Tuesday, January 10, 2017

#61 Press Breaker Do's and Do Not's

Courage is grace under pressure. --Ernest Hemingway

For the first time in 17 years, I am coaching basketball without a shot clock.  The state of Colorado is a little late to the party of the shot clock, so the need, ability, and execution of the press and the press breaker are a gigantic part of our day to day development because we don't want opponents to hold the ball with a lead and eliminate our ability to use our strength...our deep bench.  Because of that, we press a lot and whether we are up or down late, we win a lot of our late games because the other team simply refuses to use their bench and their kids run out of gas.

I've already put a ton of time in this blog into the defensive side of the press (See Posts #39#25#13), so I thought it was a long overdue time to focus on breaking a press.  Like we try and do with our practice and all player development, below you will see 3 simple Do's and 3 simple Do Not's for whatever you are trying to do against a full to half court trapping scenario to keep it simple for your players.

The DO's

  1.  USE THE ENTIRE FLOOR:   Always have your best shooter in the front court in the deep corner versus a press.  If that person happens to also be your best ball-handler, then put your second best shooter in the deep corner.
    • Why?  To break a press, the most important thing you can DO is pull defenders from the back court, so they have fewer trappers to fill up your creative space.  By sending your best shooter down the floor, you are forcing the defense's hand to keep at least one "trapper" all the way back.
    • Intangible?  Consider putting two of your best scorers all the way back in opposite corners.  That pulls two defenders back and allows you to score quickly from each side of the floor.
  2. WORK INSIDE-OUT:  However you choose to break a press, always work to get the ball in the middle of the floor using the sideline routes as diversions.  Once you hit the middle, you can sprint up the sidelines and throw over-top without worrying about defense over-top.  Once the ball is in the middle (even against a 2-2-1), the wing defenders must pinch to the middle of the floor or they will give up a driving lane to the basket.
    • Why?  The middle of the floor is the worst place on the floor to trap because the receiver can then pass right or left or drive either direction.  You eliminate the sideline as a useful 2nd or 3rd trapper.
    • Intangible?  Put your best passer, decision-maker, and highest IQ guy in the middle.  This may even be your point guard in some cases.
  3. PRACTICE AGGRESSIVENESS:  If you are going to attack inside-out, that means you are often going to be passing middle to sideline.  Make sure you are practicing having your guys and gals getting trapped out of that middle pass, so they learn how to catch, pass-fake, and dribble penetrate to the middle of the floor splitting that next trap before it ever gets to the them.
    • Why?  It's the same idea as #2.  The middle is the hardest place to trap and the middle gives you the most options.  So, if your wings know to immediately attack the middle of the floor off a wing catch, you will remove the equation of another difficult trap.
    • Intangible:  Ideally, you want your middle passer (if you are giving them 2 choices up the floor) to attempt to pass to the side with your best slasher.  Now, when that slasher attacks and the defense collapses, that slasher always has the best shooter on the floor to kick to opposite on that drive.
The Do NOT's

  1. (DO NOT) PACK THE BACK-COURT:  I know this a little redundant from #1 of the "Do's", but I wanted to stress the importance of space for your kids.  I know that without a doubt, no matter how good or how poor your ball-handlers are, breaking the press with ONLY 3 guys in the back-court is always going to be your best option.  Teach your kids to seal a defender on each side of the floor to the inside (use the elbows as a viable place to start), and teach them to post up for the inbounder (yes, even your guards!).  The inbounder always knows that they are going to be passing the ball to one of the sidelines.  
    • Why?  The only way to counter this measure is for the defense to "stack" the defense on each side with a guy underneath and a guy over-top.  That means you either have one defensive player on the ball and no one back deep to guard your two shooters, or no one on the ball taking 75% of the pressure off your inbounder.  Either way, it hurts their press and helps your opportunities.
    • Intangibles?  Coaches are going to work hard to eliminate that initial entry to your point guard, so practice daily hitting a big on the other side and then shooting your PG up the middle of the floor (think zig-zag cuts) like you are shooting them out of cannon to the rim.  That sling-shot approach is nearly impossible to guard without creating a 2-1 break for the offense.
  2. (DO NOT) RELY ON YOUR BIG MAN TO INBOUND:  I'm sorry, but I have a real problem with my worst passer and decision-maker being my inbounder.  Now, if your big is a Christian Laettner-type who has a high level IQ, I love it.
    • Why?  That big guy is usually going to be my best finisher and biggest target, and I want that guy closest to the rim and not the furthest.  
    • Intangible?  If you are going to use your big against a press, put them opposite of your point guard to create a big target for your inbounder and then you have a guy who can pass over top of the press a lot easier.  However, don't be afraid to put him back opposite of your shooter.  You just may want him cutting to the rim before he catches the ball.
  3. (DO NOT) WORK BACKWARDS:  I have written many times about 1950's archaic basketball philosophies that still linger today and throwing the ball backwards against the press is probably the one I understand the least.  Always work to cut and position to continually work the ball forward towards the goal.
    • Why?  The more you move the ball back to the inbounder, the more time you are giving the defense to trap you in the back-court while putting more stress on your ball-handlers to get across the :10 line.  If you can pass back to the inbounder, then you can surely pass to him up the floor if he/she will just cut up the middle or up and to the sideline after they pass in.
    • Intangible?  Every coach should be teaching their players the power of passing and cutting.  There is no more valuable skill against a press.  Once you pass versus a press or a zone, all 5 defensive player are now shifting their vision, attention and bodies to the ball.  This gives the former passer and now present cutter an extreme advantage to get to space and get that ball back to be D-angerous.
If you would like to talk through any of this or Skype or Facetime to chalk talk, do not hesitate to give me a call.  Whatever you do, get busy teaching the breakdowns and practice daily, so they are ready when the pressure is on!  Have fun!

Coach Matt Rogers
Twitter:  @madcoachdiary
Email:  coachrogers12@gmail.com
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Phone:  (312) 610-6045

Matt Rogers is a 20-year high school and college coach veteran.  He has led two teams to the NCAA National Tournament and one team to a High School State Championship.  His teams hold numerous school and one NCAA record. He has mentored and coached players at every level while serving as an athletics administrator at the high school and NCAA levels. He has helped numerous players continue their careers at the professional level. He currently is the Head National Scout/Recruiting Specialist for NCSA - Next College Student Athlete where he has helped thousands of young men and women from around the world achieve their dreams of playing at the college level.  Coach presently lives in the Denver, CO area with his wife of 19 years and his two children. 

To request Coach Rogers to speak at your school or event, you can reach him through any of his contact information above.