#Hooptalk with Todd Okeson: How to Effectively Use the Ball Screen

#Hooptalk with Todd Okeson: How to Effectively Use the Ball Screen

Nevada Basketball #HoopTalk series consists of in-depth breakdowns and interviews with coaches and players on different phases of the game. Last week, Wolf Pack Coach Rex Walters broke down the defensive side of the ball screen and this will we will have our own Todd Okeson discuss how to effectively use the ball screen from the offensive side of the ball. 

Okeson brings a successful playing career with him, as he took Nevada to the Sweet 16 in 2004. Prior to joining the Wolf Pack, he had stints in Hawaii as the Director of Basketball Operations, Southern Utah as a Head Coach and Assistant, Georgia as an Operations Assistant, and the Reno Bighorns in the NBDL as an Assistant Coach. 

We spent time with Todd talking about how PG’s should approach using the ball screen.

Q: As a player, what was your thought process when using a ball screen?

TO: My thought process was always score first, then read the defense. When you are actively looking to score off the ball screen you force the defense to adjust to stop the ball. You need to put pressure on the defense and force them to decide on how to stop the ball.  There are many ways to defend ball screens and if you aren’t looking to score first the defense won’t have to adjust to stop the ball.  

Q: As you transitioned to a coach, how do you teach a PG to have the same thought process?

TO: My strategy is to get them to see how much more affective they are when attacking off a ball screen than not attacking.  Film study of other players helps tremendously as players are more prone to learn by watching.  If they can see the difference in film and apply it to their game, they will have confidence to keep improving their overall ball screen aggressiveness. 

Q: From the preparation of your opponent, if you know a team hard hedges, how do you plan to attack off a ball screen?

TO: You want to pull the big outside to defend the ball screen.  If you know that a hard hedge is coming you will want to attack the ball screen defender’s hip to take an aggressive angle to attack the basket.  By actively attacking the ball screen defender’s hip you will make the defender work to stop the ball screen action. When they hard hedge, splitting the screen could be open as well. You do not want to pre-determine splitting the screen, you want to react if you see the space open. 

Q: How does it change if you know a team switches?

TO: When the defense switches ball screens your point guard can lose their aggressive mindset.   When the switch occurs the ball handler must remain aggressive to get by the switching defender to create for others or themselves. When a defense switches, you want to switch to the man, which is a concept player will not do every time as the game progresses. A shot you may have is stopping behind the screen for a shot. Also, when teams are switching, the big slipping could be open as well. 

We want to thank Todd for taking time out of his day to talk basketball with us and share his knowledge!