In the first Video Breakdown, we looked at several offensive plays, some of which featured high ball screen action. We saw different variations, run by Ty Jerome and Kihei Clark with screens set by multiple different players. Against George Washington, we saw more ball screen action, with more variation. What we've seen so far indicates a few things to me:
- There are a lot more variations that can be run based on what future defenses decide to do once they accept that, yes, high ball screens are something they need to prepare to defend when making a game plan for Virginia
- That a fair amount of preseason practice has gone into high ball screen plays, and
- That they are here to stay, unlike some previous offensive tweaks.
We are going to focus on five plays from the George Washington game and try to pick out the challenges presented to defenders.
The first play is the very first play of the game. It starts out like any Sides possession, but Jack Salt comes out beyond the arc to screen for Jerome. Ty makes the initiating pass to Key, then drifts over to the extreme right sideline. Key reverses the ball to Salt who sends it over to Ty, then sets the screen. Ty can dribble around the screen to the center and make a play, but he chooses to feint down the sideline, causing two defenders to over-commit, then reverses direction and sprints back to the screen.
The other three players stay pinned on the weak side, not allowing their defenders to help. Only Key's man is in any position to help, but he is in a quandary, because if he comes over to be part of the play, he leaves Key unguarded.
By passing the ball to Salt, Ty allows himself to sprint, maximizing the advantage from his feint and the defensive over-reaction. When the third defender chooses not to pick Ty up, the defense literally has no chance to challenge the shot.
Lessons here for the defense are that both defenders need to focus first and foremost on defending Jerome; that you cannot go below the screen; and that you always have to be ready, because he will take the shot whenever he thinks he has an advantage.
The next play was a lot more direct, and showed that George Washington had not yet learned the lessons: Jerome's defender didn't pick him up, dropped behind the screen by Mamadi Diakite, and Jerome fired up the Howitzer from Tyland.
The best part of that play is Chelsea Shine laughing. I love it.
The two clips surrounding this paragraph share a distinguishing feature of many of the "ball screens" I've seen in the first two games: They actually start out as an off-ball screen. Rather than the traditional "guard pounds ball into floor until center comes up and sets screen" high ball screen, Virginia is doing off-ball screening then when the pass is made to the guard, the post maintains the screening action and now it's a ball screen.
Clark's creativity is a real weapon. Virginia needs to keep finding ways to get him space to operate in.
The most encouraging part of the above clip is the good reads Anthony makes. He recognizes what the defense has taken away, and what it has left open and makes the perfect decision.
The use of ball screens for Ty and Kihei is smart strategy because the high ball screen scenario is one with a lot of tactical opportunity and decision-making for the players. The coaches can set the operational parameters and practice potential situations, but the players on the floor have to read the opponent and make decisions in real-time. It gives players like Ty and Kihei, both of whom are creative and crafty players with tremendous anticipation skills, the opportunity to outwit ill-prepared opponents and gain tremendous tactical advantages. The last play gives a hint of how the ball screen action can create fluid situations that produce opportunities two or three moves down the line even if the defense reacts appropriately to the initial move. When the team gets into the ACC with Hall of Fame coaches and elite players, this will loom larger and give hope that the team will be better prepared to avoid stagnant, easy to anticipate offensive sets.