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Attacking the Full Court Press

By James Gels, from the Coach’s Clipboard Basketball Playbook, @
Full court press defenses try to get turnovers and easy baskets by pressuring, trapping, and harassing the offense. There are several principles and some strategies in beating this pressure.

Stay calm. The press tries to upset you, and make you commit turnovers. Try to be calm and confident that you can beat this. If you make a mistake, you must immediately forget it and stay calm. Otherwise, they may get three more steals from you, like a snowball effect.

Do not dwell on what's already happened always think "next play", what is going to happen next. The coach must stay calm too. An upset, angry coach is not what the already rattled players need. In a time-out, the coach must be calm, reassure, re-focus his players, and settle his players down.

Think "attack!". A full court press is always a gamble for the defense. If you think positive, and attack the pressure, you can get an easy lay-up and score. So when you see a press coming at you, ATTACK! Think of it as something to beat, to get an easy score... make 'em pay!

We like to attack the press with quick passing as this can get you a 2-on-1 situation and a lay-up. Sometimes you have to beat the press with the dribble, but then you are less likely to get the lay-up. So think pass first.

Three "looks".
When receiving the inbounds pass, catch it and get into triple-threat position facing the defense and look up the floor before immediately starting your dribble.

1. Look up. See the floor. Look up the court. Don't look down at the ball.

2. Look before you pass. Make good, quick safe passes.

3. Look before you dribble. Don't dribble unless you have to. You beat the press by quick, sharp passing usually not dribbling.

Getting the ball in-bounds. Get the ball in quickly, before the defense can set up. Make sure you make a good in-bounds pass. Do not take the ball out from directly under your basket, or your passing lane may be restricted by the backboard. If the other team has just scored, you may "run the baseline".

You cannot run the baseline if the ball went out of bounds and the official is handing it to you. You must stay where the ref gives it to you. If the ref doesn't handle it (like after a score), you can use the whole baseline. You can run the baseline after a time-out, if the time-out was called immediately after the opponent scored.

To receive the inbounds pass, the point guard must get open. Too often I see young point guards trying to get open by running away from the defender, which is usually unsuccessful. Instead, our point guard should walk up to the defender, make contact with the defender (get a forearm into the defender) and then "bounce-off" off the defender to get open. If the point guard is being aggressively denied, he/she can walk the defender down almost to the baseline, seal and quickly release long for the over-the-top lob pass.

When receiving the inbounds pass, we teach our receiver to get into "triple-threat position" after receiving the pass, rather than just putting the head down and starting to dribble. Getting into triple-threat allows the receiver the "three looks" disussed above, to see the defense, see our receivers, and still have the dribble option.

Avoid "trap areas"... the corners. Don't dribble into one of the trap areas (see below)... back away but keep your dribble alive, or pass off.

If you find yourself in a trap.. (1) do not turn your back to the defenders as this allows them to close the gap on you and you cannot see your teammates to pass the ball. Instead, face the defenders, and keep the ball low and moving and keep your body moving using your pivot foot; (2) Stay low and do not stand upright with the ball over your head, as this also allows the defenders to immediately close in on you.

If you have your dribble, you can (1) attack the outside leg of one of the defenders and dribble by, or (2) split the double-team by making an aggressive "step-thru" with one leg between the defenders, with head and shoulders bent over forward, cradling and protecting the ball like a football halfback going through the line, and then push the ball out in front of you starting your dribble. See Escaping a Trap.

pass quickly up the court
Pass quickly up the court

Quick, accurate passing. You must look and find the open man immediately, and make a quick, accurate pass. Avoid soft, lob passes. Passing up the floor, and cutting, are the secrets to beating the press. Look up the floor and anticipate where you will pass the ball, even before you get it. Don't be hesitant to make the long pass up the court. Oftentimes a good point guard can attack the press with the dribble and, before the double-team arrives, make a long pass up the court to an open receiver for a lay-up.

Receivers meet the pass... go to the ball, get open. But keep your spacing. Look for the open spots in the defense. Get open so your teammate can pass to you. Before you even get the ball, look to see where other open teammates are, so you will know where to pass to immediately. When you receive the ball, don't have your back turned. Immediately pivot and face down-court, so you can find an open teammate.

Use the whole court and reverse the ball to the opposite side. Keep at least one player on the "weak-side" to reverse the ball to the opposite side of the court.

Have a standard "press break" offense that works for you, so you can immediately recognize the press and yell "press break" to your team. Here are several press breakers to choose from:

Remember, stay calm, see the floor, pass quickly, make sharp cuts, and "ATTACK!"

Avoid the "trapping zones" seen in this diagram.
  • Avoid the corners (yellow).
  • If you get trapped in the blue zones, you risk the 10 second call.
  • The red zones are just like getting caught in the yellow corners... you are trapped by the sideline and the center line.

Trapping zones, avoid getting caught in these areas

Another way to beat the press is to use the "secondary" fast break (see "Secondary Break"). Get the ball in quickly before the press is set defensively, then a good long pass up the sideline and you've got a lay-up.

Related pages:

Helpful DVDs:

Mike Krzyzewski: Duke Basketball - Breaking the Press

Mike Krzyzewski: Duke Basketball - Breaking the Press
with Mike Krzyzewski "Coach K", Duke University Head Men's Basketball Coach; NABC "Coach of the Decade," 12X NABC "Coach of the Year," Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame (2001), 5X NCAA National Championships.

- Learn how to break any press on your basketball team from the National Association of Basketball Coaches Coach of the Decade, Mike Krzyzewski
- Basketball drills for beating any press
- Numerous tips and insights to all your team to enter the offense quicker and create scoring opportunities without generating turnovers

More and more teams are using half-court, three-quarter court and full-court zone presses to disrupt their opponents' continuity and produce turnovers. With this in mind, Coach K takes the court at Cameron Indoor Stadium to share his effective press break drills and his revered coaching philosophy. (Examples: … "players need to acquire the basic skill of catching the ball by meeting the pass" … "most teams need to cut down on the dribbling … use passing to advance the ball quicker!"). Coach Krzyzewski guides you through a series of effective drills used to break the 2-1-2 half-court press, 1-3-1 half-court press, 2-2-1 three-quarter court press and the 1-2-1-1 full-court press... (more info)

Price: $44.99
Buy Now

Beating Full Court Pressure and Match-Up Zone Defense

Beating Full Court Pressure and Match-Up Zone Defense
with Dave Odom, former Head Coach at the University of South Carolina and Wake Forest; 406 Career wins, 9x NCAA Tournament Appearances, 3x ACC Coach of the Year
Develop an aggressive offensive attack for countering defensive pressure. Dave Odom presents drills and strategies for successfully attacking full court pressure. Odom showcases two press breaks that can be used as an aggressive offensive attack depending on the type of pressure you face. These press breaks allow you to have at least three good passing options open at all times and emphasize moving the ball with the pass rather than the dribble... (more info)

Price: $39.99
Buy Now

Fred Hoiberg: Transition Basketball with Six Secondary Break Sets

Fred Hoiberg: Transition Basketball with Six Secondary Break Sets
with Fred Hoiberg, Iowa State University Head Coach; 2014 Big 12 Tournament Champions; 2012 Big 12 Co-Head Coach of the Year; 10-year NBA veteran and former executive with the Minnesota Timberwolves.

Coach Hoiberg starts by showing his basic scheme, which he calls primary break, with spacing rules by position. He believes that transition can be the most important phase that a team can incorporate through proper spacing, crisp cuts and precise passing. Through on-court demonstration, Hoiberg teaches you the ins and outs of the Cyclones' sets... (more info)

Price: $39.99
Buy Now

Roy Williams: Tar Heel Offense & Transition Drills

Roy Williams: Tar Heel Offense & Transition Drills
with Roy Williams, University of North Carolina Head Coach; 2009 and 2005 NCAA Champions.

- Explore the secrets of the Tar Heel offense with four-time National Coach of the Year, Roy Williams
- Get easy baskets using this tournament-tested transition offense.
- Discover drills to improve your primary and secondary breaks.
- This offensive system guided North Carolina to 90.2 points per game in 2009.

Many of Roy Williams' current beliefs were developed in his early days of coaching high school basketball in North Carolina. This basketball DVD will illustrate the "Tar Heel Running Game" with the use of players in an impressive on-court demonstration. This style relies on running the floor and sharing the ball with teammates. Advantages of this style are that the running game negates the defense's ability to get set, which leads to many easy baskets. Coach Williams covers his three offensive rules against a set defense... (more info)

Price: $39.99
Buy Now

Tom Izzo: The Numbered Fastbreak

Tom Izzo: The Numbered Fastbreak
with Tom Izzo, Michigan State University Head Coach; 2000 NCAA Champs, 3X National "Coach of the Year".

- Learn the numbered fast break from three-time National Coach of the Year, Tom Izzo
- Tactics for having a successful fast break
- Two- and three-man drills are first step in building a productive fast break

Coach Tom Izzo believes in scoring quickly by pushing the ball up the floor. The numbered break puts each player in a position to score. Izzo stresses that this fastbreak limits turnover and confusion by players. Two- and three-man drills are the first step in building a productive fast break. These drills can serve as a warm-up and are good for conditioning. Other drills... (more info)

Price: $39.99
Buy Now

Billy Donovan: The Unstoppable Transition Game

Billy Donovan: The Unstoppable Transition Game
with Billy Donovan, University of Florida Head Coach; 2007 & 2006 NCAA Champions, 2000 NCAA Runner-up; One of only two people ever to serve as head coach, assistant coach, and player in a Final Four.

Coach Donovan shares concepts for winning transition basketball that are usable at any level of basketball! The basis for his offensive philosophy is imbedded in fundamental skill and player mentality. Donovan demonstrates the drills that helped turn his inexperienced team into a "teamwork machine." Practice drills are the Two-Man Sideline drill, Three-Man Sideline drill and Five Cycles drill. A popular peer pressure drill is the "Laker Fastbreak" drill, where the ball is not allowed to touch the floor. The Gator transition game is based on concepts instead of patterns, which offers many obstacles for the defense.... (more info)

Price: $39.99
Buy Now

Copyright © 2001 - 2016, James A. Gels, all rights reserved.

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