High-Low: Guard to Wing From John Wooden's UCLA Offense
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John Wooden's UCLA Offense

Book Excerpt - High-Low: Guard to Wing*

From John Wooden's UCLA Offense by John Wooden, Swen Nater

After the Alcindor years, UCLA returned to the high-post attack with Lewis’ backup, Steve Patterson, at the center position. Although Steve was very capable of playing in the high-low set, we opted for the high-post offense to make full use of our talented forward tandem, Sidney Wicks and Curtis Rowe. The result was two more NCAA championships, bringing the total to five in a row.

At that point, Bill Walton, Keith Wilkes, and Greg Lee had just completed their freshman year and were ready to step up to varsity competition. Larry Farmer, a junior, and Henry Bibby, a senior, completed the starting five for that 1971 to 1972 season.

Had Walton been effective only at the low post, the choice of offense would have been rather simple. We would have run the high-low offense as we did with Alcindor. But Bill had a different set of skills; he was effective as both a passer and a shooter anywhere in the high post along the free throw lane. So we allowed him a bit more freedom to create scoring opportunities farther away from the basket than had been the case with Alcindor.

Also, the talents of forward Keith Wilkes afforded even more opportunities for flexibility and extensions. Both cunning and quick in the high-post area, Wilkes allowed those Bruin teams to run options on the side away from the low-post player. Yes, the guard to high post was still the main play, but it was complemented by an attack away from Walton’s side of the court, which created additional opportunities to get Bill the ball.

Base Play

Player 1 passes to 2, who dribbles hard at 4, looking for the backdoor pass. After taking his defender one step farther away from the basket and then reversing hard toward the block, 4 makes a change of pace and change of direction, cutting to the high post (see figure 7.1). Player 1 can immediately cut off 4, who has turned to face the basket to set the screen, or receive a pass from 2, pass it back, and then make the UCLA cut. Either way is acceptable, although the first option is the quickest.

When 1 cuts to the basket, 4 follows him for one step and comes out to receive the ball from 2. Player 5 has faked a baseline cut and moves in front of his man to flash into the key. Player 3 cuts toward the basket and comes back out to keep his man busy and unable to help on 5 (see figure 7.2).

If 5’s defender plays between 5 and the ball, 4 hits 3, who has faked in and come out, and 3 passes to 5, who has sealed his man away from the block to create space for the pass (see figure 7.3). To deliver the pass, 3 fakes down and delivers the quick two-handed overhead pass if his defender’s hands are down. If they are up, he fakes up and makes the one-handed bounce pass so that 5 can catch it on the move to the basket. Player 3 must be aware of sagging weak-side defenders who are trained to anticipate the pass and make the steal.

After passing to 3, 4 cuts down the lane, calling for the ball. If his defender stops to help on 5, he could be open for a pass from 3. Player 4 continues toward the block, where he turns his backside toward the baseline and sets a screen for 1 (see figure 7.4). Player 1 has set up his man by faking into the key and coming around the block to the high post. In these down screening situations, players must avoid offensive screening fouls. Timing is critical and is chiefly the responsibility of the player for whom the screen is being set. Player 2 takes the weak side but is conscious of being the protector if a shot is taken.

After the UCLA cut and the pass to 4, 4 looks for 5 on the flash move in the key. Player 2 cuts to the block, turns his back to the basket, and sets a screen for 1 to come out to the wing for the jump shot. After passing to 1, 4 takes one step toward the sideline and cuts down the lane, calling for the ball. Player 4 then screens for 5, who replaces him at the strong-side elbow (see figure 7.5). If 1 takes the shot, 5, 4, and 1 are inside rebounders, 2 is the long rebounder, and 3 is the protector.

* To reprint this excerpt with permission from Human Kinetics Publishers, Inc., please contact the publicity department at 1-800-747-4457 or publicity@hkusa.com.

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