Edit: 8/11/2016 – We just published 8 breakdown drills for implementing the high low motion offense. Check it out here.
First of all, shout out to Coach David Alwert from Washington, USA for asking for a break down of Coach Bill Self’s high low motion offense. It’s a 3 out, 2 in motion offense that beats zone defenses using simple rules to get your post players in either the high post or low post positions.
Coach Self won the 2008 NCAA Championship with the Kansas Jayhawks and also has numerous personal accolades, most recently winning the 2016 NABC coach of the year. Using the high low motion offense, his Jayhawks ranked 7th in offensive efficiency in 2016- amazing when you consider it was the only other team to also rank top 10 in defensive efficiency. The high low doesn’t have any complex schemes that’ll have you sacrificing time for defense.
This high low motion offense is for you if:
- You want an easy to implement motion offense.
- You don’t have shooters
- You want to get the ball down to your post players
- You want a simple way to attack a zone.
If you also felt this way about our earlier complete guides, here’s why the high low motion offense is for you:
- Unless your players have great “feel” for the game, Coach Self doesn’t believe that players should rely on unstructured principles to break a zone. These ideas include making 2 guard 1, attacking the gaps, and skipping passes to the open man. Instead, this motion offense simplifies those rules and provides more structure so players have less decisions to make, making it more suitable for younger ages.
- 4 out 1 in relies heavily on having shooters, but what if you only have 1 and a half shooters? As the name suggests, this is a post orientated offense where you rely on your big men instead of perimeter shooters.
- Motion offense can be very difficult to teach in a short period of time. This offense is a simplified version of motion and easier to teach, yet also provides you with many fundamental motion principles to build off of next season. Remember, the secret to youth coaching is simplicity!
Low Post Rules
Overview of the key rules
- Anytime the ball is entered to a low post the opposite post will dive to the basket.
- Weak side pass from wing to low post triggers strong side wing-post stagger screen for the corner
- Strong side pass to post triggers perimeter players widening out behind the three point line and the other post diving to the basket
Confused? Don’t worry, I explain it all in depth below. First up, learn that Coach Self has one simple rule for his low post players: when the ball is at the high post, the low post will be in a direct line between the ball and the basket. This forces the post defender to commit to a defensive position (front, behind or side).
You will often see Kansas low post players who are fronted or quarter-played when the ball is on the wing “spin and pin” their man when the ball is at the high post. This allows the high post to lob over the defender so the low post can catch it with no helpside defender. If the post defender stays behind, it is a simple duck-in for the low post.
Setup – Lane channel and sweet spot
Here’s 2 important terms used by Coach Self:
- Lane channel. The lane lines extended create this channel. The wings will set up outside it on both sides below the foul line extended where they can comfortably receive the ball.
- Sweet spot. The sweet spot is the 3 point area directly above the key.
The offense usually starts with a 1-4 formation, giving the point guard 6 options to initiate the offense. Being in the lane channel does 2 things:
- It provides spacing and options. If you’re being pressured, you can pass to either left or right.
- If you’re being pressured and the ball gets stolen on the entry pass to the wing or post, you are the closest man to the basket and can still run back and prevent a layup.
- Against a zone, this area causes a lot of confusion for the defense. The point guard can pass to anyone on the team and they’ll have to make a quick rotation.
The 4 ways to get the ball into the post
The main objective is to get the ball into the high or low post. There are 3 ways to do it, in fact 4 ways if you count the strong and weak side options for the wing entry. Strong side means the side with the ball and weak side means the opposite side of the ball.
- Point guard to wing entry pass. Strong and weak side.
- Point guard to high post entry pass.
- Point guard to wing dribble entry.
Wing entry – Strong side
- Point guard passes to wing then cuts to corner to create space.
- 4 cross screens for 5. 5 to the low post, 4 pops out to the high post.
- The wing should look for a pass to 5 in the low post or pass to 4 who can then do a high low pass to 5.
- If there’s nothing, reverse the ball to wing 3.
- 3 should look to pass low post 5.
- 2 and 4 set a staggered screen for 1 to come up back from the corner. You’re back to original starting positions.
What’s Going On?
- The 4-5 cross screen is to free up the big for deep position. The deeper in the post they are, the harder it’ll be for a double team to come, making the entry pass from wing or high post easier.
- The reason for reversing the ball twice is to force the zone to make quick, accurate rotations. Don’t let them settle. If there’s no passing angle, swing it immediately.
- The final staggered screen is an example of overall principle 2. Aside from giving the wing a backup pass, if the ball does get into the low post it’s a great weak side distraction to free that player up for a 1 on 1.
Wing entry – Weak side
- Point guard passes to the wing and cuts to the weakside corner.
- 5 cross screens for 4, 4 to the low post, 5 pops out to the high post.
- The wing reverses the ball to the 5, who looks for the entry pass. Meanwhile, the opposite wing down screens for the point guard to swap places.
- If there’s no entry pass, the 5 continues to swing the ball to the cutting point guard, who has his choice of shots.
What’s going on
- The reason why we don’t want the wing to make the first entry pass to the low post is that if he gets in trouble down there, the zone will be in great position to deny any kick out.
- Instead, the direct line entry pass is the way to go. Better position to score, and also a choice of emergency kick outs from the center.
- The wing-point guard down screen, if executed well, can get the point guard attacking a trailing defender.
A reminder about low to high post positioning
Remember Coach Self’s key rule- when the high post has the ball the low post must get in a direct line between the ball and the basket. This will force the post defender to commit to a defensive position (front, behind, side). If the post does not move into a direct line with the ball and basket he is easier to defend and the offense risks stagnating.
High post entry
- Instead of running down to the low post, both post players stay at the high post elbows. A high post player catches a pass from the point guard.
- The strong side wing cuts to the basket. If the pass isn’t open, they pop out to the corner.
- The weak side post player flare screens for the point guard.
- Ball is passed to the point guard and the wing cuts through to the basket.
- Both forwards set down screens on the cutting wing to pop back out to the top.
- The ball is reversed to the wing, who has his choice of passes.
- The ball can now go to either big or into the corner.
What’s going on
- You might notice that the double high post is very similiar to the horns set we showed you last week. The difference is that your players attack the rim with cutting rather than dribbling.
- The bigs have their choices of screens to set. The animation shows a sort of loop screen, which the wing leads his defender around. Another option is the elevator, where the wing runs between both screens.
- Your players shouldn’t be afraid to put a shot up. This set gets your bigs into great positions for putbacks if the first attempt doesn’t go in.
- Instead of passing, the point guard dribbles to a wing.
- The wing player clears out by cutting through to the basket.
- They then pop back out up top by using the strong side big as a screen.
- If the initial entry isn’t open, reverse the ball to the top.
- If the pass still isn’t open, the remaining high post big cross screens for the wing.
- As the wing comes off the screen, the weakside wing slides to the corner. The screener also rolls hard to the rim.
- The wing can shoot, or pass to the corner, who can shoot or pass to the low post.
What’s going on
- Setting a screen on a cutter is a great way for a big to get great post position. If that screener is a good low post player he’ll feast off that action.
- Pick and rolls can be very complex- we want to simplify the decision making process of the wing by giving them just two options 1. try to score 2. pass to the corner
FAQ about the High Low Motion Offense
If my players don’t get a shot off after running through the steps of the motion my offense stagnates. What’s wrong?
Two things I’d say:
- Your players might be missing opportunities to get the ball into the low or high posts, which is where we want to score from. Make sure they are always looking for that pass.
- The execution isn’t quite right. Particular areas to watch out for are: screens not being set well, low post players not fighting for position, or players not passing the ball around quick enough.
Alright, but what if the offense still stagnates?
All of these sets have a player at the top, which allows for a ball reversal to the center. However, this is a last resort, and again the point of reversing is to get the ball an angle to get into the low posts. If you reverse the ball twice and there’s no pass, something’s wrong.
Your low post players need to learn how to use their body to widen their stance and pin their defender in place. This means that if the ball is moved to another angle, the defender won’t be able to fight around the player to deny without fouling.
What individual skills are important for this offense?
For your post players: 1 on 1 post drills are vital. They need to be able to capitalize on all the deep positioning and 1 on 1 situations you’re giving them in games. An underrated skill is to teach footwork. Great footwork makes players seem bigger on the court by allowing them to leverage their strength to push and get around larger players.
For your guards and wings: seeing as this is an offense for teams lacking shooters, your guards need to work on scoring off cuts from the low and high posts. There’s also no excuse for not working on defense- the Jayhawks are a top 10 offense and defensive team. There’s no easier way for non-shooters to score than in a fast break.