Fighting through a screen is one of the least glamorous tasks in basketball. But as more teams find creative ways to get their best players an open shot in the half-court offense, getting through screens is a must-skill if you want to stay on the court.
There are only so many Paris Kyles and Chase Skinkis in the Ultimate Hoops League, to whom you can just give the ball to and get out of the way. Even the reigning 2016 National Tournament MVP Dermaine Crockrell is almost always getting open through screens and misdirection, intended to distract the defense while Crockrell finds space for a shot.
But for every seemingly effortless shot Crockrell swishes, hours of repetitious shooting and fundamental training went into it. So why don't we apply the same repetition to fundamental ball screen defense to prevent Crockrell from getting his shot?
To get you starting on becoming an all-world ball screen defender, we asked four of our Ultimate Hoops' trainers to share their tips.
Peter Fabiano, Life Time Athletic- Florham Park, NJ
A key way to fight through a screen is for teammates to communicate and call out screens. A screen is most effective when you dont know it's coming. Over-communicating allows you to react accordingly to your teams strategy.
Ken Koerner, Life Time Athletic- Syosset
I always preach to my athletes the importance of communicating with their teammates on defense. One tip is to get in the screener's way. Communicate where the screen is coming from so your teammate can disrupt and move around or under the screen.
Will Kirkaldy, Life Time Athletic- Mt. Laurel, NJ
Smart defenders always understand who is setting the screen. Is it a guard-on-guard or post-on-guard? Knowing the difference and what the offense is looking accomplish is key. The player guarding the screener should call out the screen and what side it's coming from. Hedge out and slow down the ball handler long enough for his teammate to recover on their defender.
On soft screens, always body up on the ball handler and fight over the top of screens. On hard screens, when fighting over the top isn't possible, go under, quickly recover and defend your man.
Kimrossi Taylor, Life Time Fitness- Romeoville, IL
Stay in a good athletic position and use your hands to feel the screen along with using your peripheral vision. You must anticipate the screen by pushing up on the ball handler, stepping over with your lead foot and arching your back to get through the screen.
Now take these fundamental tips and apply them to an on-court drill. Below is an excellent continuous ball screen defense drill from coach Steve Lutz at Creighton University.
St. Louis University head coach Travis Ford takes you through his hard hedge method of defending a ball screen. The Cowboys’ goal is to discourage the drive and frustrate the ball handler, in hope of causing a bad shot or creating a turnover.