3 Simple Plays for Youth Basketball

3 Simple Plays for Youth Basketball

Choosing plays for youth basketball can be a challenging task.

On one hand, you do not want to cause your players to become too focused on the plays, making them rigid and uncreative in how they play basketball. Basketball thrives on creativity, and shoving a million complicated plays down their throats is a sure fire way to end that creativity.

On the other hand, as a coach you need some structure. If you allow your players to play the game with no structure and no set plays, they will not learn the importance of properly running plays, which could really set them back as they get older. Also, you’re probably not going to win a lot of games.

These are some options of great plays for youth teams. They are very simple. The important note with all of these plays is that there are a lot of different options in each one. Different shots can be taken, different passes made, and different players scoring. All of these plays will give you players some structure that they can be creative within.

The Pick and Roll

The bread and butter play for almost every team at any level. The pick and roll creates instant mismatches on offense, spreads the floor, and hopefully allows your players to play to their individual strengths.

Whoever your best creator off the dribble is starts with the ball up above the three point line. If you have a post, they will likely be setting the screen on the ball handler.

The person with the ball uses the screen hard, attacking downhill towards the hoop. Your post player rolls towards the hoop, giving your ball handler lots of space to score or dump the ball off if help comes over. As long as the other 3 players on the court are spaced out behind the 3 point line and are ready to shoot the 3, defenses will struggle to guard this play.

Of course, this is only one of many options out of the pick and roll. There are nearly endless possibilities to choose from:

  1. Ball Handler attacks the rim hard if help is late.
  2. If the player guarding the post drops down into the paint, the guard can either shoot a 3 pointer coming off of the screen or dribble in for a mid range jump shot.
  3. If both defenders trap the guard as the screen is set, the post can “slip” the screen early (leave before actually setting it) and receive a pass for an open lane down the middle.
  4. If the roll man is covered and help steps over early enough to stop the ball handler, a kick out pass to an open man on the perimeter. The player who receives the pass’ first option is to shoot the open shot. If that shot is not available, a second drive will cause the defense to be in constant closeouts, and most mediocre defenses will fall apart at this point.
  5. One great kick out pass from the primary ball handler is to the weak side corner. The offense player in the weakside corner will be wide open to shoot or cut to the hoop, as their defender is the player who stepped up in help.

There’s a reason the Pick and Roll is a staple in every level of basketball.


Horns is like the older brother of the pick and roll. Instead of one screen being set, a screen is set on both sides of the ball handler at the top of the 3 point line. The ball handler can go off of either screen, and play from there.

Usually going off the side of the stronger post player, the ball handler again has the option of driving hard to the rim or dumping it off to the roller, and now has the added luxury of kicking the ball straight back to the top of the 3 point line to the other screen setter.

Again, player creativity is fostered through the many options that come naturally from this play:

  1. Ball Handler attacks the rim hard if help is late.
  2. If the player guarding the post drops down into the paint, the guard can either shoot a 3 pointer coming off of the screen or dribble in for a mid range jump shot.
  3. Kick out to the trailing screener for a 3 or secondary drive.
  4. A cool twist on horns is to have the ball handler come off of the first screen and flare out to create space, then have the opposite screener set a back screen for the first screener and have him flare for a 3. The ball handler skips the ball over to the (hopefully) open primary screener, and the secondary screener rolls hard down the middle of the paint.
  5. Another wrinkle is to have the primary screener set a screen for the ball handler and roll hard. The secondary screener then comes and sets a second screen which the ball handler drives off of, and the screener pops for a 3.
  6. Again, the weak side corner is a weakness for defenses out of this set. If the ball handler comes off the screen hard and help is properly set up, odds are a pass to the weak side corner will result in a wide open shot.


This play is a bit more structured to begin. It is especially useful if you are lucky enough to have a jumbo guard, who is big enough to cause mismatches in the post.

Have the jumbo guard start at the top in a 4-out set. The only player starting in the key is your teams smallest player (who will presumably have the other team’s smallest player guarding them. The ball handler passes to the wing and sets their man up for a back screen. The player in the post then comes up and sets a back screen for the jumbo guard and flares.

If everything is going according to plan, the smallest player on the other team will switch onto your jumbo guard and be stuck in the post. All 4 of the other offensive players are spread out behind the 3 point line. Enter the ball into the post. The first option is to score quickly, before the other team sends a double team.

But there are lots of options to play with:

  1. Score in the post.
  2. If a double team comes, kick out to the open man for a shot or drive.
  3. Run a two man action with the player who set the screen for the jumbo guard then setting a screen off ball for the player on the opposite wing to the post up. This player can then cut down the middle.
  4. The player in the weak side corner can back cut. Their defender is usually in help side and watching the ball (Say, are you noticing a trend with attacking the weak side).

With all of these plays, it is important to remind your players that the play can help make them good, but their skill and creativity out of them is what will make them great.

Oct 29, 2019 Coach Chris

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