing player a jump shot from two- or three-point range immediately after you control the tip.

So, the first thing you must do is control the jump ball while also having your players positioned to score quickly.

DIAGRAM 1: Jump-ball alignment/movements. 5 initiates the jump ball. 4 lines up on the left side of the circle. 3 lines up on the right side of the circle. 2 lines up in the front court while 1 is in the backcourt.

5 taps the ball back to 1. 2 and 3 run to the short corners. 1 dribbles to the wing (in this case, on the left side of the floor on 2’s side).


DIAGRAM 2: Action in the front court. 4 and 5 set a double staggered screen for 3. 3 uses the screens to come free to the top of the key. 1 passes to 3 in hopes of an open three-point shot. If the shot is available, 3 takes it.


DIAGRAM 3: Final movements. If 3 doesn’t have an open look at a three-pointer, 4 and 5 then set another double staggered screen. This time the screen is for 2. 2 comes from the opposite block, uses the screen and pops to the wing. 3 passes to 2 in hopes of having an open three-point shot.


Made foul shot

While there typically is only one jump ball in a game, the second way to steal a basket on special teams occurs quite often.

When your opponent makes a free throw, typically, as the team retreats back into its defense, it is disorganized and not ready to handle an attack. A majority of the time teams do not do a good job of converting from free throw shooting to defense.

So, take advantage of this by running a play that works on either side of the floor. The play is run to the right side of the floor in the following diagrams.

DIAGRAM 4: Alignment/initial execution. In this set, 5 is your best runner in the post. So, align 5 on the right side of the lane and the other post (4) on the opposite side with both players occupying the lowest point of the lane on their respective sides. 2 and 3 are opposite each other on the lane in the next available spot to your team. The point guard (1) is at the top of the key behind the free-throw shooter.


As the free throw is made, 4 takes the ball out of the net and steps out of bounds away from the backboard. 5 runs down the middle of the court toward the front of the rim. 2 takes off in a dead sprint to the opposite corner. 3 sprints to half-court. 1 breaks hard to the wing with his backside to the sideline in order to see the entire court.

4 inbounds the ball to 1. On the catch, 1 turns and makes a chest pass to 3. 3 catches and makes a chest pass to 2 in the corner. 5 posts up hard and is looking for the ball. No one dribbles the ball in this play. The ball is advanced with the pass without the ball hitting the floor.

DIAGRAM 5: Feed the post. 2 feeds the post by passing to 5. 1 cuts away to the opposite wing. 5 now has space to operate on this side of the floor.


DIAGRAM 6: Screen for long jumper. If 5 doesn’t have an angle to score or is double-teamed, your team has another option. Have 3 and 4 set a double staggered screen for 2. 2 uses this screen to move from the corner to the top of the key. 5 zips a pass to 2 for an open three-point shot.


These plays in both special situations aren’t difficult to learn or execute but they can provide the boost your team needs to gain momentum, much like a big special-teams play in football.




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