If you watch the NCAA, one offense that you’ll see often is the high post spread motion. Many teams run this offense, including Dana Altman’s Oregon Ducks and Brad Underwood’s SFA and Oklahoma State teams. All these teams have winning records and the highly versatile high post spread offense is a reason why.
This system uses “4 out, 1 in” spacing with 4 perimeter players spread out above the free throw line and one big at the high post. This unique arrangement is great because:
- Score inside without a dominating big man– this offense draws the big up away from the basket, creating space for drives and back door cuts.
- Good vs pressure– overplaying will lead to an open backdoor layup/make the defense vulnerable to the many back screens in the offense.
- Can run vs many defenses– the spread offense works vs a zone or man because it’s so versatile. Anti-zone concepts like overloading, spacing and using the high post are already applied.
- Easy to teach basic continuity, plenty to build upon– as my videos will demonstrate, teams regularly get buckets off its standard action, yet there are also dozens of sets for special situations.
However, there’s a couple of reasons why only high school or college teams tend to run this offense:
- Need a scrappy, yet skilled big man– the high post big is one of the most important positions on the floor. You need a big who can not only shoot and drive from there, but also set tons of tough screens and fight for offensive rebounds. However, he doesn’t need to be able to score with post moves.
- Entire team needs great timing on passes and catches– everyone need to be able to pass the ball in this offense, not just your point guard. If you want to run this offense you’ll have to run tons of passing drills from day one of practice.
That said, as we’ve seen with these NCAA teams, when you have the right personnel, you can pile up tons of points on defenses. It’s certainly a great offense for player development as it puts players in situations where they’ll have to read the defense and decide whether to pass or attack.
Spacing and Personnel
As I’ve said earlier your players start off in a 4 out, 1 in formation with the big in the high post.
The big should stand on the free throw line, with one foot outside of the paint. It’s important that he always pivots so that his body is facing the player with the ball, because getting the ball into the high post leads to many good things in this offense. The only exception to this should be when he’s setting an off ball screen.
The 4 perimeter positions are interchangeable, although the point guard bringing the ball up will fill a slot position. The slot is the area outside the perimeter that is directly above the lane line (just imagine if the lane line was drawn all the way up to the 3 point line). The other two perimeter players stand at the free throw line extended (also referred to as the wings). When I’m talking about 1’s, 2’s, 3’s and 4’s, I’m not referring to positions like a small forward, shooting guard etc.
You want your perimeter players standing 2 feet behind the 3 point line to spread the floor for cutters and drives. It’s important to maintain this spacing as it makes it much harder for defenses to get into passing lanes to disrupt your offense.
Keep these fundamental motion principles in mind as you run the offense:
- Always fill the 4 perimeter spots.
- Sprint to cut
- Get in, get out on cuts. Don’t linger.
- Never hold the ball for more than 2 seconds.
- Pass and basket cut or set a screen.
- Players catching the ball on the wings have the licence to attack baseline
The high post spread offense has a base series of cuts that regularly gets 4-5 buckets a game. It’s all triggered by a slot to slot pass and can be run at any time.
- Slot to slot pass from guard (1) bringing the ball up.
- 1 cuts to the high post, and uses the back screen set by the high post 5.
- Meanwhile, the slot (4), swings the ball to the wing (3).
- 3 looks to throw the ball inside to the 1 for a layup.
- The 1 can go over (ballside) or under the screen set by the 5, it’s up to him to read his defender.
- If the 1 doesn’t get the ball he cuts to the strong side corner
- Immediately following the first cut, if there’s no pass inside the 1 cuts through to the strong side corner.
- The weak side wing (2) now cuts to the high post to use a cross screen set by the 5.
- The 2 uses the screen to get into the lane and seals his man.
- The 3 looks to lob the ball inside for a layup.
- As the pass is a lob its important 2 doesn’t seal too close to the baseline.
Ball reversal options
The first and second cuts are most effective in early offense when defenses are disorganized. If the defense is set you’ll have to go to for your ball reversal options to get a good shot.
On ball screen action
- 3 passes the ball back to the 4.
- As the weak side of the court is now clear, 4 should dribble the ball sideways and play a two man game with 5, using the elbow ball screen.
- If the drive is defended, he can dribble to the corner and enter the ball into the low post after 5 rolls and let 5 attack in isolation.
- The other perimeter players fill cut the slots and wings.
- Reversing the ball back to the slot can lead to a slot to slot pass and a continuation of the first cut.
- This isn’t a jump shooting offense- you always want to look to get the ball inside.
- Your players shouldn’t always feel pressure to attack off the pick and roll if its well defended. Reverse the ball and trust the motion to provide open shots.
Pinch post action
The on ball screen is one of two options after a ball reversal. The second action I’ve seen frequently is pinch post action leading to a dribble handoff and 2 man game. Oklahoma State used this action a lot vs Kansas and it got their players to the rack throughout the game.
- Ball was reversed to the high post 5 from the wing.
- 5 would dribble hand off with 4, and they run a two man game.
- Alternatively, the ball could be reversed to 4 along the perimeter.
- He could then pass to the 5 at the elbow, for an elbow dribble hand off.
- The 5 can reject the dribble hand off and keep the ball for an iso, or hand it off to the next player filling the wing.
- If the ballhandler can’t turn the corner on the hand off, he should look to retreat dribble to the corner as the 5 slides for a post up. Or he can reverse the ball to the filling slot guard.
- Whether it’s a ball screen or pinch post is triggered by the guard. Dribbling towards the 5 leads to a ball screen, passing leads to pinch post action. All options are available out of both- pick and roll, pick and pop and pick and post up.
Flare screen action
Another natural option off ball reversal is for the 5 to set a flare screen for the 1. This is a great option if the defense is playing tight as it frees up your man to attack the basket.
- Instead of reversing the ball directly to 4, the 3 holds onto the ball whilst 5 comes up to the elbow.
- 5 sets a flare screen, which 4 uses by flaring to the wing for the open catch off the skip pass. He attacks the basket.
- Alternatively, 4 can basket cut rather than flaring, triggering a 35 elbow pick and roll with the 3.
- It’s important for there to be a player in the weak side corner for a kick out if you run the flare screen option. If this action occurs after the first cut option, there should already be someone there.
- When setting the flare screen you want the 5 to keep their feet inside the 3 point line, otherwise the 1 will catch the ball too high.
More Motion Options
Once you’ve mastered the base continuity of the high post spread motion offense, it’s time to add more options. In games you can either call out these actions from the bench or have them run when a certain action (e.g an entry to the high post) occurs.
High post entry options
There are two reasons to enter the ball in the high post:
- If the defense is denying the slot to wing pass to trigger the first cut.
- To mix things up after ball reversal
Here’s some options after the high post entry to get into the motion offense:
High post flare
Weak side perimeter players can set flare screens too. This action is great at disguising its main goal, which is to get the ball into the low post to the rolling screener.
- Wing 2 sets a flare screen for the slot 4, as 1 passes the ball to 5 for a high post entry.
- 4 flares to the wing whilst 3 rolls to the low post. 5 looks for the hi low entry.
- If nothing’s open, 5 can also play a 1 on 1, or kick it back out to the weak side wing.
- The wings should always look to drive baseline on catching because the defense is lifted above the free throw line. In this case, the post would clear out to the corner.
- The 5 should catch and keep the ball high, always face ballside to view the entire play and make the entry with a two handed overhead pass. Great fundamentals here by Pau Gasol.
High post flare and double stagger
- Starts out the same as the single flare- wing 3 sets a flare screen for the slot 4, as 1 passes the ball to 5 for a high post entry.
- 4 flares to the wing whilst 3 rolls to the low post. 5 looks for the hi low entry. Meanwhile, 1 uses a back screen set by 2 to cut to the corner.
- If there’s no low post entry pass, 5 can pass the ball to 4, and he and 2 sets a double staggered screen for 1.
- 1 uses the screens to cut to the top for a catch and shoot or chance to attack middle.
- Run this set in the first quarter to see how the defense will defend flare screens. If they don’t go over them, run the same play with your best shooter for a 3. If they do go over them, look for the screener to slip inside for deep post position.
- Another advanced alternative is to have the 1 only use one screen and curl inside for a layup. Do this if the help defense is playing the screens tightly.
High post mismatch
This is a quick hitter to try to exploit a size mismatch for deep post position.
- After the high post entry by 1, both 1 and 4 cut to their low posts.
- 1 sets a cross screen for 4, who posts up at the low block. 5 looks for the hi low entry pass.
- Ideally, you want your point guard screening for your power forward to force the defense into a bad switch.
- You want the 4 catching the ball with 2 feet in the paint and taking 1 dribble into a quick post move.
High post wing Iso
Run this if the mismatch option fails, or simply to get your best scorer a 1 on 1 opportunity.
- After the high post entry by 1, both 1 and 4 cut to their low posts.
- They cross and cut out to the opposite wings. Wings fill the slots.
- 5 kicks the ball out to the 3, who reverses it to the 2.
- The ball is entered to the 4 in the wing, who takes his man on 1 on 1.
- The ball can also be skipped directly to the 4.
- If there’s nothing open after the wing pass, the 1 can hold onto the ball and the offense can flow into the base offense cuts. Slot to slot to wing pass triggers a backdoor cut, etc. etc.
Dribble entry options
Sometimes the defense will deny the slot to wing pass and also try to take away the high post entry. As with all motion offenses, this triggers a back door cut. Rather than pass the ball to the wing, you dribble it in from the slot.
Dribble Entry into Base Motion
Here’s how to flow into the offense from the dribble entry:
- After the wing (3) cuts backdoor, the opposite slot (1) cuts ball side. 4 dribbles the ball from the slot to the wing.
- Meanwhile, the opposite wing (2) rotates to the slot to catch the ball. The high post 5 can set a down screen to make this catch easier.
- 3 pops out to the wing after the back door cut for a pass from the 2. Now 1 and 4 can backdoor cut from the wing and we’re back into the base motion.
- Make sure to remember the order of the cuts- slot cuts through first then wing. There’s no point in both cutting at the same time.
Dribble Entry into Weak Side Screens
An extra wrinkle to add to the dribble entry is for the backdoor cutter and the big to screen for each other. This can lead to either an open lob or a catch and shoot opportunity.
- Same as steps 1-2 from above.
- After 3 cuts backdoor he stops at the low block. The 5 can take a couple of steps down and set a down screen at the second hash mark for a catch and shoot.
- Alternatively, the 3 can set a back screen for 5, who rolls hard to the rim for a lob from 2.
- Disguise the lob option by making it as if the 5 is setting the screen, then have him immediately sprint past the 3 for the lob.
Down Screen Entry Options
Down Screen Entry into Base Motion
The last way to get the ball into the wing for the basic motion is with an off ball guard to guard down screen. The screener ends up with the ball on the wing, often with a great chance to attack the closeout and score in a 1 on 1 situation.
- Ball swung from slot (4) to slot (1)
- 1 sees that the slot to wing pass is being denied so instead dribble hand offs with the wing (3). They swap spots.
- On the weak side, 4 cuts to set a down screen on the weak side wing (2’s) man. 2 pops out to the slot to get the reverse pass from 3.
- 4 cuts back out to the wing to get the ball. The weak side 1 can back cut and flow into the motion of the offense, or 4 can attack the closeout and drive baseline to score.
- Another option is to fake the dribble hand off and for 1 to keep on driving to the basket.
Double Down Screen
This is similar to the first option except that 2 guards are now setting down screens with the goal of getting an open 3 for a shooter.
- Like the first cut of the offense, a slot (1) to slot (4) pass leads to 5 setting a back screen for 1 to basket cut.
- 4 and the wing (3) dribble hand off, whilst the weak side wing (4) cuts to the opposite elbow.
- 3 passes to the 5 and they fake a dribble hand off. Meanwhile, 1 and 4 set double down screens for 2.
- 2 uses the double down screens to cut to the top for a kick out by 5 for the 3.
- If the kick out to 3 is not open, 5 can attack himself or pass to the 3 who flares to the strong side corner.