We are sharing this article, “Seven Cardinal Principles of Offensive Play”, from the book Championship Basketball by Adolph Rupp. Though first published in 1957, these principles are quite applicable in today’s game. For more plays and coaching concepts from Adolph Rupp, be sure to visit the Hoops U. Basketball Coaching Academy. Enjoy!
Let me say, to begin with, that there are no secrets in basketball. There are coaches who, when the principles of basketball are explained to them, do not find the answers sufficiently intellectual to be satisfying. These same individuals, when a chemistry teacher tells them that the formula for water is two parts hydrogen and one part oxygen, don’t complain that the formula is unsophisticated. But unfortunately, many of them turn up their noses at the basic truths of basketball, because these truths are too commonplace.
Too many coaches today do not realize that a shot chart is the best index of how a game has been played; and very few coaches really get the value from the shot chart that they should. Too many coaches use the shot chart just as a record for the collection of statistics, and they do not go into the meaning of this chart sufficiently to get the true value out of it. As is well known, we were possibly the first school in America to make extensive use of the shot chart; and practically all of the statistics that are kept today were kept in our files and used by us for some fifteen years.
There are Seven Cardinal Principles that are important in offensive play. In going over these principles it will be possible for everyone to understand why we place so much emphasis on the shot chart and why we are able to discuss a game intelligently after it is over. Peculiar as it may seem, one’s memory is not always too good. Very often you may think that one of your boys has played a very outstanding game. But when you consult the shot chart you will be able to see whether or not your memory has played tricks on you, and whether or not you have the exact picture as it is revealed by the chart. We believe that these seven things are most important:
1. Get the position shot
We have believed that every player on a team has certain shots that are peculiar to his position. In beginning our shooting drills we divide our boys into forwards, guards, and centers, and try to give them a basket where each group can work alone. In watching teams warm up or practice I have been amazed at the indifferent shooting that teams employ. I have watched a center take a shot from thirty feet out and spend practically all of the warm up drill out at that position. Correct shooting practice drills are essential.
A guard must learn to hit from the floor from four positions at least twenty feet out. He must learn to drive at the basket and shoot a lay-up shot. He must learn to drive at the basket, stop, and use a jump shot. Shots are of two varieties: those from a standing position and those from an in-motion position. The guard must be able to use all of them.
A forward should learn to shoot from his side of the floor and concentrate all of his efforts on that side. He should learn to shoot from a position near the side of the floor where an extension of the free-throw line would cross. He should learn to drive with a dribble across in front of the pivot man, to jump, and to shoot. He should learn to drive and go around the pivot man all the way and use a lay-up shot. He should learn to reverse with the ball from his original position, drive for the basket, go all the way, or to be able to stop and use the jump shot.
The pivot man should work in the area out from the basket to a position about twelve or fifteen feet out. Every shot peculiar to the pivot man should be taught. If the pivot man can shoot well from out on the floor this should be encouraged, since usually the defensive man who guards the pivot man does not like to go out that far. Few pivot men are good long shots; but they certainly should be encouraged to make hook shots, turn-around shots, jump shots, and fade-away shots.
In other words, concentrate on getting good shots for the positions to which the boys are assigned, and you will be surprised at how your percentage will increase.
2. Get the long shot
You have often heard it said that, if a boy can’t shoot crips and get lay-up shots, he is not a sound ballplayer. I have often heard coaches say that they lost a game because a boy missed a lay-up in the last few seconds of play. I wonder whether the game was really lost because of that, or whether it was lost because a guard was permitted to shoot from twenty feet out and missed all of his shots, allowing the opponents to get the ball. If you have a team that can’t shoot long, it will be difficult to get the short shot, because the defense will concentrate under the basket and not permit you to work a play so that you can get a short shot. If you can hit from out on the floor, it will be necessary for the defense to cover you; and then, when the defense covers for a long shot, you will be able to get the ball in to the pivot man and set up a screening play so that you can get the short shots. With the defense tight, your fast men will be able to make use of their speed and run past the defensive men. That is why it is so important to have a long shooter on the team. You should work at least thirty minutes a day on the long shot, on passing in to the pivot man, and on quickly cutting for the basket for a lay-up shot. It takes constant practice to perfect aim and precision in shooting baskets.
3. Get the over shot
By getting the over shot we mean that you must get the shot over the screener. You can do this either by passing the ball in to your teammate and having him set a screen for you, permitting you to shoot from the outside or-over him, or by throwing the ball to your teammate and establishing a screen, permitting him to shoot over you. This over shot can easily be set up, especially against floating defenses; and, unless the defense is very aggressive, the overshot will be easy to get.
4. Get the second shot
Far too often a team will take a shot at the basket and lose possession. It can be very difficult for this team to win. This is especially true when the defense floats badly or uses a zone. In either case you must so design your offensive maneuvers that you will have a maximum amount of rebounding strength on the boards. This will permit you to get possession of the ball and get the second shot, or the third and fourth shots, before you surrender the ball to the opponents.
I watched a game in the winter of 1955 in which it was very evident as to what was taking place. Team A realized that Team B had very indifferent long shooters on its team. Team A floated badly. It allowed the shooters to take unlimited shots at the basket; and that usually ended the offensive movement, since Team A immediately got the rebound. Team B was a very fine team under ordinary conditions, but it couldn’t get the second shot from its offense. It was apparent that Team B could not get its rebounding strength to the basket, because Team A was not only making use of its strategy, but was blocking out the offensive rebounders of Team B. After the game the coach of Team B said, “We got a lot of good shots, but couldn’t hit.” That wasn’t the case. The shots were good, but were taken by indifferent shooters; and the entire theory of Team A was to get possession of the ball after the first shot. It is important to check your offense to make sure that you are getting the second shot or additional shots.
5. Get the percentage shot
As I have mentioned before, there is too much indifferent shooting on teams. The shots should be taken by the boys who are the best percentage shooters. If a boy can shoot and hit 40 percent of his shots, it’s a cinch that he is taking good shots and that he has the ability to make a high percentage of his attempts. There are other boys who will attempt as many shots but only hit 20 percent of them. The shot chart will immediately tell the coach exactly which boy is doing the most shooting and which boy is hitting the biggest percentage of shots. Certainly it makes a lot of difference from which position on the floor these shots are taken; but the fact still remains that you should work to get shots that will give you the best percentage. If a boy is shooting 35 percent or better from the floor, and if the defense permits him to take good shots from there, he should be permitted to shoot from that position unless he can pass to a teammate who has a better position. The highest percentages of shots are usually made by the tall men near the basket. They have a shorter distance to shoot, and on rebound shots their size will usually permit them to increase the percentage of their shooting.
In going over these first five cardinal principles, your shot chart will tell you whether your boys have the ability to get the long shots. It will also tell you whether or not you have sufficient rebounding strength to get the second shot. If you have a big pivot man who can knock in attempts that are missed from out on the floor, then you will have an excellent opportunity not only for setting up a dangerous offense, but also for getting the second shot and for taking advantage of the percentage. If the long shot fails to develop, then the coach should so design his offense as to use the maximum amount of time to work the ball in to the pivot man, in order to increase the percentage on shooting.
6. Take out the floater
We have had tremendous difficulty in the last ten years with floating defenses; and I can assure you that we have worked as hard on these as on almost any phase of the game. Our offense is set up as a single post offense. We do not care to argue about the merits of this with anyone, for we have established in our own minds that this is the best offense for us. We have given it tremendous study, we know a lot about it, and it is giving us the results that we are seeking. We have been the “spread team” of the nation for many years – that is, the spread between offense and defense – and our theory has always been that this is the soundest basketball. Lowness of score does not indicate the defensive ability of a team, but the margin by which you beat a team does indicate your defensive strength. The best way to cure a floating defense is to have excellent long shooters. If the boys can hit from out on the floor there will be little danger of the opponents’ dropping in on the pivot man and clogging up the offense. Since we play this single pivot offense, we have designed our plays so that a floater may be taken out of play and all of our plays run just exactly as though the defense were tight.
7. Control the ball
In one of our shot chart columns we keep strict account of the number of times we lose control of the ball and exactly how we lose it. Nothing is more deplorable than to fight viciously to regain the ball and then take it down in your own offensive territory, walk with it, have it intercepted, throw it out of bounds, or have the pivot man stand in the three-second area too long, or in some other way lose control before you get the shot. We like to design our plays so that by a minimum of ball handling we get a shot at the basket. We believe that every time a ball is passed there is danger of losing it; therefore, we want to handle it as infrequently as possible and then get the shot as quickly as possibleâ€”with one thing in mind, and that is perfect ball control.
A few years ago, in a game played against us, a team tried ball control. They passed the ball eighteen times and then threw it out of bounds. I sat there amazed, for we already had a 30-point lead and I couldn’t understand the motive behind this type of offense. This is not ball control. By ball control we mean keeping the ball and getting a good opportunity to score with a well-defined play.
In early-season play let me again emphasize the necessity of establishing uniformity in all phases of play, with particular emphasis on individual skills. Many boys have individual abilities that they have acquired down through the years; and it is possible for them to do one or more particular things differently or better than other boys. These boys should not be deprived of using these individual skills, but they should be developed and encouraged to fit into team play. In early-season play try to establish individual skills by watching:
- Stance of players.
- Floor position.
- Self control in men.
- Timing and uniformity.
These also are some often overlooked playing requirements:
- Leg spring.
Watch particularly the latter. If a team does not have the proper endurance qualities, all the other phases of basketball will go out the window when the heat is applied during the closing minutes of the ballgame.