Head Men's Basketball Coach – Pratt Cannoneers
Boiled down to its simplest form, a ball screen is an easy way to create an advantage on offense. An even five on five matchup changes when the ball handler is forcing two defenders to guard him. Logic dictates that once the ball handler passes out of the pseudo-double team (his defender and the hedger), his teammates should be playing with a 4 on 3 advantage.
But defenses have gotten wise and created countless strategies for defending ball screens. Hard hedging, flat hedging, icing, etc…
So all of a sudden when we are teaching young guards to play off ball screens, we must not only coach them on how to set up the ball screen and how to come off tight to the screener in order to sever the angle and force a hedge, but we must teach strategies to combat the different containing and rotational strategies that defenses are throwing out.
In the video above I tried to cover many of the different reads that an elite guard will see when coming off a ball screen. Juan’ya Green and Tyler Ulis are superstar point guards for Hofstra and Kentucky, respectively. They finished the season ranked sixth and seventh in Division I for assists per game, with Green setting up teammates an average of 7.1 times per contest and Ulis 7.0 per game.
I avoided including most reads against ICE defense, because that’s an entire separate topic and video in itself. (If you want a very comprehensive video covering how to counter the ICE coverage, I recommend this one.)
What became very clear to me when watching Green, Ulis and a number of other high-level point guards this season is that there are two major factors in being a dynamic playmaker off ball screens. The first is to have mastered the basics. There is brilliant play design by both Joe Mihalich and John Calipari that help with spacing and moving the defense, but ultimate Green and Ulis are well-versed in setting up the ball screen, coming off tight and squaring themselves towards the rim to make themselves a threat to not only score themselves, but to see teammates at all angles.
The second is that being a real scoring threat frequently leads to creating better passing angles. Green averaged 17.8 points per game and shot over 36% from three-point this year while taking home CAA Player of the Year honors. Ulis averaged 17.3 PPG, was the SEC Player of the Year and shot over 34% from three. Simply because of the threat of each player scoring, the hedger often stays an extra half second, help defenders over-rotate towards them by a step and linger, allowing a slightly clearer passing lane to set up teammates.
Just being a scoring threat is not enough to always capitalize on these slight advantages against high-level Division I defenses. Watch as both Green and Ulis constantly make themselves a threat, looking to turn the corner on every screen and attacking until the very last second when they are officially deterred and a passing lane is wide open. Both are extremely practiced at immediately squaring themselves to the rim off the screen and maintaining full vision of the floor.
Ultimately, this video is not the definitive guide on coming off ball screens at the college level, but my hope is that it can be a teaching tool to guards that would benefit from seeing different reads against different coverages.