Take 94 shots a game with Dave Arseneault's Grinnell Offense

Written by: Chris Hungerford



Time to read 8 min

If your team wants to play a fast-paced high-scoring offense then look no further than the Dave Arseneault’s Grinnell offense system. Coach Dave Arseneault is the head coach of the Grinnell College Men's basketball team. Grinnell is a Division III college located in Grinnell, Iowa, and home to one of the fastest offenses in basketball.

The goal of the Grinnell Basketball System is to get off 94 shots per game or about 25 more shots than their opponent with half of those shots attempts being 3-pointers. Each offensive possession often lasts only five seconds in duration depending on the game. They want to rebound one-third of their offensive misses and force 32 turnovers. If Grinnell can achieve these goals, it will win 95 percent of the time.

Below we’ll cover in detail the strengths and weaknesses of this offense, rules, and more. When you’re done reading this article, you should have a better understanding of this offense and if it’s right for your team.

Grinnell Offense Basketball

Strengths of the Grinnell Basketball System

  • Increases the pace of the game - This offense is high tempo with a shot going up on the offensive end within five seconds. Not just one shot a possession, but if they miss they’re crashing the offense boards hard to get more attempts.
  • Your team will be in elite shape - By running this fast-paced offense, it will easily increase your team’s conditioning to an elite level. They will be able to handle the fast tempo not only for their offense, but for defense as well. Arseneault’s team full-court presses the entire game. Again, with offense in mind, they press in order to force tempo and force turnovers.
  • Team effort - Typically, Arseneault will have 4-6 groups that he uses with various player combinations. Every two minutes, he will substitute five new players which allows his team to always be fresh on the court. This type of game plan allows many players to get playing time with no one playing the entire game.
  • The team can’t prepare for this type of offense - This offense system can be difficult to figure out for defenses because it’s essentially a motion offense without any predetermined set plays. To slow down the offense, teams will play a zone defense, but the Grinnell system is built to score against any type of defense.

Weaknesses of the Grinnell Basketball System

  • Scoring point guards - In order for this offense to be effective the point guard must be aggressive with a score-first mentality. If the point guard is thinking pass the ball rather than attacking the rim to score then you should consider a different offensive system because the Grinnell Offense starts with its point guard being a scoring threat.
  • Difficult to learn - The Grinnell Offense doesn’t involve any sets or plays because it revolves around a motion offense. This can be hard to understand at first because it takes time for players to understand constant movement without Coach telling them exactly what to do. With more experience and playing time (which players will get plenty of in this offense), this offense becomes easier.

Who Might Use the Grinnell Basketball System?

This offense is built for a smart, quick team that can handle the ball, shoot the outside shot, and consists of good decision-makers. Based on the goals of the Grinnell Offense, this team is completely an offensive-minded team.

A team successful with the Grinnell Offense needs multiple scorers - especially point guards. You will need at least two scoring point guards because the offense starts with them. Since there are constant substitutions, the bench players are just as important as the players who start the game. If you don’t have any strong players after your starting five then the Grinnell Offense may not be the best option.

Grinnell Offense System


The Grinnell Basketball System has a basic set it follows on the offensive end, but different ways that offense gets started. Despite the different beginnings, once the offense gets started it’s all about working together and getting a shot off within the amount of time of their goal (five seconds).

Starting the Offense

There are four different ways the offense starts:

  • Scored On
  • Defensive Rebound
  • Referee Handle
  • Turnover

The most common way the offense starts is by getting scored on. With this in mind, Coach focuses on the reaction time of his players after giving up a basket. After your opponent scores, the offense needs to inbound the ball as quickly as possible.

The player responsible for the inbounds pass needs to get the ball out of the net before it hits the ground. They need to clear the backboard and make an overhead pass to the point guard. The point guard is going to be curling left to right or the same side as the inbounder with their back towards center court. Once the point guard has the ball you’re able to get right into your offense.

If the point guard is being guarded and not able to get the initial inbounds pass then you go to the next option. Your 3-man will come back to the ball, receive the pass from the inbounder, and then look to pass it back to the point guard who has cut to the middle of the court.

Even though getting scored on is the most common starter to the offense, it is important to focus on each starting scenario and make sure all four are perfected to every detail. Each will happen over the course of a game and your players must know what to do in each situation.

Basic Set Options

There are five options in the basic set for the Grinnell Offense - each option will be depending on the defense.

  • Option #1: Point guard scores

The point guard starts the offense by attacking their defender and looking to penetrate and score. The key to this offense is the point guard being aggressive and being a scoring threat at all times.

The right wing player will move to the opposite side of the court which opens up the right side for the point guard to attack the rim.

  • Option #2: Ball side wing off a double screen

As the right-wing player moves to the opposite side, there’s a level of screening taking place. The other three players are going to set a down screen for the wing player.

The offense will have to read the defense to know which way to go off the screen. If the defender chases them, they will curl off the screen. Or if the defense tries to go over the top of the screen, they will fade to the corner.

The point guard will pass to the wing for an open shot either in the middle of the court or the opposite corner on the fade. As you can see in this clip, the first trip was a fade to the corner and the second is a curl to the top of the key.

  • Option #3: Trailer for a shot

This option is focused on the big man - if the big man isn’t being guarded then they are a trail option for a three.

  • Option #4: First screener (ball side wing) screens and uses a double stagger for three

After the first screener sets the first screen, they are going to then come off the double stagger screen as well for a shot.

  • Option #5: Swing swing off the second curl, ball back to point guard for motion offense

If there’s no shot out of option 4 then we will swing the ball to the corner. If it’s a dribble penetrator, we will clear out for them to attack. However, if it’s someone we prefer to shoot, we will get the ball back to the point guard and get into motion offense.

Grinnell Zone Offense

Against a Zone Defense

There are times when teams will decide to defend the Grinnell offense system with a zone defense. The player to figure out the defense is in the zone is the ball side wing that goes to cut to the other side. If they see, there’s not a defender coming with them then they should know the team is in a zone defense.

To go against a zone defense, the Grinnell Offense goes with a four-out-one-in approach. They put four players around the perimeter and their best decision-maker at the high post.

They pass the ball around the perimeter until they have a high-percentage pass into the high post. When the high post has the ball, the shooters will relocate and non-shooters will dive to the rim or set a screen for a shooter. At this point, the high post will be looking for the open player to score.

If after a couple of passes, there isn’t a high percentage pass into the high post then that player will move out to the perimeter and the next best decision maker will move into the high post area.

The hardest part for the Grinnell Offense to go against a zone defense is being patient for a shot because this offense doesn’t want to wait. That’s why the players must constantly be moving and if the ball doesn’t get into the high post quickly, they get out and the next player comes in.

Grinnell Offense Drill

5 vs 0 Played United Effectively Tired for 10 Minutes

This is an offensive drill that requires players to play as hard as they can for as long as they can. It’s an individual drill of knowing your own limit as a player.

One shot per possession so the offense will start with either a make or a miss depending on if the offense scores. There’s no second shot taken. If they make the shot, the offense starts with inbounding the ball whereas if it starts off a missed shot then a rebound starts the offense going to the other end of the court.

Players substitute themselves - and if they play multiple positions they need to make sure and play every spot during this drill.

The hard part of this drill is for players to understand how long they can be effective. Some might not want to take themselves out of the drill, but if they aren’t going full speed they aren’t making the offense better.

Learn More

Grinnell Basketball System Video

There’s so much to learn about the Grinnell Offense and finding out if it’s right for your team. If you want to learn more about developing your offense and how to form your player groups for substitutions, check out Dave Arseneault Grinnell's Offense DVD. It goes into incredible detail with excellent demonstrations to help you instruct your players on the court and make your game plan according to your team.

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