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Basketball Plays That Use the Horns Set

By Dr. James Gels, From the Coach’s Clipboard Basketball Playbook
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The "Horns" set is popular these days, and here are several plays that start out of the Horns set. Also see many more plays and options at Lason Perkins "Horns Offense". The basic Horns set has two high post players O4 and O5 (the "horns"), O1 at the top, and shooters O2 and O3 are deep in the corners.


This horns play was used by coach Del Harris when he was with the Milwaukee Bucks. Starting with the box-set in diagram 1, O4 and O5 step up to the arc in a horns set. O1 could dribble either way, but since O5 is our best post scorer, O1 goes right off O4's screen. O3 and O2 set a staggered double screen for O5. O5 cuts around the screens for the pass from O1 (diagram 2). If O5 is not open, O4 down-screens for O2 (diagram 3). O2 cuts to the top for the pass and 3-point shot.

Box set - Bucks Box set - Bucks Box set - Bucks


This first play comes from Minnesota Lynx (WNBA) Head Coach Cheryl Reeve. This play starts with the Horns set (diagram 1) and could be run to either side, depending on the first dribble. Here, O1 dribbles left. Very importantly, O1 dribbles high and wide to maintain good spacing. The ballside corner O3 cuts off a downscreen from O5, and cuts all the way to the top to fill O1's vacated spot.

Diagram 2 shows O1 passing back to O3 on the top. O5 shapes up to the ball and steps out to get the pass from O3. The rule is that O3 must pass to the ballside high post player. The opposite post O4 slides out a little for spacing. As soon at the pass goes to O5, O2 cuts hard inside for the pass from O5. It could be that O2 may have to post up the X2 defender, and O5 makes the hi-lo pass to O2. Coach Reeve points out that the X2 defender is not usually accustomed to playing inside post defense, and O2 has a good chance to score here.

basketball play Loop basketball play Loop - counter basketball play Loop

Notice that we have a counter (diagram 3) if O3's defender goes over the screen to deny the pass to the top. O3 simply pops back for the pass from O1 and the open shot.


Here is another play from Minnesota Lynx (WNBA) Head Coach Cheryl Reeve. Starting in the Horns set (diagram 1L), O1 dribbles left over O5's screen toward O3. O1 dribble handoffs to O3, and O3 dribbles back up and gets a ball-screen from O5.

O3 and O5 run the pick and roll (diagram 2L). O3's first option always is to score. Or O3 could pass to O5 on the roll cut. On the weakside, O4 pin-screens for O2, setting the screening angle so O2 can straight cut to the weakside elbow.

basketball play Lynx - dribble handoff basketball play Lynx - pick and roll

Other options for O3 (diagram 3L) are a "U-turn" pass back to O1 who fills the left wing, or a pass to O2. If the pass goes to O1 (diagram 4L), O3 has options: shoot, pass to O5 posting up, or dribble-drive baseline.

If the pass goes to O2, the first option is to shoot. Or O2 might have a pocket pass or a lob pass to O4 slipping inside (diagram 5L).

basketball play Lynx - O3 passing options basketball play Lynx - pass to O1 basketball play Lynx - pass to O2


Using the Horns set, O1 is point guard, O2 and O3 start in the corners, and O4 and O5 are at the high post spots. This play can be run in either direction, and the first pass determines the direction of the play.

Here we run it to the right side as O1 yells "Go" and O2 cuts to the wing to receive the pass from O1. The ball-side post (O4) immediately screens for the opposite post (O5) to make spacing for the cut by O1. O1 makes the basket cut, looking for the pass from O2, before moving out to the opposite corner. O3 rotates to the point.

Michigan play

On the O4 screen, O5 delays until after O1 has already cut through (if O5 cuts too soon, O1 and O5 might collide, with no spacing). After O1 cuts through, O5 cuts hard off the screen to the ball-side low block, looking for the pass from O2.

O2 has several options: pass to O1, pass to O5, shoot the 3-pointer, or drive. If O5 does not receive the pass, he/she can optionally backscreen for O2.


This play comes from coach Roy Rana, Ryerson University Head Coach. Get his DVD "Winning the Game within the Game: Special Teams Play for Basketball."

This play is useful when we are looking for an open 3-point shot. It starts with the "Horns" set and uses three double-staggered screens for a sequence of three possible 3-point shots.

See diagram 7. Note the horns set with the wings deep in the corners and the post players O4 and O5 up high facing the point guard with one foot outside the 3-point arc. O1 dribbles over O4 to the right wing. O4 and O5 relocate to set a staggered double-screen. O2 cuts hard around the double screen (diagram 8), for the pass from O1 and the 3-point shot at the top.

basketball play Horns-3 basketball play Horns-3

Diagram 9. If O2 does not have an open shot, note that O4 and O5 have again relocated to set a staggered double-screen for O3. O3 cuts under the double-screen (diagram 10) for the pass from O2 and the 3-point shot.

basketball play Horns-3 basketball play Horns-3

If O3 is not open for the shot, O3 dribbles up to the top (diagram 11), as O1 and O2 rotate over to the corner and wing respectively. O4 and O5 relocate inside to set up the last staggered double-screen, this time a baseline screen for O1. O1 cuts to the opposite corner (diagram 12) for the pass from O3 and the 3-point shot.

basketball play Horns-3 basketball play Horns-3

See this video from Coach Roy Rana:


This simple horns play is designed to get the ball to O5 inside. In diagram 1, O1 dribbles off O5's horns-screen to the left. O4 screens for O5 and O5 cuts to the hoop for the pass from O1. Optionally (diagram 2), O1 could dribble-drive to the hoop with a kick-out pass option to O3.

Horns 5 play Horns 5 play

Horns Flare

This simple horns play is good if O4 is a good shooter/scorer. Oftentimes the simple plays work the best. O1 dribbles right off O4's horns-screen (diagram 1). O5 flare-screens for O4, and O4 cuts over this screen to the left wing and receives to over-the-top skip pass from O1 (diagram 2). O4 could shoot the 3-pointer or dribble-drive to the hoop.

Horns Flare play Horns Flare play

Horns Cross-Screen Hi-Lo

Diagram 1 shows O1 dribbling to the right wing off O5's horns-screen. O4 dives to the ball-side block and could get the pass from O1. After screening for O1, O5 sprints over and screens for O3, and O3 cuts to the top. O2 runs the baseline to the opposite corner.

Diagram 2 shows O1 passes to O3 on top, as O5 cross-screens for O4. O4 cuts under the screen to the left block. O5 seals the defender and "shapes up" to the ball for the hi-lo pass from O3.

Horns Cross-Screen play Horns Cross-Screen play

Horns Re-Screen

This is another simple horns play with two ball-screens. O1 dribbles right off O5's horns-screen (diagram 1). After screening, O5 clears to the opposite low block. O1 keeps the dribble alive, turns and accepts a second ball-screen from O4 (diagram 2). O1 and O4 run the pick and roll. O3 finds the open window on the left arc for a possible kick-out pass from O1.

Horns re-screen play Horns re-screen play


The Phoenix Suns ran this simple Horns play. Using the Horns set (diagram 1), O1 dribbles right off O4's screen. O4 moves over to the left wing. O1 reverses direction (diagram 2) and dribbles over O5's screen. After screening, O5 cuts to the hoop for a possible pass from O1, as O2 lifts up to the wing. O1 passes to O2 for a 3-point shot (diagram 3).

basketball play Suns basketball play Suns basketball play Suns


Coach Tyler Whitcomb has a new "Elevation" offense that uses the Horns set. Here is a simple play using the post players as an elevator screen. O1 dribbles right (see diagram) as O3 cuts underneath and up through the elevator screens at the free-throw line, and out to the top for a pass from O1 and an open 3-pointer.

The play can be run to either side. Diagram 2 shows O1 dribbling left and O2 cuts through the screens to the top for the pass and 3-point shot.

basketball play Suns basketball play Suns

See this video from Coach Tyler Whitcomb, and see his new "Elevation" offense and DVD "Encyclopedia of the Elevation Offense" (which uses a horns set.

Horns Flex

This Horns play uses an inside flex screen. O1 passes to O5 at the left elbow (diagram 1). O1 cuts around O4's screen to the left block. If open, O5 could pass to O1 cutting inside.

If not open, O5 passes to O4, as O1 sets a flex screen for O3 (diagram 2). O4 passes to O3 for the lay-up. Notice that after passing to O4, O5 down-screens for O1 and O1 cuts to the top. O4 could also pass to either O1 for a 3-point shot, or to O5 sealing and posting up after the screen (diagram 3).

Horns Flex play Horns Flex play Horns Flex play


The "Iverson cut" (aka "AI cut") is a type of shallow cut named after the great Allen Iverson. The cutter cuts over two high post screeners, one positioned at each elbow. The diagram shows the Iverson cut from a Horns set with the posts at the elbows. O2 cuts hard over O4 and O5 for the pass from O1, as O3 clears to the opposite side. O2 might shoot, iso and dribble-drive, post-up, or back-cut if the pass goes to either post players.

Iverson cut

Allen Iverson doing his thing:

Kansas Horns Flare

This simple "Horns" plays has been used by Kansas men's (coach Bill Self). See the diagram below.  Use the horns set except with O2 and O3 both on the right side (clear out the left side). O4 ball-screens for O1.  O5 flare-screens for O4 and O4 cuts around O5 to the hoop for a lob from O1.

Kansas Horns Flare

Carolina Horns Double Ball-screen

This Horns play has been used by North Carolina (coach Hubert Davis). Starting with the horns set below, O1 dribbles toward O2 (pistol action) for a dribble hand-off. O1 slides to the corner.

O4 and O5 set a double ball-screen for O2 (diagram 2).  After screening, O5 dives to the hoop and O4 pops to the arc.  O2 could attack for a layup or pull-up jump shot, or pass to either O5 or O4, or to O3 spotting up in the corner.

Carolina Horns play Carolina Horns Double Ball-screen

Illinois Horns Post-up

This simple Horns post-up play comes from Matt Bollant, Eastern Illinois University Head Women's Coach. In these diagrams, O3 is the post player. But you could call it for O2. If either the X2 or X3 defender is in foul trouble, you can run it for the offensive player being guarded by that player. Or if there is a big-little mis-match with either X2 or X3, call it for that player.

In diagram 1, O1 passes to O4 at the arc. O5 screens for O1 and O1 cuts over that screen to the left wing. O3 cuts early, as the first pass is in the air, and gets the pass from O4 for the post move (diagram 2). This pass could be a bounce pass if X3 is playing behind O3. Or if X3 is fronting O3, O3 takes the defender up the lane a step and then seals for a lob pass over the top from O4.

Illinois Horns play Illinois Horns post-up

From Matt Bollant's "Encyclopedia of Set Plays":

See the complete article in the members section.

The complete article also includes:
  • Horns
  • Horns-4
  • Elbow-1
  • Elbow-2
  • Maccabi
  • And a detailed Animation!

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