Coaching Youth Basketball: The Screen and Roll

The screen or pick and roll is one of the most fundamental plays in basketball. It is one of the easiest to learn and execute. Although considered basic, the screen and roll, when perfectly executed, gives the team a myriad offensive options and can be used repeatedly against unwary opponents.

The Screen and Roll

There are two main actors when executing the screen and roll: the ball screener and the ball handler. The ball handler is the one who handles the ball while the screener performs the jumpstop necessary to contain the handler’s defender. The main goal of the screen and roll is to contain the on-ball defender of the ball handler and give both the screener and the handler enough space to execute an offensive play.

Setting the Screen

Communication is essential between the handler and the screener. Through the use of hand or verbal signals, or even through eye contact, the handler and the screener must be able to time when and anticipate where the jumpstop will occur. Ideally, this should be near the top of the key as to give both players more space and consequently, more offensive options. It is important for the ball handler to pay attention to the hips of the screener when the screener sets a screen. The ball handler’s movement should be as close to the screener’s hip as possible, essentially taking away space from the defender and creating separation. The screener must be able to stop the defender by positioning his feet as to directly impede the defender’s movement. It is vital for the screener to set his feet. Setting a screen while moving or even just shuffling one’s feet can give the referee grounds to call an offensive foul. The screener must be as stationary as possible as to allow the defender sufficient time and opportunity to avoid the screen. Holding, pushing, leaning into and using one’s arm to directly impede a defender can all be grounds for the screener to be called for an offensive foul.

Basketball drills should be run to get the timing and interaction of both the ball screener and the handler down to pat. When coaching youth basketball, it is important to get the fundamentals of setting a screen and using one. The pick and roll is one of the simplest basketball plays yet it can be used to run more complex plays in higher level competition. By instilling the mechanics of the screen and roll as early as possible, youth basketball coaches can give their charges a sound foundation to further develop their basketball acumen.

After the Screen

A well-set screen gives both handler and screener enough space to open up a slew of offensive options. When screeners move toward the ball handler, their defender usually moves with them. Big men who set screens inevitably open up the pain by drawing their defender farther away from the post. When the screen is set, the screener can then “roll” or move toward the paint, putting himself in a position to score. The ball handler, free from his defender, can either take a jump shot, drive to the basket, or pass to the rolling big man for an easy field goal.

Player Movement

Although mainly involving two players on one side of the court, the screen and roll should be coupled with player movement from the other three players to better maximize spacing and to allow for easier passing angles for the ball handler. As the screen and roll is executed on one side, a shooter could move towards the rear of the ball handler, right behind the three-point line, making himself a passing option in case the handler’s defender manages to catch up. When a big man rolls to the basket, any other post players should move away from the pain to give the roller more space and to provide passing options in case the roller gets tied up.

More complex plays involve multiple screen and rolls being set up for the ball handler, having the roller pull up for a quick jumper (pick and pop), and having the roller be the handler for another and have a screen set up for him as well.

Easy to learn, easy to execute but quite difficult to master, the screen and roll continues to be one of basketball’s staple plays. From the youth level up to professional play, the screen and roll is utilized each and every game to stymie defenders and to give a team more offensive options.

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