What is a Hedge in Basketball and How to Counter It?

Have you heard about a hedge in basketball before? How does it apply to the sport?

It is said that good defense is the best offense. Well, that might as well apply to basketball, specifically the hedge in the game.

You probably hear coaches and other basketball enthusiasts talk about a hedge and wonder what it is. When they talk about hedging, they are talking about a defensive play.

However, there is more to hedging than simple defense. There are proper ways to perform a hedge, amongst other things. Here’s the deal:

What Is a Hedge in Basketball?

A hedge is a common defensive strategy in basketball used to thwart screens and pick-and-rolls. This technique aims to help the defensive player stop their opposition from infiltrating the lane.  

You can also use it to create non-threatening passes, turnovers or prevent the offensive player from reaching the rim.

How Does a Hedge Work?

A hedge occurs when a defending player guarding the offensive player (setting the screen) leaps higher than the screener and onto the path of the ball handler.

By doing so, the hedger gives the ball handler’s defender time to recover and continue guarding them.

In some leagues, you will find coaches telling their hedgers to confuse opponents by yelling or shouting at them. Sometimes this technique works, and the offensive player will fumble. However, several leagues do not allow this action.

While hedging is a great technique to use in basketball, you have to be careful when implementing it. As a defensive player, you should not turn a hedge into a switch. 

The point of hedging is simply to block a screen or pick-and-roll. Once the play is successful and the ball handler has been neutralized, the hedger should return to their original position or cover an unmarked player.

The hedger might need a new mark because they might have moved too far away from where the offensive play was set. In this scenario, a help defender should take their place.

Moreover, a coach should only enlist versatile players to perform hedges. The player should be quick enough to complete the hedge then recover. A slower player might not be able to recover after hedging, and this might destabilize the team.

When Should a Player Use a Hedge?

Hedging is a fantastic defensive technique, but like with most things, it is not perfect. For one, not all players can do it. Second, it doesn't work in all cases. You shouldn't use a hedge if the screener is a fantastic shooter.

If you hedge a player that takes accurate shots, they'll simply use a pick-and-pop afterward to try and get an open shot.

You should only use this technique with a screener that isn't the best shooter.

However, if you choose to use this technique on a screener that is a good shooter, the hedger should not go too far away from his mark.

By staying close to his mark, the hedger will be able to recover and block any shots the offensive player might take.

Keep in mind that the entire team should be aware when a player is about to perform a hedge. This is because the ball handler might pass the ball away from the hedge. 

Ensure hedging drills are done before you try the technique during a game.

Like with most techniques, a team needs two things for hedging to work, constant communication and practice.

Hedging Techniques: Tips for Using Them 

The hedging technique is so diverse, and there are so many tricks you can use with this technique to increase its effectiveness:

  • Blitz the Ball Handler

This coverage is a bit risky but worth it if executed right. With this coverage, the two defenders guarding the screen and ball-handler converge on the ball handler as soon as the opposition performs the screen. 

Keep in mind that you are leaving your defense exposed by using this coverage. 

This tactic works best when the guard from the opposition looks to attack the rim then perform a screen and roll. 

With this coverage, you can easily confuse the ball handler by trapping them, forcing them to act without calculating (Sounds better than yelling at the opposition).

By confusing the ball handler, they most likely won't think about shooting and possibly turnover. Ultimately, their screen won't be a success.

The success of this coverage relies on your big. This tactic won't work if they are not fast enough to trap the ball handler. If it doesn't work, your team will be exposed, and the ball handler can quickly get past your defense. 

Avoid using this tactic if your help-side defense is not strong. If you don't, you can end up with multiple vulnerable spots.

As a coach, if you want to use this coverage, ensure your help-side defense is as strong as possible. If not, the screener will have an opening to your basket if given the ball. 

Also, do not use this technique in the middle of courts. Most times, it is best you use it on the sidelines.

  • Switching the Pick and Roll

This trick is mainly for screens. With this tactic, the players guarding the screener and ball-handler switch positions. This means the player guarding the screen will now defend the ball handler, and the player guarding the ball handler will now guard the screener. 

This tactic is beneficial because it helps the defensive team prevent the offensive team from creating direct drives to the basket. 

With this coverage, the player guarding the screener can easily intercept the ball handler at the inception of the screen.


This tactic should only be used by teams with versatile defenders that can apply themselves in various positions during a game. Also, the tactic can be helpful if the players executing the pick and roll are two guards or bigs. 

Refrain from switching the pick and roll if your defenders are not versatile enough for the role. If you choose two unfit players to perform this tactic, they might disorient the team. An example of a tricky pair for this tactic is between the point guard and center.

In a case like this, the center will end up facing the opposition's point guard, and your point guard will be in charge of stopping the center from scoring. This is not a strategy you want to implement. 

As a coach, it is your job to make sure the defender stays under the screener. Also, ensure the defender swapping to the ball handler doesn't go too high, thereby giving them an opening to score.

  • Ball Screen Icing

The goal of icing a ball screen is to keep the ball handler in the sideline thereby, keeping them from the screener in the middle. 

The on-ball defender has to mark the ball handler on their high hip for this coverage to work. As this goes on, your hedger must guard the screener along the lane. 

Also, the hedger must be parallel to the baseline. This is to make sure the ball handler is caged in and the hedger is available if their teammate needs help guarding the ball or if the screener recovers the ball.

This coverage is optimal if your team is having a hard time guarding the sideline. 

This move helps your team keep the ball handler in the sideline, which in turn reduces the options he would have had in the middle of the court. 

Using this tactic, you leave your defense open to long and mid-range jumpers. Also, your team is vulnerable to pull up from the ball handler if your big players are not as fast. 

With that said, many teams don't mind the two-pointers made by big players. Many NBA teams use this coverage successfully because big players aren't the best at taking long two-pointers, so defenders mostly have nothing to worry about. 

This tactic is most effective in high school basketball. Your job as a coach is to ensure you correctly place your help-side defense. If you don't, your defense will be overrun with easy shots from the opposition.

How to Beat a Hedge

Knowing what a hedge is and how to implement it is great, but how about learning how to beat it? You can counter hedging with these three simple steps:

  • Read the Defense and Rescreen

Every good team knows to research their opponents before and during their match. 

After a few pics, hedgers will start attacking the screen and roll. When this starts to happen, the offensive team will know that the defense is hedging and decide how to play moving forward.

If you want to understand your opposition quickly, you should perform the same play twice. This means you should think about setting the pick twice, which is also called rescreening.

Once the offense notices the defending players are hedging, they can get past the screen and gain a chance to score.

  • Screen the Screener

You should expect most hedges from the screener’s defender. The best way to perform an effective hedge is for the defender to stay with the screener and wait for the screen to be set.

If the screener’s defender is handled before the screen, they won’t be able to perform the hedge. In this case, the ball handler should be free to go around the screen and get a chance to score.

  • Alter the Angle of the Screen Before it is Set

If a defender wants a hedge to be successful, they have to set it by blocking the ball handler's path. This should be done right before they go around the screen.

However, if the screener alters the position of the screen at the last second, the defending player will be unable to hedge adequately because they would be on the wrong side of the ball. 

This move is detrimental to the defense because it will disorient the team while giving the ball handler the opportunity to go around the screen.

Conclusion: Hedge Basketball

Hedging is not as complex as one might think. Basically, it involves the defending player guarding the screener moving into the path of the ball handler.

It is effective against several offensive strategies, and even the most professional players use it. However, it is not perfect. You cannot use it in all scenarios, and not all players can perform it.

Luckily, there are ways to thwart the effects of hedging, and any team can efficiently perform them.

We hope this article has helped you understand what a hedge in basketball means.

Joshua Bast

My name is Joshua Bast and I have been playing basketball ever since I was 7 years old. I love the game play, I love the feeling whenever I score a basket, but what made me fell in love was the camaraderie with my team mates. This blog is dedicated to help any up-and-coming basketball players maximize their potential.

Joshua Bast