Read and react passing before dribbling

A day ago I took the trouble to type out my unconventional approach to implementing read and react… but I was too embarrassed to have you guys read it so I didn’t post it. So although I’m back making another attempt to confess my sins, we’ll see if I actually hit “Send Post” when I’m done. :-/

It’s not that my guys over dribble necessarily, it’s that they tend to not think to pass when they get the ball until they’ve dribbled at least a little bit. It’s as if they feel they have to enjoy having the ball a second before they’ll share it with others.

So this year, I have been teaching Read and React in an order that, I hope, teaches them first to pass.


(1) Layer 1 – I taught the guys the spacing outside the arc for 5 out, and drilled layer 1 (pass and cut) 5 out only, to keep it simple and not have them worry about the complications of post passes yet. I included read line cuts as well of course. When this was automatic…

(2) Layer 10 – I taught the guys layer 10 (back screens). I did this so that when guys ran to corners that were already occupied, they had a smooth way to handle it.

(3) Layer 14 – I then added layer 14 (corners pass and out) because in practice, the defense, our own players, knows that all this cutting is vital to the flow of our offense so they started holding up our cutters to tangle up the offense. Layer 14 counters that. By the way, because calling a player movement “corners” gets confused with the spots on the floor we call corners, I call this an “X-screen.” After all, if an X-Cut is setting a screen then changing direction and cutting to the basket, then it seems to me like cutting to the basket then changing direction to set a screen would be an X-Screen.

(4) Layer 9 – Then I taught the guys the spacing outside the arc for 4 out, and the 6 post spots (elbows, midposts, short corners), then taught them layer 9 (post screens) so that the post player would have something to do (setting screens) while the perimeter players were getting used to playing 4 out. Remember, at this point players were not yet passing to the post.

(5) Layer 2 – It didn’t take long for the players to adjust to 4 out with a post player screening for their cuts, so I quickly added layer 2 (post pass and cut). Now the post player was getting passes and the kids were learning Laker cuts high and low, and were having fun practicing wrap around drop passes for cutters.

(6) Layer 13 – When everyone looked comfortable with 4 out, I added layer 13 (post pass and cut east west). This seems to really take the predictability out of what a defender thinks a passer is going to do after he passes the ball from the perimeter, so I really like it.

(7) Layer 7 – With the team confidently passing around the perimeter, and passing to the post and cutters, I then taught them how to skip pass, layer 7 (pin and skip).

By the way, it is amazing how much basketball you can play without dribbling, and thankfully, my guys seem to have now noticed that.

Also, Rick talks about time compressing to accelerate the learning process. I believe teaching the passing layers first has done that for us. I think we have picked up supplemental layer skills with little effort, all the while driving the foundational passing skills deeper into our habits.

(8) Layer 3 – Having taught the guys 7 passing layers, I then introduced the first dribble layer (layer 2, dribble at). The cutting it initiates, and the filling outside the arc are super easy for them to understand so this layer is literally taught in minutes.

(9) Layer 15 – The next dribbling layer I taught them was layer 15 (power dribble), which is basically setting up a hand off on the perimeter, so again, this layer is taught in minutes. But this is as far as I could go without them learning how to drive north – south.

But notice how much read and react basketball the guys know, and they still haven’t been taught how to drive to the basket, their favorite go-to move?

(10) Layer 5 – It might seem kind of odd to teach the layer 5 (basic post slides: dribble penetration) before I teach layer 4 (dribble penetration), but teaching them what a post player does when someone drives north – south is quick and easy and puts post players in the right places as we drill the harder layer, layer 4.

(11) Layer 4 – This is where we are now (layer 4 circle movement: dribble penetration). This layer is going to take some time to teach. Some drives can be vague and players can circle both ways at once trying to figure it out.

Also, I’ve observed from youtube footage of other teams, that players can get lazy about circling when someone is driving and just stand there watching the drive, so I keep emphasizing that the whole purpose for player movement while the ball is being driven is to put them in windows where they can potentially receive passes.

In other words, if you don’t circle move, you won’t get the ball. Hopefully that will provide motivation for them until it is a habit.

(12) Layer 8 – When layer 4 looks like they are reacting out of habit rather than thought, I’ll next teach them what to do when the drive has been stopped (layer 8, circle reverse).

(13) Layer 6 – Then I plan to address layer 6 (baseline dribble penetration). While layer 6 seems to violate the RULES of circle movement, it definitely still follows the PRINCIPLES behind player movement when the ball is being driven: namely that players need to position themselves into windows where they can potentially receive passes. So again, I’ll emphasize to them that if they want the ball, they need to be in the windows at 0 degrees, 45 degrees, 90 degrees and 180 degrees.

(14) Layer 12 – We aren’t “pick and roll maniacs,” but I’m hoping we’ll get as far as teaching layer 12 (ball screens) this season. Last year some of our opponents really overplayed us on top to force our point guard to give up the ball, then they’d deny him getting it again. We sometimes used a high pick and role combined with a give and go with a wing to beat it. This layer would bring back that option to us this year.

When I get my team to this point, we should know all 8 foundational layers of the read and react offense, plus 6 of the 8 enhancement layers, but with the important distinction that will have learned them pass first. Hopefully then, passing is what they’ll feel most comfortable with, or at least they won’t be thinking “dribble” as a knee jerk reaction to having received a pass.

So, this is my approach. I’m guessing it will seem confusing and convoluted to others, nevertheless, my 14 to 17 year old guys are getting it and are progressing well with this approach.

Unfortunately, it is still our pre-season and many of our key players aren’t available to practice yet because they are involved in high school football and golf, whose seasons are still going. When we get those guys, we’ll of course have to start all over again, but at least I’ll have 4 to 6 other “teachers” on the floor helping me teach them. At least that’s the plan.

To click “Send Post” or not to click “Send Post.” That is the question. :-/

  1. Wm BradleyWm Bradley10-21-2010

    Coach, It looks like you are headed in the right direction. I am going to put in the R&R for the first time. I have coached for 20 years and am turning over a new leaf. My difficulty is trying to figure out what my first couple of weeks practice schedule should look like. I used to spend a solid week on Defense before we really ever touched a ball. Any suggestions you would like to share?

  2. BasketballogyBasketballogy10-23-2010

    Let me start by saying I *love* your approach, teaching defense first and for a substantial period of time. I love it.

    Probably the best suggestion I could make, though, is for you to ask your question to a forum of coaches who are using R&R. They even have a special section for the first year of implementing it.

    Better Basketball’s website makes the forum a bit hard to find, and Google isn’t much help either, but you can find it at:

    My specific suggestion, though, in the spirit of turning over a new leaf would be to start with the passing layers of R&R (steps 1 through 7 above), and overlap the offense instruction with defensive training. For instance, the first half of practice could be R&R, and the 2nd half defending it.

    The ball and player movement of the passing layers is almost inspirational to watch, but what is more, if you use the R&R as your shell offense to train your defense, you get double benefit from the same practice time. Also, I like the added benefit that in this phase, we’ll be training our defense with the mindset that the focus is defending passing and player movement.

    Then when we move to the dribbling layers, there is a new aspect for the defense to focus on and digest as well. They then learn with the mindset of okay, this is what we do with dribble penetration.

    But the best suggestion really is to ask the group of coaches, many of whom have much more experience than I do with R&R.

  3. Wm BradleyWm Bradley10-25-2010

    Thank you for your response. I will let you know how it works out. Next week we can begin so there is very little time before our first game.

    One other question, how do you incorporate it into practice, personally? Do you go 3 on 3? 4 on 4? or 5 on 5? I am going to like the ability to work offensively and defensively at the same time.

  4. Tom7Tom710-25-2010

    I am a big believer in 3 on 3 for practice where possible, 4 on 4 if I have a lot of players to keep busy.

    3 on 3, each offensive player gets more touches and meaningful involvement off the ball than 5 on 5 in the same practice time, so players usually improve more quickly.

    And 3 on 3, the half court is so open that defense really pays for bad habits and mistakes, whereas the crowd of a 5 on 5 scrimmage can be a deterrent for certain offensive efforts, and a backstop when defense do errors occur, and thus cover a multitude of sins.

    But after accelerated 3 on 3 or 4 on 4 practice, ultimately it has to be tied back to 5 on 5, so I like to have 5 on 5 near the end of practices, then make everyone make 2 free throws before showers.

    I like free throws at the very end of practice because I want nailing free throws when their legs and lungs are spent to be a habit when they step up to shoot them at the end of a game.

  5. Lee SobersLee Sobers10-26-2010

    I recommend the Jump Manual to any athlete who is serious about maximizing their quickness and vertical explosion.

  6. Sharron ClemonsSharron Clemons12-21-2010

    Coach, It looks like you are headed in the right direction. I am going to put in the R&R for the first time. I have coached for 20 years and am turning over a new leaf. My difficulty is trying to figure out what my first couple of weeks practice schedule should look like. I used to spend a solid week on Defense before we really ever touched a ball. Any suggestions you would like to share?

  7. Sung HughettSung Hughett01-30-2011

    I absolutely love your blog and find a lot of your post’s to be what precisely I’m looking for. Do you offer guest writers to write content for you? I wouldn’t mind composing a post or elaborating on a lot of the subjects you write about here. Again, awesome web log!

  8. I ran the Read and React last year, and had some success with it. As I move into my second year coaching the same group (JV girls, most of whom played up as freshmen a year ago), I am hoping to see better movement. I would not say that we looked great running it, but a lot of that had to do with the fact that we lacked many of the essential skills to play the game. We will be much better this year, and I hope to see us improve upon our 13-6 record of a year ago.

    A couple notes for those just starting to put it in, though. Take it slow, and find ways to incorporate the movement into drills so you can get some uptempo drill work to accompany repping the layers of the offense. One of my favorites was contributed by the Coe College Women’s Coach. I have begun incorporating the Gun by Shootaway when we use this drill to ensure that we are keeping the tempo up. The drill works several layers and situations at once, and I have actually begun using it in our pre-game warm-up if we need a change.

    On a separate note, I have started a website at where coaches can interact and share ideas, buy and sell used equipment, post jobs, etc. I am new to website development, so it is in its infant stages and will improve over time. Please feel free to check it out. I have just posted a blog entry on Brian Gregory’s “Commando” Defense. It’s pretty good stuff.

    • Tom7Tom710-29-2011

      @Coach Chamberlain

      Thank you VERY much for taking the time to share your notes and experience with us all. Starting a website can feel pretty lonely at the beginning, but I hope you stay with it — especially your blogging. Thanks especially for the Commando Defense post. If I can make more time, I’ll get over there and support you with some participation.

      Meanwhile, I’ve got to use what time I’ve got online to get out the rest of my RGB articles.

    • Coach SchraubCoach Schraub04-02-2013

      Coach, can you email me the Brian Gregory “Commando” information? I saw him at a clinic but didn’t get very good notes, I would love to freshen up on it a bit. The link in your post here isn’t active anymore. Thanks!

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