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How to coach and teach the basketball guard-around play

Here is another play as old as the hills. Kentucky's pride, coach Adolph Rupp used it very effectively to compile his impressive record. With the arrival of the three-point play and if coach Rupp were alive and coaching, today, he would be running the old guard-around until the "cows come home."

The guard-around play, as Coach Rupp called it is still effective, today. Coach Rupp considered the following play options to be the best fundamental ball handling drills the he ever found. The old coach set his up in the same way as is illustrated in the first five diagrams that follow on the next few pages; however, you can fit it into most any offensive set known, today. The next four diagrams following Coach Rupp's drills are a couple of typical examples of how to use the guard-around with other sets.


As can be seen from the next five diagrams, the setup is the same in every case with five options for the guard to exercise as he sees fit. Here are a few pointers to help coaches in developing this play:

  1. A guard must be an excellent ball handler.
  2. A guard must be quick.
  3. All guard-around plays must be run with maximum speed in ball handling and footwork.
  4. A guard must always be in a triple threat position when he catches the ball.
  5. The guard-around play works best when the guard is near a sideline.
  6. The guard should cut right off the tail of the forward in a straight line at the basket, not a circular route.

The following four diagrams with explanations will show how each option is executed. These series of guard plays will work with any type defense. Regardless of how a defender maneuvers, one of these plays will fit the situation.

It was from these options that Coach Rupp developed the famous Kentucky offense. It can easily be seen that Rupp depended a great deal on his guards being scoring threats as his forwards and centers. He felt with clever ball handling, two of his smaller players could set up a well defined five player offense that fit well in his Kentucky patterned offense. When they exhausted the possibilities of two-man plays, they included the third (pivot) man into the play and many other high-percentage scoring opportunities than shown here were used by Coach Rupp. These plays can be used on either side of the floor. They are excellent ball handling drills in teaching basic fundamentals of basketball. Coach Rupp sent his players through these drills most every practice. Not only did the develop ball-handling ability, change of direction, goal shooting, rebounding, and other necessary fundamentals, but, at the same time, built his complete offense.

Guard Around Basketball Play

Guard Around - First Option:

Guard #1 passes to Forward #2 who steps out to meet the pass in every case and turns his body as if to pass to #3 at the high post; however, he flips the ball to #1 who is cutting outside. If #1 is a good 3-point shooter, he can usually get an open shot here, take one dribble and shoot, or dribble all the way in for a lay-up, whichever best presents itself.

Guard Around Basketball Play

Guard Around - Second Option

Guard #1 passes to #2 who turns toward the free-throw lane, takes one dribble, jumps in the air, and hooks a pass to #1 who cut by him.

Guard Around Basketball Play

Guard Around - Third Option:

Guard #1 passes to Forward #2 who flips the ball back to #1 as in Option 1, but this time #2 rolls to the basket expecting a return pass from Guard #1.

Guard Around Basketball Play

Guard Around - Fourth Option:

Guard #1 passes to #2 who takes one dribble, pivots, and passes back to #1 who cut around him to the basket.

In the guard-around play, the player with the ball may hand off to a teammate crossing behind him and set a lateral screen, or a player can set a lateral screen for the dribbler as the dribbler crosses behind him. In either case, the screener can stop close to the defender, because the defender can see the screen coming.

When the man with the ball hands off or passes to the dribbler and sets a lateral screen, he should stop and use an offensive roll immediately after the teammate move by him. Stepping imperceptibly toward the second opponent, in the direction of the end line, with the foot nearest the end line he pivots on that foot, away from the opponent he has screened. With this move he avoids causing any contact and obtains and holds an inside advantage on the opponent if there is a defensive switch, His pivot foot steps directly toward the basket. He should continue toward the basket quickly with his inside hand up as a target for a pass if the defensive switch occurs, the best passing lane opens immediately after the defensive exchange is made.

Guard Around Basketball Play

Guard Around - Fifth Option:

Guard #1 passes to #2 and cuts outside. #2 catches the ball with a jump stop, pivots, fakes a pass to #1, and dribbles inside to shoot.

Guard Around - Lateral Screen Guard for Guard:

1 passes to 2, then set a lateral screen on X2, 2's defender. 2 on moving to meet the pass, dribbles hard to his left off the screen. As 2 begins his drive, 1 slides his left foot imperceptibly toward the left corner. It is a very slight adjustment. As he makes this slide, X2, moving to stay with 1, bumps into 2, causing him to pivot on his left foot. 1 then takes a long 180-degree-arc swing with his right foot so that he steps directly toward the basket. He is now in front of X2. 2 makes a return pass to 1 if X1 switches. The lateral screen is set with 1's body perpendicular to the direction of X2's body.

Guard Around - Lateral Screen Forward for Guard:

Forward 3 has passed to guard 1 and set a lateral screen on X1. As 1 starts his dribble to the left, shoulder to shoulder off the screen so that X1 can not slide through, 3 slides his left foot slightly forward toward the free-throw lane. As X1 moves moves to stay with 1, he bumps 3. 3 makes a 180-degree-arc swing, pivoting on the left foot and swinging the right leg, stepping toward the basket with this foot. As 1 comes off the screen, X3 switches onto 1 leaving 3 in front of X1 and wide open for a return pass from 1.

Guard Around - Inside or Outside

Guard 2 has the ball and passes to 4. Player 2 has two options. After the pass to 4, he may cut to 4's inside between 4 and 4's defender to receive an inside hand-off or cut to 4's outside and receive an outside hand-off. Player 2 can either shoot, dribble into the basket for a lay-up or dish-off. NOTE: One of the best guards I ever saw play the game used to hit running hook shots from deep in the corner using this play. The hook shot from out here is practically impossible to guard.

Guard Around - High Post with a Screen

Player 2 passes to 4 and fakes away. Teammate 5 starts up from the low post opposite the ball and reverses direction to a medium pivot. Player 4 passes to 5 and follows his pass and sets a screen above the circle. Player 2 reverses and cuts off the screens set by 4 and 5 receiving a pass from 5. Player 2 can take a short jump shot, drive to the basket or kick it back outside.


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