The Basketball Press Break
Full Court Press Offense

Every coach needs a basketball press break in their playbook. Defensive presses - especially full court presses - can be intimidating and cause an unprepared team to give up the basketball simply out of confusion, but what you always have to keep in mind is that a press is really a scoring opportunity that your press breaks will reveal.

How many press breaks do you need to know? One good one should work, as long as you can run it effectively. The basketball press break below is used against a full court zone press - you can find a Half Court Press Break here.

A few things about breaking a full court press effectively:

  • Transition / the inbounds pass must be quick - no casually stepping out of bounds and tossing the ball in - the faster the better, so the defense doesn't have the time to set up their press
  • Passes move faster than dribbling - if you want to move the ball upcourt fast, passing does the trick. Dribbling often gets you into trouble, dribbling into traps or dribbling with your head down and not seeing the open man. Passing is almost always better. But they need to be good passes.
  • You need to score - if your focus is just getting over half, your opponent will continue to press you. If you score on them, they will take the press off and make life easier on you.

This press break will help you effectively handle a full court press, and provide you with several opportunities to score.

Transition is the first key to breaking a press - the team that transitions the quickest takes the advantage

Tweet: Transition is the first key to breaking a press - the team that transitions the quickest takes the advantage.

The Basketball Press Break
How to Break a Full Court Press

  • Players set up as indicated in the diagram, roughly in position where they would likely be if they were coming off defense - point guard (#1) on the ball side, guard (#2) moving quickly to a space about three quarters the distance to the half court line, small forward (#3) passing the ball in, power forward (#4) at the top of the key, and center (#5) sprinting all the way down court.

  • The forward inbounding the ball (#3) needs to be a good passer, preferably tall enough to see over the defense, but also needs to be able to dribble if needed, as he will be the safety option in this play

basketball press break setupSetting Up the Press Break
  • #3 quickly passes the ball in to #1

  • #3 then immediately steps into play and takes up a position on the opposite side of the court, about 10 - 15 feet from #1, so that he can act as a safety pass if needed

  • #1 pivots to look for open men to pass to
    #1 does not immediately dribble the ball - as is the point guard's tendency. The first thing he does is see if there is a pass available.

  • #2, #4, and #5 all move to the side of the court where the ball is inbounded to

  • With the ball inbounded and the team in position to run their full court offense, it is time to smash the press

Basketball Press Break InboundingInbounding and Initial Movement

Once the team is set up - and this should take only a second or two - there are several options that can be played out to get the ball up court and to attack the net. A couple of points to keep in mind at this stage of the basketball press break:

  • You are attacking. The objective is not to just get the ball over half, but to score.
  • You will have options, and you need to be prepared to take the option that the defense gives you.
  • The defense will always give you an option - they need to, as they will be double-teaming someone, meaning someone else is open. Keep your head clear and your eyes open and find the option given.

There are several options, but only the first option is given here. To keep this page a manageable length, the other options will be linked to on another page below.

Basketball Press Break
Scoring Options #1

Basketball Press Break Scoring Option 1Initial Scoring Options on the Full Court Press Break
  • The first scoring opportunity begins with a pass from #1 to #4.

  • Immediately, #2 sprints to the middle, looking for the pass from #4

  • If the pass to #2 from #4 happens, then #2 dribbles upcourt, looking for #5 coming up to the center. #2 passes to #5

  • At the same time, #1 and #3 are filling the lanes as in a fast break, and when #5 receives the pass from #2 he immediately looks to pass to #1 or #3 as they sprint to the basket to score

You will find several other scoring options on the Press Break Options page. Be sure to incorporate all options into your full court press break, to give yourself the best chance to score against the press.

Although a good press will not be easy to break, any zone press requires a double team somewhere - which means someone should be open and therefore there is an opportunity to capitalize on that weakness. Be quick - if you beat the double team and attack the basket aggressively, the numbers should be in your favor and you should get a decent scoring opportunity out of it.

And remember that scoring is at least as important as just getting the ball over half - you must score if you want the defense to let up, you must punish them for putting this press on you, and force them to take it off. If you don't score on them, they will press you all night, which will be exhausting for you mentally and physically. Use this basketball press break to make them pay for making you work.

"Most people never run far enough on their first wind to find out they've got a second."

- William James