The Virginia Basketball Program: The Blocker Role

Before I continue my study on the UVA Blocker-Mover offense I would encourage you to read my first entry on the “Blocker Mover Offense”. This system is a controlled offense (I want to point out, UVA loves to run on any turnover but in settled situations they are very patient) that limits turnovers and allows limited players to maximize there abilities and become key assets to a teams success.

This system might not match your offensive philosophy, but studying other systems has tremendous value. You may pick up a point or two that fit into your philosophy but more importantly it forces you to observe and think creatively. Screening is a key component to my offensive system and I am learning a ton from watching the UVA players “block” in their offense. I also would love to experiment with the concept of using this as a motion delay, especially if I was trying to steal some minutes with some limited players.

I have heard Dick Bennett mention that it is simple enough that it allowed him to give more emphasis to his defense. Tony Bennett’s teams are exceptional defensive teams as his father’s teams were and I will discuss at a later post. No team doubles the post as quickly and rotate efficiently as the UVA team.

OK, let’s take a closer at the screeners in the offense. My notes are coming from my viewing of their recent victory over the LSU tigers. There are two types of “Blockers” from what I have been reading and seeing.

Lane Blocker – this is your offensive player who might be lacking perimeter skills. The will execute a lot of screens all along the lane line – anything from pins, ball screens, flare screens on back screens. The key to all these screens is that the lane blocker will initate them only about one step from the lane line and he will either be rolling to the basket or immediately rescreening. The key for this player is not where you screen, but where you go after you screen.

UVA uses a tall lanky big named Sene as their lane blocker. He does not have the offensive skills that most coaches are looking for, but in the UVA system they can limit the areas that he plays in and thus can play him major minutes. Sene is a good shot blocker who has some mobility as a big player, in other basketball systems his offensive ability would prevent him getting on the floor.

Free Blocker – this blocker is a little more skilled, he can screen a bit high and wider from the lane. The key for him is that he can shoot the ball, this would be some of their other big players such as Sherrill, Regan, and Mitchel. There leading scorer Mike Scott has these inside/outside skills perfect for this position (he has injured and the UVA has struggled lately, but is surviving)

In the diagram below we see a free blocker setting a down screen and flaring to an open area.

Some other interesting items that I noticed from the game:

  • It seems that blockers will work on different sides of the court. Notice in the diagram below we have a blocker on the left elbow
  • I also noticed to start the second half that Coach Bennett would initiate his offense with one of his blockers setting a flat ball screen in the middle of the floor. This created some nice initial penetration for their man offense.
  • Do not think that screening is about getting open jump shots, it is about catching the ball with the defense in a poor initial position. I am watching movers catching the ball with defenders close enough to challenge jump shots, but they might be playing hard on their outside shoulder and thus giving him a great driving angle.
  • LSU played a lot of zone in this game and they used a lot of the blocker/mover concepts in their zone offense (Block and fill/slip into a hole in the zone, lots of ball screening)
  • I love ball screening in transition, they got nice action with there penetrating lead guard Jontel Evans.

I would love to hear from anyone who has actually coached this offense. I will be watching more UVA games in the future and will continue to write about this offense and will start discussing their defense.

One final note, there is a video out their from Dick Bennett, maybe Tony will produce one at some point. I have watched it but unfortunately can not seem to find it. Here is a link to the DVD if you are interested in adding it to your library – The Blocker/Mover Offensive System

If you are interested in more quick tips I encourage you follow me on twitter at CoachAnglim.

As always, love feedback. Drop me a line at

One Comment

  1. Hi Baltbrian, I’m a UVa fan responding to your post on the sabre.

    I like the analysis here.

    I haven’t coached the blocker-mover, but from watching it a lot this year one of the things that strikes me about it is the quality of shots it opens up, and the variety of looks UVa shows from it. When Scott was healthy, the tendency was to look inside where he had become an excellent finisher. In this system, the “movers” usually took open jumpshots. When Scott went down, Tony adjusted the system to emphasize driving to the basket by the “movers,” essentially replacing Scott’s inside game with penetration into the lane.

    It has been a real revelation to watch the maturation of the system.

    In terms of youth basketball, I can see this system being helpful for coaches because of the set roles for players that still give them some room for creativity. When I ran a motion offense, my relatively inexperienced players would sometimes “get lost,” and be unsure of how to move in the system outside a set play. The blocker-mover offers some guidelines for moving in that offense. Screen, re-screen, roll, flare, etc…

    It does require a lot of screening, and setting and using screens are difficult but important skills to teach. Even at the high Division I level where Tony is operating, UVa fans see a lot of players struggling to set and use screens effectively. They are getting better, but it’s a work in progress.

    I never encountered the blocker-mover when I was coaching, but if I go back to coaching, I’ll probably try it … if I have the personnel.

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