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It takes a very specific skillset to be able to play on the inside effectively. After all, this is where the action off the ball really takes place. Players must demonstrate an ability to be accurate on net, have a quick release, take hits from the defense, make convincing cuts, and get open.
In this week’s skill development feature, Johns Hopkins assistant coach Bobby Benson reveals key tips and techniques when playing on the inside. This breakdown places a particular emphasis on 2-v-2 play with two crease attackers. Then, learn two new drills that focus on catching the ball inside, setting effective screens, plus making good cuts and finishing on cage.
Often when we play inside, we feature just one crease attackman. However, there are a variety of offenses used today that implement two crease attackers, like the 2-2-2 offense. With two attackers in the mix, the ability to play together effectively is key if you want to have success on the crease. It’s vital that players communicate so they can cut and get open on the inside together. You must talk in order to be successful.
A slide by the defense can often make life a lot easier for the offense. For instance, when the ball is behind the cage and the defense slides, and we haven’t yet set a screen, we can now just separate and try to find a gray area. If we already went through a screen, we can then screen the second slide and come right off of it. But we also need to get open when the defense isn’t sliding at all.
When the Ball is Back Right
When the ball is back right, our crease guys have options on what they can do. First, if the defense is inside one of our crease guys, we can try to seal the ball-side defender that gets caught inside. Now our opposite crease guy can cut right off what is now a double screen. If his defender follows him, he will curl to the ball and make a sharp cut. However, if his defender ducks underneath, he can flare or fade into the open area for a spot feed. This happens most frequently on passes across X behind.
When the Ball is Back Left
When the ball is back left, the defense is taught to be ball-side of their man. Therefore on that pass, we can often screen our own guy before he can get outside of us. Now we can come off and play. If we can’t get outside of our own guy, and the defense does a good job of forcing us to the inside, then we can go ahead and screen across.
When setting screens, we need to make sure that we are square to where the cutter is going. Don’t set a screen with the shoulder. These screens are too easy to get around. Instead, set the screen with your chest, back or butt, and facing where the cutter is going. Just make sure you’re square to where he’s going to cut.
If the defense doesn’t switch on the screen, then the read is the same. If the defense comes around and follows, we should curl and cut to the ball. If the defender ducks underneath, then we should step away to the open area for a spot feed. Also, if the defender tries to jump to the top-side of the screen early, we can go backdoor.
Be sure to notice where the screens take place – always about 7-8 yards out and to the opposite pipe. If we don’t do this, we won’t have enough room to operate effectively. Also, if we set our screen and the defense switches screens inside, look to flare or feed into that open area. There’s no point in cutting to the defender. After the seal, we should go right to the ball.
For this drill, we’ll get four guys on the perimeter. These guys will be skeleton players. There’s also 2-on-2 action on the inside and this is live. As the ball moves around the perimeter, the guys inside are constantly moving around and getting open with the goal to score. This is the perfect opportunity for inside players to work on their communication, cuts, working off the ball, and finishing on net.
This drill really helps with catching the ball inside and finishing. We’ll have one player inside and five feeders around the perimeter. Number the feeders 1 through 5. 1 will be lower right, 2 will be lower left, 3 will be top left, 4 will be top center, and 5 will be top right.
Whichever number the the coach yells out, our crease player will then have to go get the ball from that number and finish it. This inside player will be continuously cutting in the circle, back and forth, and finishing as many balls as he can in a certain period of time. Each perimeter player will have three balls, so it’s 15 total shots per player.
Notice that the inside player is working on catching the ball, getting it in and out of his stick quickly, and putting it in the goal quickly — all while keeping his feet moving the entire time. Don’t catch the ball with your feet still. Keep the feet moving so that defenders will have a tougher time checking you.