North Carolina Tar Heels Secondary Counters

By Randy Sherman

In Part Three of a three part series on the North Carolina Tar Heels’ transition attack, we take a look at some commonly used counter options of the secondary break.

Roy Williams has said that in an ideal game his Tar Heels would run nothing but primary and secondary break options all game long. For that to be possible there must be counters that are read based in place when defenses take away preferred options.

In the North Carolina secondary break system there are many such counters in place. The Tar Heels use the three counters detailed below most often.

Before going into each option, it is important to note that these options are reads and not calls. Drill these options until your team reacts instinctively. Players must recognize that there is a counter in place for whatever the defense attempts to take away.

Dribble Option

Williams wants to reverse the ball if a primary break chance or an early entry into the post does not materialize. Because other teams know that the “regular” pass reversal option is the Tar Heels’ preferred option, they often try to deny the trailing post’s catch.

For this, North Carolina can use their “dribble” option and a high ball screen to get the ball to the other side of the floor. The dribble over the high ball screen triggers the options below. This option features screen-the-screener action and many of the same rules as the regular option. (Click graphic below to add to your FastDraw library.)


Tips to make the “dribble” option work:

  • 4 should go set the ball screen for 1 instead of staying set and 1 dribbling to him/her. The ball screen should take place even with the lane line at the high elbow.
  • 2 follows the same rules: touch block before setting the backscreen to set the best screening angle.

In the video below, watch the Tar Heels execute some of the options presented by this counter.

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B3 Option

The trailing post can also set a down screen for the weakside wing if opponents are denying his catch to prevent ball reversal. When the trailer downscreens for the weakside wing this triggers the B3 option.

The weakside wing can use the downscreen to curl, back cut, straight cut or out cut. An effective screen gives the Tar Heels an open man for ball reversal and a possible scoring opportunity off the downscreen. After the ball is reversed, a staggered screen gives the Heels another scoring option. (Click graphic below to add to your FastDraw library.)



Tips to make the “B3” option work:

  • Read the defense! When 4 downscreens for 3, the cutter reads the defense and makes a scoring cut.
  • 5 lifts up the lane line and sets the second of the staggered screens.

In the video below, watch the Tar Heels execute some of the options presented by this counter.

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Kickback Option

At times the Tar Heels can make the pass to the trailing post but cannot make the full reversal to the wing that would trigger the “regular” option. In that instance the Tar Heels have the kickback option in place.

The trailing post looks to reverse and the weakside wing is denied. Of course, a backdoor cut opportunity is there, but the trailer can “kick it back” to where his pass came from. Nothing changes for 2 who sets the backscreen for the trailer. This turns into a UCLA cut of sorts. (Click graphic below to add to your FastDraw library.)


Tips for making the “kickback” option work:

  • 2 follows the same rules as the regular option: touch the block to set the screening angle and then backscreen. He may separated to the perimeter (shown in diagram) or cut to the weakside corner (shown in video).
  • 4 makes pass fake to weakside wing. This moves the defense and sets up screening angles.
  • If the defense fronts 4’s cut, look immediately for high-low option as 4 should be able to inside pin his man.

In the video below, watch the Tar Heels execute some of the options presented by this counter.

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This series, using North Carolina as a blueprint, gives your team a running game to put in place.

The keys to making this transition system work are securing defensive rebounds, quick outlets that are high and wide, pitching the ball ahead as soon as possible and getting to top speed in the first three steps. Running off opponents’ made or missed field goals must be the emphasis of your offense. These are not set plays; they are part of an over-arching running system.

Take the numbers advantage if it is there or enter into the first post, but if the defense is recovered, swing the ball using these read based options.

Any questions: Happy to talk hoops any time day or night!

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Randy Sherman is the owner and founder of Radius Athletics - a basketball coaching consulting firm - where he consults with basketball coaches at all levels on coaching philosophy, practice planning, Xs & Os and teaching a conceptual style of basketball. While a head basketball coach at the the interscholastic level, Sherman's teams won 197 games in nine seasons.

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