A Coach needs to have a plan for beating full court pressure, and his team needs to understand the plan so they can execute it as needed. Once players have been exposed to the drills in Sets 1-4 for a few sessions, it is time to see how it all works in a 5 on 5 situation. Set 5 puts everything together in 5 on 5 Full Court Drills working against a Man to Man Press. It could be straight up “Man to Man” or a trapping “Run and Jump” type press. The same principles apply to both, but some adjustments will be needed verses the “Run and Jump.”
Straight Up Man to Man Press
Some opponents on your schedule will have the depth, quickness, and conditioning to play a whole game in a Man to Man Press. Their goal is to wear your best ball handler down and cause him to make mistakes that lead to turnovers and easy baskets. Having more than one good “handler” is important to beating this strategy. That’s why you train several players in the press drills of Sets 1-4, so that you don’t have to rely on only one player bringing the ball up every time. It’s even a good idea to have your second best “handler” in the game bring the ball up now and then, just to give your point guard a little break. Usually, the opponent’s toughest backcourt defender is assigned to your primary ball handler (point guard). By clearing him out and letting your second best dribbler bring the ball up, you may have eliminated the best part of an opponent’s press.
The standard method for beating a straight up Man to Man Press is to clear everyone out to the other end and let the point guard bring the ball up “1 on 1.” It gives him the whole backcourt to work his defender, with little interference from other opponents. This method was covered earlier in Set 2, “1 on 1 Pressure Drills.” Some coaches prefer to use this strategy the whole game, but clearing out and dribbling the ball up every time is a rather slow approach. A Quick Strike Option should also be considered if you want to have an uptempo offense. After an opponent scores a basket, an assigned player (4) can take the ball out quickly, look to find a teammate deep downcourt, or hit the point guard right away for a sideline passing attack. (Diagrams 1 & 2) These options often lead to an attack that is in motion before the defense can even set up it’s press.
A Delayed Inbounds Situation can cause a different problem for the offense. On made free throws or other such slow developing out of bounds situations, your team may need a slightly different approach to getting the ball inbounds. Your primary ball handler could use a “banana cut” across the key to get open (Diagram 3), or even post himself near the opponent’s key as discussed in Sets 3 and 4 earlier. (Diagram 2) Another important adjustment is for the other three offensive players to come back and help get the ball in, instead of just clearing out and watching. (Diagram 4) When the ball is inbounded to a secondary receiver (2) or (3), they can clear the court and dribble up themselves, or wait for the point guard to run by and take a hand off or pass.
Taking the ball out anywhere in the backcourt during a Dead Ball Situation can be even more difficult. Sometimes the point guard may use a screen from a teammate to get himself open. (Diagram 4) At other times, a Special Play may be a great solution, especially late in a close game when leading. I personally liked to put all four players in a “Pack” on Dead Ball Situations; then, let them take off on the slap of the ball by the player out of bounds. This was also my favorite setup for inbounding the ball along the sideline when pressured in the backcourt. You can find the “Pack” and other special inbound plays verses a full court Man to Man Press explained and diagrammed in my blog under: “Late Game Offensive Specials That Work.”
Once the ball has been inbounded, players must keep an eye on the ball handler to see if they may be needed. Does the point guard want you to clear out? Is he getting trapped? Has he lost his dribble? Is he getting by his defender and pushing a fast break attack? All players must know what is going on and how to react.
Your goal is to score on offense, so remember: The best way to get an opponent out of a full court press is to quickly score on them. Make the pressing team pay a price and break their spirit as you confidently control them and consistently put points on the board. Look for passes ahead, look for advantages in “numbers,” and look for high percentage shots around the basket. Stay calm, avoid turnovers, and make good decisions.
5 on 5 Press Drill
The above mentioned principles can be practiced in the “5 on 5″ Full Court Press Drill. Rather than scrimmaging with both teams pressing, spend 10 minutes working on just full court press situations. Ball handlers will get to use all the fundamentals practiced in the earlier Sets and they will learn how to involve their other four teammates too.
You can start a “5 on 5 Drill” from a dead ball situation out of bounds or as I often liked to do, from a free throw shooting lineup. I called this the “Free Throw Press Drill.” When a free throw is made, the ball is taken out of bounds and the defense picks up their men full court. If the free throw is missed, you can blow the whistle and have the defensive team take it out as if it were made. Or, as I liked to do, press on a made or missed free throws.
Starting from a nearly dead ball situation on a made free throw allows your guards to work on “banana cuts” and “posting near the opponent’s key” to get open. When using the Free Throw Press Drill, you have more opportunities to take the ball out quickly and “Get It and Go” on offense. You can also try “Pack”, or whatever Special Inbound Play you might have for your team, by randomly calling a Dead Ball turnover. Ball handlers will have plenty of chances to use their Press Offense Knowledge by: 1. Avoiding Corners, 2. Beating Opponents Body to Body, 3. Splitting or Back Dribbling Traps, and 4. Finding Open Teammates Up Court.
When trying to beat a Man to Man Press, your goal is to score when it does break down. A guard dribbling must keep his head up, look for open teammates ahead, and pass the ball to those open players who may often score quickly. Just like on any fast break, the goal of a point guard is to pitch the ball ahead when someone is open. That takes the pressure off of the dribbler and puts it on the defense.
A key to handling full court pressure is to practice against it almost daily, even if only for 5-10 minutes. Rotate the breakdown drills from Sets 1-4 early in your practice plans throughout the season to keep the players’ skills sharp. Use the “5 on 5 Press Drill” or “Free Throw Press Drill” in some form, every practice. At the end of a close game or when facing a full game of pressing, you will be glad you did.
Key Teaching Points:
- When you lose your dribble and are under extreme pressure, remember to “eat” the ball rather than try a desperation pass that could be intercepted and turned into a dunk.
2. Once a Man to Man Press traps the ball, it is no longer a Man to Man Press. It has become a Zone Press and there are teammates open somewhere on the court.
3. After a turnover, stay calm and confident that you know how to make a better decision next time because you have practiced it.
4. After a time out, the man taking the ball out of bounds needs to know whether he can move or not. Coaches tell them. Players, ask the referee.
5. Use breakdown drills often in practices and work 5 on 5 against full court pressure everyday.
Note: While this concludes my 5 Sets of Drills to prepare better ball handling, I do have another article that specifically covers traps and the Run and Jump Full Court Press. You can go to the upper right corner of this page, then use the gray Search button to find the “Run and Jump” article in my Blog.