7 Guidelines For Proper Ball Screen Use (As A Ball Handler)

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In today’s basketball game ball screen play is very important. Teams that optimally utilize ball screen play are often difficult to defend. Ball screen play is an attractive offensive option because it is challenging for the defense to guard properly. Teams that are patient and fluid in their ball screen play are able to take advantage of their defensive counterparts.
Ball screen play is only successful when it is used properly. Even though there are many examples of proper ball screen play, there are probably just as many or more examples of poor ball screen play. Executing the ball screen takes a lot of practice and timing, and it is not merely geared toward the two players involved in the screening action.
In a three part blog focused on proper ball screen use I will begin today talking about the responsibilities of the ball handler. In the next blog entries I will concentrate on the screener’s responsibilities as well as the responsibilities of the players off the ball.
1. BE PATIENT- It sounds simple enough. This should be the motto of all basketball play. It is seemingly very difficult in an up-tempo game such as basketball to slow down and take your time. Patience is a virtue, and being patient with a ball screen is vital. This means you must not be in hurry to use the screen immediately.
2. Eyes up- This could have also been #1 on the list. Always have your eyes up so you can see what is going on. Often ball handlers get carried away with using the ball screen that they miss an easy slip pass to the screener or a quick skip pass to open shooter. Eyes have to be up and active before the screen takes place.
3. Survey the screen- Take the time to choose the most opportune spot on the floor for the screen. Ball screens shouldn’t be set anywhere or anytime on the court, so ensure you are in the right position for a ball screen. Then look for the best way to attack the screen.
4. Keep proper spacing- As a ball handler it is your responsibility to keep the court balanced. If there are too many players on your side of the court, it is probably not a good idea to call for a ball screen or use a ball screen. Make sure there is enough space between you and the screener, as well as you and the other players on the court. It will make it easier to make decisions after the ball screen is set.
5. Get level with the screener (or lower)- This might be the biggest error I notice with ball screen offense. Basketball is a game of angles, and using the ball screen properly requires that you take advantage of these angles. Too often ball handlers attempt to use ball screens when they are not level with the screen. This makes it easier for the defender to get over the screen and cut the ball handler off. Bring the defender level with the screen, or in line with the screen. This will ensure the on-the-ball defender will be obstructed by the screen. This eliminates the space the on-the-ball defender has to get over the screen because there is no angle for him to do so.
6. Attack low with shoulders down- If you try to dribble off the screen standing too tall you aren’t going to be effective. Attack the ball screen with your shoulders down. Rub your hips against the screener’s hips to ensure you are using the screen properly and staying as low as possible.
7. Read and react- This is why keeping your eyes up is crucial. Read how the screen is being guarded and react to it. Before you attack the screen you will probably have a good idea of how the defenders are guarding it. Prepare yourself to react to a hard hedge, flat hedge, or any other defensive tactic. Notice where your teammates are on the court. Observe the open areas on the court to penetrate and kick. Don’t be predictable!

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