menu close twitter facebook snapchat instagram youtube article basketball gallery graph left-arrow right-arrow search star trophy video net clipboard shield-check shield-star stopwatch filter reset Share




Shop Now USA Basketball
Ivan Rabb

USA Basketball Coaches Network Discusses Role Of the Power Forward

  • Date:
    Mar 27, 2015

This week’s focus is on the power forward, and so our question for the USA Basketball Coaches Network is: 

What are some traits of a successful power forward, and how can you best utilize this player in your game plan?


Don Showalter, head coach, Iowa City High School (Iowa)

Power forwards are the players that coaches and teammates depend on much of the time to do the dirty work in the paint. Power forwards need to take some of the pressure off the post play by providing another player who can rebound and score in the paint. Post play is important and high energy on the glass is a must for a good power forward. This player is more valuable and makes the team better if he can step out on the court to shoot a mid-range jumper to go along with good play in the paint. We use power forwards to swing the ball from one side of the court to the opposite side -- especially off the secondary break situation, so passing ability is crucial for this role.


Sue Phillips, head coach, Archbishop Mitty High School (Calif.)

The most successful power forwards embrace physical contact and make rebounding their trademark. This type of forward must also be a threat from the low, mid, and high-post areas. They should be a triple-threat: able to catch and score, bounce it to improve their footwork angles, or work the high-low pass.

We have found that teaching our power forwards a go-to move, a counter move and an emergency move are essential keys to consistent post productivity. At times it can be a fistfight to catch the ball in the paint, and a foot-fight to score around the rim. In turn, mental toughness and nimble footwork are two characteristics of an effective power forward.

In our system, our power forwards provide a physical presence on both ends of the floor. He/she posts aggressively around the low block, and serves as an enforcer by protecting the rim on the defensive end.  Our best power forwards don’t just relish contact for contact sake, but have a knack for consistently finishing through contact. Especially on the offensive boards, he/she has a nose for the ball and a relentless mentality to pursue the ball.

We also utilize our power forwards as our screener in all big-on-small screening situations. This is most effective against switching schemes and, in particular, any on-ball action. This provides mismatch situations for both the ball handler and the screener. While power forwards are most readily equated with size and strength, versatility is the name of the game.


Brian Robinson, head coach, Bishop McGuinness High School (N.C.)

Some positive traits of a power forward are the ability to run the court harder than the opponent’s post player(s), allowing for your team to get easy opportunities at the basket. Good power forwards provide offensive rebounding for your team with those second chances providing energy and potential fouls on the opposing team. Also, good power forwards can be used as a press-release screener for your point guard to get some space when bringing the ball up the court against pressure. All in all, power forwards should be able to take some pressure off your other post players by clearing space and giving your team another option in and around the paint.


Dori Oldaker, head coach, Mt. Lebanon High School (Pa.)

Unfortunately, in girls high school basketball, the true power forward is becoming a lost art. (Maybe this is only true in my region.) Few forwards play with their backs to the basket anymore or have true post moves. Most forwards nowadays “face up,” rather than make a move. A successful power forward should be able to score with a variety of post moves and counter moves with their back to the basket.

One of my favorite traits that a power forward should encompass is the ability to out-rebound everyone on the floor. They should have a nose for the ball when the shot goes up. A very successful power forward should also be able to knock down the mid-range jumper and be able to see their open teammates on a defensive double down!  Another positive attribute that we stress with our power forward is the willingness to rim-run and beat everyone down the floor for easy baskets. Any time your “big” can rim-run and get easy scores, this can be demoralizing to the opposing team and change the atmosphere of the game!


Related Videos

Gold-medal winning USA Basketball coach Don Showalter lays out the most important things to remember when speaking to your team before a game.

After leading USA Basketball teams to perfect, 5-0 records and gold medals at the 2017 FIBA Americas U16 Championships this past summer, USA head coaches Carla Berube and Don Showalter today were announced as co-recipients of the USA Basketball Developmental Coach of the Year Award.

Related Content

USA Basketball spoke with two-time gold medalist head coach Sue Phillips to get her insight and perspective on coaching.

3x3 can be a beneficial tool for five-on-five teams.

Hear from five USA Basketball experienced coaches on what they do to wrap up a basketball season.

Coaches from all levels explain how they change their practice approach late in the season and in regard to playoffs.

Gold-medal winning USA Basketball coach Don Showalter lays out the most important things to remember when speaking to your team before a game.

Coach Licensing & Organization Accreditation Login

Forgot Password?