Three Man Fast Break Drills – Set 1


Through the years, I found and/or created a series of drills for teaching my Fast Break System.  Three-Man Drills are great for teaching fast break fundamentals as well as serving as lead-ups to 5-Man Drills.  I have developed two sets of these 3-Man Drills and I rotate those two sets in my practices along with a set of 2-Man Drills.  Once the drills have all been learned, I allow 10-12 minutes of practice time for any one set per practice.   With this rotating system, I am able to continually review the basics of the fast break every practice, all season, and keep the players engaged.  In any three consecutive practices, we will do three different sets of these drills, all relating to one another, and each teaching important elements of our Speed Game.

Set #1 – 3 Lane Rush, Figure 8, and Numbers (3 on 2 / 2 on 1).

Set #2 – 3-Man Outlet Options (5-1-2) (5-1-3) (3-1-5) & 3 on 3 Delay Man.

Set #3 – 2-Man Outlet Options (Long, Short, Bust out), and 2 on 0 Post Up.

In the preseason, when we have six practices a week, we repeat the three sets starting on the 4th through 6th days.  In-season, we generally have three practice days and two game days, so we just go through the sets once in a week. I am a firm believer in the theory, “If you want to get better at something, practice it everyday.”  Therefore, we work on some fast break drills every day. Teaching the drills during summer or fall workouts will save a lot of in-season time because most players will then already know how the drills work.  Having the lower level teams running the same drills makes it even better for you when the younger players move up each year.  

Set #1

The initial group of three drills in Set #1 were the only ones I used for years until I came up with the other two sets later in my career.   I got two of the three drills in Set #1 from Hall of Fame Coach Ralph Miller while working for him at Oregon State University.  The third one was an adaption of one my high school coach ran called The Olympic Drill.  I will cover Set #1 in this post and will gladly present the other two Sets if requested.

Figure 8 – The Wide Way

In a previous post, I discussed the 3 Lane Rush Drill which encourages wide lane running.  “Rush” is the foundation of Three Man Drills and the lead off for Set #1.  (For a full explanation of the 3 Lane Rush, please see my earlier post, Early Fast Break Drills.)  The second drill in Set #1 is called Figure 8, but it is not a traditional, old-school figure 8 with tight weaving down the middle of the court.  This Figure 8 teaches players to run wide, run hard, jump stop when receiving a pass, and throw longer, cross-court passes.  There is no dribbling, no traveling (of course), and no bounce passes.  The drill starts with three lines of players on the baseline, just like 3 Lane Rush.  The middle line has the ball and starts on the baseline, while the other two lines are wide and on the sidelines, a couple of feet up from the baseline.  Just like 3 Lane Rush, the drill starts with a pass to a wing and then the extended figure 8 motion begins. 


The Middle Man (3) goes behind the man he passes to (1) and heads for the sideline so he can touch it by mid court. (Diagram 1 above)

Wing (1), receiving the pass, catches and comes to a jump stop.

The opposite wing (5), takes off down his sideline, making sure to touch the sideline at mid court.

The second pass will now be made all the way across court, to (5) from (1), somewhere around the top of the key line-extended at the opposite end of the court. 

This pass must be received with a jump stop too.  Receiver (5) must maintain balance and not travel as he waits for the original Middle Man (3) to get nearer the basket.

The original Middle Man (3) runs down the sideline and sprints hard to receive a pass from the Wing (5) as he (3) cuts to the hoop for a layup. (Diagram 1 above)

The original outlet man, Wing (1), sprints to the basket and takes the ball out of the net, pivots, and starts the drill going back the other way immediately. (Diagram 2 above right)  He then figure 8’s behind the man he passes to. 

The first shooter, the original Middle Man (3), continues out to the wing and gets wide and ready to receive an outlet pass.

Wing (5), who made the pass for the layup, swings through and under the basket to the other sideline.  (Diagram 3 below left)  He sprints and gets wide in his lane so he can touch the sideline at mid court.  He will receive the second pass in this return trip, a cross court pass near the sideline, top of key line extended.

page-003 page-004

       The drill repeats in the original figure 8 fashion, returning to the  starting end. (Diagram 3 again)  The new middle man (1) will now get the layup on the original end to finish this group’s turn.  The next three in line now take their turn up and back repeating the 3 Figure 8 Drill. (Diagram 4 above)  The three players who have just finished their turn will move to a new line and wait their next turn.  As in all my drills not having defense, the shot must be made before going to the next step.  I try to give all players at least two turns up and back in each drill.  But we will do more turns early in the training season to improve execution.  As in 3 Lane Rush, do not stress over turnovers.  Just have the nearest player chase the ball down and make the next pass.  Keep the pace up and the drill moving by encouraging players to sprint-out and get wide.  They will get better at this if the coach is patient, encouraging, and drills them daily.

Key Teaching Points for Figure 8:

  1. There are only six passes allowed in this drill; Three up and three coming back.  All passes should be caught and thrown with two hands.

2. No bounce passes allowed.  There is no defense, so no bounce passes needed.

3. No dribbles allowed.  Time the pass to cutters going to the basket.

4. The cross-court pass will be hard for them to throw in the beginning, but they will learn, get stronger and get better at it.

5. When returning to the lines at the end of their turn, players should go to a new line from where they previously started.

6. If the outlet pass is to the left wing, the middle man will end up with a left-handed layup.  Encourage this outlet so players learn to make full speed layups with either hand and with confidence.

Numbers: 3 on 2 / 2 on 1

The third drill in Set #1 adds defense to the series.  One direction will have two defenders for three offensive men to attack and then one defender for two offensive men to attack coming back.  The purpose is to teach players how to handle an offensive advantage, “numbers”, which often occurs on fast breaks and off of an opponent’s turnover.  With the numbers advantage, I expect my teams to score 75% or more of the time.  This drill provides season long practice for these situations.

After running 3 Lane Rush and Figure 8, three to 5 minutes each, it is time to work on Numbers (3 on 2 – 2 on 1).  As mentioned earlier, it was called The Olympic Drill when I first learned it as a player many years ago.  I generally convert to this drill by stopping the Figure 8 Drill while three players are at the far end of the court, halfway through their turn.  Two players will stay on the far end and prepare to defend while the third member of the group jogs back outside the sideline to the original end and gets in line again.

The defenders will only play half court defense, so the offense pretty much is choreographed until the ball crosses the mid court line.  As in the previous two drills, we start with an outlet pass to a wing.


 The middle man passer (1) does his figure 8 move and goes behind the man he passes to, then continues down the sideline.  Wing (3) runs his sideline as usual.  (See Diagram #5 above)

Wing (2) catches the outlet, pivots, looks up court, then dribbles toward the middle, using his hand that is closest to the midline of the court.  His job is to get the top defender (5) to move to one side or the other to open a passing lane for a teammate.  When (2) sees the back defender (4) move to a side, he should be able to pass to the open side (1).

As soon as a basket is made or a turnover occurs, the two defenders attack the opposite end.  They are encouraged to pass the ball back and forth (See Diagram #6 above right) until they get to a point it is no longer feasible, then they should drive to the basket.  The next man up (X1) in the middle line is the defender of the two attackers.  He is encouraged to start at the top of the key and challenge as hard as he can.  The drill continues by going the other way when the offense scores, turns it over, or when (X1) gets a rebound.  (X1) is then joined by (X2) and (X3) for an attack on the opposite end, thus repeating the drill. (See Diagram 7 below)   Note that (1), the original middle man to start the drill, returns to a new line by jogging out of bounds along the sideline.  (Diagram 6 above again)  The original wings (2 and 3) are left to play defense against the second group now attacking.  So the middle line plays defense on the original end and the wings play defense on the far end.  When returning to the lines, players should always go to a new line so they play defense and offense from new spots the next time through.


I love this drill because it teaches passing, quick attacking, reading situations, and finishing.  It also provides our defenders opportunities to practice stopping an opponent when we are out-numbered on transition defense.  This again, is another up and back drill with quick action and many teaching/learning opportunities.

Set #1 is three drills that provide your team with opportunities to improve passing, attacking, and finishing at full speed.  They are the backbone of my fast break teaching philosophy and are required drills for my JV and Freshmen teams to learn also.  I had a pretty successful fast break attack for many years just using the three drills in Set #1.  By adding Sets 2-3, I think we became an even better running team.  As I mentioned earlier, I will be glad to share those sets with anyone who is interested.

Key Teaching Points for Numbers:

  1. Make players stick to fundamentals and not try to get too cute.

2. Jump stops off the dribble are important in the beginning to cut down on turnovers and bad decisions.

3. Insist on two-handed passes at all times.  

4. Insist on dribbling left-handed when going left and right-handed when going right.

5. Take good shots, but quick shots.  A layup is the goal or short bank shot.  

6. Score in 3 or 4 passes going up court and try for no dribbles coming back.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s