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Basketball Coach's Corner

Basketball Tip

Presented by Kyle Pottkotter, Camp Director
Nike Boys Basketball Camp at Bill McDonald Athletic Complex

Coaches Playbook: How To Run a Pick and Roll in Basketball

Coaches playbook for youth basketball campers

The pick and roll, or screen and roll, is a simple offensive play that is useful at all levels from drills at a Nike Basketball Camp to games at the pro-level. This play is run with two offensive players and is designed to create an open shot or make the defense switch, which can cause a mismatch for either the ball handler or picker. There are many different variations of this play, but to help your players master it, it is important for them to understand the fundamental techniques and tactics.

When you first introduce this play, make it simple. Assume that the defenders are not going to throw something crazy so your team can understand a pick and roll in its simplest form.

Initiate the play:

In order to initiate a pick and roll, the ball handler must communicate with one other offensive player to set a pick for them. This communication may be verbal or a non-verbal hand signal such as a fist in the air. The ball handler can also direct the player setting the pick to which side of the defender they would like them to go to.

Setting the pick:

Setting a good pick is a difficult skill to master, but it’s important to create an open look on the pick and roll. While setting a pick, it is important for the player to do the following:

  • Set their feet: Their feet cannot be moving while setting a pick or it will be a turnover.
  • Arms within shoulders: The player cannot prevent the defender from moving with outstretched arms.
  • Pin defender: Position the player so the ball handler’s defender must switch onto the picker.

As the player approaches the person they are picking, they need to position their body in an athletic position with their knees bent so they can absorb the contact of the defender trying to get around. This way, as the ball handler dribbles past the defender and the picker creates an open lane for the ball handler to drive the ball with the defender pinned outside.

Ball handling during the pick:

It’s important to remind your players to be patient and to keep the dribble alive during a pick and roll. Once a player is coming to set a pick, timing is everything. Focus on the following:

  • Patience: The ball handler should wait for the picker to get set before exploding past the pick.
  • Force a switch: As soon as the pick is set, the ball handler should attack the basket so the help defender must switch onto them.
  • Triple threat: The ball handler should be able to dribble, pass, or shoot at any time.


Now, that the ball handler has dribbled past the picker, the original defender guarding the ball handler is now pinned on the outside of the picker. From here, the picker will roll to the basket and focus on the following:

  • Outside shoulder: The picker should turn their outside shoulder towards the side the ball handler went.
  • Roll to the basket: The picker should keep the defender that switched onto them on the outside, and the picker should drive to the basket.
  • Hands ready: The ball handler can pass the picker the ball at any point, so they should be ready to catch and finish.

By helping your players master the basics and practice different scenarios, you are setting them up to get high-quality shots. As your team runs these plays more and more, you will see how many different scenarios can be created. It’s difficult to picture a basketball play just from reading about it. Try incorporating film into your practices so players can visualize them and see how the pros use these skills. Check out more coach’s playbook Nike Basketball Camp tips and help your team get better this summer at a Nike Basketball Camp.

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