Maximizing Basketball Scrimmages

These ideas on maximizing your scrimmage time came from the Xavier Basketball Newsletter

I have always wrestled with how much to let players play in practice and how much to stop and instruct. Obviously, they have to learn to play through mistakes in games, but, if we take the time to teach how to play, hopefully they won’t make as many mistakes.

It is a difficult balance to strike. These six ideas can help provide some structure to your five on five segments in practice so that your players will be used to game like transition and still allow your coaches the opportunity to teach.

There are 8 ideas altogether. Take the bits and pieces that you like and modify them to fit your needs.

Maximize the Scrimmage Situations

1) 4 Minute Games:
Playing 4 minute mini games allows for a number of aspects of the team to improve. For college programs, the mini games simulate the game time between media time-outs allowing players to maximize their effort between time-out rest time. Also, resetting the score after each session trains players to win the current 4 minute segment they are playing which helps in focusing them on each possession

2) Score…Stop…Score:
Calls for teams to execute scoring and defending for 3 consecutive possessions. Drill is blown dead as soon as a team doesn’t complete one of the 3 possessions effectively. We score the ability to have executed all 3 phases. We have found through our own research if a team can execute more than 5 of these per game they win. You consider having 5 or more 4-0 runs is like being up 20 points.

3) Stop…..Score…Stop:
Calls for teams to execute defending and scoring for 3 consecutive possessions. Drill is blown dead as soon as a team doesn’t complete one of the 3 possessions effectively. We score the team’s ability to have executed all 3 phases. Emphasis in the drill is turn your defense into points then create a second stop. Use this concept to start your games to set the tone of the game to be hard for your opponents to score on.

This drill is best introduced as a 3-on-3 situation. As the sequence of a STOP-SCORE-STOP is repeated and as the season progresses making it a 4-on-4 and ultimately a 5-on-5-on-5 situation will maximize the time and also create the most game like scenario possible.

With a large team you can have this going on both ends with winning teams advancing to play each other as needed. Divide into two 3-on-3 colored teams. Blue starts on offense. White on defense.

The main idea to communicate is that each possession either finishes in a STOP or a SCORE. It is each team’s goal to complete a 3 possession sequence of a STOP-SCORE-STOP. SCORE is anytime the offensive team scores a basket or draws a foul.

STOP is anytime the defensive team secures a defensive rebound, forces TO, or tie-ball. When a team comes up with a STOP they then must follow that with a SCORE to keep their sequence going. If that team completes the next possession with a defensive STOP they EARN a point.

We will either play this drill to a certain number of points or for a set amount of time.This is another drill that works both offense and defense simultaneously.


Teaches the importance of finishing possessions either with rebounds or steals or tying up loose balls. It teaches great communication. It teaches your players how quickly momentum can swing.


Teaches the importance of shot selection, valuing the ball in risk/reward situations. As a Coach you must create the competitive spirit of this drill with your energy and ability to keep the drill flowing without long delays in the action.

4) Situational Scrimmaging:
Allows for teams to practice specific time and score situations. Increases players awareness and intelligence with game situations. See what players can handle different situations.

5) From a Free Throw:
Utilize your Free Throw situation to set up your full court defenses and press offenses. Players must come to the line and convert FT’s in order for team to be able to set up the full court defense or half court trap action. Offenses must respond in kind to the defensive pressure. Play 1 possession on a offensive score but allow the defense to convert their stop before blowing the drill dead. Converting to defense off a missed free throw is something that teams do not do well without practicing and most teams do not practice it enough.

6) BLOB and SLOB Sets:
Start your scrimmages with a BLOB or SLOB set. Having teams execute an inbounds set versus a live defense is great simulation to games. If they don’t have a shot off of the initial action, it is a good time to If the offense scores, blow it dead. If the defense gets a stop, allow them to convert to offense an have a chance to score before blowing it dead.

7) Play with Special Rules
Having too many special rules detracts from your scrimmage, but one or two special rule that fit what you are emphasizing will help players focus on those areas. For example, if you award a team an extra point for every pass caught in the paint or dribble penetration into the paint, you will see more of those. If you give the offense an extra point every time the defense does not challenge a shooter, you will get more contested shots. Select an area you want players to focus on and develop a scoring system that rewards your players when they execute it in a scrimmage.

8) Keep Statistics for Practice Scrimmages
This can also be a target that you are focusing on and doesn’t have to be the traditional field goal percentage, rebounds, assists, etc.. Have an assistant coach chart, and call out, missed block outs. Or do the same for the offensive end, when your players don’t go to their offensive rebounding spots–record it and call it out. The key is to select an area that your team needs to focus on to be their best.

Click here for information on the complete basketball practice e-book
130 Great Ideas to Get a Lot More Accomplished in Practice”

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