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Basketball Post Play and Moves

By Dr. James Gels, from the Coach’s Clipboard Basketball Playbook
These are some basic moves the inside post player should learn. Coaches, for breakdown drills, see Post Player Breakdown Drills and Motion Offense Breakdown Drills.

Get Position

Before you can make a move on the low post, you have to be able to get the ball first. You want to post-up, or receive the ball, along the free throw lane, between the center hash marks, above the low block. If you get the ball down too low, you will not have a good angle for the baseline drop-step move. And you do not want to post up in the lane, or you may get the three-second call.

You may have to fight hard to get into position to receive a safe pass. Get strong, feet wide apart, butt out, back straight. Seal the defender off. If the defender is over-playing you from one side, keep that arm and elbow firm to ward him/her off, while extending the opposite arm and hand to make a good target for the passer.

When the pass comes, move toward it, to meet it. After receiving the ball, keep it up at forehead level with elbows out, to protect it. Do not actually throw an elbow, just keep them out to ward off the defender.

When receiving the pass, it is advantageous to meet the ball with a jump stop. When you jump stop, you have the option of either foot becoming your pivot foot, so you can make a move either way, to the lane or to the baseline. Fake with your upper body, but keep the feet planted until you are ready to make your move. With a one-two foot landing, you have already established your pivot foot and your options are more limited.

get position in the low post

Get open... things to try if you can't get open:

Playing the post is tough and requires a lot of hard work, quickness, strength, footwork, determination and saavy to get open to receive the pass. Be persistant and unrelenting. Here are some things you can do to help get open. Master as many as you can and vary them in the game.

Vs Man-to-Man Defense

1. Move away off the low post a few steps, then quickly come right back.

2. If the defender plays in front of you, "step-around" or "step-over" to get position to receive the pass. If the defender keeps moving around in front of you, keep moving the defender outside or up to the high post at the elbow. Then seal on the inside, give the passer a hand signal, and quickly cut back-door for the lob pass to the hoop.

3. Face the defender, step into and across the defender's body with your outside foot and quickly reverse pivot, putting your butt back into the defender and seal for perfect post-up position.

4. Screen away for the opposite post player and then seal and roll.

5. Fake a screen-away and V-cut sharply back to re-post up.

6. Flash cut from the block to the elbow or high post.

7. Ball on the wing with the defender full-fronting... reverse pivot and seal the defender out, and as the pass goes to the top, call for the pass inside.

8. Ball at the top, you at the elbow (or just below) with the defender fronting... you could seal and signal for the lob pass. Or reverse pivot and seal the defender outside, and signal for the ball to be passed to the corner. Then you are in perfect position for a pass from the corner and the layup.

Versus Zone Defense

1. Find the open gaps in the zone. Vs a 2-3 zone, find the horizontal gap between the top and low defenders, usually about two-thirds of the way up the lane, just below the elbow. Vs a 1-2-2 zone, find the vertical seams in the zone.

2. Get below the zone (along the baseline) where the defenders lose sight of you.

3. Use the short corner... especially vs 2-3 zones where it is hard to post up on the low block because of the three low defenders... move out to the short corner.

4. "Cut early or cut late" as the zone shifts. Don't make your cut as the zone is shifting, but either just before or just after the defense rotates.

5. Seal the center defender just before the zone shifts and then post up and come to the ball.

Low post moves

1. Drop step to baseline.

After receiving the ball, feel where the defender is. If on the lane side, or high side, give a fake toward the lane. Then extend your inside (baseline) foot backward, pivot on it quickly to the baseline and to the hoop. Keep your body between the defender and the ball, and extend your arms forward toward the hoop. This way, the defender can only block your shot by going over your back ...usually a foul.

2. Drop step to lane (jump hook).

After receiving the ball, feel where the defender is. If on your baseline side, fake to the baseline, and drop your lane-side foot backward. Pivot quickly on that foot, and jump hook and shoot with the hand opposite the defender. See Hook Shot .

Baseline drop step Jump hook to the lane

3. Turn and face defender and jab step.

After receiving the ball, feel where the defender is. If directly behind you, and not toward either the lane or the baseline, pivot and face the defender, while protecting the ball. Give a quick jab step fake, and see what the defender's reaction is. If he/she drops back, just shoot high-percentage the baby jumper, often off the glass.

If the defender does not back off the jab step, quickly drive around him/her. Go right at the defender's shoulder. Don't be afraid of a little contact, because usually the defender will not be planted after your jab step, and will get called for the foul (and you may make the basket as well).

4. Up and under move.

After pivoting and facing the defender, fake a shot to get him/her to jump off the floor. The defender, once straightened up, or in the air, is easily beaten. Quickly duck under the defender on a straight line to the hoop. Again, don't be afraid to attack at the shoulder, as this is the straightest and quickest path to the hoop. If a foul is called, it usually will be called on the defender, who was caught up in the air and obviously not planted.

5. Dribble-drop move.

This move is a spin move in the paint. The low post player with the ball fakes to the baseline and then makes a power dribble into the lane and fakes a jump-hook. With the defender in the air, he now makes a spin move back to the baseline and finishes with the lay-up. This move is often effective after the post player has just scored off the jump-hook to the lane. With the defender looking for that move, the spin to the baseline is now effective.

6. Step-out move.

This move is good when you are under-sized against a taller post player and shot-blocker. Here you are trying to create some separation from the defender. Start just above the block as usual, but then as the ball is passed to the wing, quickly step out away from the block (toward the passer) to receive the pass, quickly reverse pivot (facing the basket) and shoot the short ranged jump-shot.

There won't be much time till the defender closes the gap, so you must catch, reverse pivot and shoot almost all in one quick motion, without hesitation. When making the reverse pivot, instead of dropping the ball into the usual shooting pocket, keep it chest or shoulder high, ready to go right up with it.
See the video clip below by Tim Springer and WNBA player Danielle Adams.

7. Flash to the elbow or free throw line.

Cut up to the free throw line (get out of the lane to avoid a 3-second call). Receive the ball, pivot and face the defender. You can now either fake a shot, and drive around the defender to the hoop, or jab step and fake the drive, and shoot the easy shot from the free throw line area.

This move is especially useful if the player guarding you is much taller, and not as quick. You go high post to get the defender away from the basket. Once away from the hoop, you can use your quickness and drive around him/her.

8. Back door lob.

If the defender is in front of you, take him/her up to the free throw line. While the defender is still fronting you, take inside position and seal, and give the guard with the ball a signal. Cut back door to the hoop, receiving the lob pass from your teammate.

9. Learn to read the defense.

See the low post information on the Basic Concepts of Motion Offense page.

These moves are not easy at first. They require a lot of practice, first to perfect the moves themselves, and then to learn by experience which move to use in which situation. For example, if you beat the defender once or twice with the baseline drop step, then he/she will be looking for that move, and you can easily get the turn around jab step baby jumper, because the defender will back off.

Just the opposite, if you have already made a couple baby jumpers, you can drop step either to the baseline or lane, or do the up and under move, since the defender will be looking for your jumper. The bottom line... perfect the moves by practicing, and vary your moves in the game. Be sure to see the video clips of the moves described above.

Another real bonus is that frequently these moves will get the defender into foul trouble when trying to defend you. And if already in foul trouble, he/she won't challenge you, and you can get the easy inside basket. This is also very important... since you will get fouled a lot, become a good free throw shooter... make that defender pay for fouling you!


post play
Matt Stainbrook, Xavier - in the low post

Playing the High Post

I added this after a coach emailed me and informed me that his post player was pretty good down on the low block, but didn't have a clue what to do up at the elbow or free throw line area -- the "high post" area.

When the high-post player has the ball, he/she is in excellent position to make a pass to the opposite side (reverse the ball) or to a back-door cutter. Also, at the high post, you can sometimes find a teammate spotted up for a three-pointer on the wing or in the corner. Also look for your teammate posting up down low (the "hi-lo" option). Being a good passer and finding the open teammate are important here.

The high post player should always look to score. This is an excellent spot to score from... it's a simple free-throw shot, or a chance to take the ball inside for a lay-up or pull-up jumper. When you receive that pass at the foul line or elbows, pivot and face the hoop, looking to take the open shot, or looking for the pass to a baseline cutter.

If the defender is up close, fake the shot and use your quickness to explode around the defender and drive to the hoop. Even post players must have the ability to shoot the shot from the free-throw line, or jab-fake and drive (or crossover and drive), just like a perimeter player. If these options are not open, look to pass to the opposite wing. This is a great way to reverse the ball and stretch the defense.

An excellent high post move to learn is the "step hop move". Let's say you are at the free throw line area and you want to dribble it inside to score. The problem is that when you attempt to dribble up the lane, frequently the ball will be swiped away by the collapsing defense.

Instead, make the "hop-step" power move, which is a one-bounce power-dribble drop-step move followed by a long two-footed jump stop into the lane. Make a head or shoulder fake the opposite direction and then make one-bounce power dribble along with relatively short drop step into the lane.

After making that short first step and power-dribble, make a long, powerful jump into the paint and land with a two-footed jump stop, and then go right up with the short jumper in the lane. It takes some practice, but this is an excellent move to have.

A common error is to make the first step too long... you cannot make a strong power jump forward from this position. Keep the first step short and on-balance. With practice, many post players can get almost all the way to the rim with this move.

If you are being denied the pass at the high post... if versus man-to-man defense, see item #8 above under "things to try if you can't get open". If versus a zone, see items #4 and #5 above (versus zone defense).

The elbow shooting drill is an excellent drill here: see 2-Man Shooting Drills. Also the #3 drill on that same page would be good too... have the defender, after making the pass to the post player, rush up and close out tightly. Then the post player power drives around him/her to the hoop.

From Tim Springer with Sophia Young (San Antonio Stars):

A post player is so much more effective and versatile if he/she can shoot the shot from the free-throw line consistently. Several years ago, we had a young lady who was only 5'7" and played the post. She was very quick and a smart player. In our Regional game, she was defended by a girl 6'3".

The first few times, she tried to post up down low and got her shot blocked each time. Being the great competitor that she was, she didn't get discouraged, but instead of posting up on the low block, decided to take her defender up high to the elbow area.

She popped in a couple quick shots from the high post area, and then when the tall girl came out on her, Liz would use her quickness to beat her to the hoop for the lay-up. Now the tall girl didn't know whether to play up tight or back off.

Liz had the best game of her career, scoring 23 points against the giant, and we won by 7. Just goes to show you how having the versatility of posting up high, being a good high post shooter, and taking your defender away from the hoop can really pay off.

And don't forget the short corner

Sometimes it's hard to get open on the low block (e.g. vs a 2-3 zone defense). And sometimes your post defender is taller than you, or is a good shot blocker, and you can't effectively score inside. Again, as mentioned in the previous paragraph, "take your defender away from the hoop" where he/she is less comfortable.

Most "bigs" like to stay in their comfort zone near the hoop on defense. Pop out to the short corner, get the pass there, and hit that medium range jumper. Then next time, when the defender moves out to defend you, shot fake and drive the baseline to the hoop for the lay-up or reverse lay-up (using the basket to help protect against the block from behind).

See this clip with drop-step and jump-hook moves:

Hal Wissel has FIVE excellent shooting DVD's that will take players and coaches to the next level. The second of these DVD's "BASKETBALL SHOOTING - Off the Pass, Off the Dribble and In the Post" does an excellent job of teaching the hook shot, and various post moves.

Post moves with Coach Hal Wissel:

Related pages:

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