Out of Bounds Plays

Notice: This article was written by Steve Jordan, Coach's Notebook. Email the author at sjordan@alaskalife.net.

It really pays to be prepared for events that repeat themselves throughout the game. The most common event is inbounding the ball, either from the baseline or the sideline. It seems logical then, that if your is team is expert at not only bringing the ball into play safely, but also knows how to score from out of bounds, you will have a significant advantage over an opponent who is not so prepared. As a rule, out of bounds plays are simple, quick and from a basic setup, can produce several varying shot attempts. Do not be tempted to put several out of bounds plays into your play set all at once. Learn one or two very well.

For sideline out of bound plays, see Side Line OB Plays.

BLOB - Base Line Out of Bounds (under your basket)

When a team receives the ball under the opponent's basket, they have a unique opportunity to score. After all, isn't the point of offensive patterns to get the ball in an advantageous shooting position? In this situation, the ball is already there. Most teams, however, are content to just pass the ball in to an open player. The reason that player is open is because he is not a threat, so throwing him the ball doesn't gain anything unless the five second limitation is about to expire. If you have any doubt about the value of a well executed OB play that culminates in a basket, take the time to count the number of times that situation presents itself in a game and then look at the average game scores. In our Advanced Skills youth leagues, for instance, the scores range from 35 to 55 points per team (32 minute running clock). Shot chart records showed that we were scoring 4-5 baskets per game off our standard OB play. It is fair to say that 20% of our offense was generated from a single situation that represented a grand total of 10 - 15 seconds of game time. If you can learn just one OB play that is designed to score, it may likely mean the difference in whether you win or lose. Here are a couple to try. There are many, many more on other basketball sites.

If the plays do not work, examine their execution very carefully rather than crediting the defense with knowing the play and disrupting it. Usually the reason for failure is either poor screening or the intended beneficiary of the screen leaving before it is established. Secret code words are not necessary. Just run the plays properly and they will work. Offensive has first strike advantage. The defense must react and therefore it is vulnerable.

Pick a Competent Passer A critical point is to choose a competent passer to initiate any in-bounds play. This skill does not receive the recognition it deserves. Many teams just designate the #4 player to throw the ball in-bounds, regardless of the player's passing ability. The player's position or size is not important. What really counts is the passer's ability to do two things, trigger the offensive movement and, using mis-direction and timing, put the ball in the shooter's hands in such a way that the shot can be launched quickly. An in-bounds pass that is late or hits the big post player in the foot is nothing but a turnover.

Many players have a hard time triggering the offensive play. The first problem is ambiguous communication. The play must be called out clearly. The passer must be sure everyone understands what play is about to take place and that everyone is in the correct spot. If they are not set up properly, the passer must be very decisive and correct the situation if there is time. If there is any confusion, the play will not work. The second problem is signaling when the play is to start. Some passers call the play then immediately slap the ball before the players are really set. The result is that everyone starts moving at a different time. They answer is to clearly call the play, pause and make eye contact with everyone, spread the hands apart slowly, then predictably and authoritatively slap the ball (or other cue if you prefer). The passer may also shout "Go!" at the moment the ball is struck. That way there is no doubt when to start the play. It doesn't matter that the defense knows when the play begins. They still need to react to the offensive players' movements.

The passer knows where the ball will be thrown, so there is no need to stare at the target. Look elsewhere, using peripheral vision to track the intended recipient.

Timing is key. The moment to pass the ball to a player that is screening is right when he is turning to face the ball and seal out the defender. Pass the instant he begins to rotate to the ball. Do not wait until the target is facing the ball to throw it in. That is all the delay the defense needs to break up the play. Once the target turns to face the basket, the ball should already be on the way. Practice will refine the timing.

Out of Bound Plays usually start from either a box formation or a stack formation. Here are some examples. Feel free to experiment and adjust to suit your team.

Box Plays

Box Low
This is the most successful play my teams have learned. Once the players understand the timing and execution, it almost always results in a close shot at the basket or a trip to the foul line for two free throws. The screen seal and pass timing are the critical points to perfect.
  1. The post player nearest the ball is the one to break and set a screen for the other low post player. As soon as the other post player cuts around the screen and contact is made with his defenseman, the screener must pivot 180 degrees and seal out that defensive player from the inbounding pass. The passer throws the ball as the post player is beginning his pivot. This is the first option.
  2. The post player furthest from the ball MUST wait until the screen is set. The most common error is for both post players to break at the same time. Once the screen is set, the far post player cuts around the screen and looks for a pass (second option).
  3. The two outside players simply cross to the other's wing position and look for a pass. This is the third option and usually does not result in a shot, but may be the best recourse if the inside play breaks down.

oblow.gif (1448 bytes)

Box High
This is an efficient alternative to the box low. It sets up the same, but creates an entirely different shot. The most common result is a short range jumper in the key.
  1. The post player nearest the ball is the one to break and set a screen for the guard near the top of the key. As soon as the guard cuts around the screen and contact is made with his defenseman, the screener must pivot 180 degrees and seal out that defensive player from the inbounding pass. The passer throws the ball as the post player is beginning his pivot. This is the first option.
  2. The guard closest to the ball MUST wait until the screen is set. The most common error is for both post players to break at the same time. Once the screen is set, the far post player cuts around the screen and looks for a pass (second option).
  3. The other post player mimics the first, and is the third option after he pivots.
  4. The guard furthest from the ball uses the screen to get a clear path to the right corner of the court. Sometimes this is an open three point opportunity.

obhigh.gif (1512 bytes)

Box Out
This play is super simple and fun for the younger players. But, simple things are often the most efficient, so try this with older players, too. It works, especially against a man to man defense.
  1. The players set up the same as box low and high. But, upon the signal from the passer, each player cuts to the middle of the key forming a tight little knot, then race out to the three point line. The play must be run quickly with sharp changes in direction.
  2. One player is designated to reverse direction after reaching the three point line and go back to the basket. If the turns are done sharply, the defense will be caught by surprise as they try to chase everyone around.

obout.gif (1629 bytes)

Box Wide
This play is dirt-simple and works effectively if you have a player that can score inside.
  1. Have your intended scorer (a big player is the best choice) take the ball out of bounds. On signal, all the players break straight to the sidelines.
  2. The pass goes to the ball-side corner. Practice this pass. If you lead the receiver as he/she goes to the corner, you can escape the defense.
  3. The passer immediately steps in bounds, preferably on the block.
  4. The ball is returned to the passer who turns and shoots. A quick hook shot or power move works good. Usually the passer has a one on one opportunity.
  5. If you cannot get the ball to the corner or the big man, look to the wings. Usually the ball side wing is available.

Stack Plays

The tips offered for the box plays apply here, too. But, with the stack play, it is very important to have the players clear the key after they break. Many times a player will cut to the middle hoping for a shot, then stop and wait. By stopping, the player is not only in the way of his teammate, his defensive counterpart is there, too! Have them cut through the key then go to an open area for a secondary shot option from outside the key. 

Note: My plays often show my #1 in-bounding the ball. The person that should throw in the ball is your BEST in-bound passer. Do not under estimate the value of this skill. Too many times the coach or the players say "This play doesn't work!" when the real problem is that the in-bounder isn't deceptive enough. If you have a good passer besides the #1, move the players around in the configuration as you see fit.

Stack Play 1

Stack plays are simple. This one is pretty standard, but points out an easy surprise finish. Note that on a stack play, the players line up on the ball side.

1. 2 goes left to corner
2. 3 cuts through key, then to far corner
3. 4 sets a screen for 5. 4 should seal this defender as long as possible.
4. 5 rubs man off on 4's screen and goes to the hole (best option)
5. If 5 not open look for 2 or 3.

Instead of shooting a jumper from the corners, give the in-bounder a chance to sneak in the key. Often this player is forgotten and may be wide open.

Stack Play 2
Contributed by Keith Crowther

1. On break, 4 sweeps across key to opposite block
2. 2 pops out to corner area
3. 1 pops up to free throw line
4. 5 sweeps down to ball-side block.

You want to hit 5 or 4 for lay-ins. You may also hit 1 or 2 for quick jumper. 3 cuts to opposite corner area after passing ball in. i.e pass to 1 hit 3 cutting in for quick jumper (zone).