Breakthrough Basketball Newsletter:
Our Worst Video | The Custer Stupid Simple Ball Screen Play

July 30, 2021

In today’s newsletter…

  • The Custer Stupid Simple Ball Screen Play

  • Our Worst & Best Video Is the Same One?

  • Mailbag: Feedback on Monty Williams Coaching Mistake & Random Practice Research Flaws

The Custer Stupid Simple Ball Screen Play

- By Joe Haefner

Audience: Coaches, Parents
Ages: Middle School, High School, College, Pros

One year, I was very fortunate to be an assistant under McDonald’s All-American coach Ed Fritz at Blue Valley Northwest. Since 2010, he won 5 state championships and appeared in the state championship game 8 times.

That same year, there was a special point guard named Clayton Custer. He later went on to have a great college career at Loyola Chicago and helped lead them to a Final 4 appearance in the 2018 NCAA Tournament. He won the MVP in the Missouri Valley Conference and honorable mention All-American honors.

I brought a super simple play to Coach Fritz that I thought would work well with Clayton’s great decision making ability.

The first game that we used this, we ran the play four possessions in a row. The first two times, we got a lay up. The next two times, we had drive and kick situations that resulted in wide open shots.

Now, you might be thinking… wait up, Joe? You had a great coach and a bunch of really good players. Anything would work with these guys.

That’s true. Players make plays.

However, I’ve also used this simple play with a lot of success with less talented teams at the middle school and high school level.

Since you can teach it in one practice, you can always try it and see if it works.

Often, especially at the youth and high school level, simple is better.

Play Summary:

This is a set from NBA coach Del Harris. He used it in transition, however, I’ve used it in half court sets with success as well.

The beauty of the screen is that you don’t even need to make contact in order for it to be effective.

The screener simply needs to change the path of the defensive players.

And that’s all good ball handlers often need… just a small opening.

After the screen, the offense usually has a 4 on 3 scoring opportunity.


1- Ball Handler
2- Shooter
3- Shooter
4- Screener - can shoot from high post.
5- Low Post Player


4 sets the screen above the top of the key. I’ve set this screen near half court and even in the back court when the defense extends pressure.

1 needs to make sure they don’t get too deep or the screen won’t be as effective.

As 1 dribbles over the ball screen:

  • 5 cuts across the lane.
  • 3 cuts to the wing in case the help defender drops down to help out.
  • 4 pops to an open area in the high post.
  • 2 moves to an open spot.

What do you think of this action? Is there anything you would do differently? Any wrinkles or adjustments you would add to it?

Reply to this email and let us know what you think.

Our Worst & Best Video Is the Same One?

I wanted to point something out about the Princeton Offense System with Aaron Jennings.

If you look at our reviews, it could be a bit misleading at first glance.

If you just look at the overall reviews, it averages 4 out of 5. This is actually one of our lowest rated videos.

However, if you take a closer look, you will see that there are two 1-star reviews because of technical difficulties. The reviews had nothing to do with the content.

If you remove those reviews, it actually averages a 5 out of 5!!!

I don’t think we have any video that is only 5-Stars based strictly on content. Some are close, though.

On a side note, the technical difficulty was your classic Internet Ghost. It happened randomly to just a few viewers for a short time then randomly disappeared. And it hasn’t happened since.

If you’re interested in gaining immediate access or learning more…

The Princeton Offense System with Aaron Jennings currently has a 25% special discount until this Sunday.

Go here to learn more.

Mailbag: Feedback on Monty Williams Coaching Mistake & Random Practice Research Flaws

Last week, I posted about a personal story from Monty Williams on his experience and a big coaching mistake he made with Chris Paul 10 years ago.

Then below that, a few people responded to my note about the issues with random practice research.

Reader Comment: Solid insight on Monty Williams. Really good perspective. Thank you!

- Spike

Reader Comment: Agreed.

Your philosophies, strategies and beliefs as a coach should not be compromised. BUT......I have learned that players make your team. Find out what they do best and help them do that on the floor. At the same time, develop them in areas where they can be better.

As a youth basketball coach I always felt that building confidence in a player is a top priority. Being able to play the way that helps them build that confidence is vital.

I have made many mistakes in learning to be a good coach. Glad to see I am in the same company as Monty. I tried to be as critical of myself as much as the players. Only way we both can get better. I have a lot of respect for Monty.

Thanks for sharing the story.

- Frank

Reader Comment: Tom Brady is a good non basketball example of this concept. The Patriots thought they could plug Cam Newton into their X’s and O’s and have the same success.

- Eric

Reader Comment: No question that keeping your players happy and motivated is much more important than x and o. You have to let your guys play, hopefully within a framework but let them play.

- Neil

Reader Comment: The Jimmy’s and Joe’s are more important. Many players can execute X’s and O’s But are they learning the game vs learning your sets.

- Gary

Reader Comment:I agree with this assessment. It's OK to guide the ship, just don’t steer it too much or it will go in the wrong direction.

- David

Reader Comment:100% agree with this statement. Having a team that gets open looks from the plays run but missing shots shows how important player development is.

Your Jimmy's and Joe’s are more important than your X’s and O’s.

- Greg

Reader Comment: Agree 100%, the Jimmies and Joes are 80% of it! I've seen a lot of coaches, myself included, who were very good coaches have poor seasons simply because they had a low talent/skill level in their players. Conversely, I have seen terrible coaches win championships or have great seasons simply because they had the horses. Your main job as a coach is to make your Jimmies and Joes better!

In last week’s newsletter, I mentioned I could NOT find any research that compares random practice vs integration of block, serial, and random practice.

Here is some of the feedback.

Please let me know if you’ve found any research on this!

Reader Comment: Great question on the practice planning research. I have had trouble finding something similar. Most seem to only do them against each other, or just show basics of one vs an expert in another. Many also lack long-term trackable impacts. A recent one I read noted that small-sided games practices required the most experienced coaches and had shown a decrease in some skills with new coaches because they couldn't coordinate how to review/filter and share knowledge well enough. There are so many possible teaching points and levels of issues occurring, that they have to be deciphered and prioritized. I normally utilize all three (block, serial and random) based on what exactly I am trying to focus on and that adapts more as the season goes on.

Look forward to the research if you find it!

Appreciate you guys and all you do!

- David

Reader Comment: I love your content. Do you have resources or a bibliography of reference on your practice planning research? I would love to take a look.

- John

Admittedly, I’ve been awful about creating bibliographies with practice design and other topics. I have research cited throughout the website. And sometimes, I don’t even cite the research. I need to get better at this type of organization.

For any of you who’d like to share your bibliographies on practice design, please do so. I’d be happy to share in a following email.

As always, please share your thoughts on these topics and more! This coaching community helps enhance the learning of all involved!

All the Best,

Joe Haefner
Breakthrough Basketball