Really Big Plays

What to Discover or Recall:

Discover that "RBP's" (Really Big Plays) are single player actions that can determine the outcome of a game.
Learn that "RBP's" include defensive recovery ("wolf"), taking an offensive charge, loose ball save or recovery, and offensive rebounds off a missed free throw.
Find out that "RBP's" do not take special talent. Anyone can make them.
Understand that "RBP" actions and techniques must be taught and practiced.


When teams are evenly matched, the outcome of the game can be determined on a single play.

"RBP's" (Really Big Plays) are the result of just plain determination and hustle. Really Big Plays include: a successful "Wolf" (defensive recovery), taking a charge, a loose ball recovery, and an offensive rebound off a missed free throw.

All of these extra effort actions will ignite and inspire teammates, and, as a result, change the momentum and outcome of the game. The nice thing about RBP's is that they do not require any special abilities or talent on the part of the players. Anyone can make them. However, RBP's cannot be taken for granted and must be constantly practiced and refined.

Five Really Big Plays: | "Wolf"Offensive Charge | Loose Ball Saves | Off Rebound Missed FT | Inbounds Pass Interception |

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"Wolf" - Defensive Transition Recovery


"Wolf" is a term used to describe the action of a defensive player on a break away pursues the dribbler from behind preventing or disrupting a sure lay-up shot. Catching a dribbler from behind to block or disrupt a shot is a RBP.

When wolfing and catching a dribbler from behind, players should attempt to block the shot low using the hand closest to the ballhandler. Low blocks not only disrupt the shot, but usually cause the ball to be deflected off the shooter resulting in a turnover. Blocking the ball high can result in contact and a foul being called. Also, when successful high blocks usually go directly out of bounds allowing the opponents to retain ball possession.

When wolfing, the defender should stop and NEVER go under or beyond the backboard. Nothing good ever happens to a defensive player behind the backboard. By exerting strong pressure from behind (wolf), it will force the ballhandler into taking a rushed or hurried shot increasing the chance of a missed shot. Therefore, it is imperative for the defender to assume that the shot will be missed and rebound. Securing a defensive rebound will trigger a counter break and an outnumbered situation going back the other way.

Note: "You are never too late on defense." Teammates should always sprint back on defense without hesitation. An out number situation should never last for more than 2 to 3 seconds.

Teaching Drill: "Wolf". This is a one-on-one full court drill. Not only is it an excellent drill for practicing wolfing, but it is also a great offensive drill for practicing making lay-ups at high speeds along with being a good physical conditioner.

Wolf Drill

Offensive player O1 starts on sideline free throw line extended. Defensive player X1 is out of bounds with ball on baseline. X1 passes the ball ahead to O2, who in turns drives hard to the basket for lay-up. O1 drives the length of the court for lay-up shot. X2 pursues O2 in an attempt to pressure or block O2's shot. X2 tries to block the shot low using the near hand. X2 must not go past the backboard and rebounds any missed shot. If/when X2 gets ahead of O2 on sprint, all basic one-on-one defensive principles apply.

O1 and X1 switch from offense to defense for return trip down opposite side of court. Be sure to flop sides on this drill so that it can be practiced from both the right and left sides of the court.

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Taking an Offensive Charge


Anticipating and taking an offensive charge (RBP) not only takes away a potential basket and creates an offensive turnover; but it, also, assesses the offensive player with an additional penalty of a personal foul. When taking a charge, it is important to try to establish good position, before the ballhandler can get into a shooting motion, preferably outside the three second area. That way not only is the offensive player credited with a foul and turnover, the defensive player will get free throws if a team is in the bonus situation.

In taking a charge it is very important to eliminate injuries. Players should be taught to absorb contact by executing a shoulder roll. If, the defender remains rigid and does not give on contact, injuries to one or both players are likely to occur. To shoulder roll, players, on contact, should first tuck their chins in and sit down. Then lean their head to one side, and roll over on back of shoulder. Players should be able to shoulder roll on either shoulder and bounce back up right onto their feet.

CAUTION: Players should always tuck their chins in and never roll on their neck or head.

To avoid injury in practices, some coaches instruct their players to bear hug the offensive player rather than take the charge. By knowing how to properly take a charge not only prevents injuries; but, more importantly, players are more likely to take a charges.


Learn More Taking a Charge


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Out of Bounds Save

Loose Ball Recovery/Save

Going to the floor or out of bounds to recover a loose ball always sets the tone of game. Making a save or recovery that ordinarily would not be made is a RBP. When going to the floor for after a loose ball, players should use a "Volleyball" dive tipping or deflecting the ball to teammate. Always save to a teammate. When ball goes out of bounds, teammates instead of watching should create passing lanes by forming a semi-circle.


NEVER save ball directly under the opponent's basket. Throw the ball out to the sideline or near mid court. That way, if the ball is intercepted defenders are in place. When a ball intercepted directly under basket it will result in an easy basket for opponent.

Rule: When on the floor you cannot stand up or a traveling violation will be called. Players must learn to make passes from the down position.

Teaching Drill: "Loose Ball". Players line up in two lines under the basket. Coach standing under the basket rolls ball out on court. First player in each line then dives after the loose ball. Start out with short rolls, and increase the length as players develop the skills.

Loose Ball Drill

One-On-One Variation. Player who obtains ball possession is on offense. Play one on one.

Teaching Drill: "Out of bounds Save" Players lineup near mid court. Coach bounces ball out of bounds and first player in line goes out of bounds trying to save it. Player saves ball to coach, recovers and cuts to basket receiving return pass from coach for shot.

Save Drill

Coach varies the tosses- high bounces, low bounces, different angles and areas on court.


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 Offensive Rebound on Missed Free Throw

Obtaining an offensive rebound off a missed free throw is a RBP. Rather than size and strength that is required for defensive rebounding, offensive rebounding requires anticipation, determination, and hustle. Offensive rebounds on free throw situations really become paramount at the end of the game. If behind, an offensive rebound will provide a team with another chance to catch up. If ahead, they will allow a team to run off additional clock, denying the opponents any opportunity to catch up.

Offensive rebounding requires that the offensive players box out the defensive players. In most situations, since players and teams watch the flight of the ball and do a poor job of boxing out, all the offensive players have to do is simply step around the defender to establish inside rebounding position. However, in cases, where defenders do block out, offensive players need to know how to use arm over and spin techniques to get inside. In addition, on free throw situations, players can use stunts and teamwork such as "Duck" or "Cross."

Free Throw Offensive Rebound

Intentionally missing a free throw. Chances are good during the season that an end of game situation will be encountered that requires the intentionally missing of a free throw; therefore, teams must be prepared for it. Intentional missing a free throw must be taught and practiced. Players must know and recognize their assignments are on a "intentionally" missed free throw situation. Shooters must not only practice the intentional miss, they also need to be aware of the rule that the ball must hit the rim.


Defensively, teams should work hard to never give up an offensive rebound off a missed free throw situation during a game. Championships are lost because of a failure to box out on free throws. Players should be well drilled in boxing out on all free throw situations. In boxing out players, on the lane, should have both hands up, stand with their feet together and step up the lane rather than into the lane. Players must also communicate to make sure that the shooter is boxed out.


Learn More  Defensive Free Throw Situations


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Defending Inbounds Pass

Interception of an Inbounds Pass

Intercepting an inbounds pass, especially late in the game, is a really big play. When an opponent takes a time out to set up a game winning out of bounds play, it can all go for naught if an alert defensive player anticipates and steals the inbounds pass. In most cases, the steal of a sideline inbounds pass will result in an easy layup since the opponent will have no one back to defend the basket.

Defending out of bounds plays, cannot be left up to chance. Coaches spend considerable amounts of practice time working on offensive baseline out of bounds plays, but spend little or no time on ways to defend them. As a result, too many easy baskets are given up during the course of the game on out of bounds plays simply because teams are not prepared to stop them. If you analyze “Out of Bound” situations, they are unique in that it is the only time during the game of basketball where the defense actually has an advantage. Coaches should exploit this numerical player advantage to its fullest. Since the vast majority of out of bounds plays revolve around screens, the various techniques used to defend against screens can be incorporated into an effective out of bounds defensive attack.

Learn More    Four Effective Ways to Combat the Baseline Out of Bounds.