Glenn Wilkes
Former Head Coach
Stetson University

How often have you had to play a season without a good point guard? How often have you heard other coaches say their team would be good if they just had a good point guard?

There is no question but that it is difficult to field a quality basketball team without a quality point guard-one that can lead the team against good defensive pressure, make good decisions with the ball, have the speed to ignite a team's fast break, put defensive pressure on the opponents point guard, and execute the many other things a good point guard has to do.

What do you do when you are faced with a season without good point guard play? You certainly cannot put a mediocre point guard on the floor and expect him to run your offense and defense like a quality point guard would do. Possibly you have a great offense that you have used for years, but that offense requires a good point guard to "run the show". Then what do you do?

First of all, you must make adjustments to your offense. You cannot run the same plays you have successfully used in the past.

The best adjustment you can make is to have your mediocre point guard "give the ball up early". Most good point guards will dribble the ball into position to initiate an offense regardless of what pressure is faced. Your mediocre point guard must pass the ball to someone else prior to advancing to the center line or just across the center line.

Who should he pass to?

He should pass to either the 2 or 3 man wing player, or he must pass to a post player breaking away from the basket and to a position outside the top of the circle.

The player he passes to must be a reasonably good ball-handler and should be schooled on how you want him to initiate the offense once he receives the ball. Do you want him to have a choice, or do you want him to pass to a specific player or position? Do you want him to penetrate and make decisions depending on the reaction of the defense?

Your 2 player, often another guard, may be given more freedom than your 3 player who is often your small forward.

If the ball is entered to a post player, he should face the basket and pass the ball to another player without dribbling. Few post players can effectively handle the ball away from the basket. They are excellent offensive release players since the defensive post is normally not very good at pressuring the initiating pass; however, few can dribble well and, in this situation, should be taught to keep the ball off the floor and swing the ball to the other side of the floor.

Let's look at the options at each situation.

If the ball is entered to the 2 or 3 player, he could (1) feed the post or (2) dribble into position to make a pass to the other wing, or (3) drive toward the basket looking to draw the defense and then passing to an open player.

If the ball is entered to the 4 or 5 player, he could (1) look to feed the low post or (2) immediately pass to the offside wing player. If the post player has the ability, he could dribble toward a wing player and make a dribble handoff to the wing. Many post players can do this, particularly if they receive daily practice at the skill.

In all of these situations, the offense has been initiated WITHOUT the point guard doing the initiation.

Which would be the best of these players for the point guard to make the "early pass"?

It would depend on (1) the ball-handling ability of the wing or post and (2) the defensive ability of the opponent. If the 2 man is being guarded by a player who can put good defensive pressure, then the mediocre point guard can be trained to make the early pass to the 3 man. This early pass can be made in the backcourt.

If both the 2 and 3 players are being guarded by excellent defenders, then the point guard should enter the ball to the post player being guarded by the weakest defender.

Who receives the first pass from the point guard is not as important as getting the ball out of the point guard's hands BEFORE he has the opportunity to make a mistake.

What if your mediocre point guard is a good shooter? He can give the ball up early, cut hard to the basket, and then come back off a downscreen to get a possible open shot.

What about the fast break? The team can be drilled to pass the ball to the better handler and faster player of the wing players. They can then advance the ball on the break. Or, you can emphasize the "blast out" dribble. The rebounder, instead of making an outlet pass simply advances the ball quickly downcourt on the dribble.

Who receives the first pass from the point guard is not as important as getting the ball out of the point guard's hands BEFORE he has the opportunity to make a mistake.

A point of emphasis. If the decision is made to make the first pass to a 2 or 3 player, that pass can be made before the point guard passes the midcourt line. If the pass is to be made to the post player, the point guard should dribble just across the mid court line and then make his pass to the post.

Another option when you do not have a good point guard is to use a 2-guard front on offense. But this would require another entire article to discuss. Forty years ago, most teams ran a 2-guard front and never relied on a single "point guard". Without a good point guard in today's game, a 2-guard front might be the answer to your season. But to run it, you must know the 2-guard offense! That would prohibit most coaches from running it. (If you'd like to see someone who knows how to run the 2-guard front offense, look at Uconn's women's team under Gino Auriemma. They do it to perfection and coaches can learn a great deal from their execution.