Spain won in the semi-finals of the World Cup in China. For the first three setplays, we saw Gasol and Hernangomez starting off at the three-point line around the top of the key. Nobody’s surprised anymore to see the two towers that far away from the basket, it is worldwide known as a HORNS 🤘 set. Or CUERNOS, like they say here in Spain.
Horns is a collective name for all setplays which start from a certain alignment: 4 and 5 around the top of the key as screeners and the wings each in one of the corners of the court. Whether we talk about this World Cup or any of the European youth championships, it’s by far the most common spacing I’ve seen all summer long. And I see a couple of good reasons for it:
1) By definition this alignment assures a proper spacing at the beginning of the play. Basically starting off as a 5-out spacing, after a screen or hand-off one of the bigs stays out, going over to a 4-out set.
2) It is very easy to install. National team programs often just have a couple of weeks to prepare for the main tournament. Horns sets give many options while being simple and short, flowing over in the motion rules of the team.
3) It’s so easy to add wrinkles and special plays during time-outs. Also in game-to-game adjustments on a tournament, it is easy to change some details to attack certain match-ups.
So… Everybody 🌎 knows “Horns” and all the sets are on YouTube. Where’s the catch?
There’s no such thing as a magic or secret play in basketball. All actions and playbooks are analyzed online and in the end so many teams are running the same thing. What makes some teams (like Spain this summer) so successful with it? And why not other teams with the same plays in their book?
In this video I dig into the secrets of Horns when I go over the same sets ran by different countries:
There’s one “little detail” my video above did not cover yet…
In basketball – just like in any other aspect of life – success is not an accident. It’s the result of a long process. And in Spain that process starts at a very young age. Whenever I walk into a kids practice here in Spain, I recognize the seeds for the way Rubio & Co are playing. Spanish basketball represents a certain identidy, a certain style of play. You recognize it in youh basketball all over Spain, in the ACB, in the lower divisions, on the youth NT’s, … And foreign players and coaches? Either they adapt to it, either they will never fit in here…
The hashtag of the federation #SomosEquipo is more than a slogan here. They show it on the court. This is us, this is how we play the game. On all levels. How many federations or youth programs are lacking this identidy or vision, with often coaches on different age groups with their own ideas and goals.
It will not surprise you that the Spanish national teams U16 & U18 were running some of the same sets and options as their flag ship:
Oh, I realize very well that a style of play is way more than running the same Horns set :-). I will definitely go deeper into other aspects of the Spanish school during my time here in Valencia.