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Basketball Offense - Thunder Offense

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Contributed by Coach Thomas J. Koeller,
Southwestern High School, Hazel Green, WI

This is our "Thunder" motion offense, which is a variation of flex offense.

Initial Setup of the Thunder Offense

Keys to remember in this step:
Spacing - O3 must not setup too deeply outside.

Thunder offense

Step One (First movement and ideal shot)

Keys to remember in this step:
1. O3 must get open for pass from O1 to start the play. Use a v-cut.
2. O4 cuts only when pass is thrown from O1 to O3.
3. O5 MUST set a good pick for cutter, and cutter, use O5's pick.
4. O3 then passes around defender to O4 on the block if O4 is open.
5. O4 turnaround jump shot, kiss off of the glass, on corner near-side top corner of the square.


Thunder offense

Step Two (Pass or shot not open to O4 on cut)

Now we motion to new set.
Keys to remember in this step:
1. O3 immediately passes back to O1.
2. O2 moves down and sets a screen for O5 to come up and replace him/her.
3. O2 then floats out to the wing.
4. We are now in the original formation just on the other side.
5. O1 passes to O5 (now the other guard).


Thunder offense

Original setup from opposite side (The result of first rotation).

Key points to remember in this setup:
1. O5 is now essentially the point guard.
2. Spacing should remain the same as the original set. Get to the correct spot on the floor.


Thunder offense

Step One (First movement and ideal shot)

Keys to remember in this step:
1. O2 must get open for pass from O5 to start the play. Use a v-cut.
2. O3 cuts only when pass is thrown from O5 to O2.
3. O4 MUST set a good pick for cutter and cutter uses O4's pick.
4. O2 then passes around defender to O3 on the block if O3 is open.
5. O3 turnaround jump shot, kiss off of the glass, on corner near-side top corner of the square.


Thunder offense

Step Two (Pass or shot not open to O3 on cut)

Now we motion to new set.
Keys to remember in this step:
1. O2 immediately passes back to O5.
2. O1 moves down and sets a screen for O4 to come up and replace him/her.
3. O1 then floats out to the wing.
4. We are now in the original formation just on the other side.
5. O5 passes to O4 (now the other guard).


Thunder offense

This offense can be rotated an infinite number of times. After 5 rotations, everyone is back in their original position, only on the opposite side (i.e. O1 is point again, and O5 is setting the screen again). After 10 rotations, you are back to the very first setup.

This offense can be difficult to learn at first. Patience, timing, and repetition will end the frustration of learning this offense and increase the frustration experienced by the opponent trying to defend it.

After mastering this offense, many things can be done out of it to keep the defense guessing. The scoring options that are available from this offense are nearly impossible to stop even by a team that knows exactly how to run it themselves. For example, if the defense is getting used to the pass to the wing and begins cheating out, the wing needs only to signal to the point guard that instead of v-cutting, they will be back-cutting to the basket for a quick hit.

Another option is to cut at the middle block or the elbow if a "cheating" defender is filling the low post. Also, be sure to know what to do if the point guard picks the left side. If this happens we simply move O4 out to the wing on that side and shift O5 to the other block and make O3 the first cutter. More than anything, if the screens are good and the passes are crisp, after a few motions you will always get a shooting window. If this offense begins failing to produce points there are some keys to it that are likely being neglected that must be practiced or re-learned.

Key 1. The screen

Failure to set or use the screen deep in the lane is the cause for this play not working 75% of the time. The screen must be set and used.

Key 2. Timing

Timing is everything to a motion offense. Timing is everything to this play. The cutter absolutely cannot begin the cut before the wing has the ball to pass it to them. This is a bang-bang play.

Key 3. Poor passing

More than with any other play that we will run, quick, crisp passing is vital. The wing should almost always use the step around method with their pivot foot to pass to the cutter. The bounce pass should be used most of the time in this play.

Key 4. Lazy/slow cuts

There is no excuse for a slow/lazy cut on any play, however a lazy cut will definitely kill this play. A lazy cut will destroy the timing of this play. Timing is everything (Key 2). Cut hard and deliberately this will open up your already small window of opportunity for shooting on the block after the cut.

Key 5. Forgetting where to move to if the entry pass and shot is not open.

We will drill this play over and over again. Not knowing the motion kills the play. Forget the play, forget playing.


Helpful DVDs:

The Flex offense at Maryland
Gary Williams: Mastering the Flex Offense
with Gary Williams, University of Maryland Head Men's Basketball Coach, 2002 NCAA Champions.

As coach of the 2002 NCAA championship team, 25 wins in the NCAA tournament, and an overall winning percentage of .641, Gary Williams has learned to master and implement a winning offense: The Flex. In this video, Williams uses on-court demonstration to coach and teach a winning Flex Offense... (more info)

Price: $39.99
Buy Now from the Coach's Clipboard Basketball DVD - Video Store!



Flex offense at Gonzaga
Flex for Success
with Mark Few, Gonzaga University Head Coach

Coach Mark Few, who has won more games than any 3-year coach in NCAA history, gives a detailed look at Gonzaga's highly successful flex offense. In the first part of the tape, Coach Few demonstrates over 10 breakdown drills they use to teach the offense and to work on specific shots that come within the framework of the offense... (more info)

Price: $39.99
Buy Now from the Coach's Clipboard Basketball DVD - Video Store!



12 Quick Hitters for the Flex Offense
12 Quick Hitters for the Flex Offense
with Leon Rice, Gonzaga University Associate Head Coach; The BasketballScoop 2009 Coach of the Year; Introduction by Mark Few, Gonzaga University Head Coach

In this video, the Gonzaga staff presents 12 quick hitting plays designed to get your best player a good shot within the flex offense rotation. All 12 of the plays have multiple options and counters for all five players on the court. Some of the options include post ups, 3 point opportunities, backdoors and lob plays for your team in the flex... (more info)

Price: $39.99
Buy Now from the Coach's Clipboard Basketball DVD - Video Store!