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Intentional Circle Reverse

This is our first guest post on the Tribe and it’s a great way to start. Mike Largey wrote the beginnings of this article in the comments section of the post New Layers: The Ball Screen and I asked him to expand upon it to make sure no one missed out.

Fun fact: in the 80’s Mike played international ball against the likes of Drazen Petrovic and Vlade Divac. Have an idea for a guest post? Let me know. And, no, it isn’t a requirement that you competed against Vlade, just a bonus. Thanks again, Mike.

The Circle Reverse is an excellent pressure relief move to a failed North/South penetration. But after viewing that layer of the offense I had a number of observations “circling” in my head.

  1. A player reversing direction and receiving a pass from a teammate that just failed on a North/South penetration attempt is an effective way to open up scoring opportunities. Why does there have to be a “failure” first before we get the benefits of this movement?
  2. When viewing the Circle Reverse layer on the DVD I wondered why the player flipping the pass side steps out of the way of the receiver’s defender. Why not just come to a jump stop and set a screen after flipping the pass – similar to a Dribble Handoff action?
  3. If we want to intentionally perform a Circle Reverse with the added screen can it be as simple to read as the Speed Dribble and Power Dribble? Will this new read aid or hinder the development of a “true” Circle Reverse read (an honest attempt at North/South penetration flattened out into a more East/West direction)?
  4. If we develop something that intentionally triggers a Circle Reverse with an added screen should it be considered part of the Sprint Ball Screen layer or an adjustment to the Circle Reverse layer?
  5. Can “it” be considered an offensive principle?

The result of these observations together with my team’s performance led to the development of the Intentional Circle Reverse.
Before describing the read to the Intentional Circle Reverse it is first important to review the Speed Dribble. We have taught our players that if the ball is dribbled “at you” or “outside of you” then the read is a Speed Dribble and you should basket cut. If the ball is dribbled “at your defender” or “inside of the defender” but clearly not North/South penetration then the read should trigger the Intentional Circle Reverse.

In addition to the regular Circle Reverse movement there is a jump stop, flip pass, and screen action in the Intentional Circle Reverse similar to a Dribble Handoff. With our perimeter players positioned a solid 3-4 feet past the read line dribbling at a defender will be “inside” the receiver. However, if the defender is in full denial and not looking to help on penetration then the rule regarding the read line takes precedence – basket cut.

“Intentionally” dribbling at your closest (right or left) teammate’s defender will determine just how flat the East/West direction becomes. The dribble speed needs to be quick and the ball handler should be prepared to jump stop as he approaches the receiver’s defender in order to set a solid, wide screen. The receiver still begins his Circle Movement but then reverses direction to receive the flip pass and screen. Because of the speed of the dribble, the on-ball defender is focused on staying between his man and the basket with lateral movement and is not in a position to hedge on the receiver after the flip/screen. Most times the defender does not see it coming – he doesn’t recognize that he is actually guarding the screener.

The Intentional Circle Reverse it is a great way to “kick start” a 5 Out set. This is especially true if you want the benefits of North/South penetration but do not have the players to perform and finish it consistently without a little help. Most often the action will lead to successful North/South penetration from the wing because the receiver has a “running start” and a “screen with no hedging” to work with.

The biggest surprise for me was not the tremendous success we had with the Intentional Circle Reverse. It was our newfound ability to execute true Circle Reverses. It may seem counterintuitive, but the more comfortable we became with the movement the more confident we became with the read.

Rick’s Response:

This is a great adjustment, Mike. Thanks for the post. This article doesn’t need my commentary by any means, but I know there will be questions about my thoughts on the Intentional Circle Reverse so I thought I’d put them here rather than in the comments section.

When I was creating the Read & React, I was trying to SIMPLIFY, SIMPLIFY, SIMPLIFY. The fewer the “Reads”, the easier it would be for the players to remain decisive and aggressive.

To achieve this, I wanted the ball handler to perform very “readable” actions with the ball: (1) Drive to the goal (or attempt to), (2) Dribble East-West, (3) Power Dribble (back to the goal, step-slide, etc.) and most recently (4) Reverse Dribble or Retreat Dribble (back up toward the half-line). These are visually distinctive “postures” with the ball.

Perhaps I went overboard on “Simplification” (but, of course, that’s why I have the Tribe). If your players can discern this extra action of “Driving at the Defender – Inside the Teammate” then not only do I see nothing wrong with it, I see it as a plus! And you did a great job of pointing out the problems it presents to the defense. Would I use it with a youth team? Probably not. Would I use it with a higher level team? Of course!

What you’ve done is another example of the Read & React being community-driven by great coaches like yourself. I intended the Read & React to be an Operating Platform for offensive actions. You’ve just added another “plug-in” to the operating software! I would consider this to fall into the “Enhancement Layer” category – it is not necessary (just like the Power Dribble is not necessary), but it can definitely serve to enhance the offense. This is another reason why the Read & React looks different in the hands of each coach. And by the way, thanks for pointing out what teams might consider using it and why.


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about rick torbett

Rick Torbett has taught thousands of coaches to win more games through his innovative approach to the game. He has created powerful training for coaches at any level so they can coach their best and win more games.

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Read & React 5-Player Coordination Drills

Enter your email address to get an inside look at teaching the Read & React Offense with the drills in this free video.