2013 was the first year that I worked with a program that used ball screens consistently. I was an assistant coach at the University of Minnesota State Moorhead and it was that year that we won the program’s first conference championship in over 30 years.
We were long, athletic and typically all five players were capable 3 point shooters, including two of the best shooters at the Division II level in Jordan Riewer and Tyler Vaughan. To put it simply, we were difficult to guard because we were able to space the floor very well.
Our ball screen continuity was simple. Space the floor with a 2-man game (ball screen) on one side and then get a post and two perimeters on the back side. Once the ball got reversed, the first perimeter player back cut and you were left with a throw ahead into a ball screen or a dribble hand off.
Bemidji State, who is also in the conference, ran a very similar continuity, but with a very different lineup. They had one of the best players in the league on the perimeter (Brock Lutes), a 5 man that was one of the top rebounders in the country, but a non-shooter (Maxie Rosenbloom), a stalky, undersized scorer inside (Zach Noreen) and one of the top shooters in the country (Jake Schalow).
Our team at MSUM was filled with athletes and 5 guys that could shoot it, while Bemidji had a scorer, a couple bruisers and a shooter.
And Bemidji was REALLY GOOD!
Now, don’t get me wrong. We were really good as well. But I have spent a lot of time thinking about those two teams over the past few years.
We averaged 84.3 points per game & Bemidji averaged 81.3.
At MSUM, we had athletes, but we would go through stretches were every ball screen was a 2 on 2 battle.
One of the things that made Bemidji State so hard to guard was their understanding of the system. While we would unintentionally slow the pace and get caught up in the ball screen, BSU had players that would get the ball moving.
For example, Jake Schalow was a shooter, and a really one at that! But he was not a creator, and he knew that!
I would watch film and see the ball get reversed to Schalow and it was his time to come off the ball screen.
But instead of trying to score, he would go hard enough to get the defense to shift and then he would get rid of it. He understood that if the defense was out of position, that created driving angles for scorers.
And if those scorers had driving angles, that created more defensive shifts. Which often times led to a wide open drive & kick for himself on the backside.
We had athletes and we were hard to guard. I wouldn’t change much at all because I truly feel that we played a style that fit our personnel.
But BSM didn’t have the athletes that we did, but they ran really good stuff. They understood roles and played well because of it.