The Key To Defensive Success - Mastering Screens

by Randy Brown - Date: 2007-01-04 - Word Count: 796 Share This!

Screening is a major offensive weapon in today's game. Teams that are able to stretch defenses with good screening and setting up shooters have a leg up in any game. Reggie Miller is an example of an NBA great that made a living off of the screening action of his Pacer teammates.

From a coaching standpoint, I feel that defending screens is one of the most ignored parts of the game. Since screens are used as an offensive tool, it only makes sense that we teach our players how to beat screens. Most of my teams have run motion offense and it has helped keep our defense sharp. Running motion offense every day in practice helps your players by facing screening situations constantly.

Defending and beating screens requires a learned mindset. A player must develop the attitude that he will not be screened under any circumstance. In practice every possible type of screen is utilized along with specific details on how to beat that screen. Players must believe that they can beat screens, not just defend them. This toughness mindset can be set in place by the coach who preaches and teaches it every day. A common mistake for defenders is to give up on the initial contact and stand straight up. Excuses can follow quickly also when players fail to beat the screen.

A good game plan can prepare a player for most of the screening situations that will be faced during the game. Preparation also enhances the chances for proper communication, so that both defensive teammates realize when a screen is being set and how to handle each one. This can help your team to enter games feeling good about the game plan and confident to win.

Keys To Beating Screens

Move as the offensive player moves--If you react to his movement, you will always be behind and are susceptible to all types of screens. Essentially, players must beat the offensive player to the spot. Get to that spot on the floor before he does.Get through screens narrow and eliminate body contact--Since the offensive player is trying to "lay a body on you", being narrow and throwing your hips and lead foot through aggressively are key. By driving your lead foot you will create momentum to slide by the screen.Be a fighter--Instead of dying on the initial contact, players bounce off and fight to stay close to the cutter. As long as you can avoid a foul, use every weapon you have. Players must take an aggressive, never-say-die attitude toward screening.Close the gap between you and the cutter--When you feel your man setting you up for a screen, get closer to him or up into him. You will have less ground to cover and will be with him virtually step by step. The terminology "footsteps" is often used by coaches, meaning the defender literally follows the cutter's movement inch by inch. This is particularly effective against ball side down screens and "baseline runner" screens.Communicate--By being an alert defender you are able to see screens develop before they reach you. Specific communication may be, "screen right, screen right." This alert is called by the screener's defender as soon as he sees the screen coming. Screens must be called out loud and with great urgency! The communicating defender must do three things. Indicate to his teammate that a screen is coming. Indicate which side or direction the screen is coming from.Indicate what decision should be made on the screen, i.e.-get through, switch, or trap.Here are general team rules to follow regarding screens. We never intend to switch on screens unless the situation becomes an emergency. It is more effective to switch "like" player such as switching between two guards. Big-little screens should never be switched. Switching sometimes leads to laziness and excuse making. Players must be committed to getting through every screen. The back screen is a difficult screen to maneuver. Our rule simply states that if a player does get hit and cannot get through a back screen it is automatically switched.We will handle various screens differently, depending on the opponent. This is where game preparation come into play and usually defines the difference between winning and losing. For example, when a specific player receives a ball screen, we will jump out and double the dribbler forcing him to pass. If this player is not an offensive threat, we will get through it normally. These decisions are made due mainly to the opponent's ability to shoot, especially from three. Any coach can drastically strengthen his defense by focusing on the art of beating screens. Decide to not just defend screens but beat them. The time and effort it takes to add this to your defensive arsenal will be well worth it on game night and will result in more wins.

Related Tags: basketball, success, winning, college basketball, defense, screens, beating screens

Randy Brown has dedicated his life to the game of basketball. His 18 years in college basketball highlights a successful 23-year career. Coaching positions at Arizona, Iowa State, Marquette, Drake, and Miami of Ohio fill his resume. Mentored by Basketball Hall of Fame coach Lute Olson at Arizona, he learned the game from the best. At 39, Randy became the head coach at Division I Stetson University in Deland, Florida. His efforts have helped develop 12 NBA players including Steve Kerr, Sean Elliott, and Jaamal Tinsley. His passion for mentoring young coaches and developing youth programs is known and respected throughout the country. Over the years he has authored over 50 articles on coaching basketball and has taught over 24,000 young players in summer camps and clinics. He works as a basketball consultant and mentor for coaches. He is also an author and public speaker. Randy can be reached at

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