Huskies Insider Blog

Washington's high-post offense still a work in progress

We wrote about Washington's learning curve with the high-post offense for today's paper. You can find that here.

I wanted to pass along the graphics that went with the story and some more info from Don MacLean, who became the Pac-12's all-time leading scorer in the system, and Mark Gottfried who runs the high-post at North Carolina State.

In talking with MacLean, Gottfried and Lorenzo Romar, each stressed finding continuity in the offense takes time. Arriving to a fluid point takes even longer when the roster fluctuates, as has been the case for Washington this season because of injuries to Scott Suggs and Shawn Kemp Jr.

Supporters of the high-post offense suggest that it can feature any particular player or multiple players. MacLean and a guy you may know less about, Marcus Brown, illustrate that point.

MacLean was a 6-9 wing who could shoot it and duck in on the other side, when the opportunity was there. He scored 2,608 points with the high-post as the Bruins' primary halfcourt system (it should be noted those UCLA teams ran a lot, too).

"If you have forwards that can score, then it’s a very good offense," MacLean said. "Who can score ... not only catch and shoot, but are good coming off screens, can put it on the deck. The thing I like about it is it gives you some structure but you’re not structured out. It gives you kind of an outline of where you’re supposed to be. Coach (Jim) Harrick gave us a lot of freedom not necessarily to break out of the offense, but be creative within the offense."

When Gottfried was the head coach at Murray State from 1995-98, the high-post helped Brown, a 6-4 point guard, average 26.4 points per game his senior year. Brown shot 50 percent from the field and 42 percent from behind the 3-point line.

"I think every player at every position can be featured," Gottfried said. "Whether it’s the point guard, wing or post player. My team last year had five guys in double figures, was second in the league in assists and averaged nearly 80 points a game. The way we look at it, it’s a pretty good system."

Last year was Gottfried's first at NC State. He said his guys didn't have a fluidity in the offense until mid-January and into February.

Washington shows it in spurts. Ohio State coach Thad Matta said Washington had its way on offense at times. Buckeyes point guard Aaron Craft said once Washington began going ball screen with Andrew Andrews, it gave him trouble.

There are also multiple portions of the offense to master. Many entries start by hitting a big man at the elbow, but that's not the only way Washington runs the offense. It often uses a wing entry, and, at times, the point guard dribbles to a wing then reverses the ball.

We illustrated a possession against Saint Louis that started with a wing action:

Abdul Gaddy (0) brings the ball up the middle of the floor against Saint Louis and decides to work the left side where C.J. Wilcox (23) is. Jernard Jarreau (33) sets a screen at the elbow for Wilcox. At the same time, Aziz N’Diaye (5) sets a screen on the other side for Andrew Andrews (12). The weakside movement is important to keep proper spacing during the play.

Gaddy cuts through behind another screen from Jarreau (33) after making the first pass to Wilcox. Jarreau then pops from his high-post spot to receive the ball from Wilcox. After making that pass, Wilcox (23), dives down to screen for Gaddy while Jarreau reverses the ball to Andrews on the other side. Gaddy flares to the wing of Wilcox's screen and Andrews takes a look to see if N'Diaye is open.

After reversing the ball, Jarreau (33) is on the move again. He dives down to set a screen for Wilcox (23), his third of the set, while Andrews (12) looks to the post. Wilcox burst up to the elbow and ends up with his defender trailing. Jarreau carves out space on the left, N'Diaye on the right and Wilcox takes just two dribbles to get to the middle for a clean look from about seven feet away. He misses, but gets a block called on Saint Louis.

All of this took nine seconds. The maximum benefit to Wilcox, Gaddy and Suggs is it helps buy them space, minimizes the need for their dribble and puts them in repeated positions for the same shots.

As a result, the field-goal percentages for Gaddy, Suggs, Wilcox and even N'Diaye are all up this season.

That bodes well, though there is a long way to go.