Small-Sided Game: Swing and Attack

by Paul Cortes
Head JV Boys Coach, Jewish Community High School of the Bay
Youth Basketball Coach, San Francisco Recreation and Parks Department
AAU Coach, Bay City Basketball

I have a lot of different small-sided games and competitive drills that I like to use with my teams. Most of them are ones that I’ve stolen from other coaches, but here’s one that I created myself to work on reversing the ball into a 1v1 situation.

We tell players to reverse the ball all the time, and it’s important for players to see how this can lead to a scoring opportunity. Reversing the ball shifts the defense from one side to the other side, and if done quickly, can create the advantage of a long close-out that allows the wing to attack space on the catch

B Swing and Attack f1 copy

Begin by placing a line at the wing and giving the first player in line the ball. X3 is in a weak-side help position, playing off his man (3). 1 and 2 are stationary passers. 1 passes the ball to 2, who then swings it to 3. 3 and x3 play 1-on-1. Play until a score or stop.

B Swing and Attack F2

After a score or stop, players rotate to the next spot. The winner moves to the wing and becomes the next offensive player. The loser goes to the end of the line. 2 becomes the next defender, 1 moves to the top of the key, and the next player in line is given the ball.

Swing and Attack F3

x3 also has the option of trying to steal the pass from 2 to 3. If x3 shoots the gap and plays the passing lane, counter with a back-cut. If the pass is stolen or thrown out of bounds, x3 moves to offense, both 2 and 3 move to the end of the line, and everyone else moves up to the next spot.

The first thing that this drill trains is passing. Our goal here is to get the ball to 3 as quickly as possible, whether it’s a quick swing if he’s open at the wing, or a quick pass inside on the backdoor cut. If the defender is far enough away, the quick direct pass is available. If the defender is shooting the gap hard to take away the direct pass, 3 times a backdoor cut to try to get the layup. Both the passer and pass receiver must read the defender and each other in order to successfully complete a pass to a place where the pass receiver has an advantage.

We’re also working on the ability to catch the ball with the intent to score. On the direct pass, the scorer develops the ability to read whether he can get his shot off successfully or whether he can drive right by the closing defender. Whatever the decision, it should be made immediately while the defender is closing out. There’s nothing that kills offensive flow like catching the ball, letting your defender close out from afar, and then trying to set him up for triple-threat moves. The action of shooting or driving is most open on the catch.

Of course, great shooters are more inclined to shoot and slashers are more inclined to drive—what is right for one player might not be right for another. The same is true on the backdoor cut. The proximity and angle of the defender determines the type of finish. This type of drill is effective because it doesn’t mindlessly prescribe a one-size-fits-all solution. The scorer determines the best way to score according to the pass, the defender, the space, and his own constraints (body type, skillset, preferences, etc.)

It’s up the passer to deliver the ball so that the pass receiver is in a position to score. It’s up to the pass receiver to take advantage of the pass and turn it into a high-percentage shot. Of course, the defender is trying to his best to disrupt and get a defensive stop. When we put all of this together, we see that there are a lot of decision-making components involved that young players struggle with and need to learn. When passers and pass receivers aren’t on the same page, turnovers and contested shots occur. When passers and pass receivers learn to get on the same page, turnovers and contested shots turn into assists and made baskets.


4 thoughts on “Small-Sided Game: Swing and Attack

  • Yes, while incorporating the concept of swinging the ball and also adding a decision-making element on the 2nd pass

  • Great game. Ive been playing this game with my kids for years. If shot isn’t there, on drive you get 2 dribbles max unless you change directions which gives you a 3rd dribble if needed. Id rather get 25 shots like this than 100 with no one guarding me.

  • I agree. Quality over quantity, right? I used to have a dribble limit, but I stopped using it because I don’t want them counting dribbles but rather focusing on keeping the advantage. Don’t give up the advantage, say driving past the defender but then inexplicably pulling back and allowing the defender back in front. When I explain to them that I want them to attack and capitalize immediately on the attack, the # of dribbles takes care of itself. This way they’re focusing on the action itself instead of the dribble limit rule.

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