Offensive Strategy for the 3-Point Shot
Glenn Wilkes
Former Stetson University Head Coach

     At the outset a coach must determine how much emphasis he will place on the 3-point shot.  There are many extremes used in college basketball and a coach must consider his 
own personal coaching philosophy and the type of player he has before deciding what emphasis he will place on the shot. Will players be encouraged to take a lot of 3-pointers or will the emphasis still be on the inside-out game? The emphasis that will be placed on the 3-point shot will depend a great deal on the quality of 3-point shooters on the team. Obviously, a team with several good 3-point shooters will place more emphasis on the shot than a team with few 3-point shooters. 

Some interesting statistics regarding the 3-point shot:

     As a coach analyzes how much he will shoot the 3-point shot, he should keep the following statistic in mind: 


    Another statistic that is important involves offensive rebounding. The 3-point shot increases a team’s opportunities for the offensive rebound simply because the 3-point shot attempt tends to rebound longer than 2-point attempts. This can result in deceiving statistics as far as shooting percentage is concerned. 

When will the 3-point shot be taken?

     Will the shot be taken on the fast-break? Will the shot be taken early in the set offense, or will it be taken after working the ball in an effort to get it inside? Will special plays be run to get the 3-point shot or will the shot be taken only from a team’s normal set offense? 
     A very important decision is whether or not the shot will be taken on the fast-break. Will players be allowed to take the 3-pointer when they outnumber the defense on a fast-break? 
     These decisions must be made by the Head Coach and conveyed clearly to the team. Any player attempting the 3-point shot must feel comfortable when shooting it and not have to worry whether or not the coach wants him to shoot it. 

Who will take the shot?

     It is extremely important to determine early in the practice season just who will be allowed to take the 3-point shot. During the first week or so of practice it is a good idea to let most of your players shoot the shot in practice drills so that you can chart results and use accurate statistics in deciding just who will be allowed to take the 3-point shot. 
     A word of caution. Most of your players will think they are 3 point shooters. They will begin practicing the shot on their own and neglect practice on other shooting essentials. You must demand that they avoid practicing the shot if they are not going to be given the opportunity to shoot it in a game. 
     Never leave who will take the shot up to the players. Determine it yourself with the use of accurate practice, and later, game statistics. Having accurate statistics to support you will add credence to your refusal to allow only certain individuals to take the shot. 
     As you make your decision as to who will shoot the shot, it is entirely probable that players will be given varying degrees of freedom. You may have one pure shooter on the team who you will give freedom to shoot at virtually any opportunity. You may also have one or two others players who you will allow to shoot the shot only when open, both feet planted, and with plenty of time. 
     Once you have decided when and who you will want to shoot the shot, you must encourage those players to look for the 3-point opportunity. Unless a player takes a very bad shot or at a time or situation during the game you had given instructions not to shoot it, you must avoid criticizing him for taking the shot and missing. Coaches who plan to be successful with the 3-point shot must encourage their designated players to shoot the shot, cheer them when they make it, and support them when they miss. This may require some adjustment in coaching philosophy for many coaches who have tended to curb outside shooters, but it is very difficult to be a good shooter when a player has to look over his shoulder at the coach. 

Will you encourage post players to pass the ball back out?

     Despite the use of the 3-point shot, most coaches will still emphasize getting the ball inside to good scoring post players. Once the ball gets inside, will you encourage the post player to pass it back outside to a 3-point shooter? As a general rule, if the post player is not double-teamed, he should go ahead and shoot the inside shot. Actually, a post player who can selectively pass the ball back outside to the right teammate will find that he will be double-teamed less often and that he will score easier when he gets the ball inside. 

Players must know where the 3-point line is.

     An important fundamental of offensive 3-point strategy is for players to “know where the 3-point line is”, for it is actually a mistake for a player to shoot with a foot on the 3-point line. The extra inch or so closer to the basket a shooter is with his foot on the line is not worth losing the 3-point opportunity. In fact, it is questionable whether or not a player should shoot a shot within a foot inside of the 3-point line. The area from 18’9” to 19’9” in college basketball should become sort of a “no man’s land” for a shooter. 
     It is important to point out that players must practice shooting behind the 3-point line so that they “naturally” know where the line is. Catching a pass and then having to look for the line could affect a shooter’s concentration and reduce shooting proficiency. 

Use a 3-point shooter as a decoy.

     Coaches hate to give up the 3-point shot. Because of this they tend to constantly stress to their players to defensively attempt to stop the 3-point shooter. Therefore, the use of a good 3-point shooter as a decoy can achieve strategic offensive results. In both man and zone offensive patterns, encourage the good 3-point shooter to remain outside the 3-point line even though he may have little, if any, intention of shooting the ball. The defense will tend to stay out toward him and free up the middle for inside play. This decoy ploy has the effect of “stretching out the defense.” 

Penetration is effective weapon for a 3-point shooter.

     A good offensive weapon that the 3-point shooter can use is to stay outside the 3-point line and, when he receives a pass, fake a shot to draw the defense, and then drive for the basket. This penetration can result in (a) the 3-point shooter passing off to inside players for easy baskets, or (b) passing back outside to another 3-point shooter for an easy attempt. 
     Penetration opportunities are available more when the defense “stretches out” to stop 3-point shooters. Therefore, 3-point shooters should spend practice time working on their penetrating ability to increase their total offensive ability. The player who can shoot the 3-point shot successfully and when closely guarded can penetrate without making mistakes is extremely difficult to guard. 

Techniques for getting the 3-point shot.

     There are a number of offensive techniques that a coach can include in his offensive play patterns to obtain a good 3-point shot: 

1. Create Triangles 
2. Penetrate And Pitch
3. Single Screens 
4. Double Screens 
5. Staggered Screens 
6. Ball Movement Inside-Out 
7. Skip Pass 
8. Rear Screen And Step Out 
9. Throw Back To Screener 
10. Transition

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Next Month: 
Defensive Strategies for the 3-Point Shot

NOTE:  The above article was excerpted from Glenn Wilkes"Basketball's 3-Point Shot".  It can be ordered for $10 plus Shipping and Handling ($4.00 in USA and Canada; $8 in other countries) from: 

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