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March 22 – Ball Screen, Ball Screen, Ball Screen

Read & React Offense Basketball Pick and Roll

There is no question, ball screens are heavily used in college and professional basketball. It tests the defense’s ability to defend the action, and is often used to keep the ball in the hands of their best player to read and make decisions.

We are by no means against ball screens here at Better Basketball; however, we have some different ideas on how and why to use them. We’ll spend the next few days looking at those ideas.

Ball Screens in the Read & React
by Rick Torbett

This particular topic grew out of a question that I get in a lot of clinics. It’s usually phrased
two ways:

  1. Where is the ball screen in the Read & React? or
  2. How many ways are there to initiate or use a ball-screen in the Read & React?

The first question, “where is the ball screen in the Read & React”, tells me that the coach does not know much about the Read & React. Perhaps he or she has never viewed the Read & React DVD or streaming version in our Video on Demand library.
The answer is pretty simple, it’s in Layers 12 and 15. However, I suspect that this question stems from watching a team that says they run the Read & React. And perhaps the team they’re watching is only using the first half of the Read & React. Let me explain:

The first half of the Read & React trains the team to control their spacing. The second half of the Read & React addresses all kinds of screens, even multiple screens. If a Read & React team is winning by controlling the space, then you’re not going to see ball screens. Or, the skill level of the team might not allow it to bring 2 players and their defenders near the ball. Perhaps a ball screen helps the defense rather than hurts them.

It brings up a good point: If your players cannot control the ball with 4 players in the tight space of a ball screen, then maybe you should not use it! Just because the pros and college teams use the ball screen in every possession, does not mean that you have to!

The second question: “How many ways are there to initiate a ball-screen in the Read & React,” is a different question.

It’s more about how to operate the Read & React if your team CAN take advantage of ball screens.

In our Read & React Tutorial on Using Ball Screens, we answer that question!

In addition to showing all the ways to initiate ball-screens in the Read & React, I’ve also included the basics regarding the offensive execution of a pick & roll:

  1. The screener’s angle
  2. Which way to roll?
  3. The screeners position
  4. All of the options depending on how the defense guards the ball screen

Here is a free preview of a chapter on the Screener’s Position from that video:

I can’t let the ball screen go without making the most important point about ball screens in the Read & React versus Traditional Basketball.

In traditional basketball the ball screen is a 2-player game with 3 other offensive players standing and watching – which means there are 3 other defenders that can give most of their attention to helping to stop the ball screen.

In the Read & React, the ball screen has all the same options that a traditional ball screen has. But in the Read & React, the ball screen is essentially a Layer 4 action. The ballhandler is driving to the goal either right or left. This means that those without the ball are required to be on their spots and to Circle Move accordingly. This means the ball handler has Natural Pitch options on the move along with a Safety Valve filling the hole on the perimeter where he or she left.
This means that the other 3 defenders not involved in the pick & roll, will be mentally and physically involved with guarding their assignments, who are on the move, along with thinking about how to defend the pick & roll situation. They have to pick their poison.

To put it in the simplest terms, any ball screen in the Read & React, regardless of how you get into it, winds up being a 5-player action versus a 2-player action. If that’s no good enough, when you’re finished with this video, you’ll have more ways to get into a ball screen than any traditional coach!


Rick’s been watching games again, and felt the need for a little rant! Today we start a 3-Part Series called:

The Great Player + The Ball Screen (Part 1)

Please share your questions, comments, thoughts, experiences, etc. in the ‘Leave a Reply’ section below…


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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.