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Post Play in Basketball: How to Coach Your Post Players

Developing Post Play in Basketball


Having successful post play in basketball is a commodity that many teams do not benefit from. Many post players develop their game at later stages in their basketball careers. Coaches that can find ways to receive production from their post players will benefit from getting higher percentage shots, shoot more foul shots, and get perimeter players open.

Post players such as Anderson Varejao and Marcin Gortat began their careers as role players. Through continual post player development and understanding of their jobs, they have blossomed into highly productive post players. The following ideas can be applied to post players at any level and are the building blocks that can help a post player increase their production regardless of skill set.


Get Open to Receive the Basketball

This can be a daunting task for a post player, especially one that garners a lot of attention from opposing defenses. There are several ways a post player can get open during the course of a basketball game. As a post player, you want to get your work done before you catch the ball, and these are all ways to work the post.


Running the Floor in Transition

Running the floor in transition is the easiest way for a post player to get open. We have a general rule that post players must get two lay-ups a game from running the floor. This is generally the best way that a skinny/athletic post player can help a team if they cannot be a force in the low post. A post player that runs hard consistently will get easy looks as the defense fatigues and will also help other players get scoring opportunities in transition.


Making Contact in the Post

Making contact in the post is generally the most common way a post player gets open. Sealing the defense allows post players to take up space and create angles to make scoring opportunities easy. We teach our post players to run rim-to-rim and seal the first man down. Too often do post players run outside the lane or block-to-block. Getting your work done before the catch means that you are working for a deep post position.

Obtaining a two-footed paint catch allows you to score without a dribble and without a double-team. A one-footed paint catch forces you to use a dribble and can draw a double team. An outside-of-the-paint catch forces you to use multiple dribbles and does not allow for effective offensive floor spacing.


Being a Screener

Being a screener is a necessary role for many under-developed post players to fill. On a team with talented guards, a post player who cannot create a shot needs to play off of the screens they set for the guards. Post players that can get others open fill a role on their team; granted, they can defend and rebound.


Receiving a Screen

Receiving a screen helps post players create angles that they might not be able to create through sealing in the post. Back screens and cross screens are the two most common screens that a post player will receive to obtain a good posting position. The most important thing that a post player can learn when receiving a screen is that they must come off the screen and immediately seal for positioning. Post players often come off screens and continue their cut outside of the paint rather than coming off the screen and finding a defender to start sealing.


Rebounding the Basketball

Rebounding the basketball is the one skill that takes place on both the offensive and defensive side of the floor and can allow a post player to play even if they do not possess any other skills. A post players’ mentality should be that every shot taken is a pass into the post. On offense, a post player must read the angle of the shot, roll to the weak-side of the rebound, and get to an open gap to increase their chances of obtaining the offensive rebound.

An under-athletic post player can be a great rebounder if they follow these steps and actively pursue every shot that is taken. We discuss the NBA’s 30-60-80 rule with our team to emphasize rebounding. In the NBA, the first shot of a possession has a 30% chance of going in. If a team gets an offensive rebound, the percentage jumps to 60%. And if a team gets a second offensive rebound, the shot will go in 80% of the time.


Stay Open to Recieve the Basketball

Once you have gotten open in the post, it is your job to stay open. As a post player in basketball, you have to understand that there are multiple times throughout the course of the game that the ball might not see you. Guards might not look into the post, or there might be a great deal of pressure on the ball that an entry pass cannot be made safely to the post. Continual sealing throughout the course of a possession is necessary to stay open and create better scoring angles in the post.

A post player’s only movement should be to get more of the defense. Therefore if the ball reverses, the post player should continue to seal the defense and not follow the ball block-to-block. Post players should know which side/block is their favorite to work from. A general rule is that post players should spend 80% of their time on their favorite block. As Coach Rick Majerus used to eloquently put it, “if a post player doesn’t know what their favorite side is, they stink on both sides.”


Catch the Basketball Safely

A crucial part of being a good offensive post player is the ability to catch entry passes from guards. If guards are not confident that the post will catch the pass, they will not attempt to feed. Catching the ball with two hands, chinning the ball, and checking the middle is the progression a post player should go through to prevent turnovers from occurring.

A post player should show their “numbers” to the ball (the numbers on the front of their jersey being seen by the ball allows for a safe passing lane) and always remember that possession is more important than position. Despite a great two-footed paint seal, if an entry pass is outside of the post player’s area, they must release the seal and safely acquire possession.


Score the Basketball as Simply as Possible

An effective post player in basketball has the ability to score the ball in a simple manner. Post players that need to use multiple dribbles and a multitude of moves will draw double-teams and prove to be less effective over the course of a game/season. Simplicity also means that a post player shoots 60%+ from the floor and 70%+ from the foul line.

When a post player shoots a poor percentage from the floor, they are not getting good post positioning, trying to score through double teams (not getting their work done before their catch), or shooting bad shots. Bad shots are either post moves that the post player does not work on enough or shots from their least favorite side of the floor.

The four basic shots that a post player needs to be successful are:


Power Shot

A power shot is a basic two-footed lay-up that can be made with either hand on either side of the basket is sometimes the only post move needed to be successful. A post player should seldom use one-footed lay-ups since these shots are unsuccessful in traffic and will not result in many 3-point play opportunities. Post players seldom appreciate the importance of this shot, and it is neglected in individual work. Continually working on power shots is important as a post player. Making these shots ‘clean’, off the glass with no rim, is a requirement in our individual and team workouts. Players that try to dunk every shot in practice don’t understand that they need to be able to refine a shot that is going to be taken in traffic with a likelihood of being fouled.


Have Go-To Basketball Move

We define a go-to move as the move that everyone in the gym knows you are going to make, yet you can still get to it. This is through countless hours of repetition of the move at a game speed. Kareem had the sky-hook, Duncan has the face-up, Shaq had the dunk; every post player’s go-to move will be unique. We teach and work on the jump-hook basketball move with all of our post players. This is a move that can deliver a great deal of success once mastered.


Have a Counter Move

A counter move is a move that you use when your go-to is taken away. Defenses will eventually sit on a post player’s favorite shoulder and take away their ability to get to a specific move. Developing a counter move allows you to play the new angles that the defense has given you in their efforts to take your go-to away. We prefer the double-drop basketball post move since it results in a high percentage lay-up if executed properly. A turn-around jump shot, up and under, and fade-away are other counter moves that post players can use, but these shots do not result in the high percentage lay-up that an effective double drop results in.

Be Able to Make Free-Throws

A basketball post player that cannot successfully shoot foul shots demoralizes your offense since they will be fouled frequently, equating in empty possessions, be unable to complete 3-point plays, and be a liability in late-game situations. Shooting 70% from the foul line should be the minimum goal of a post player. Incorporating free-throws in practice during periods of fatigue and with pressure can help a post player get quality free-throw repetitions.



Coaching Basketball Post Play


Coaching Basketball Post Play

Jason Eaker contributed to this portion of the article.


How many times as a basketball coach or a player have you walked into a gym to watch a workout with post players and seen a coach throwing the ball into the post player and seeing him show off his array of post moves? From a jump hook to an up-and-under, coaches have spent way too much time over the years on these small skills that very rarely happen in a Division 1 basketball game.

Before a young post player in basketball can ever start showing off the skills of a Kevin McKale or a Tim Duncan with a wide variety of post moves, he must be able to catch and finish around the rim when guards penetrate and pass them the ball.


Practice Game Like Scenarios

As a basketball coaching staff here at Liberty University, we try to put our bigger players in workouts that are very game-like. As you develop your basketball training for your bigs, try to match your workouts with what is actually happening during games. We try and explain and drill into our post players’ heads that guards will throw them bad and unexpected passes all the time. In all of the basketball drills that we do, we constantly force our bigs to have their hands up even as they move around.


BANG BANG Basketball Moves

Basketball is a BANG BANG sport for post players. A quick drive by your point guard who will try and deliver a quick pass to a big man are plays that will either help your team win or be that small margin of a loss. Those Bang-Bang plays between guards and bigs are a big part of basketball your season. If your post players can catch passes around the basket and quickly finish with a high success rate, your basketball team will be that much more dangerous on the offensive end.

As you read, think about your own team and think back to your last game. How many times did your guards enter the ball to a big on an isolation play, and you and your opponent let him play one on one basketball? In our studies of our games over the years at Liberty, not very many possessions play out in that way. But on the flip side, how many times did your guards drive the lane and throw some sort of pass to a big man around the basket?

We began to ask ourselves as coaches why we are not working on that more in our basketball workouts with our post players. We spend over half of our time with our bigger players putting them around the basket or cutting to the basket in an open area, trying to catch hard and difficult passes by our coaches and managers. We want our bigger players to try and catch 30-50 hard and difficult passes each day in a practice session.



Teach Reaction to Your Post Players

Good basketball post players can react with their feet and have the proper reaction when a pass comes their way to catch and finish a play near the basket. If your post players’ careers really are defined at times by how well their hands can react to the action, why not make it a big part of what you do daily with your basketball team?



Basketball Post Play: Playing with Poise


Basketball Post Play: Playing with Poise


As basketball coaches, we all know how important it is to be able to throw the ball inside and be able to score easy baskets. We have all watched the great ones of our time: Tim Duncan, Kevin Garnett, and Shaquille O’Neil, and know what the final product looks like. But we all also know that it takes time for post players to develop into a “dominant post presence” that demands a double team. Let’s take a few minutes to talk about the process of taking the post players in our program from where they are today and turning them into players that not only know what playing with poise in the post looks like but are also able to do it.


PHILOSOPHY – What does a dominant post player look like in your system?

It is important to ask this question at every level of basketball as we begin to work towards developing a dominant post player. At the college basketball level (unlike high school), we can recruit players who fit the system. However, when they step on campus, their post-development officially begins, and we must identify the skill sets required at every position.

We all are trying to prepare our players to play at the next level, but it is also imperative to prepare them to succeed in our program. Are you going to play fast, are you going to pound the ball inside, are you going to look for a lot of moving post-ups, etc.

The philosophy you want to use here is “Defend, rebound and run the ball down people’s throat,” and wanting to “Play fast, but organized” will shape the plan as we aim to develop this needed “poise” in the post.


PLAN – How does each player read and react to each game situation within the team concept?

In our skill development program (which we will get to later), our post players will have the opportunity to work on becoming true basketball players: being able to dribble, pass, and shoot. But at the same time, we will be working on situations that our post players will find themselves in within our offensive philosophy.

Offensively, we want to out-run our opponent in the first three steps and score in transition. To do so, we have to be in excellent physical condition and buy into playing at a high level of energy. If we do not score in our primary or secondary break, our goal in the half-court is to get “two feet in the paint” and score!

When we do get “two feet in the paint,” we teach that this is a time to be aggressive and look to score by executing a jump hook. This is our “bread and butter!” The defender’s location will determine which way to go. If the defender is directly behind, we teach them to “dump the bucket” and try to move him to get a clean read. When executed properly, the jump hook is impossible to block.

In order to get two feet in the paint, our post players must know how to get open. How to get open can often be overlooked, but the footwork and timing are often the difference between whether you score or not. It is important to teach how to get open on several areas of the floor, depending on the ball’s location and the location of their defender. Just as much attention should be spent on “before the catch” as “on the catch.”

On the catch, we teach a progression of post moves from each spot that we drill in our individual workouts. It is important that when they do not have “two feet in the paint,” that they “chin and check the middle.” This will slow them down and allow them to take a picture of the game.

With our post cut action, playing slow is critical. It is our goal that each of our players understands what our plan is. If we can’t get two feet in the paint and we get a post touch, we want to “attack the mid-line” in a progression of reads and moves while looking to make a scoring play for themselves or their teammates using a minimal number of dribbles.

In every situation, the plan in the post is clear and has been drilled over and over again in basketball workouts and in practice.



PREPARATION – How will you prepare each player to be successful in your system?

Our plan in the post is only as effective as how prepared our players are in the execution phase. To play with poise in the post, each player will have gone through our pre-season individual instruction program in which every skill is gone over in various basketball drills at a game like speed over and over again.

In our basketball training, as coaches, we coach in sound bites and speak “our language” so that we can communicate and correct as quickly as possible. “Play low to high,” “Work the U,” “No gaps,” “Catch on two,” “Possession over position” are a few of the things that you would hear over and over again in one of our basketball post workouts.

During this time, we begin to focus our attention on the individual player and determine a go-to move and a counter. In addition to spending time on ball-handling, shooting, footwork, passing, rebounding, free throws, and conditioning, we spend a lot of time in our workouts attacking each player’s deficiencies during this time. This is also how we continue developing our overall basketball skills set to prepare them to play at the next level.

During the preparation stage, basketball post move drills are the first step in the teaching process, but it is important to also play a lot of one on one on the block, in the mid-post, at the foul line, at the elbows, at the trail spot, in the short corners, etc. In our offensive system, our post players will be expected to be able to make a basketball move in these locations on the floor.

Our number one priority as basketball coaches should be to put our players in the best possible situation to be successful. In the post, confidence, comfort, and success directly result from “playing with poise.” “Poise” in the post comes from knowing the philosophy, understanding the plan, and being confident in the preparation!


8 Keys to Basketball Post Player Development


8 Keys to Basketball Post Player Development

Brian Benator contributed to this portion of the article.


While the game of basketball has changed and evolved over the years to become more spread out offensively, I am a firm believer in having a strong inside presence that can take the pressure off outside shooters. Having a low post scoring threat is key to a balanced offensive attack in basketball. Here are some key concepts that I think are paramount in basketball post player development.


Run, Run, and Run

More and more basketball teams want to play an up-tempo style, so it is essential to be in great shape and be a good runner. Whether you are a longer 6’8” and 215 pounds or a bulkier 6’5” and 240 pounds, you need to be able to run the floor. You will be a rim runner most of the time, but sometimes you could be filling a lane or running to the trail spot.

Especially on a missed shot, your guards are going to want to push the basketball in transition, so you need to be able to keep pace. Being a great runner should be able to get you anywhere from three to four baskets per game. Think about that for a second. That is anywhere from six to eight points or more just by running hard. That can go a long way in close games.


Keep It Simple

It would be nice to have a Kevin Garnett or Hakeem Olajuwon where you are blessed with a variety of low post moves. It takes those guys hours and hours of gym time to do that. For our basketball post players, I like to keep it relatively simple, at least initially. I want them to master two or three post moves and become nearly unguardable while using those moves.

Every day during our individual basketball workouts and breakdown segments during practice, we focus on three basketball post moves. We work on these from both sides of the floor, so we cannot be scouted easily.

Middle Jump Hook: We work on this with and without a dribble.

Counter Post Move: I don’t specify what their counter can be. It might be a drop-step post-move or an up-and-under post-move. Once we start our workouts, we will try a couple of them out and let the post player decide what he is most comfortable doing. Once he figures that out, we stick with that counter and work to master it.

Turn and Face Jumper: We work on both reverse pivots and front pivots. We’ll also add a jab step to help create additional space.


Expand Your Scoring Range

In today’s game, it is crucial that forwards are more than just a low block scorer. While having an efficient low post scorer is always a significant part of your offense, if you can make perimeter shots and become more versatile, now you have something very potent.

With that said, I do not mean that they must shoot 40% from the 3-point line. We work every day with our forwards on 15-18 foot jumpers. Primarily, we work from the short corners and the elbows.

Those are the areas from which we feel our forwards get a lot of touches and have opportunities to shoot the basketball. We will also work with our forwards on the trail 3-pointer. Again, it is not a shot that we expect them to make at a high clip, but we want them to have it in their game when the opportunity presents itself.


Rebound the Basketball

This one skill will translate no matter what level you play basketball at. Some of the best rebounders in the NBA are not great scorers, but they carve out terrific careers because they are relentless on the glass. One of Pensacola’s own, Reggie Evans, played 13 years in the league and never averaged more than 5.9 points per game. However, he made a long basketball playing career out of being a great rebounder.

Rebounding comes down to positioning and, most importantly, your heart and effort. One of my favorite basketball rebounding drills that we do with our forwards is the “2nd Effort Drill.” This is for offensive rebounding, which again can steal you two to four baskets per game.

I will have a basketball at the free-throw line. Our forwards will start at the elbow. I will shoot off the rim, and they must chase the ball off the glass while one or two managers hit them with a pad at the basket. Once they get the ball off the glass, there are five finishes they must make.

  • Score – Catch go right back up with the ball.
  • Shot Fake and Score – Catch, strong shot fake with your eyes at the rim, and finish.
  • Power Dribble and Reverse – Catch, use a low and strong power dribble to get you to the other side of the rim, and finish.
  • 180 – As you run for the rebound, once you jump to catch the ball, you angle your body to where when you make the catch; your back is now facing the sideline towards the middle of the floor. Once you come down, gather the ball, use your inside foot as your pivot, and step to the rim and score.
  • 360 – Like the 180 finish, as you jump to catch the ball, imagine as if you got pushed off your spot by the opponent. When you catch the ball, you are almost facing the opposite basket. Now establishing your outside foot as your pivot, you turn towards the rim with a shot fake and then step through to a finish. This is the move that our players take a little time figuring out.

I always seem to catch our players scoring a bucket or two per basketball game where they have gotten an offensive rebound and used one of the “2nd Effort Drill” finishes.


Here are a few more basketball rebounding drills that you can use with your players:


Bulldog Basketball Rebounding Drill


David Thorpe Ball High Finish Basketball Rebounding Drill


Superman Basketball Rebounding Drill




Footwork is Critical

Having great footwork can really impact your positioning and how your score around the basket in basketball. Again, we start slow with our footwork basketball drills and keep them simple. We do a lot of jumping rope and ladder drills throughout our pre-season workouts and during our practices.

One of the best centers in NBA history, Hakeem Olajuwon, had arguably the best footwork in basketball. There is a terrific video that we show our forwards during the spring and summer months that shows several drills that can help your footwork in the low post.


Quality Repetitions

I would rather work on a few basketball drills and concepts repeatedly than teach many different moves a few times here and a few times there. We work on the same low-post moves and perimeter basketball shooting drills EVERY DAY.

Yes, sometimes a player may get a little discouraged or bored with doing the same things, but that is what makes great basketball players great. They master their craft to the point where it becomes unguardable. That’s what we strive for with our forwards.


Don’t Forget The Basics

It is important to not forget about the basketball fundamentals that all players need to have. For example, you can have a deep post seal and have a great position to score the ball, but if you can’t catch it, then you lose that opportunity.

You may have snatched a tough rebound and are looking to start your fast break, but if you cannot pass or dribble, you might lose that opportunity. We work on dribbling, passing, and catching the basketball every day with our forwards.

It is so important to be able to have those basic basketball fundamentals. No matter what position you play, you must be able to dribble, pass, and catch.


Ball Screens

Playing off ball screens is all the rage in today’s game. If you watch the NBA and college basketball, so many teams are using ball screens. We work on playing out of ball screens every day. Along with the rest of the things we teach, we keep it relatively simple.

We use a lot of sprint screens in our offense, so anytime we do ball screen work in our breakdown drills, we use a sprint screen. We work mainly on four moves out of the pick and roll.

  • Sprint screen, roll to the rim, finish.
  • Sprint screen, roll to the rim, secondary move – we usually simulate this with a manager acting as weak side help, forcing our forward to catch, use a dribble to make a secondary move and score.
  • Sprint screen, pop to the short corner, jumper.
  • Sprint screen, pop to the shorter corner, shot fake, and drive the rim – we use a manager to simulate weak side help to make the drill more realistic.

Like our low-post basketball moves, we work on these from both sides of the floor.


The Evolution of the Big Man in Basketball


The Evolution of the Big Man in Basketball

Chris Capko contributed to this portion of the article.


Evolution is a part of life. Everything in life evolves, and basketball is no different in this sense. Twenty years ago, big, lumbering post players were a huge part of the game. Growing up, I remember big men like Patrick Ewing, Alonzo Mourning, Hakeem Olajuwon, and David Robinson. In the mid-’90s to early 2000s, Shaq dominated the NBA. A low post scorer was a considerable part of every basketball team’s offense, and most colleges and professional teams were looking for players who could deliver that skill set.

In today’s game, this is not the case, though. I don’t remember when exactly it changed, but seven-footers whose primary skill is scoring with their back to the basket are becoming extinct. Now big men are expected to have a completely different skill set.

The NBA and college basketball are going smaller as people place more of an emphasis on shooting the basketball. Analytics has provided insight on the impact of a three-point-shot as opposed to a two. There is more switching than ever before, and this requires big men who can get out and guard ball handlers.



Evolution means that basketball players must adapt, or they will get left behind. This is why I train my big men differently today. I have not altogether given up on back-to-the-basket moves, but instead, we work on positioning first. What hasn’t gone away is being able to score at the basket. One of the first things I try to develop with big men is getting position and having them catch with two feet in the paint.

When our post players have two feet in the paint, they don’t need a dribble. We want them to be able to turn and go up with either hand. The object is to catch as close to the basket as possible; this allows for no double team or diggers to deter a shot. It all starts with the work that you can do before the ball is entered and your ability to bury the post defender under the basket. With this type of positioning, it should be a finish or foul every time.


Play with a Plan

Basketball is not a perfect game, and sometimes our post players will end up having to receive a catch away from the basket. This is when we teach them to play with a plan. We want our big men to dribble to the midline and read the defense.

We work on two moves; a regular hook shot and a drop step in the event the defense takes away the middle. We want them to be as concise as possible. It is better to have a couple of moves mastered than have multiple moves and counters that cannot be executed with great attention to detail.


Ball Screens

Even in college basketball, ball screens are more prevalent than ever. Big men must be able to screen, roll, and then catch and finish in traffic. We use basketball drills to work on this every day at the University of Southern California. Big men have to be guarded at the rim, so teaching them to roll to the rim is one of the first things they must learn.

Rolling fast and creating separation from their man creates rotations and forces the defense to play out of closeouts. The post player won’t get the ball every time, but their rolling action to the basket is just as important as any component involved with screen-and-roll basketball. We drill, making tough catches and finishing in traffic with both hands daily.


Shooting the Basketball

The better shooter you are, the more spacing you create for your team on the floor. No matter the size today, it will benefit you to be able to shoot the basketball. I am not saying you need to step out and shoot the three-point shot immediately, but I would try and master to the free-throw line.

Unless you are elite at something else, such as DeAndre Jordan, it is challenging to move up in level and shoot 60% or lower from the line. Master being able to shoot from 15 feet and out and, if possible, to the three-point line. Being a threat to shoot the basketball will open up the floor for so much else and keep the defense honest.


Playing in Space

The next part we emphasize with our post players from a coaching standpoint is being able to play in space. For instance, a team is trapping the ball screen. We ask our big men to short roll in these occasions and have our guards get off the ball once they have drawn two men to them. The big man might now be asked to take one or two dribbles and make a play.

That play could be two dribbles and finish at the rim or one dribble and kick out to a shooter. They have to read and determine that, but we try to drill these instances for the moments when they arrive in games. We want all of our basketball players to be able to dribble, pass, and shoot.


Able to Guard

The last part is on the defensive side. Bigs who play at the college level and the select few who will play in the NBA will be asked to defend guards. It might not be for the duration of the shot clock, but at least in late clock situations.

We believe you must devote time in the weight room and on the court to improving foot speed and athleticism. This might not be your team’s philosophy, but good big men will be asked to do this at some point in their career with the way basketball is going.


The Evolution of the Big Man in Basketball Conclusion

This is a different era of basketball, and the game has evolved. Ten years ago, big men were not asked to do all that they are asked to do today. Generally, post players develop later in their basketball life than guards but don’t always get the same level of development.

You must spend time working with your post players and helping them develop into complete basketball players. A talented big guy will always be important to any team. Develop them, have fun with them, and take pride as you see them grow!





2 Responses

  1. Very interested in more!
    17 year old 6’5″ son who weighs 205 . Often pegged as the 5/C in HS. Creative new coach this year. Doing well. But is NOT a college center! Open to any and all skills and drills…
    Great post tips!

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