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Princeton OffenseBy Ernie Woods"Nothing creates more problems for the defense than movement." The Princeton offense is not really an offense at all in the true sense, but rather an unstructured style of play. Very similar to the Passing Game offense, rather than relying upon executing a set pattern or play, the Princeton Offense relies purely on constant motion and specific counter actions based on defensive reads to create open shot opportunities with the classic backdoor cut for an easy basket being its signature option. Developed and popularized over the years by Pete Carril, all five players are totally involved in the offense at all times. This is why it is so enjoyable to watch and coach. Since the Princeton offense is a team oriented offense, it provides for a maximum effort within the limits of a team's athleticism. It does require players that can shoot well from the outside, pass and drive with either hand, and possess good court savvy. In addition, all players must develop an unselfish attitude and work hard to create open shots opportunities for their teammates. This is accomplished by having patience and controlling the ball. Because of this constant player movement superior physical conditioning is a very important ingredient to its success.
One of the nice things about the Princeton offense is that it is very flexible in that it can be initiated with almost any type of entry. It can be ran out of a variety of alignments, and can be adaptable to most offensive schemes. The Princeton Offense spreads the court by keeping everyone above the free throw line except for basket cuts. This high alignment not only forces the defense to defend the entire court, but it also eliminates any weakside defensive help.
Princeton Offense - Basic Continuity
The Princeton Offense normally starts out in a 2-3 high post alignment. Basic action is begins on either side of the court by executing any one of the various pass or dribble entries available. Phase two consists of a series of exchanges and/or down screens. In Phase three, is initated with the high post making a basket cut. Phase one repeats with post flashing to the middle for possible backdoor action. If/when the backdoor is not available, the basic action continues by flowing directly into another entry.
Phase 1. Entry (High Post Set)The Prince Offense entries are automatic, and are triggered according to the ballhandler's pass or dribble. On a pass to wing the ball handler makes a "Give & Go" The guard to guard pass keys an off guard shuffle or Hawk cut. A post pass initiates high post split action. Dribble entries include mid screen, dribble clear, and dribble weave options.
Hawk Entry Ballhandler O1 passes to O2 and makes a rubs off O5. O1 passes to O4 and cuts to basket. O4 looks to feed O1 or O2 if o2's defender X2 loses vision on the ball.
Mid Screen Entry O2 clears to opposite corner as ballhandler O1 drives off O5's high post screen. O1 has option or turning the corner and driving to the basket or passing to wing o4 and cutting to the basket.
UCLA Entry Strongside guard O1 makes a wing entry pass to O4 and rubs off O5s high post screen to basket. Note: O1 also has option of making a direct "Give & Go" cut to basket.
Dribble Clear Entry O1 dribbles clears wing O4. O1 looks to feed O4 on back cut to basket or post up.
High Post Entry Ball handler O1 passes to high post O5. O1 and O2 cut directly to basket looking for possible feed from O5.
Weave Entry Against a sagging defense, O1 dribbles directly toward wing O4's defender and then makes a short pass out to O4 moving out. In most cases, in the Princeton Offense's weave action, short kick out passes are used instead of dribble handoffs.
Phase 2. Exchanges (No Post Set)Exchanges and constant ball movement are the heart of the offense. This phase is where the majority of ball control takes place. This constant motion sets up the open backcuts and " Give & Go" cuts which are the trademarks of the Princeton Offense.
Wing Exchanges If O4 does not pass to O1, O4 makes a reversal pass out to O5. Wings O3 and O4 then exchange with O1 and O2. O5 looks to feed O1 or O2 for an open shot. Note: O5 should be alert to pass to either O3 or O4 on a basket cut anytime their defender loses vision on the ball.
Down Screens On pass out to O5, O3 and O4 have option of setting down screens with O1 and O2 rather than exchanging. After screening O3 and O4 pop out to keep middle open.
Back Cuts On O4s pass out to O5, any time O1 or O2 are overplayed or the defense anticipates the exchange, O1 and O2 have the option of back cutting to the basket rather than coming off a down screen or exchanging.
Base Cross If not open on basket cuts, O1 and O2 have option of crossing under the basket. This is especially effective on the high post entry. Note: O1 and O2 also have the option of faking the cross and popping out directly off of O3's and O4's down screens.
Post Back Cut Any time the pass out to O5 is overplayed or denied, O5 quickly back cuts to basket for shot
Post 1-on-1 Isolation O5 always has green light to drive hard to the basket when O5 can beat the defender. O5 also has an open shot opportunity if the defender sags off.
Phase 3. Post Action (Low Post Set)Anytime the high post makes a basket cut, the offense flows into a four out low post alignment. However, because of a lack of dominate post players, post ups have the tendency to be more for kick out passes to outside shooters than they are for scoring. The post flashes into middle looking for possible backdoor action if/when they do not receive ball on post up.
Post Basket Cut When O5 passes to either wing, O5 cuts to the basket anticipating a pass from O2 or O3 when the defender X5 loses vision of ball. If O5 does not receive ball on basket cut, O5 posts up.
Post Up 03 looks to feed 05 isolated 1-on-1 in low post area. O5 has option of scoring or making a kick out skip pass to O1 or O2 or O4 spotting up for outside shots..
Backdoor Action When O5 does not receive ball on post up, O2 dribbles out for spacing and O5 flashes into middle. If/when O1 or O2 passes to O5 on flash, O5 looks to feed O3 or O4 on back cuts to basket.
Post Lob Any time defender X5 denies O5 flash cut into the middle, O5 back cuts to the basket for possible over the top lob pass.
Continuity - Back to Phase 1.If/when post O5 does not receive pass on flash to middle, the Princeton Offense flow directly back into any of the phase 1 entries determined by the defensive deployment.
Princeton Offense - EntriesOne of the nice things about the Princeton offense is that it is very flexible in that it can be initiated with almost any type of entry. The various entry cuts are predicated automatically by the ballhandler's entry pass or dribble clear. The off guard (Hawk) and high post rub (UCLA) are the most commonly used entries to initiate the offense; however, recently, the Mid Screen entry is becoming the entry of choice. All entries can be ran equally on both sides of the floor. Entries: | Hawk | UCLA | Mid Screen | Dribble Clear | Zipper | High Post |
Hawk Entry - Weakside Guard Rub
Ballhandler O1 passes to O2 and rubs off O5's high post screen to basket. O2 passes to wing O4 and cuts to opposite corner.
If O1 is not open on basket cut or post up, 04 passes out to O5 initiating wing exchanges or down screens.
UCLA Entry - Strongside Guard Rub or Basket Cut
Strongside guard O1 makes a wing entry pass to O4 and rubs off O5s high post screen to basket. Note: O1 also has option of making a direct "Give & Go" cut to basket.
If/when O4 cannot pass to O1, O4 makes a reversal pass out to O5 initiating wing exchanges or down screen action.
Mid Screen Entry
O2 clears to opposite corner as ballhandler O1 drives off O5's high post screen. O1 has option or turning the corner and driving to the basket or passing to wing o4 and cutting to the basket.
If/when O4 cannot pass to O1, O4 makes a reversal pass out to O5 initiating wing exchanges or down screens.
Dribble Clear Entry - Strongside Wing
O1 dribbles clears wing O4. O1 looks to feed O4 on back cut to basket or post up.
If wing o4 is not open, 01 makes a reversal pass out to O5 initiating wing exchanges or down screen action.
Zipper Entry - Wing Loop
O1 dribble clears wing O4 as high post O5 rolls down to set a down screen. O1 looks to feed O4 popping out or O5 posting up against a smaller defender if the defense switches.
If defender X4 should over play and deny the passing lane, O4 immediately back cuts to basket for an over the top lob pass from O1.
High Post Entry
Ball handler O1 passes to high post O5. O1 and O2 cut directly to basket looking for possible feed from O5.
If not open on basket cuts, O3 and O4 set down screens for O1 and O2 crossing under the basket. Note: O1 and O2 have option of faking the cross and popping out directly off of O3's and O4's down screens.
The Princeton offense is adaptable to attacking any type of defenses. Most opponent game plans include playing aggressively and extending defensive pressure in effort to disrupt and speed up game tempo; however, with the middle of the court wide open, this plays right into the hands of the Princeton Offense which is loaded with back cut reads. The real strength of Princeton Offense, strong outside shooting along with offensive patience, will punish any team that elects to play a sagging man to man or zone defense.
Tempo and Passing SkillsIn controlling tempo, it is imperative to have patience and make the defense work and wear down. This usually means walking the ball up the floor; however, at the same time, being alert to take full a