History of the Run & Jump
The full court defense that seems to bother teams the most is the Man to Man, Run and Jump Press. There are several variations that pop up with regularity in high school basketball, but the most common version is the one Hall of Fame Coach Dean Smith favored while he was at North Carolina. Coach Smith originally learned the Run and Jump at the Air Force Academy where he assisted Head Coach Bob Spear. In their version, a defender pressured the man with the ball, forced him to dribble to a sideline, and then cut him off. A second defender then came from the blind side and trapped the dribbler. The resulting two-time changed the defense into a Zone Trap Press as two defenders were now on the ball and the other three had to zone up and cover four opponents. The trap was designed to cause the man with the ball to make poor decisions resulting in bad passes or other such turnovers.
If a dribbler got by his defender and headed toward the middle of the court, a down court defender could “jump” the ball to stop the break. The original on-ball defender then switched off and covered another open offensive player farther down the court. However, defenders were coached to not let their opponents dribble to the middle of the court, so this “middle court jump” did not happen as often as the sideline trap. This press was a straight Man to Man Press with no “run and jumps” for parts of the game, and then, all of a sudden, a “trap” occurred to the surprise of the offensive team. This element of surprise made the Run and Jump Press all the more effective.
Very few teams can adequately use the Run and Jump for extended periods of time. It requires depth and a lot of energy that most teams just don’t have. For teams with such a combination, the defense can cause opponents quite a bit of trouble. For others, it is a potent weapon when administered for short periods of time, such as the end of games when behind.
Effective Attacks vs The Run and Jump
One of the best ways to handle the Run and Jump is to have a great ball handling guard. You can get him the ball, clear out, and let him “do his thing.” But, unfortunately, very few teams have a great guard who can handle the pressure for a whole game, so other considerations must be explored. A team with several ball handlers has the advantage of multiple attack options. With many teams I have coached, we were lucky to have one good, ball handling point guard. That’s why we spent time in most practices working on one on one dribbling skills and ways to handle traps.
As mentioned in earlier posts, I favor a simple approach to beating pressure. I always wanted to keep the first two Secondary Break options available. Those are, the long pass from out of bounds (4) to (2) and the quick sideline attack of (4) to (1) to (2) or (3). Being able to do these options from time to time at least, keeps the defense on their heels and a little more cautious while pressing. But most of the time, a more controlled attack was forced on my teams because the first two, quick-attack, options were not there. That’s where a clear out came into effect. When the point guard gets the ball, avoiding a corner of course, he first faces his basket and looks ahead to get a view of the court. (Diagram 1) Then he can clear everyone out to the other half of the court. (Diagram 2) With this move, we hoped to eliminate the blind-side trap that the Run and Jump relies on. If an off-ball defender decided to leave his man and go for a trap on the ball, the now open offensive player would come back toward the ball for a potential relief pass.
After a clear out, the point guard, or any other ball handler, should use a fake, then go by his defender body to body, not avoiding contact, not looping away from his defender, not conceding anything. The defender wants to drive the ball handler to the sideline, so the dribbler needs to do his best to stay in the middle of the court. By challenging the defender body to body for space, the dribbler has a better chance of drawing a foul. A foul in the backcourt helps in a couple of ways. First, it can cause the defense to loosen up its pressure a little. Second, a couple of fouls can get an opponent on the bench and bring in a second line player in his place. Third, as fouls pile up, your team gets to shoot free throws which gives you a shot at two points without even breaking the press. All of these results will make it just a little bit easier for the ball handler to stay in the middle of the court and/or beat his defender up the court. Run and Jump teams are usually very aggressive defensive teams. Accepting their challenge by countering with physical play yourself is a major step in beating this press. You cannot be intimidated.
The Back Dribble
Another very helpful tactic in handling the Run and Jump is the back dribble. When doubled, the point guard should avoid immediately picking up his dribble. A back dribble will help to clear some space for finding open teammates or for making a move to break free. (Diagram 3) The defense wants the dribbler to panic and pick up his dribble as soon as he is trapped. This allows the defenders to close in, hands high, causing poor decisions that result in turnovers. A dribbler should keep his head up so he can see the court, watching for any potential double teams, while preparing to find open teammates. By keeping his dribble alive using a back dribble, the ball handler can more easily pass ahead or make a move to get himself free. (Diagram 4) This makes it more difficult on the defensive team to succeed with their traps and that is exactly what you want.
Point guards and all ball handlers need to keep calm and not panic when a 10 second or 5 second call is getting close. It is better to “eat it” and take the violation than to rush a blind pass that gets intercepted for an almost certain lay-up. A turnover taken out of bounds gives you a chance to play defense and get the ball back. A poor pass leading to a breakaway dunk is hard to defend.
A man to man press tends to slow running teams down more than most zone presses, at least in my system. Clearing out takes a little extra time, but it is better to settle down a little, bring it up under control and wait for the “jump” to come. Then you can attack with the “numbers” game in your favor. (Diagram 5) This is the “fast break” part of the Press Offense. It might seem like a slower attack, but the resulting score can often be quick and easy. You never know when just a couple of quick, easy baskets will cause the opposition to abandon the full court press and retreat just to stop you from scoring so easily. When that happens, you are in control of the game’s pace and you have shown your opponent that you can handle their full court pressure. Sometimes you just need to slow down a little to play fast.
Key Teaching Points:
1. As in all fast breaks, pass ahead to any open teammate.
2. When dribbling all the way across the mid court line, don’t stop until you at least get 15 feet beyond mid court. This creates space for a possible back pass.
3. Go body to body when getting by a defender. Draw some fouls.
4. Be the aggressor. Never back away or be intimidated.
5. Fake one direction before making your first move to dribble.
6. When receiving a pass, square up and face your basket while clearing some space with a step forward.
7. Start with weaker hand at times, so you can switch to strong hand when cut off.
8. “Clear out’ players must call out any double that occurs to alert the ball handler and to remind open players to come back and help.
9. Dribblers, keep your head up and use the back dribble if doubled. As a last resort, bounce the ball off of an opponent’s leg out of bounds when trapped near the sideline or in a corner. Then you can start over with a new possession.