A Glossary of Basketball Terms


Arm Bar- Action of using forearm to body check offensive player.

Balanced Floor- Offensive formation displaying optimum spacing.

Ball- Term used to call alert defenders of a loose or tipped ball.

Ballhandler- The player who dribbles and runs the offense.

Ball Side- The side of the court where the ball is located.

Baseline- The line at either end of the court that runs parallel to the backboard.

Baseline Cut- Corner player has the option to cut toward the baseline if it is open. A basic cut out of a sideline triangle.

Basic Working Distance- A 15 to 18 inch spacing between offensive players. This working space should be kept on offense as it creates operating room for the player with the ball.

Basic Working Position- Player assumes triple-threat position. Ball under chin, knees flexed, head and eyes up.

Baseball Pass- Pass thrown like a catcher, overhead, for distance over 20 inches to key the fast break or hit a player on the fly.

Basket Cut- A player who cuts to the basket.

Block- The portion of the free-throw lane nearest the baseline.

Center- Usually the tallest player on a team.

Chase- Get on the opposing player’s hip and tailgate through picks.

Cleared Side- Area on the court left open by a clearing action of players in that area.

Close Out- Controlled defensive slide to cover an offensive player.

Corner Spot- Corner area, strong side or weak side, that is filled in the formation of the sideline triangle.

Cutter- Player who moves off a screen toward the basket or to receive a pass.

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Defensive Balance- Concept of protecting basket, preventing the opponents from cheap baskets and eliminating errors on offense or fast breaks.

Deny- Defensive play that prevents an offensive player from receiving the ball.

Diagonal Cut- After the strong side guard passes to wing a cut made on an oblique angle toward the weak side.

Direct Line Principle- No defense between the ball and the basket, a penetration action to the hoop.

Double Down- Defensive double team on the post.

Dribble Weave- A dribble action that takes the ball to a teammate and affords the option to pass as you cross with that player-an interchanging action off the dribble.

Drop Pass- Pass delivered from low protective position that is dropped to the floor so the ball bounces knee-high to the speed cutter-not a bounce pass.

Entry Pass- An inbounds pass or a pass made to initiate the offense.

Fast Break- An offensive strategy in which a team advances the ball quickly up the court to score an easy basket.

Field Goal- A successful attempt at a shot.

Fly- When designated or overplayed, an outlet player reverses the field and runs downcourt for pass.

Forward- A player who is usually tall and can shoot from the perimeter and rebound.

Free Throw- A 15-foot shot taken from the foul line.

Free-Throw Line- A line 15 feet from the basket behind which players shoot free throws.

Free-Throw Line Extended- A parallel position extended to the right or left of the free-throw line by a few feet.

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“Help”- Calling out a defensive SOS.

Help Side- Opposite the ball.

High Post- The area around and near the free-throw line.

Hook Shot- Offensive set shot during which the player turns his or her body sideways and arcs a ball in the air toward the basket. Usually done by a forward or center.

Inbounds Pass- Throwing the ball in play from out of bounds.

Inside Cut- On wing pass, guard cuts inside the wing to corner.

Interchange- Exchanging offensive positions on the floor with a teammate.

Invert- In stacks, defenders use principle of big players in and small players out.

“Iso”- Call to alert team of isolated offensive player.

Isolation- Term used to identify area outside three-point line where offensive player or players align themselves.

Jump Shot- An attempt from the floor to make a basket, usually from more than 5 feet from the basket.

Jump Switch- On switch, a move into the path of dribbler to influence either to baseline or stop advance of the ball.

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Lag Principle- The guard opposite the ball stays in position slightly behind the ball. This provides a safety valve passing opportunity for the strong side guard. It also provides a good defensive balance.

Lane Line- The lines at the side of the lane extending down from the free-throw line.

Lay Up- A shot from very close range, usually as a player dribbles directly to the basket.

Line Of Deployment- Post player on the direct line between the ball and the basket about 15 inches from the ball.

Low Post- Area along the free-throw line.

Man-To-Man- Each player is assigned the responsibility of playing against one specific player from the other team.

One Player Removed- Term used to signify sliding behind screener.

Open Up- Defensive drop slide to an angle including the ball and offensive player.

Outlet Pass- A pass thrown by a rebounder that initiates the fast break.

Out Of Bounds- Outside the playing area. The area from which a pass can be made to bring the ball in the area of play.

Outside Cut- After wing, pass cuts to the outside of wing. Don’t make this cut unless there is room outside.

Overload- Occurs when area is cleared either to the strong side or the weak side, or when coach is stressed.

Over The Top Cut- A player cuts over the top of a post player or a screener in anticipation of the ball.

Over The Top Pass- A high-arched pass, over the top of the defensive player attempting to front or deny a pass to a teammate.

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Paint – The area inside the lane or the 3-second area.

Passing Halo- The area around the head from the top of the head to the edge of the shoulders. An area where the defender can’t block a pass with his or her arm.

Penetrating Dribble- A dribbling action that penetrates the defense by movement toward the basket. An entry action by the guards to initiate the offense.

Penetrating Pass- A pass that goes through the defense as an entry action by the guards to initiate the offense.

Perimeter- Outside the free-throw line.

“Pick”- Call to alert teammates to an oncoming screen.

Pivot Foot- Offensive player with the ball must keep this foot in contact with the floor at all times when not dribbling.

Point Guard- Primary ballhandler in the offense.

Point Your Pistols- Assuming a stance with one hand pointing toward the ball and the other toward the player being covered.

Post- Area along the free-throw lane and halfway up the lane toward the free-throw line.

Press- When the defense extends pressure to the half-court line (half-court press), to the free-throw line (three-quarters press) or to the baseline (full-court press).

Pursuit And Cut-Off- Defender runs, chases and slides to control player when beat or to activate a trap.

Reversing The Ball- Moving the ball from one side of the floor to the other.

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Screen- An offensive player intentionally blocks the path of a defensive player.

Screener- An offensive player who blocks the path of a teammate’s defensive player.

“See The Ball”- Call to alert team or player to get ball vision.

Short Pass- Short pass to a cutter at close distance. Pass must be a slight-of-hand action and stay on the same plane-not a hand-off.

Show And Recover- Defensive action of simulating a switch on a pick and then retreating with offensive player.

Showing To The Ball- A defensive position when the person you are guarding is away from the ball. Show position is between the person you are guarding and the ball.

Sideline Triangle- Overload to strong side or weak side when three players form a triangle on the sideline.

Smother- On the ball defensive overplay to force traps, jump balls, etc.

Solo Cut- Wing and post players work together on ball side in a pass-and-cut two player game.

Speed Cut- A full speed cut, under control, in an attempt to out run the opponent to the basket or down court.

Split Cut Action- Two offensive players crisscross or scissor cut the post player either at high post or low post.

Square Up- Defensive stance that includes bent knees, feet that are shoulder width apart, etc.

Strong Side- Side of the court where the ball is located.

“Switch”- Call alerting teammate on exchange of assigned players.

System- A basketball philosophy that includes what we do offensively, what we do defensively and everything in between.

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Tandem Partners- Each of two pairs of two offensive players away from the ball who work together to get each other open.

Telegraph- Motion of winding up on the delivery of a pass, thus alerting the defense to the direction of the pass.

3-Point Line- Semicircle that runs around the perimeter of the basket and from beyond which a basket worth three points is attempted.

3-Point Shot- Shot from beyond the three-point line.

Time Delay- Defensive body check used to hold up offensive player.

Top Of The Key- Area slightly beyond the top of the free-throw lane.

Trailer- Post player or bounder who trails the fast break. Triple Threat PositionóPosition a player assumes with the ball where he or she can shoot, pass and cut or dribble/drive.

Transition- Moving down the floor going from offense to defense or going from defense to offense.

Turning The Ball- Moving the ball from one side of the floor to the other,

Two Hand Overhead Pass- Pass made two handed with the arms extended with the wrist and finger snap only.

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Unbalanced Floor- Created when a player clears an area of the court or a player is put in isolation.

Under Control- Optimum speed at which a player can operate.

Weak Side- Area of the court opposite the ball.

Wing- Area to the side of the offensive setup, usually the free-throw line toward the sideline.

Z-ing The Floor- Positioning players in 45-degree angles from the ball or at 45-degree angles from a teammate up from the ball to attack defensive pressure.

Zone- When players are assigned a certain area to play instead of a certain player to defend.