How To Defend Ball Screens – And the 3 on 3 Ball Screen Drill

If you don’t properly defend the ball screen, the opposing team will get unlimited high-percentage shots via dribble penetration, the screener rolling to the basket, and passing out to open shooters if the defense collapses.

In a clip below from the Man to Man Defense Video, defensive expert Jim Huber teaches you how to defend the ball screen with the hedge. He also implements the drill and shows you how to coach the drill and correct players.

Even though we typically teach the hedge first, different situations call for different tactics.

At the high school and college level, you could switch, trap, and ice the ball screen among other tactics. It can also be a great way to keep them off balance and tentative.

Who Is Jim Huber - And Defending Future NBA Lottery Picks

For those of you unfamiliar with Coach Jim Huber, he led the Nike EYBL in 2013 in defensive points per game... some have called this league the NBA of high school basketball. At these games, you see coaching elites such as Coach K, Tom Izzo, John Calipari, Bill Self, Sean Miller, and the other national powers.

And here are a few of the players that were in the Nike EYBL in 2013... Imagine trying to defend those guys!

  • Jahlil Okafor - Duke and 3rd pick in NBA Draft
  • Tyus Jones - Duke and 1st round NBA Draft pick
  • Tyler Ulis - Kentucky
  • D’Angelo Russell - Ohio State and 2nd pick in NBA Draft
  • Stanley Johnson - Arizona and 8th pick in NBA Draft


Start 2 on 2 with the ball on top. If the coach wants to work 3 on 3 – they simply add another pair on the other wing.

On the whistle, the wing is setting the ball screen and the ball handler is looking to score.

Defender X2 is calling out the screen and jumping to the high side to “hedge” the ball handler east-west.

Defender X1 is trying to fight over the top of the screen, and only going underneath if they are caught up in the screen.

Points of Emphasis

No direct paths - As the player guarding the screener comes up to “hedge the ball screen” (attempt to stop the ball handler from getting north – south), they want to make sure they don’t jump too high over the screen, as this will lead to them being “split” by the ball handler and beaten to the hoop. Stay tight on the screener, step through with your bottom foot over the screener’s top foot and try to force the ball handler up high, away from the hoop.

Get in screener’s path - The defender does not allow the screener to easily go where they want. Be physical. If you can knock the screener off their path, they may not be able to go set the screen. Put a forearm in the chest and meet the screener.

Stay low - The player guarding the ball needs to stay low. If you are quicker than the ball handler and can avoid the screen, you should try to push the ball handler out without help. If you get caught by the screen and have to go behind, you need to communicate with your helping teammate, let the player know you’re recovered and push your way through to get back on your player.

Special Note For Youth Coaches:

At the youth level, we believe that you should teach your players to hedge the ball screen. We also believe that the defender guarding the ball should go over the top of the screen.

At first, it is easier to teach players to go under the ball screen. It can also be more effective in certain situations.

So why do we deter from going under the ball screen?

We have had the unique experience to coach at every level from 2nd grade to high school varsity. We have coached rec teams. We have coached nationally-ranked high school teams.

And from our experience...

We found that it can be harder to ingrain this habit at the high school level if it isn’t taught at the youth level. And once you start facing ball handlers who can shoot at the high school level, this can lead to poor defensive performance.

As a result, the player’s development is hindered. The team also doesn’t perform as well as it could because it has to spend more time on defending ball screens during practice. When they should be spending time on other things to enhance the team’s performance.

We also found that once you ingrain going over the top, it’s relatively easy for the defender’s to adapt to going under the screen and teaching other tactics such as switching the ball screen.

Solutions and Resources:

Jim Huber’s Man To Man Defense Video - Step By Step System

Breakthrough Basketball Camps - Elite Guard, Shooting, Youth, and More

The Defensive Shell Drill Sucks?

How to Get All 5 Players SPRINTING in Transition Defense -- On Almost Every Possession


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Charles Kemp says:
4/29/2016 at 3:22:32 PM

Ball screens can sometimes be difficult to defend. I remember my dad would teach us all the time about how to get around the screen and throw off the offensive play. If you can do that, you keep them from scoring easy points.


James B says:
12/2/2015 at 7:42:26 AM

I prefer to see the ball defender go over-under, over the screen but under the hedge (hard show) screen defender. This places the ball defender in the path of where the dribbler wants to go. If the dribbler goes back the other way he''s going toward the big who has shown and is recovering/rotating.

The big showing (hedge) should aim to take 2 steps up from the screener, chest to the sideline, sending the dribbler towards centre court.

Just some food for thought!

  1 reply  

Joe Haefner says:
12/2/2015 at 8:47:41 AM

I like that... thanks for sharing!


Eric says:
12/1/2015 at 9:06:15 AM

Thank you for the youth coaching note that''s very valuable as we''re trying to teach rec basketball. At young ages it''s easier to defend going under as most can''t shoot over the top so your right it''s very easy to teach bad habits.

I agree with the previous poster Jim about the forearm especially given what is being called this year in the college ranks. I would have fouled out of more games with the new rules in effect :)

  1 reply  

Joe Haefner says:
12/2/2015 at 8:48:40 AM

Thank you for the kind words, Eric! We hope they help youth coaches learn from our mistakes.

I replied to the forearm comment above if you're interested.


Jim says:
11/23/2015 at 3:56:48 PM

As a coach and an official I like the video on defending the ball screen with the exception of impeding the screeners path with a forearm. "Put a forearm in the chest and meet the screener." This is a foul. I put the emphasis on being "up the line" so that the defender can beat the screener to the spot without committing the foul with the forearm.

  1 reply  

Joe Haefner says:
12/2/2015 at 8:47:09 AM

Yeah. You definitely have to adapt the physicality to the way it is officiated.

The EYBL in which Coach Huber was coaching in at the time is QUITE physical for high school level basketball. I think it's because a lot of college officials referee.


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