Teaching the 5 Man Break


Early season practice time can be used for teaching wide lane running as discussed in the previous article on Early Drills for the Fast Break.  But soon a coach needs to introduce the organization of the 5 Man Break.  Sprinting out hard to the lanes and getting wide must still be monitored closely as this next phase is taught.  From the 3 Lane Running Drill discussed in my the previous post, two more players are added.  One addition is another Post Player and the other is a Point Guard.  For the sake of teaching and communicating with players, each of the five players is assigned a number from 1 to 5.  The (1) will be the Point Guard and best ball handler.  The (2) and (3) will run the wide lanes along the sidelines.  To simplify in the beginning, assign (2) to the right lane and (3) to the left lane.  As the players become comfortable with the break, (2) and (3) can run either side and adjust on their own so only one player is on a side.   The (4) is the better passer and outside shooter of the two Bigs.  He will take the ball out of bounds when a shot is made by the opponent and on any other backcourt out of bounds situation.  The (5) is usually the tallest and/or best inside post player.  It really helps if he is a fast lane runner, but a determined lane runner will work almost as well.

With this five man group, it is now time to run the Primary Break (Missed Shot Break) with no defenders, or “5 on 0.”  Start with all 5 players in the key area, facing the basket, in rebounding position.  One player will toss a ball off the backboard and another will rebound and look to make an outlet pass to the (1).  The Point Guard should sprint out to the near sideline, up the court as far as comfortable, with his back to the sideline.  This positions (1) in a spot that is easier for the rebounder to find him for the outlet pass.  It is important to position wide and away from the congestion of defenders who are retreating. 

As soon as the rebound is secured, the (2) and (3) sprint out to their lanes and look for a sideline pass.  The (4) or (5) fills the middle lane on a dead sprint, whoever gets there first, looking to beat his defender down the court.  Whichever big man fills the middle first is called the Streaker, and the other Big is the Delay Man.  The Delay does just what it sounds like, he trails the play and delays his part in the fast break.  His purpose is to stay behind the point guard until the ball is passed ahead.

The First Option to teach in the 5 Man Fast Break is the Sideline Break.  Since most defenders tend to retreat down the center of the court, the sidelines are usually open for offensive attacks.  If the sideline is open, the outlet pass should go from the Point Guard (1) to a wing runner (2) or (3) without any dribbles whenever possible.  (See Diagrams Below) With the Streaker (4 or 5) running the middle hard, the Sideline Break can sometimes result in an outlet, pitch ahead up the sideline to a wing, and then a pass to the Streaker for a lay up.  All of this without the ball ever touching the floor is the goal.  Sequence: (4 to 1 to 2 to 5) or maybe (5 to 1 to 3 to 4) depending on who rebounds and which side the outlet pass goes.

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The Second Option in the Primary Break is called Over the Top or Middle.  When the sideline pass option is not available, the point guard immediately looks to the Streaker running the middle lane.  If he has a step on his defender and a clear path to the basket, the point guard can loft a pass over the top of the transitioning defense to the Streaker.  This pass is generally available after one dribble toward the middle by the point guard, after he has looked sideline and seen no opening.  This option will be there sometimes early in the game as a surprise to lazy defense and even more often as the game goes on when the Bigs’ defenders get tired.   Sequence: (4 to 1 to 5) or maybe (5 to 1 to 4) depending on who grabs the middle lane first. (See Diagrams below)

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5 on 0 Drill      

The 5 on 0 Drill is a great way to teach the Fast Break with its options.  It requires five players to go up and back running the break using two scenarios, the Primary Break and Secondary Break.  The Secondary Break is off of a made basket and basically runs the same as the Primary Break with one exception: The (4) man always takes the ball out of bounds and the (5) always streaks on a made shot.  To start the drill, I like to have (4) toss the ball up on the rim and (5) rebound and outlet.  This allows (4) to be the Streaker and get out and run.  The (5) outlets to (1) and he pitches ahead to the (2) who then hits (4) cutting to the basket.  All five players must sprint, get their feet in the paint (key) and the ball must go in the basket before the drill continues.  In a quick return, (4) takes the ball out because a shot was made.  (See Diagrams Below)  The five players now run a Secondary Break heading back the opposite direction.  The (5) is now the Streaker and (1) gets an outlet on the opposite side where he started at the other end.  The inlet pass goes to (1) and he pitches ahead to (3) who now finds (5) streaking to the basket for a dunk (or lay up).  All players must run their lanes hard in both directions to complete the drill.  The Point Guard (1) always follows his pass ahead and becomes a safety release pass option.  A basket must be made on both ends before the next group of five repeats the 5 on 0 Drill.

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After the second group finishes the Sideline version of the drill, the first group again takes the court and now runs the Middle (Over the Top) version of the Primary and Secondary Break.  Again, the point guard (1) takes the outlet on one side for the Primary Break and then the other side when coming back to finish the Secondary Break.  On the Middle version, the point guard gets to use one dribble after looking sideline first.  The key is to get him to pivot and look up the sideline before putting the ball on the floor.  This will take some extra coaching, but is a key to getting the ball up court quickly with less dribbling.

Once the wings become comfortable looking for the (4) or (5) streaking to the basket, it’s time to let the wings have a scoring option in another cycle of the drill.  Instead of passing to the streaking post, the wings now catch and drive to the basket themselves for a lay up.  The (2) and (3) are encouraged to make the distance from the 3-point line to the basket in one dribble.  A coaching point: After each sequence, the groups should outlet on the opposite side of where they did in their proceeding turn.  That way, your players learn to attack from both sides of the court on the Primary and Secondary Breaks.

The Sideline and Middle options are the backbone of a good fast break attack.  But there is more.  In my next blog, I will discuss the Secret Move (3rd option) that makes all the difference in the long range success of a Great Fast Break Attack.

Key Teaching Points:

  • Designate one player (4 man) to always take the ball out in the backcourt.
  • Point Guard must get wide, up court as far as reasonable, back to the sideline.
  • Make or Miss by the opponent, your team is running.  Primary or Secondary.
  • Point Guards’ job is to get the ball ahead.  Pass is faster than the dribble.
  • Eventually the (2) & (3) can run either sideline, just not both on the same side.
  • If the (2) or (3) rebounds, they can outlet to (1) & then still run their lane.
  • When (1) rebounds, he “busts out” on the dribble looking to pitch ahead.
  • Practice running the Break up both sides of the court.

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