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Basketball Press Offense - 3-Up Press Break

By Dr. James Gels, from the Coach’s Clipboard Basketball Playbook

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Try this 3-up, triangle setup for attacking the full-court press. You can position your players however you want, depending on their ball-handling skills.

Point-Guard Denial

Start with a 3-up triangle (diagram A). This strategy works well against teams that deny the inbounds pass to our point-guard O1. We send O5 deep down the floor. O1 and O2 start at the elbows and split wide as seen in the diagram, while O3 sprints up the middle looking for the pass from O4.

3-up press break - Point-Guard Denial 3-up press break - Point-Guard Denial

O3 gets the pass and O1 and O2 cut up the sidelines for a quick pass from O3. Now we are off to the races and should be able to attack for a lay-up.

Not shown here, what if the pass to O3 is also denied? In this case, O1, O2 and O3 should all take their defenders down near the endline, and then quickly back-cut for the over-the-top lob pass. It's important that all three players take their defenders to the endline so that there are no help defenders high to pick off the lob pass.

If done correctly, this pass should be wide open, and when completed, we are "off to the races". The rule for the inbounds passer, is "don't be short on the lob" - a short lob can be intercepted. We can usually beat the defense to a long log, and if the long lob is intercepted, we can still get back and defend.

Point-Guard Trap

Alternately, the defense may allow the pass into O1 and then immediately trap. Again we start with a 3-up triangle (diagram C). We send O5 deep down the floor. O1 and O2 start at the elbows and split wide as seen in the diagram, while O3 sprints up the middle as usual. Here, O1 gets the pass. O3 makes a quick diagonal cut (diagram D) looking for the pass from O1 and he/she speed-dribbles up the court, looking to attack with O5 for a lay-up.

3-up press break - Point-Guard Denial 3-up press break - Point-Guard Trap

If O3 does not get the pass, he/she keeps going up the right sideline. After O3 diagonal cuts, O2 follows with a diagonal cut (diagram E) and is often open if the first pass to O3 is denied. Now O2 speed-dribbles up the court. If O2 does not get the pass, he/she locates in the middle and could still get the pass if O1 dribbles up the sideline. If O2 sees the ball being reversed to O4 (diagram F), he can either stay in the middle or move up the left sideline, whichever looks open, for a pass from O4.

3-up press break - Point-Guard Trap 3-up press break - Point-Guard Trap

After the inbounds pass, O4 always stays behind the ball, so that O1 (caught in a trap) can pass back to O4 (diagram F). O4 then dribbles up the opposite (left) side and looks to pass to O2 who is either in the middle or has gone up the left sideline near half-court. Or O4 passes back to O1.

If the trap is not tight, O1 could either split the trap with a dribble, or speed-dribble up the right sideline. On the sideline dribble, he has to be aware of a possible trap, especially around half-court. In this event, O1 could pass back to O4 (always behind the ball), and O4 attacks up the left side. On the sideline dribble (diagram F), O1 should be looking to pass to O2 in the middle, O3 up the sideline, or even O5 long under the basket if this is open.


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