My colleague, Josh Stinson (Perfect Practice and Hoop Clinics), has graciously loaned us the use of the following article.

Since I primarily concern myself with youth basics, often times there is a need for a little more offensive sophistication for the coach and players who have the skills to handle it. So, this month I bring you a topic, often requested and close to my heart– an offense for sixth graders (and 7th or 8th graders). I began using this offense in the 1970’s at the high school level and then using it as a basic starting point, added more options when taking it to the international men’s and women’s games. It works well at it’s most basic (where a coach should really begin when teaching it) and then when both coach and players are ready, it can easily be built upon.

This article was written as a response to a coach who wanted to find an offense that could serve his big players, who moved well and could shoot well at 8′ from the basket, while his outside players had trouble getting open. This offensive set, 3-Out/2-In, focuses on just what this coach needs to utilize his inside players, while giving the perimeter players set movements that provide them good cutting and screening opportunities and later offers options that can expand the offense and feature more outside play.

A simple 3-Out/2-In motion set is a set that focuses on getting the ball to your big players inside, and on the guards utilizing the big players to get good perimeter shots. This offense would distinguish Perimeter Players and Post Players. The 2 post players work as a tandem to create shots in the post. The three perimeter player also work as a unit, running a “3 man motion” with each other. One player starts at the point position, and is responsible for dribbling to a side of the floor and getting the offense going with a pass to the wing. The wings must get open on or below the free throw line extended. The primary purpose when the ball is on either wing is to feed the post. There are other options, of course, but the focused is on getting the ball inside to the posts. Perimeter players have two options when passing from the point (top of the key) in the 3 man-motion – Option 1: Pass and Screen Away – the passer should head hunt when setting the screen – here, 3 actively looks for 1’s defender to screen. The screener pops to the perimeter after the screening.

Option 2: Or…Pass and Basket Cut, by stepping away from the pass as if to screen, and making a quick change of speed, change of direction cut to the basket. Since the 2 big guys are in the paint area, basket cuts aren’t going to give you a ton of scoring opportunities. Still, it is important to mix up “pass and screen away” by alternating with basket cuts on every 3rd or 4th cut – this gives the defense more to defend and helps the offense from becoming stagnant by continually passing and screening away.

There are several other ways to approach perimeter screens; however, in my experience, it’s not at all practical to try to master them all, especially with 6th graders – I would start with screening away and basket cuts and focus on aggressive and consistent execution. I like to work with kids this age at attacking the elbows from the perimeter spots. If your ball handling is suspect, perimeter players can benefit from simplifying their responsibilities.

It can be easier for a younger player to be aggressive when he knows that his job at the wing position is: Feed the post and Attack the elbow. I like to attack the elbows because:

If I do get to the elbow, I’ve penetrated the perimeter of the defense – and gotten into an area where the defense has to react. From the elbow, a player often has several good passing options (dumping into either post, or kicking to the point or wing), and the possibility of a good shot (this is why man-to-man defenses so often focus on keeping the ball out of the middle, they don’t want players to have so many options). Getting to the elbow requires making a purposeful, aggressive move – as opposed to playing the perimeter without purpose.  Shots from directly ahead of the basket tend to rebound at roughly the same angle when missed – this translates to offensive rebounding opportunities in the paint – this can be an advantage for very good rebounding team.In the same way that the guards play as a unit, the post players work as a tandem. On a pass to the wing, the ball side low post player (5) posts up for a quick 1 count; if the post feed isn’t there, he screens away for his partner (4).

The player coming off the screen can go to the high or low post, but I ask players to eventually settle into the low post instead of camping in the high post – I don’t want that area overly congested because that is also where I want the guards to attack.
The image shows 5 setting the screen, pinning 4’s man on his back, and rolling back to the ball. This is good team play in the post, but at first with 6th graders I would probably focus more on setting good screens and rebounding aggressively, before getting into intricate screening scenarios.4 and 5 should be aware of hi-low passing opportunities, especially against zone defenses. Against any defense, they should work to develop a mindset of “My partner has the ball, so he’s looking to pass to me first”, and vice versa.  Whenever one post catches the ball in the low or high post, the other should look to get open on a cut. Perimeter players should work with the posts at getting shots from and inside-out game – feeding the post, making a screen or cut, and receiving a return pass out for a shot. This is a fundamentally sound, team-oriented way for players to get shots out of the offense when creating their own shot is a problem.

By coach

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