A look at two late dribble handoffs
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In today’s conference tournament games, we saw two well executed dribble handoff plays late in the game. They shared similar traits that made them successful and I wanted to take a brief look at the both of them.
This shot by Jeremy Hazell sent the game into overtime for the Pirates. You could debate about the decision not to foul by Rutgers but let’s move past that for the moment. The play starts with Hazell having the option to use a screen set by a teammate.
The screen is set up for Hazell to fade to the wing but with the defender shading that way, Hazell instead curls to the middle of the court. This puts the defender a half step behind him as he expected Hazell to use the fade screen, which helps gives Hazell the space needed to get the shot off.
The key to a dribble handoff is hard penetration by the ball handler. As you can see in the next frame, it puts the defender on his heels as the ball handler comes to a stop after making it look like he has his mind set on getting to the basket. This means that the defender cannot hedge on the handoff and the area just after the handoff is open for Hazell to take the shot.
Finally, the last key is that the ball handler has to get a piece of the defender as he comes across on the handoff. This has to be subtle, so as not to pick up an offensive foul. I think the key is not sticking your hip out but just pivoting after the handoff and slowing the defender up a bit.
Theodore does a good job of that here and gets a small piece of the defender, which is just enough to slow the defender for that final split second, giving Hazell enough space to get open.
There were several aspects of this play that made it successful but the hard dribble drive by Theodore to prevent his defender from hedging is the main key. We are going to see that again in the following play.
Arkansas Little Rock
Watch again as the initial ball handler dribbles hard as he goes into the dribble handoff, which makes the defense play him honest and respect the possible drive. The defender is not able to hedge, so when the shooter comes off of the handoff, he is open for the jump shot.
Since Matt Mouzy does not have the benefit of a screen, as Hazell did, it is crucial he comes off of his teammate’s shoulder, allowing a natural pick to be set. You can see here that he does that well and the defender is leveled as he runs into the initial ballhandler.
The natural pick which was initiated by the handoff and the subsequent curl off of this screen is much more crucial in this play, as Mouzy does not have the benefit of having an initial step on the defender. Arkansas Little-Rock executes this handoff perfectly and they are rewarded with an open 3.
Although there was some slight deviation in the end, the premise of a successful dribble handoff remains the same: start with a hard drive by the ballhandler, which doesn’t allow the defender to hedge. This will make it much easier for the shooter receiving the handoff to get open.