Updated: Apr 8
How I would incorporate the Princeton Point Series into a High School Offense and the best resources I've gathered on Point Action over the last year.
It is almost impossible to scroll through my timeline these days without spotting tweets about the Princeton Offense. In a basketball world dominated by the ball screen, there seems to have been a resurgence of Princeton Offense concepts throughout the collegiate and professional ranks. I don't have hard evidence to show this, but I can't help but think that this recent resurgence of popularity can be traced to changes in the modern game. Given the greater emphasis on the three point line, the use of the 5 Man as a distributor, the opening up of the paint, and the popularity of "positionless" basketball it would seem logical that Princeton concepts would become more attractive in today's game. Regardless of where this resurgence has come from it seems likely that the success of the Golden State Warriors, Richmond Men, and Stanford Women's teams in recent years will ensure that it is does not die down any time soon.
Perhaps no concept within the Princeton system seems to be quite as popular as the Point Series. This series features your 5 Man as a distributor at the high post and includes the use of split screens, back door cuts, DHOs, and ball screens as a means to create quality shots. I think what makes the Point Series so attractive is that you can run it as part of the larger Princeton System or use it alone as the main engine of your offensive. In fact, many coaches have tweaked the traditional reactions and spacing to fit the modern concepts that we mentioned above. In this post, I wanted to put together a general plan for how I might use the action at the High School level and then at the end organize some of the best resources I have encountered over the last few years.
Main Entries -
The two main entries into Point Action that I would teach are the Slot to Slot Pass and the Wave Through. In both scenarios, we are asking one of our slot players to make a brush cut that will create a gap for our 5+ Man to flash into. Once the gap has been created for our 5 Man to flash into we are looking to make a pass into the Pinch Post or Elbow area. With the basketball now entered at the elbow, we have now arrived in the Point Series formation.
Slot to Slot Pass:
If the trailing guard is not denied we simply make the slot to slot pass to initiate the entry. The pass is then followed by a Brush Cut to the opposite corner.
Brush Cut - a cut made through the paint that attempts to create a gap for the 5 Man.
1 - Slot to Slot Pass
2 - Brush Cut to the Corner
3 - Flash to the Elbow
4 - Elbow Entry Pass
If the man with the basketball feels uncomfortable making the slot to slot pass then he can initiate the Brush Cut by simply waving him through. Defenders in passing lanes, ball pressure, or wanting to mix things up are all good reasons to go to the wave through option.
1 - Wave Player through
2 - Brush Cut is made
3 - 5 Flashes to the Elbow
4 - Elbow Entry is Made
Use of False Motion -
I have used the option of a Slot to Wing DHO as an entry into half-court offense for years, so incorporating this element of the Point Series is really interesting to me. The Slot to Wing DHO can be used as a pressure release, a way to get different players into certain actions, or as a way to get some false movement before we enter the basketball into the elbow area. In teaching the concept I would probably stick with the label of Forwards Out to paint a picture in our players' head about how the movement of the four perimeter players should look.
Forwards Out -
As the DHO is conducted with the Slot and Wing players we should also have our backside players simultaneously exchanging positions.
The 5 Man is timing his move up to the elbow so that his defender can not beat him to the spot.
In an attempt to keep things simple we will use the Slot to Wing DHO as a way to simply get some false movement and then flow directly into Point Series.
1 - Slot to Wing DHO
2 - Simultaneous Backside Exchange
4 - Slot to Slot Pass or Wave Through
4 - 5 Man Rises
5 - Elbow Entry into Point Seres
Wing Entry -
To those familiar with the Princeton Offense the wing entry would be the trigger into the Low Post portion of the system. That simple pass from the slot down to the wing would represent an opportunity for the 5 Man to get a post-up touch. In an effort to maintain simplicity we would simply use the Wing Entry and subsequent spacing as a way to isolate the 5 Man in the post. If the ball was not entered into the post we would simply look to swing the ball and flow freely into Point Action.
Wing Entry -
Pass to the Wing:
The Pass to the Wing will be followed by a cut to the opposite corner. This cut now creates better spacing for the post entry pass to be made or for the player with the basketball to attack the rim.
We would generally prefer the Drive Through the Elbow.
Check the Post:
Once the wing player receives the pass we are expecting our 5 Man to position himself for a touch on the block.
If the ball is entered we would most likely give the passer the option to either re-space to the corner or to make a basket cut.
Swing & Flow:
If the post entry is not made (and there is no drive) then we should look to swing the basketball. In the diagram above the 4 would simply get to the point and 2 would swing the basketball to him. At that point we could easily flow directly into Point Action.
1 - Swing Pass is Made
2 - 2 Re-spaces back to the Corner
3 - The 5 Man Pops to the High Post
4 - Entry Pass is made into the Elbow
Away and Over Options for the Passer -
Once the ball is entered to the elbow we can get into the two main scoring options in the action; Over and Away. In a clinic last offseason Richmond Assistant Coach Rob Jones explained that they would teach players to let the defense dictate which option to choose. The passer could either screen away, entering into a split screen action, or make an over cut and enter into that same split screen action with the player in the corner. Regardless of which option the passer chose we would teach players the same series of options to use to combat the defense.
"Away" Option -
In the Away option the passer immediately screens away for the nearest cutter. This coming together together of the screener and cutter will be referred to as Split Action.
For the Cutter...
- Cut hard to the Rim
- Encourage the Reject
- Encourage the Curl
For the Screener...
- Face the Corner
- Just Above the Elbow
- Screener Pops after Cut
I personally really like the idea of requiring the cutter to make a move to the rim (curl or reject) rather than trying to cut over the split screen and get the basketball. This can help to simplify the decision making for players and continue to get pressure on the rim.
What if there is no shot from the split action?
If there is no pass made to the cutter then we should hit the screener on his pop back to the three point line. As with any offense we would be teaching players to think Shot, Drive, Action on the catch. If there was no shot from the screener then we would flow directly into a Middle Ball Screen action.
"Over" Option -
In the Over option the passer cuts over the basketball and goes into the split action with the corner player. This action develop a bit more slowly so patience on behalf of the cutter will be needed.
1 - Reject
2 - Curl
3 - Accept or Take the DHO
The screener should be prepared to Second Cut based on what the cutter does.
1 - Curl/Reject = Pop
2 - Accept = Space to Corner
Two Man Game on the Backside -
The next part of the action to teach would be the Two Man Game on the backside. If the 5 Man did not like what he saw from the split action he has the ability to turn to the backside and continue to keep the ball moving. There a number of reasons that the 5 Man might not "like what he saw". Aggressive switches, slow developing action, or simply wanting to switch up the movement of the ball would all be good examples of when to utilize the backside.
Two Man Game -
Split Not Open:
The most common reason I see the 5 Man using the backside is when the defense finds a way to neutralize the split action.
When the 5 turns to the backside player there are two basic options that they have.
Back Door Cut
If the corner player accepts the DHO we would like to treat it as a virtual screen & roll scenario. We want the man with the basketball to try and get a piece of the receiver's defender.
Also 5 Man look to Roll or Sprint to the Corner
Back Door Cut:
The corner player can also make a hard back door cut to the rim instead of receiving the DHO from the 5 Man. We would like to teach players that if they feel aggression from their defender to put their foot in the ground and cut to the rim.
Spin Back into 5 Out -
One of the necessary problem solving concepts that would need to be taught is what to do when the entry pass to the elbow is denied. I have observed teams continuing into a ball screen if that pass is denied, but I prefer the use of the Spin Dribble to the backside. In this scenario the player with the basketball would simply reverse his dribble and dribble at the wing. From here we would look to create a scoring opportunity from either the back door cutter or a DHO with the next payer.
Spin Back -
Elbow is Denied:
If we wanted to mix up the action we could always choose to conduct the Spin option, but the trigger for this would be when that elbow entry pass is denied.
Back Door Cut:
The "Single Gap" dribble at should always trigger a back door cut. (Diagram #2)
That single gap back door cut not only provide yourself with a scoring opportunity, but it makes the DHO with the corner player much more effective.
DHO into 5 Out:
If the back door cut is not open we want the basketball to continue to the corner player for a DHO. Just as we discussed earlier rge player receiving the DHO has the option to either go back door or accept the ball. One aspect we may get into in a future post is when neither of those actions produce a shot. As I drew in diagram #3 we would teach the 5 Man to pop out and flow into 5 Out action.
1 - Elbow Entry is Denied
2 - Spin Dribble back to the Backside
3 - Back Door Cut from the Single Gap Player
4 - DHO with the Double Gap Player
5 - Center Pops into 5 Out
My Favorite Resources -
Outside of talking through how I would teach the Point Series I wanted to put together a collection of links to resources for further study into this topic. The Princeton Ofense is an extremely popular topic so the list of resources is probably endless, but I believe there has been some incredible stuff produced in the last two years that coaches must check out to deepen their understanding of the concepts. In this section of the post I put together links to:
& other Video Resources
Check them out.
Coach Dorsey Resources:
Coach Dorsey is the coach at Centenary College and is a strong proponent of the Princeton offense. He has produced a bunch of valuable Princeton-based resources over the last year that coaches should check out. To me, the most informative one he created was his Point Series Clinic. The most unique thing about this resource is Coach Dorsey using his team's own practice footage to show you how they work on the concepts in practice as well.
Coach Dorsey - Richmond Spiders, Wing Entry - https://youtu.be/jf0w4Cjr7Ik
Coach Dorsey - Installing Point Series & 5 Out Offense
Radius Athletics Video Playlists -
Anyone who is active on Twitter knows that Radius Athletics does some of the best video breakdowns of offensive actions out there. He has three different Princeton/Point Series based playlists that are invaluable learning tools for coaches studying this system. My personal favorite playlist is the Nebraska-Wesleyan playlist, which details almost every element of the series.
Radius Athletics - Princeton & Point Series Playlists:
Stanford Women - https://bit.ly/3mUpu1I
Nebraska-Wesleyan - https://bit.ly/3pNXzR6
San Francisco - https://bit.ly/3aTOLoH
Dale Wellman Podcasts:
I have also come across a few interesting podcasts and Web Clinics over the last few months that serve as great resources as well. Dale Wellman, the coach of D3 Powerhouse Nebraska-Wesleyan has two two podcasts episodes I listed below that are really interesting to listen to. They place a lot of emphasis on curling the split action, and also using the post up at the end of their basket cuts that I think is really unique.
Dale Wellman - BBallImersion Podcast - https://youtu.be/N0HQwqlqRJo
Dale Wellman- Dave Paulsen Podcast - https://youtu.be/rOPaqcpE5_4
Jordan Sperber's Evolution of the Princeton Offense -
Jordan Sperber is one of my favorite follows on Twitter. He has specialized in the college game and provides some of the best in depth content out there. One of my favorite videos that he has produces is his History of the Princeton Offense. Not only does he provide the historical context behind it, but he provides evidence how it is evolving with the modern game. This is a great way to see how Point Series fits into the overall picture of the system.
Jordan Sperber, Hoop Vision - Princeton - https://youtu.be/zoYkihO2BAw
Rob Jones on the Richmond Offense -
I only recently discovered this resource, but it has become one of the most insightful ones I have found to date. This was a clinic done by Richmond assistant coach Rob Jones during the lockdown phase last spring. Using video footage Coach Jones explains the base layer of the Richmond Offense, which includes a heavy emphasis on the Wing Entry, Low Post Series, and Point Series.
Rob Jones - Video Clinic, The Richmond Offense - https://youtu.be/kIgKBOzU4oE