When I watch a lot of basketball at the lower levels (up to JV), it bugs me a little when I watch 1 team dominate the other team simply through a full court press. Ever since about a year ago, I used to be of the sole belief that it was just bad form for a more athletic team to FC press a less athletic team. But the more I think about it now, I think it points to a failure by coaches to properly teach players how to deal with traps and double-teams, especially in the open court.

There were always be situations where it is bad form for a team to be FC pressing (like if ahead by 20-plus points, etc...). But as coaches, we tend to overemphasize the tactical side, how to scheme out of FC pressure, and not actually teach players how to play out of pressure themselves. I think there are some general concepts we as coaches should be teaching which will allow even less athletic teams, the ability to successfully play against pressure defense in the open court. Sure it takes more work, there are no quick fixes, but in the end its a better way to approach it in my opinion.

I scoured my notes and came across some good teaching points from a Mike McNeill article of Basketball BC. So, without further ado, here are some of those great pointers:

1. Dribbling and passing skills required:
• Change of pace dribble
• Pop back or retreat dribble
• Pivoting skills – a great deal of passing ability is determined by pivoting ability; you must be able to create passing lanes by pivoting
• Pass fakes

2. With the ball, do not:
• Attempt to pass off the dribble over top of the defense
• Attempt to pass around the defense – “pass through the defense” - this means pass the ball by the ears, off the hips or directly over top of the defender’s head
• Pick up the dribble until you are ready – “keep the dribble alive”

3. Away from the ball, do not:
• Get “three in a row” – in the diagram O2 should move to the sideline, or to middle, to create a passing lane for O1
• Wait for the pass - move to the pass, “run through the ball”
• Let the defense catch up to the ball after a trap – Hit the next open player.

4. With the ball:
• Pass first, dribble second
• Fake high, pass low or fake low, pass high
• Dribble, but constantly change pace
• Force the trap when you want to not when they want to

5. In the double team:
• Stay low in the trap - maintain balance
• Pass away from the defense
• To split the double team take the ball through low and first
• If near a side-line or end-line learn to bounce the ball off the defenders out of bounds – this should be practiced
• If, using NCAA rules, call a “time-out”

6. Approaching the double team:
• Only cross center when you know you can get 10 feet past the center line so you have room to pass the ball back
• When approaching the trap make your last dribble and step to the outside of either defender to create a passing lane
• Use your retreat or pop back dribble and take on the slower of the two in the double team

7. Away from the ball:
• Go down the floor until your check stops - “when yours stop, you stop”

• Circle cut to take your check out of help and to create passing lane

• When the ball is moving towards the sideline or on the sideline you must have a teammate down the sideline, ready to move behind the ball in the middle, and in the middle

• When your defender goes to double team you come back to the ball

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  1. Brandon Kirkpatrick  

    January 25, 2010 at 7:48 AM

    Great post coach. I find myself at times telling players to "go here, catch and pass here, etc." and get frustrated when for some reason we are not able to break the press.

    Focusing on the fundamentals of breaking a press gives players to skills to take the initiave and exploit whatever advantages arise during the play, instead of what you drew up on the whiteboard.