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Basketball Strategy:
Using the Half Court Press to Get the Ball

My basketball strategy when it comes to defense has always been straight forward - play solid, tough man to man, wear them down, and every now and again toss something unexpected their way to shake things up.

This half court press is a favorite of mine because it's simple - really just an extension of the 1-3-1 zone defense, with the corners trapping - and it works, especially if you have quick, aggressive players.

I don't play it for long, maybe 3 to 5 times in a row, and then as the offense begins to adjust and understand what is happening to them, I take it off and go back to man to man defense. But those 3-5 times we run it generate good turnovers and almost always several fast break baskets.

The trick to this particular basketball strategy is to be prepared so that, when the call is made, players can jump into position immediately and therefore take the offense by surprise. That surprise usually translates into chaotic play and bad passes by the offense, and points on the board for the defense.

Basketball Strategy: The Half Court Press
Basic Set up

  • players begin in position as shown in the diagram - one point guard, two wings, one high post, one low post - essentially the same layout as the 1-3-1 zone, except extended past the half

  • the point guard (#1) needs to angle the ball carrier, forcing him to one side

  • the two wings remain behind the half court line, allowing enough room between them and the half court line so that the ball carrier doesn't realize right away that a trap is coming

  • the weak side wing (#3 in the diagram), once he realizes he is the weak side, can drift closer to the half court line if there is another offensive guard there - anticipating the possibility of a lateral pass from the point guard

basketball strategy - HCP1

Basketball Strategy: The Half Court Press
The Trap

  • the wing on the ball side (#2) must wait for the ball carrier to cross half - if he jumps to quick, the ball carrier can still reverse his dribble and move across the court. But if the wing (#2) waits for the ball carrier to cross half, then the ball carrier is effectively trapped by the defense as well as the half court line and the sideline - in other words, a four man trap!

  • the moment the ball carrier crosses half, #1 and #2 trap him in the corner.

  • This must be a solid trap - the ball carrier must pick up the ball and have great difficulty finding passing lanes.
basketball strategy - HCP2

Basketball Strategy: The Half Court Press
Defensive Movement

  • the defensive players not on the trap must now move aggressively to steal any pass that the ball carrier tries to make

  • to do this, they must position themselves in the path of any offensive player that may get passed to
basketball strategy - HCP3

Basketball Strategy: The Half Court Press
Steal Opportunities

With the ball trapped in the corner, there are several options that may present themselves for steals:
  • #3 looks to steal any pass across the court
basketball strategy - HCP4

  • #4 looks either down the sideline or cross court to the top of the key area
basketball strategy - HCP5

  • #5 looks for the long pass to the key
basketball strategy - HCP6

Whoever gets the steal immediately looks up court - the players closest to the half should break immediately upon realizing the steal has been made. If the steal is made by #4 or #5 - big men who likely are not great ball handlers - the point guard should remain behind as a safety pass. Both wings should immediately break, looking for the pass.

I put the press on, let it run a couple of times, then take it off so the opponent doesn't work it all out. Then later I'll put it on again. If the press is broken, I have my players fall back into a 2-3 zone, collapsing on the key to force the ball out. Another fall back option would be to simply pull the 1-3-1 zone back into the quarter court, but I've always liked the 2-3 zone as a fall back because I believe it is easier for the players to remember.

I like a simple basketball strategy, and this works for me.

This isn't the only Defensive Basketball Strategy - find more here

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