Press Breaks
Breaking the Half Court Press

I always refer to press breaks as "press offenses" for a reason - they almost always offer great scoring opportunities. Keep in mind what happens during a basketball press - somebody, somewhere is double-teamed. Which means somebody else, somewhere else, is open. Find the player that's left open, and you find the opportunity to put some points up on the scoreboard.

This particular press break is for handling a half-court press. As a coach, I prefer to use half-court presses for the simple reason that there's less court to cover when you are short handed, as you will be when you are double-teaming the ball. Less court to cover means less opportunity for the offense to find open spaces.

But there is still a way to break this press and convert. If you've reviewed what I've said about full court press breaks , you'll remember my advice on breaking the full court press - it's not enough to get the ball over half and set up your offense; you need to score against the break. Quickly and often. You need to punish your opponent for pressing you, turn their press into a scoring run for you, because if you don't, they will continue to press you until you fall down exhausted.

Same goes for half court press breaks - approach the press looking to score, not hoping simply to keep possession once the dust settles. Here is the basic half court press offense I use, set up against a 1-3-1 press; you can find my thoughts on how to attack other half court presses here.

Press Breaks
Setting Up a Half Court Press Offense

The trick to breaking a half court press is to start the ball moving before the trap hits you. Every press I know of - save for a full court, straight up man-to-man - relies on a trap on the ball to cause the offense to panic and throw the ball away. The illustrations below demonstrate a press break against a 1-3-1 half court trap, but could be modified to suit any half court zone press.

Press Breaks Against a Half Court Press - set upHalf Court Press Break Set Up
  • Set up against the press as in the first diagram: point guard (#1) carrying the ball; shooting guard (#2) across from #1; forward (#3) at the three point line, middle of the court; and your big men (#4 and #5) at either high post.

  • The 1-3-1 half court trap will force the ball to one side - the intention will be to trap the ball at the corner, just over half. Your point guard will begin moving in that direction, but must be aware that that is the intention.

  • At the same time, the big man (#4) on the ball side will move quickly to the sideline.

  • Before the ball carrier gets to the half mark, the defense will begin to move toward the ball, but the defense will want to trap after the ball carrier passes the half - trapping him against the half court line

  • Thus, the press break needs to begin just before the ball carrier reaches the half court line

Press Breaks
Breaking the Half Court Trap

Press Breaks Against a Half Court Press - Breaking the TrapBreaking the Half Court Trap
  • #1 passes quickly across court to #2. Note that if #2 is being guarded, it is likely that either #3 at the middle or #4 at the sideline will be open - the ball carrier needs to see what is opening up and adjust as necessary

  • When the ball is passed to #2, all other players move in that direction - #5 hustles to a spot low on the sideline; #3 hustles to a spot high on the sideline; and #4 sprints to the bottom of the center circle.

  • #2 quickly passes to #3 along the sideline (again, if #3 is guarded, it is likely that #5 or #4 have been left open - the guard needs to observe the action and find the openings)

  • This movement and passing needs to be very fast, to take advantage of the defense's adjustment time and to get the ball over the half in time.

Press Breaks
Scoring Options: Along the Sideline

Press Breaks Against a Half Court Press - Sideline Scoring OptionsSideline Scoring Options
  • Once #3 has the ball on the sideline, he has two quick pass options: he can pass along the sideline to #5, or into the middle to #4. He takes whichever pass is available

  • At the same time, #1 cuts hard to the basket and #2 steps into the half as a safety

  • If the ball is passed to #5, there are two cuts happening that offer scoring opportunities:

    #1 cutting to the hoop at the far side of the key, looking for a pass and a layup;
    #4, who immediately cuts down the middle of the key looking for a pass and a power layup
    #5 also has the option to drive himself - again, depending on what the defense opens up

  • #3 also takes a few steps in to act as a shooting option if no layup option opens up

Press Breaks
Scoring Options: Down the Middle

Press Breaks Against a Half Court Press - Scoring down the MiddleScoring Down the Middle

If #3 passes the ball to #4, there are several options to score

  • One option is #1, again cutting down the side of the key to the hoop, looking for a pass and a layup

  • #5 steps in, looking for the pass and a power layup

  • And again, #4 has the option to drive or shoot himself - in general, we'd prefer a drive and a layup, since they tend to be higher-percentage shots and our rebounders are spread across the half

Press breaks against the half court press need to move the basketball quickly - the defense will be disorganized for a moment, unprepared for the advantage to be taken away from them. But they don't have a lot of distance to cover to fall back into their safe zone, so if you want to score, you need to push the ball in fast.

Constantly remind your players of the need to be aggressive and to go for the hoop, to put points on the scoreboard. When you use this play in basketball practice, make them practice it with intensity and make them score every time, as if in a real game. Make them rebound hard and go back up hard until they put the ball in the hoop.

A very real issue for your players will be nerves - presses are designed to intimidate and cause turnovers. In the game, your players need to be confident, not scared - the more they practice with intensity, the more they will play with confidence.

And instill in them the mindset to see a press for what it is - a great scoring opportunity!

"If you are going to take it to the bank, then you better cash it in."

- Shannon Fish

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