Play-call Terminology – Formations

By Gibson Pyper

I often get asked why I call a play a certain name, or how do I know which plays are called and actions are called. The answer is quite simple: I make them up. I have my own terminology that I base on which team ran a certain action, or by observing what other coaches call them and adapting them for my own. Through the last few years I have relied on coaches who know more than me to help me out with play names and action names that has really helped. A couple of quick notes before we jump into some of the important terms I use when calling plays: this is a way to tag plays in my FastDraw/video database on my computer. During a game I do not call out “Horns Fist Up Double Rip” but instead I would call it “Horns Out” and use the Horns hand signal out to the side.

When you call plays to your team you want to have a couple of things available:

-Short names to allow your team to remember the plays easier.

-Try to incorporate hand signals for easy communications in games.

Formations

1-4 Series

This is a common series that is designed to get all 4 players even, with multiple entries. This can be either high or low, and if it is low it is typically designed for a isolation set. 1-4 high is a great formation because you can have up to 4 entries, so if one elbow is denied you can go to the opposite elbow or wing.

1-4 High

1-4 High

1-4 Low

1-4 Low


Box

Another common formation with the opportunity for multiple sets and counters, the Box formation is common in screen the screener sets.

Box


Horns

Horns is one of the most common sets in today’s NBA partly because you can run so much out of it. With built in spacing and a multitude of options, Horns can be run at any level with success.

Horns


Elbow vs C

This is one of the harder formations to recognize in games, the Elbow versus C or Corner formation. Elbow is a Horns formation but the point guard dribbles to one wing or the other and passes the ball to the big at the elbow. The guard is opposite in the corner, but in the C formation the guard opposite is high – even or behind the point guard.

Elbow

Elbow

C/Corner

Corner


This is part 1 of a 4 part series on X’s & O’s Playcall Terminology.

Part 1 – Formations
Part 2 – Cuts
Part 3 – Ballscreens
Part 4 – Actions

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Gibson Pyper
Creator/Owner of thebasketballplaybook.com & half court hoops youtube channel. I love NBA & NCAA X's & O's and look to help coaches everywhere!
Gibson Pyper

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