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Post Play Fundamentals: Throw it into the Post!
Chad Seifried, Ph.D., Louisiana State University and Balraj Paul, Ohio State University
Post Play Fundamentals: Throw it into the Post!!!
Most fans and coaches of basketball consider George Mikan, Wilt Chamberlain, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Kevin McHale, and Tim Duncan as some of the greatest basketball players of all time. These legends achieved great success as both low and high post players. However, in todayís era, it appears with the support of their coaches, most athletes, even those who would be traditionally labeled as post players, prefer to operate their game on the perimeter facing the basket. Unfortunately, this shift prompted the virtual disappearance of fundamental high and low post players and perhaps a brand of basketball which this work promotes is both entertaining and effective. It also all but eliminated the participation of many who possess the innate physical and mental abilities to thrive in these positions which could contribute toward the realization of significant team goals and/or rewards.
The result of this change in philosophy or preference is likely based on a number of factors. For instance, many coaches likely promote perimeter oriented play from their team because of their own background as perimeter players. Academic studies indicate this is a reasonable statement as most coaches self-identify as former perimeter players. It also appears appropriate to assume many coaches further prefer perimeter oriented attacks because they might not associate high scoring games and running offenses with traditional low and high post offenses or players. This assumption may be based on stereotypes which view traditional high and low post offenses as slow, predictable, and physical with pivotmen who are poor ballhandlers/decision-makers. Resultantly, todayís bigger athletes play less physically in the high and low post areas than their historical counterparts despite emerging as larger individuals from advancements and the fieldís emphasis on strength training.
Coaches should know high and low post offenses exist as a viable method to increase scoring and defense for their teams and that many different athletes would be served well learning the fundamentals associated with these positions. This should serve a coach and programís pursuit of creating a highly marketable product along side a winning one. For example, taking shots closer to the hoop elevates a teamís field goal percentage. Running the offense through high and low post players can contribute much to improving the efficiency of the offense. Interestingly, coaches should also understand their smaller size players can learn to develop their post skills because it might better serve their natural skill set and disposition. This too can help much toward the effectiveness of the individual player and team. High school coaches should take great interest in this advice because they annually turnover their roster.
This work considers post play as an important and practical method toward the building of a useful team approach in basketball. Thus, it intends to inform coaches on how to make their players better at both the high and lost post positions because posting up does not necessarily involve just playing underneath with a back to the basket. The article will concentrate on techniques and provide instruction and information to coaches on how to teach the essentials of superior offensive post play. For instance, this piece addresses basic moves (e.g. up and under, sweep through, drop step, pivots, and reverse seal) to build fundamental skills but also discusses the importance of running the floor, establishing body position, reading the defense, and feeding the post as important topics for coaches to consider when attempting to help their athletes achieve success with high and low post play. Again, this work would like to remind coaches all players on the floor possess the opportunity to operate in the post areas. Furthermore, this piece aims to prompt the basketball community to initiate more opportunities for their team in the post areas because they are viable places to operate an offense.
Running the Floor
With the recent efforts of most teams and leagues (i.e. National Basketball Association) to emphasize uptempo games, basketball coaches should realize running the floor is essential for the success of any high and low post offense. Running the floor with passion and purpose allows those playing in the post to establish the position they want before the defense can set. This opportunity presents itself on a regular basis after missed shots and turnovers but also following made shots as well. This scenario also appears possible because large post players often exist as the least conditioned players on the floor which makes it harder for them to run consistently back and forth over the length of the game. In essence, because transition defense is often a scramble to pick-up offensive players, post players enjoy the opportunity to secure the territory they prefer against a mismatched opponent, at the high or low post position. In addition, post players can also acquire space during transition against a similar sized opponent in an ideal area of the floor to ultimately give themselves a better chance to score or operate their teamís game plan.
In order to establish an early offense with the post during transition, coaches must understand and embrace several items of concern. First, those attempting to play in the low post should run down the center of the floor (i.e. head on rim) with their hand held high if open. This gives the ballhandler the target he/she needs to deliver the pass (i.e. fly pass) over the retreating defense and serves as a guide to help them lead the post player toward the rim with minimal dribbling. Catching a pass in the center of the floor also provides the post player the opportunity to utilize their strong hand to attack the hoop. Next, if the fly pass is not available, running down the middle of the floor allows the post man to seal the opponent on their backside. This work encourages post players to attempt this no more than 4-5 feet from the front of the rim when the ballhandler dribbles the ball down the middle of the floor. Should the ball be advanced to the wing or corner during transition, the low post man can slide to the ballside block after running head to rim. The post player appears to enjoy a better chance to secure position on the block from this technique because the retreating defense possesses less space to fight the offensive playerís movement. Also, the defensive player in this scenario is likely in a position ahead of the post player underneath the rim and out of position to resist their attempt to establish position on the low block. The post player should concentrate on establishing this position with their bottom foot no lower then the block itself. Posting below the block limits the options available to the low post player. For example, a dropstep to the baseline will most likely put the offensive player underneath or behind the basket should they establish their top foot on the block.
The high post area also presents itself as an important spot to occupy which could improve a teamís transition play. For example, most teamís secondary breaks utilize the high post area (i.e. elbow to top of key) as a pressure release or trail position. From this position, high post players can perform a variety of tasks. First, they can take open jump shots. This 15-17 foot shot appears as one of the most makeable on the perimeter because it is in the middle of the floor and within range of most players. Furthermore, the scrambling defense could present the offense with a mismatch to the high post player from which they could take advantage. For example, those players enjoying a size advantage earn a nice look at the hoop as a shooter or the chance to observe the floor and pass the ball with ease. Those with a quickness advantage can shoot or utilize a shot fake one-dribble attack or pull-up jumper to score. Coaches should make an effort to encourage their post players take these shots frequently in practice.
The high post area further serves as a superior passing position for early offense. For instance, executing dribble handoffs with high post trailers can help the offense take advantage or create a mismatch against the defense. The high post position also acts as an excellent passing position to deliver the ball into the low post area. Again, as stated above, the scramble created by transition presents some opportunities for low post players to easily seal defenders on their backside. The high post emerges as an ideal spot to deliver the ball to those smart enough to take advantage of this situation.
Establishing Body Position
Following the run down the floor, post players must establish proper body balance and position in order to earn a touch. Proper body balance and position allows post players to make strong movements and change direction quicker. This occurs primarily because it establishes a good foundation for the use of the playerís strength and power. Furthermore, it provides post players with the chance to see and read their defender so they can utilize the correct footwork they developed to operate successfully in the pivot. Appropriately, a good body position provides the post player the opportunity to play more under control and make better decisions with the ball. Body control is critical because post players are frequently pulled, shoved, and bumped during a game whether in the high or low post area.
In order for a post player to distribute their weight evenly against the restless defender, they must understand staying low and wide is the key. On many occasions we see smaller players post up larger athletes because they understand this concept. Post players should establish a base of support much wider than their shoulders with their knees bent at an angle slightly more than 90į and arms extended in some manner. Against the defender playing directly behind the post, the arm position of the offensive player should appear with both arms extended toward the ball and out from the side of the body. Their hand position should be spread with fingers pads facing the passer ready to receive the pass. With the defender in a ĺ wrap technique, the offensive player should first attempt to seek contact with the defender and establish their top foot in front of the defenderís top foot. Accomplishing this feat will put the defender behind the post player and make for an easier entry pass. Should the defense maintain position in the ĺ wrap, the post player should look to ride their opponent up or down the lane (e.g. up if the defender plays topside). This can only be accomplished by lowering the center of gravity which creates the power necessary and through utilizing the correct arm position. The proper arm position requires the post player to stick their forearm into the chest of the defender with their hand facing up toward the passer. Their off arm should extend away from the body and low because it acts as a target area for the passer. Players should be reminded they cannot extend their forearms to create space as this is an offensive foul. Furthermore, players should learn how to move their feet while staying low to maintain their advantage. The step and slide technique, like that used for defensive slides, is recommended because it helps the post player stay low and maintain their power position.
If the defense successfully denies entry using the ĺ wrap technique, the post player may counter by reverse sealing them. As an example, if the ball on the wing is relocated to the top of the key, a post defender playing topside of the post player is susceptible to the reverse pivot because their body position is more towards a full front. The offensive post player simply has to maintain their low and wide position while dropping their backside and hip into the defender. This bump should displace the defender toward the ballside baseline/sideline and when combined with the post player swinging their bottom foot around (180į) to become their top foot, the contact created should trap the defender on the post playerís back and put them in a position to receive the ball in the lane. Staying low and creating contact with the defense is essential to establishing this advantage.
For the player fully fronted by their defender, the postman should look to position their forearm into the opponentís chest or back (depending on the defensive technique) while still maintaining the power position (i.e. wide base with knees bent). Next, they should look to ride the defender off the block towards the ball. This is done to create space for the potential lob pass which is the only viable option for entering the ball into a fully fronted post. The post player should extend their off hand high and toward the hoop. This serves as a target to help the passer understand the passing angle they need to lead their teammate to the basket.
For low post players away from the ball, a step over or step across move appears attractive to gain position because it allows a player to get in front of a defender. Post players should execute this move when their post defender relaxes as the ball moves around the perimeter. Basically, this move requires the post player to seek contact with their defender. The postman stays low and wide and steps hard right into the defenderís legs to shield them from a potential pass. Utilizing ĎVí cuts and spins also help the low post player move their opponent in so they may secure position on the ballside.
Players at the high post area are recommended to initially establish the power position early so they can quickly react to changing defenses presented to them. For instance, on many occasions the defense might concede the pass into the high post which might prompt the offensive post player to relax on their next post opportunity. This however could come back to haunt them because if the defense decides on the next possession to deny and/or double team this entry, the high post player could suffer great trouble securing and maintaining possession of the ball. Moving the feet and staying low and wide are critical to keeping the defense behind the post player. From another perspective, this position also gives the post player an advantage when jumping up to receive a pass. Although, bounce passes are preferred to the post player, there are occasions when the lob pass is likely to occur (e.g. tight ball pressure on passer). The power position allows the high post player to explode up and catch the ball with two hands and land in a jumpstop position or without establishing a pivot foot. Again, this helps them maintain greater security with the ball while also providing them the opportunity to feel or read the defense.
Finally, catching the basketball properly is critical concept those playing in the post need to understand because when players fail to catch the ball or mishandle it this often leads to turnovers and lost opportunities for the offense. As mentioned earlier, maintaining a low center of gravity allows the player to move easier and quicker to receive a ball but many players make the mistake catching the ball with their palm or heel of their hands rather than with their finger pads. Catching the ball with the finger pads allows the post player to bring more points of contact on to the surface of the ball which helps them secure the pass and protect it from the active defender. Furthermore, catching with the finger pads puts post players in a position to dribble, pass, or shoot immediately, again improving the offenses opportunity for a successful possession.
Reading the Defense
The post player, like all other positions on the floor, should look to catch a pass with the intent to score or pass. In order to accomplish this objective, postmen should be able to read the defense to make the right decision for themselves and their team. Looking at the defenderís feet emerges as the first step in this process. The feet tell you the defenderís location and provide you with ability to understand your next move. If the post player looks down and sees no feet either to their left or right, the pivot face-up appears as the best option. Front and reverse pivots are critical because they initiate an offensive move while keeping the ball close to body and away from the defender. They also give the offensive player the opportunity to observe the floor in a triple threat position to make the best decision for their team. Reverse pivot are preferred when offensive player feels no contact from their defender. This move is executed by swinging the non-pivot foot (i.e. top foot) away from the basket much like you would pulling open a door. The ball should be placed below the chin and protected by the shoulder. The reverse pivot appears attractive because it allows a player to make a quick shot, drive, and deal with potential double teams. It also allows the post player to check the middle for slashing offensive players cutting to the basket or other open teammates. A front pivot is preferred when the post player feels contact by their defender. Post players can execute the front pivot by establishing their pivot foot on the opposite side from the defender to take a quick shot. They also can establish a pivot foot on the same side as the defender by turning into them to create space (i.e. drive non-pivot foot into the defender). The front pivot in this case serves the offensive player as a method to face the defense for a potential one-on-one move or to better see the floor. This work generally recommends this move when the non-pivot foot will be a playerís dominate leg because they can utilize that
leg better for jab steps. Should the defensive playerís feet emerge on either side of the post player, several moves could emerge. For example, the dropstep lay-up or hook appears as the most prevalent move. A proper dropstep starts with a simple shoulder and ball fake toward the side of the defense to get them leaning before execution. Next, the post player should extend their non-pivot foot toward the baseline or middle away opposite of the defender. It is important coaches stress this step be big and make sure the post playerís toe points toward the baseline (if the defender plays topside) or sideline (if the defender plays baseline side). The big step ensures progress closer to the hoop while the toe helps the offensive player toward establishing a square base before the shot. The big step also helps minimize the opportunity for the defender to recover in front of the post player. The dropstep should also seek contact against the defenderís legs. This will help the offensive player secure or pin their defender on their hip so that they will remain behind them or to the side. Likely, if the offensive player can achieve this position, any attempt to block the shot by the defender will be a foul.
The dribble in the dropstep is also critical to the success of the move. Many players will develop the habit of dribbling before the step. This should be avoided because it allows the defense the ability to knock the ball away. Also dribbling first appears to prevent the offensive player from making the big step they need to effectively execute the move. A proper dribble moves powerfully toward the dropping/moving foot into the power box. The power box is that area between the pivot foot and drop foot. Performing the dribble here aids efforts on the offensive player part to better secure the ball (body now between ball and defender) and helps their progress toward the hoop in more explosive manner. Coaches should remain vigilant in policing how their players dribble the ball in the post. Likely, most will start off dribbling the ball on the side of the defender when executing drills without a defense. Coaches must remind their players that ball security and earning an open shot depends greatly on the way they dribble the ball.
The up and under move seems useful when the defensive player appears likely to bite on shot fakes or when the offensive player turns into the defender. While maintaining the low power position, the offensive player will execute a front pivot into the defender and provide them with a shot fake showing the ball. Following the shot fake, post players should rip or sweep the ball through away from the defender. Next, the postman should initiate contact with the defensive player by taking a big step towards the basket and into their hip. Coaches must watch that their players stay low throughout the execution of this move because rising up with the shot fake gives away the power/quickness advantages established by the shot fake to pin them on their side. Like the dropstep move, a power dribble helps the offensive player maintain momentum toward the hoop to help them finish the play.
Counter moves also can help the offensive post player effectively play against their defender in the pivot. Counter moves essentially utilize the dribble to set-up dropsteps, jumphooks, or up and under shots. Again utilizing a wide power position, the post player should attempt to lean into the defense (i.e. establish contact) during the dribble which occurs in the power box. The off forearm exists as an important part of this contact as it serves to help the offensive player displace or secure the defender in the desired position for the move they wish to make. The forearm also serves to help the postman keep the defense from staying in front of them as they spin or wheel away. The counter move can utilize one or more dribbles. Players utilizing multiple dribbles should be aware of possible double teams and understand that following the dribble they must move quickly and powerfully into their desired move. The counter move is something mature post players will often use because they likely developed a favorite move and understand how to work their opponent into the position they need to get off their shot. Appropriately, coaches should avoid teaching the counter move until their players developed sound fundamentals related to the other shots mentioned above.
Players at the high post area can utilize the moves mentioned above and should execute them similarly when they catch the ball with their back to the basket. Yet, they often enjoy some other options as well which also require them to read the defense. For instance, high post players can use their body to execute handoffs. During this action, it is important for the high postman to see how the defense guards them and their teammate. If the defensive post player appears to help towards the possible direction of the handoff, they can fake the handoff and wheel away from their defender for a shot or lay-up. If the post defender squeezes the possible handoff screen for their teammate to go under, the high post player should be aware and ready to pass the ball either to a target standing in front of them or performing a backdoor cut to the hoop. High post backdoor passes frequently make themselves available to players on the wings as well. This work would like to mention these types of passes when made with the back to the basket in either the high or low post must occur with the post player in the power position. Also the post play must execute a bounce pass to complete the play. Bounce passes are preferred because the cutting defenderís attempt to recover likely places them out of position to steal a bounce pass. In essence, the bounce pass will likely go under the defenderís hands.
At any point in time during their possession of the ball, post players could loose positioning or feel uncomfortable with the ball and/or their place on the floor. If this occurs, postmen should know they must look to pass the ball back out to the perimeter rather than force the action (i.e. shoot, dribble, compete against collapsing defense). This inside out action often serves teams well during offensive execution and also provides an opportunity for the postman to reestablish position. Frequently, the post defender relaxes once the ball leaves the post. This provides the post player with an excellent opportunity to better establish the position they want and deeper in the lane for those in the low block. Players at the high post area receiving the ball should look to pass the ball opposite of the side from which they received the pass. This option should be enforced based on likely position of the defense. Away from the ball, the defense generally attempts to maintain help position which means the defender is often located in the lane or under the hoop. Thus, they are farther away from their defender then those on the ballside either guarding the ball or one pass away. As the pass comes to the high post, these help defenders are more likely to be caught out of position and less likely to recover on their player as well as those on the original ball side. Therefore, requiring the high post to look opposite upon receiving the pass appears as a viable and useful strategy for the offense.
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