Mike MacKay discusses his thoughts on the use of Stagger Screens at the 2009 U19 World Championships


One of the most prevalent strategies used at the U19 World Championships was the stagger screen. Almost every team had this strategy somewhere in their bag of tricks.

The most common stagger was where a perimeter player would come off two consecutive screens by bigger players, to receive the ball at the top. Out of the 1-4 set many teams used the over-under action by the perimeter players where the player going over the top received two screens from the high post players.

Another angle for the stagger was the diagonal cut from the ball side block to the top. Teams also ran staggers where a player would run off two consecutive baseline screens.

Many teams made use of the double stagger. The first player would curl the last screen. This usually made it difficult for the defence to hedge out or switch on the second player using the stagger. One of the most popular moves to use off the stagger was an immediate ball screen. Since most teams would have the player defending the cutter tail the screens it made it very difficult to be in position.

One of the unique concepts used by many teams, especially Argentina, was the pass-pass to flare. The player coming off the stagger would receive the pass and immediately pass the ball back to the original passer. This passer would receive a flare screen from the player who set the last screen. The pass back was almost always open since the defender would jump to the ball. Another concept that many teams ran was to invert the stagger screens. When the players defending the screens started anticipating too much the offence would throw in back screens, where the first screen was initiated by the player who the defence was expecting to use the stagger. This was very effective early in the tournament.

The teams that were most effective with their strategies were the ones where the players read the defence and reacted to what they saw, as opposed to the teams where the coach would read the defence and then call a counter. If the players saw a defender extending too much on a screen, they would slip it. If the defender did not extend enough they would curl. One of the most important reads is when teams switch screens. It is imperative if you run any kind of screen action that you teach your players what to do vs. the switch.

Now, a good coach is always helping his/her players with these reads, but we as coaches must transfer the responsibility to the players eventually. The problem with the coach calling the counters is that the defence will always adjust. By the end of the tournament, you run out of counters. Everyone knows your calls. There is no defensive adjustment to a proper read by the offence.