Nevada Basketball #HoopTalk with Wolf Pack Coach Rex Walters

Nevada Basketball #HoopTalk with Wolf Pack Coach Rex Walters

Nevada Basketball’s new #HoopTalk series will consist of in-depth breakdowns and interviews with coaches and players on different aspects of the game. What better way to kick off this series than with Rex Walters, the newest member of our coaching staff.

Walters brings a wealth of coaching and playing experience with him in college and the NBA. He spent 10 years as a Division 1 head coach at USF and FAU and also as a head coach in the NBA G-League for the Grand Rapids Drive. This past season, he served as an Assistant Coach for the Detroit Pistons. During his playing days, he was a member of the 1993 Kansas Final Four team and continued to play at the professional level in the NBA and overseas. 

We sat Rex down and had him breakdown how to effectively guard the ball screen. 

Q: How important is communication when guarding the ball screen and where should the communication come from?  

RW: Communication eliminates confusion, as Bob Beyer always says.  It is very important that the Pick and Roll defender is talking on the FIRST movement of the offensive picker (screener).  Whatever coverage we are in, the Pick Defender must tell the on-ball defender where the help is:

Rex gave examples of this… 

  • Example:  Side Pick and Roll Show = Pick Defender makes a “Middle” call (early, loud and repeated 3 times) to let on-ball defender know to adjust his stance and force ball to the middle.  
  • The communication or “Call” gets the defense on the same page and is the starting point of putting together a good defensive possession.   

Q: How should the On-Ball Defender react when a screen is coming?

RW: The on-ball defender’s job is first and foremost to guard the ball.  He or she should be squared up to the ball.  You want to pressure and contain the ball.  Good pressure and containment is keeping the offense at an arm length.  There is no looking around to see where the screen is coming from.  Once the on-ball defender hears the "call", he or she should adjust his or her stance, if possible, get into the ball handler’s body with a leveraged stance and force the ball to his or her help.  Forcing the ball to the help will also stop a team from changing or flipping the screen.  The on-ball defender and pick defender are working together to force the ball where the Defense is loaded. 

Q: How Important is it for a team to have multiple ball screen coverages?

RW: I think it is very important to have multiple coverages. Here are some Coverages that most NBA Teams have in their Side Pick and Roll Defense Package.

Rex expanded into detail on these coverages and his notes are below…

  • Drops for Pick and Rim Runners or Hard Rollers - Calls:
        • “Baseline” or “White” - Forcing Side Pick and Rolls to the Baseline
        • “Middle” - Forcing Side Pick and Rolls to Middle of Floor
        • “Veer” Backs - occur when On Ball Defender can not get back in front of ball and Pick Defender calls out a Veer (Usually a call when in Drops) to late switch.
    • Shows for Pick and Short Roll or Pop Players - Calls would remain:
        • “Baseline” or “White” - Forcing Side Pick and Rolls to the Baseline
        • “Middle” - Forcing Side Pick and Rolls to Middle of Floor
        • “Veer” Backs - occur when On Ball Defender can not get back in front of ball and Pick Defender calls out a Veer (Usually a call when in Drops) to late switch.
    • “Switch” for Great Shooters that you don’t want to stretch out with a Show.  I only like switches on contact...but that is just me. 
    • Blitzes (or doubling the ball handler) if you want to speed up the game, have a speed and quickness advantage, don’t want a great ball handler to beat you (or get the ball out of his hands).
        • Calls would remain either “Baseline or White” or “Middle”
    • “Squeeze” when a particular ball handler is more of a driver than a shooter.  I still believe it's important to make a "Baseline, White or Middle call. 

RW: The game is getting more and more Pick and Roll oriented.  I didn’t talk about Middle or High Pick and Rolls.  I also didn’t get into Hand Offs and Dribble Hand Offs.  It may seem like a lot, there is so much more that needs to be covered, but I think it is important that coaches have a plan for all of these Pick and Roll situations.  I worked for Stan Van Gundy and his preparation for all Offensive Actions really opened my eyes defensively!  I learned an awful lot in 2 years working for him.  Hope this helps you and I am always available to talk about it and can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

RW: Thanks for reading. Coach Musselman would love to have you come out and watch our practices.  It’s been great for me to see the great pace of practice that Coach Muss has this team practicing at here at the University of Nevada!  I know he would love to have you come to a practice and definitely a game.  Thanks for reading and Go Pack!

We want to thank Rex for taking time out of his busy day to talk about the defensive side of the ball screen. Stay tuned for our next #HoopTalk blog coming out next week!


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