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Rules for Hi-Low Spacing in Basketball

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Anyone who has been coaching the game of basketball for any length of time will surely not argue the fact that spacing is one of the most essential parts of successful team offense.

Spacing is important for several reasons: it creates floor balance, opens up lanes for the possibility of penetration, forces defenders to play their offensive man more honestly, etc. Nevertheless, no one seems to have a definite answer on how to teach proper spacing to their players. When asked, the two most common responses coaches give are either:

1. "As a team we watch a ton of film hoping that players will be able to recognize poor spacing".

2. "I don't think there is a way spacing can be taught. It's one of those team intangibles Teams either have great spacing or don't. There's no in-between".

Like many teams, my team used to exhibit horrible spacing! Offensively we ran (or tried to run) a quick hitting play that would then flow into some hi-low action as the shot clock ran down. The problem was that if my players didn't get anything out of the initial set we struggle to get good looks at the basket because of our poor spacing.

Instinctively after the initial set failed our players would often resort to putting their heads down and trying to penetrate the lanes. However we weren't getting all the way to the rim with our penetration, weren't driving and kicking to shooters on the perimeter or initiating contact with the defense and getting to the free throw line. In order words we would often waste valuable possessions.

I knew that if we were going to have any chance of outscoring our opponents my team needed to have a better grasp of the what spacing we wanted AND more importantly HOW to get back in the proper spots after the play broke down. To solve this problem my staff and I sat down and created 6 rules for spacing, more specifically 6 rules for hi-low spacing. Regardless of whether a play broke down or no scoring opportunities materialized after the initial sets, our kids could always get in the right spots if they would commit to these 6 principles.

RULE 1: If a guard has the ball in the "red zone" they need to pass to the wing and fill either the strong or weak corner.

WHY? The Hi-Low offense is predicated around the concept of feeding the low post from the high post or top of the key. If the guard is occupying this spot, the other offensive post will not have room to flash to this area. *We use the term "red zone" because it often triggers in our players' minds where they are at on the court.

RULE 2: If the post has the ball in the "red zone" they need to first look at their post partner on the low block and then pass to the wing opposite of where they received the ball and then immediately dive to the unoccupied block.

WHY? We want out post players to reverse the ball which forces the defense to shift. Diving to the block begins the hi-low action that we are looking for in our offense.

RULE 3: If your post partner dives in front of you - you, the other post player mush flash to the high post.

WHY? This action, the "dive and flash" is the foundation of the hi-low offense.

RULE 4: Post partners must work vertically and not horizontally.

WHY? We want the ball being entered to the low block from the high post and by the other post player not posting up. We find that having the second post player make the entry pass makes it much harder for defenses to double team and forces them to defend your post one on one.

RULE 5: When the ball gets reversed from the strong side to the weak side, the side with two guards must interchange and/or screen for each other.

WHY? This occupies their defenders and doesn't give those defenders the opportunity to drop off and double team the low post.

RULE 6: The "lonely" guard works corner to wing NOT wing to swing. *The swing is the lane line extended just off the top of the key.

WHY? The more room the high post has to work near the top of the key the better, especially since he may not be extremely comfortable out there in the first place. Having the guard work lower on the floor gives the high post the option of driving if his defender tries to put extreme pressure on him in order to eliminate the hi-low pass inside.

Following these specific rules has really helped my players get in the right spots so we can run our offense more effectively. If you happen to run the hi-low try these rules and see if they don't help your team as well. If you do not run the hi-low offense, I highly suggest you sit down with your staff and create your own rules for spacing. I can promise you'll be glad you did!

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