Why Aren’t More Coaches Interested in Layer 1 of the Read & React Offense?

For those of you checking out the Read & React for the first time, the video below is an excerpt of Layer 1: Pass & Cut from the Read & React Offensive System DVD Set.

Here’s why I think most coaches look past Layer 1 Pass & Cut: They only see the initial scoring opportunities, i.e., the give-and-go that comes from a Front Cut or a Rear Cut. They think that it is easily defended (which we all know is not the case), but more importantly, they don’t see what else that action creates:

Draft Drives

After the basket cut an immediate help defender one position away has been temporarily taken out of the picture. A dribble drive in the direction of that cutter takes advantage of this space. Now, the closest help defender must come from a distance of two spots. By the way, that help defender is also trying to guard an offensive player who is filling up and on the move.

It’s amazing how effective this can be. I’ve seen draft drives end in lay-ups over the back of the original cutter’s defender.

Fill Cuts

There are unique scoring opportunities made possible for the player who fills the open spot, especially if that player is a Slasher.

Read Line Rear Cut if the defender is denying.

Curl the Puppydog (Front Cut) if the defender is trailing.

And, if the pass is made to the Filler, he now has the opportunity to attack while in motion. This may be a rip against the grain, a shot in rhythm, or a variety of other actions.

It’s obvious to say that a player in motion is more dangerous. Well, the Fill Cuts generate moving players on every pass.

Spacing, Player Movement, and Ball Movement

In only a few seconds, a Read & React team can make the defense change sides of the floor, defend on the perimeter, defend a North-South cut, defend in the post, and close out multiple times. Modern day defense requires that five defenders guard two-thirds of the floor. Layer 1 can break that down for most teams in only 10-15 seconds.

This opens up gaps to attack with other actions. Even if the Layer 1 action isn’t the scoring action, it can still create the opportunity for the score. In many cases, it should be credited with an assist.

Next Best Actions

Next Best Action decisions are given to the players only after or during a basket cut. Layer 1 is a hinge layer: the remaining 19 layers are contingent on the action of constantly cutting the lane and threatening the basket.

Layer 1 is the door that players walk through in order to get to decisions like the following:

  1. Post-up after the cut (if there’s an advantage).
  2. Set a screen for a post player before filling out.
  3. Set a Pin Screen on weak-side defenders.
  4. Use a Pin Screen set by one of your Read & React teammates.
  5. Set a Back Screen for anyone, anywhere on the perimeter.
  6. Use another cutting teammate as a Brush Screen.
  7. Set a Brush Screen for another cutting teammate and then shape-up for the ball.
  8. Use a screen set by your post player either coming into the lane or going out.
  9. Use both post players (if you have them) as double staggered screens.
  10. And the list goes on…

I know of many high level coaches who have “taken a look” at the Read & React only to skip over the first layer as if it just applies to youth teams and camps.

As far as I’m concerned, they don’t know what they’re missing!

21 comments

  1. So true. Many coaches and players that I have worked with often view layer 1 as a waste of time. I try to use the analogy of a multiple choice test. Not all answers are “A” – and this component confuses coaches and players. UNTIL they see the results and hear players asking for more from the read and react. Ultimately, zone defenses and layer one -aka “hook and look”, baffles the majority. Even for a highly talented college team, it takes 3 weeks to see the BIG picture and benefits of your system. Slow is fast.

  2. Layer 1 ALONE looks better and has more scoring opportunities than any other offense I’ve tried before. I think it also gets all the players excited because they know each pass is a scoring opportunity. This thought alone creates enthusiasm for passing. I coach high school JV boys and elementary boys and to get these kids excited about PASSING is great. Plus, the actions are so simple (pass and cut, fill out to the open spot), that the kids are more aggressive in their actions. The simpler the play is, the more aggressive the players will be. Not only that, its just fun to teach this offense.

  3. Coach Torbett – If you had to list the “negatives” of teaching Pass & Cut as the first layer, what observations would you include on your list?

    • Hey Craig – The only negative I can think of is the fact that I have to constantly remind them that this is NOT the entire offense! It’s like teaching a boxer how to jab. There’s no need to go further until the boxer can jab, because the jab is going to set up all the sexy combinations that will knock out the opponent.

      The players are constantly asking, “Can I do this? What about that?” And I’m constantly answering “Wait. Be patient. We’ll get to the rest of the game in a short while and you’ll be able to do anything you want.”

      I think it has something to do with our “Instant gratification” culture. Players are impatient with the process.

    • Hey Tim…..I coach a u13 boys travel team. This is our third year of read n react….I recall the boys would get lost in pass n cut sometimes and miss drive opportunities….no problem…..once we started drilling layer four, they were looking to drive, drive and pitch and safety valve. If you drill it….they will do it!

      Coach Chris

  4. We had a lightbulb moment in our third practice of the season where one girl, who was new to R&R, started draft driving during our first 3v3 cuthroats. When I asked her why she kept doing that she replied “Theres a big hole there. Am I the only one who sees that?”. I had to chuckle. We then spent time explaining why this was such a good attacking option ESPECIALLY if the filler is a little late and commended her on her seeing the open space. Its almost an ISO play if the timings right – quick cut/slow fill. Of course once shown, the draft drive became so infectous in our cuthroats (3v3, 4v4) that we’ve had to impose a no-dribble-penetration rule so we can concentrate on the actual pass,cut and read line elements of the Layer 1.

    Another upside was, because we’ve encountered it so early in the preseason, our defenders are now more aware of it but its still a pretty hard move to defend at the best of times which why it caught on so easily with my guards. Add a cutter who doubles back when their defender helps and you’re going to get open looks everytime.

  5. @Craig, from my experience coaching R&R, the two most distinctive downsides to teaching Pass and Cut first are:
    1. Delaying the development of your dribble penetration within the Framework.
    This means although you can develop dribble skills and penetration moves; there actual application within the framework doesn’t kick in until Layer 4+. This implies that if your team is slow on the uptake of Layers 1-3 (Core Pass and Cut layers) then you maybe late in installing Layers 4-6 (Core Dribble Penetration layers).

    It should be mentioned that Dribble Penetration was in the first layers of the original release 17-layer version of Read and React but due to feedback, it was changed. IMHO for the better too.

    2. Delays in development of your defense if you coach it in-line with your offense
    Defending Layer 1-3 is all about Defense on the ball, Ball-Denial-Help positioning and rotations. However things like Help and Recover cannot be taught until you have dribble penetration in the mix and again, any delays in getting to Layer 4+ may stall your progress here. Understanding that the whole premise of collapsing timeframes implies any form of offense in a non-offense emphasis eg teaching your defense, your press, your specials etc should include the appropriate R&R elements whereever applicable.

  6. Layer 1 has so many advantages like (1) to teach player movement, (2) to assist in teaching spacing and to help develop half court defense by defending players on the move and in different spots. It’s “critical” to utilize this foundational piece it is glue for many offenses. It is too important not to invest time in as a coach to teach to your team.

  7. Some years ago, I was watching a Div. 1 practice and the coach was reviewing his secondary break with his teams. The players made a trip down the floor, came back and completed the task – NO PROBLEM! The kids were awesome! I start getting ready to take out my pen and pad to diagram this stuff! THEN the coach said, “Run your secondary break and put 2 drives in off of your their secondary break. The players came back down the floor did their first drive, and when they tried to drive back the other way, EVERYTHING FELL APART. The guards were bumping into each other, the post were bumping into the guards, it was a mess. The spacing fell apart, people were getting mad at each other! The point guard said, “MOVE!” The coach told them, “NEXT GROUP! PUT TWO DRIVES TOGETHER! Same result. Then the coach tore into them…practice was about to break down.

    As I was sitting there, I thought to myself, “Could my team do this?” Sure enough that practice, as an expirement, I told one group “Run your secondary break, and drive the ball.” They did. I told the next group, “Your turn.” Same result. Then I told the first group “Run your secondary break, and make two dribble drives.” They all looked at each other. They went down the floor, came back and put together 2 drives. No Problem! I was pleased…then I had the next group do it. Same result. No problem. The wheels in my brain starting spinning, I was quizzing them. “Run your secondary break, ball changes sides of the floor then

    a) make two drives, hit the post
    b) make two drives, hit the safety valve
    c) make two drives, hit the corner comeback man…I added a few more.

    This went on for about 10 minutes. We were getting game like work during practice (just like the section “TRIPS”). I thought to myself, “Tomorrow, I am going to add into secondary break section a “Driver’s choice” (let the driver choose his drive and pass to whomever he wanted to) this would test the kids moving correctly or if they bump into each other. Needless to say, I wasn’t surprised with the outcome. We had spacing, the kids were moving in unison, there were no turnovers, there was no frustration on the part of the coach or players and kids were learning. Layer 1 is important. I feel for teams who drive the ball then get stuck.

  8. The secondary break was our structure which had two rules:
    1. The ball must change sides or
    2. Go into the post before a shot was taken.

    The alignment was a 4 Out 1-In and part of the secondary break had the trailer catching it between the two circles, looking for a high-low and then swinging it to the other side. Pretty standard stuff, you see it all over the college level.

    We told the kids that if they see an opportunity to make a play, then go for it. Thus anytime the defense overplayed, or the ballhandler saw an opportunity to drive to the basket, then we considered the play broken and went into READ and REACT MODE. If the trailer was being defended over the read line, then we weren’t able to look for the Hi-Low, then the trailer went back door and we were in the R&R. We would score off of a Trailer backdoor in transition. It became comical because they would overplay we would go backdoor, they would underplay and we would look for the Hi-Low and swing the ball. Either way, we got what we wanted. The most important thing was that the players were reading the defense, making choices, and it was all coordinated.

  9. Eric – Thanks for the response.
    How are you using the RandR vs. Zone. The Hook and look is great using 4 out 1 in, but the team I consult wants to use 3 out 2 in. Any suggestions for 3 out vs Zone. The head coach wants to coach high low.

    • The only problem I have seen is sometimes when we pin screen are guy on the backside is circling and is out of position for the pin screen. He goes to fill then the pin screen is ran and he is running the other way. Anyways to fix this?

  10. Tim – Have your big man start the ball at the top of the key. He initiates the offense with a pass, followed by a hook and look….he is now a big target that the wing man can look into. This is probably going to be your better jump shooter of the two bigs. I would place my best finisher of the two at the bottom on the short corner. He could draw fouls and also look to pass out to his 45 degree option (that is if you treat the post pass, like a baseline drive). Your high low will be there along with other pass reads.

  11. Great resource

  12. Great stuff !!

  13. Can some one explain what is high low?

  14. I see level 1 as a chance for everyone on the team to touch the ball. More team play. Parents what to see their kid with the ball. Learning your spots and spacing, knowing where to go when you get lost. Penetration drives often become one on one rather than sharing the ball, unless the penetration gets stopped. Eventually they get combined.

    The main problem with getting the ball after pass and cut, is passing into the cutter. The skill of passing into the cutter requires timing and quick reaction skills by passers. The skill of passing into the cutter, in my experiece, is more advanced than most dribble penetrations. It means both cutter and passer have to understand each others skill level, speed, reations, catching ability, etc. I am always amazed seeing some really good passes into the key on the NBA level.

    We need to give more honor to those who share the ball (assists) and create opportunities for others to score. In training we have played whole games with only pass and cut. The kids were amazed at how much they could do. The R&R is built to let every player learn every spot on the court. I treat this as very important in training youth. Level 1 and 2 does this best. Adding cutters filling out to back screen, you have it there.

  15. I introduced layers 1-3 to my 4th graders in our first practice and in hindsight I should have stuck with just pass and cut. The biggest issue was getting them to fill up. Going forward I’m going to have them do the 2-3 man reaction drills and then allow them to play 3 on 3 with a shell defense until it clicks. If I can add layer two and draft drives over the next two months I’ll be a happy camper.

  16. When I put this this layer in with my middle school girls team, Ithey wanted to just catch and pass. Didn’t give the cutters time to get to the decision box or fill out to empty spots. How do you get them to slow it and let these actions take place without telling them to hold it for 3 seconds and then pass? Or do you tell them to hold it? Thoughts please…..

    • Coach Trues- My high school boys team suffers from the same problem quite often. What we teach them on the catch is: immediately look at the cutter, then look at the rim (if open for a shot), then look at the cutter again as they may be open later in the cut or a draft drive becomes available at the middle/end of their cut. If they do those 3 things I believe this can help with the timing of your Read & React. Hope this helps!

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