Before teaching the intricacies of an offensive system, players must be taught how to work together, including:

  • Basic Floor Spacing;
  • Ball Reversal
  • Pass & Cut
  • Pass, Cut & Replace
  • Basic Motion Offence
  • Introducing Post Players
  • Basic Screening Principles
  • Motion Offence with Screens
  • Basic Fast Break Principles
  • Press Offence

Young players will often tend to follow the ball, which can result in them crowding around the ball. This can be exacerbated when young players lack the strength to throw passes across the court so their team mates move closer to the ball.

A method of teaching court spacing is to start with the “Head-Hands-Feet” method:

This spaces players around the perimeter and, if you join them up, they look a little like a “stick” figure, with a head, two hands and two feet. Mark these spots on the floor with cones and tell your players that they must be at either the head, hand or feet position and only one person at each position.

Any cut must go into the “heart” (the key) but then come out to one of those positions.

Initially have only the players closest to the ball leading.

Players can use varying leading techniques. Here 4 uses a v-cut and 1 uses a back cut.

Emphasise the concept of “ball reversal” – moving the ball from one side of the court to the other.

Particularly with young players it is better to make short passes, rather than passing across the court.

The cuts (shown in various colours) are not done all at the one time. Players cut, when the person next to them has the ball.

Add defenders so that players now must react to the defender in making a cut. Here, the defender is in the “passing lane”, so that the offensive player steps high, shows their hands and then back cuts.

If the defender stands back, the offensive player cuts to the basket. They may move in one direction first (to get the defender to move) and then cut.

Or they may perform a straight cut, which will be most effective if the defender is looking at the ball and has lost sight of the offensive player.

Defenders only guard the one offensive player (no help defence at this stage) and focus is on the 1x1 contests.

“Pass and Cut” / “Give and Go”

Perhaps the simplest play in basket is “pass and cut” or “give and go”. The player passing the ball, then cuts to the basket looking to receive a pass back.

“The Puzzle Game”

In the earlier examples, individual players moved but there was little cohesion between players.

The Puzzle Game is a simple passing activity that can be used to help players to learn the importance of moving rather than standing still. And, in particular, how making a cut can be effective even if the player does not receive the ball because the player creates a space that another teammate can move into.

With 5 players, set up six cones and each player stands behind one cone, leaving one cone free. The rules of the game are:

  • The ball can only be passed to a person standing at a cone;
  • Only one person at each cone;
  • A player cannot move past a cone where someone is standing to get to the vacant cone (e.g. Player 2 cannot move past Player 4 to get to the open cone).
  • The ball can only be passed to someone next to the person with the ball.

For example, Player 1 cannot pass to Player 5 but can pass to Players 2, 3 and 4.

The two diagrams show the game being played according to the rules, with Players 3, 4 and 5 involved in cutting and passing.

The diagram above shows the game being played according to the rules, with Players 3, 4 and 5 involved in cutting and passing.

However, Players 1 and 2 were unable to cut, because they were never next to the vacant cone. The last rule to introduce is that no player should be at the same cone for more than a certain period of time. Initially, make it relatively long such as 5 or 6 seconds and then reduce the time.

The last rule will emphasise the importance of moving to create a space for a teammate. Here Player 3 cuts to the vacant cone, moving away from the ball. In this position they cannot receive the ball.

However, by them moving, Player 1 can now cut, as can Player 4. The cut by Player 3 also creates an opportunity for Player 5 to cut. They could cut to replace Player 3 (which means Player 1 would have to remain). Or they could replace Player 4.

Once players understand this last rule, allow passes to any player so long as they are at a cone.

As players get better they may start to move from their cone at the same time as another player. For example, Player 3 leaves their cone and Player 1 starts to move towards it.

Introduce a rule that a player cannot return to their cone once they leave it. For example, if Player 5 replaced Player 3 before Player 1 got to the cone, Player 1 cannot return to their cone. Nor can Player 5 move back.

In this situation, another player must move to create a space for Player 1. There are many ways that a gap can be created, for example:

  • Player 4 replaces Player 1 (shown)
  • Player 2 passes to Player 4 and then moves to replace Player 1
  • Player 3 moves and then Player 4 moves to their space.
  • Player 4 cuts to the cone where Player 5 started and then Player 1 can replace Player 4.
Harshman was head coach at Pacific Lutheran (1945-58), Washington State (1958-1971) and Washington (1971-1985) and was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 1985