Building an Offence – Combatting a Press

The rules that requires the ball to be advance over the centre-line within eight seconds after gaining possession is one many coaches aim to exploit by using full court pressing defences.

East-Central Girl's Basketball

East-Central Girl’s Basketball

Teams un-prepared to combat the pressure may suffer more turnovers, violations, including not getting the ball across half court in time and disruption of their team offence.

When coaches apply pressing defences, they may use man to man zone traps, or combinations of both. They may set up in various formations with the most common being 2-2-1, 1-2-1-1, or 1-2-2. In any case it is unlikely teams will combat the defences successfully if they try to use different methods for each different type of defence they face.

Some basic rules to consider when confronted by pressing defences are;

  • Select one player as the designated in-bounder of the ball.
  • Avoid receiving the ball close to the baseline, or close to the side-line.
  • After receiving the inbounds pass look to pass before dribbling.
  • Do not hesitate to pass, provided the receiver has made a good lead.
  • After making the inbounds pass the player should take two steps inside the court and pause a moment before cutting to his next position. He may have to receive a return pass to avoid an aggressive double by the opposition.
  • If a pass to a player further down the court is not available swing the ball from one side of the court to the other quickly.
  • If you are going to dribble the ball it must be a powerful penetrating drive up the court and not across the court.


As described in the examples of transition offence we always designate the feeder as the player to take the ball out of bounds from the baseline after the opponent has scored. The 4 man takes up a position one metre from the sideline and two metres below the centreline. (5) sets up in a similar position on the right side of the court. 2 and 3 set up in tandem at the top of the keyway.

2 sets a screen for 3 or makes a sharp lead to receive the ball as close to the free throw line extended. If 2 receives the ball he looks to pass to 3 who holds his ground until he receives the pass. If 2 is unable to pass to 3 he looks to pass to 5, but if this is also not available he then looks to pass back to 1.




After 1 receives the ball, 3 leads to a position close to the free throw line extended and looks to see if he can pass to 4. If this pass is not available 3 looks to pass to 2 who “circled” behind the defenders and taken a position in the middle area of the court. At the same time 1 circles wide around any defenders. At this point if no pass is available it must be assumed all players are being defended man to man so 3 should be able to make a penetrating drive up the court in a one on one situation.

It is more common for 3 to make a pass to 4 or 2 with either being likely to make a penetrating drive up the court. In many cases the defence may set up in a 2-2-1 formation without applying pressure on the in-bounds pass, or the first receiver. In this case it is important the player who receives the first pass should not dribble the ball but look to pass to (4) or (5) depending on which side of the court the first pass is made. If this pass is not available then look to pass to the other guard who makes a circle cut behind the front line of the defence.

It is a common rule for the defence to apply a double team on the ball-handler as soon as he starts to dribble. If this happens the ball-handler must be quick to release the ball and of course his team mates must provide good passing angles to ensure protection of the ball. If a pass is made inside the front line of the defence, then this usually provides an opportunity for another quick pass to 4 or 5 breaking up the court. If the pass cannot be made inside the front line of the defence then the next pass will be back to 1 who looks to 2 or 5 depending on how the defence adjusts.

The rule given to both 4 and 5 is: They must hold their positions close to the centreline until after the second pass (not counting the inbounds pass) or if any player starts a dribble.

It cannot be emphasised enough that the ball-handler must not start a dribble unless it is a hard penetrating drive. Then 4 and 5 should be creating good targets in these situations and the chance for an easy basket. If the ball-handler starts a “soft” dribble it creates an ideal double teaming pressure defensive situation and makes it much more difficult to execute a safe pass or maintain composure and discipline in the offence.

After two passes the offence should have forced the defence to make commitments and opened up new passing angles to advance the ball.

It is not uncommon for well drilled teams to advance the ball into transition offence or half court offence without any dribbling at all. Top level European teams do this very well while teams in the United States and Asia tend to advance the ball almost exclusively by having the best ball handler drive the ball aggressively up the court. My preference has been to use both methods within understandable and achievable rules for players of all abilities.



Nellakir helps young athletes reach their goals by providing the highest quality Sprung Timber Sports Floor playing surfaces.

Continuing the series on Offensive plays in Competition Basketball – Selecting an Offence

Once players have reasonable knowledge of the fundamental combination plays of screening on the ball and away from the ball, cutting and weaving, the coach can implement a complete team offence.


When selecting an offence you must be aware of your own philosophy. Do you want to use a rigidly structured offence? Do you want to use a less rigidly structured offence? Do you have players with exceptional ball-handling skills? Do you have players with limited shooting skills from medium to long range? These are just some of the questions which you should answer before formulating your plans. For example it would be unwise to use a weave offence with minimum structure if the players have limited ball-handling skills and inferior shooting ability.


Beginners should be given a relatively simple offence with minimum structure, allowing for continuity of movement, balance, rebounding position and defensive safety. As players improve and defences become more sophisticated, teams will generally be able to use more complex patterns. But at the other end of the scale, like the NBA teams in the United States, offences become less structured as superior athletes take advantage of their individual skills, athleticism and great shooting ability. One of the most important factors in the pro ranks is the spacing of players on the court to avoid the prospect of the star players being double-teamed defensively.

When selecting an offence there are certain principles that must be considered for the end result to be successful. Apart from the fact players must be taught the value of control and possession of the ball, there has to be an understanding of balance, tempo, continuity, defensive safety, rebounding and patience. It should be remembered for every action there will be a reaction. If the defence overplays a particular situation the offence must be able to identify this and react accordingly. One of the most important aspects of teaching beginning players is how to read the game.


With junior teams, begin with a simplified version of your offence and add refinements as the players progress. You should practice the motion of your offence using all five players without defenders. Options that will provide each player with scoring opportunities are repeated until all players become familiar with their roles and correct timing of the various moves. Although there may be an outstanding scorer on the team – and it’s appropriate he be exploited – every player must become a scoring threat. Neither should shots be restricted to one area of the court or the defence will quickly adjust.


Rebounding is a vital factor in every game, but it will be difficult to get second-chance shots if the offence does not allow for it. Coaches should try to design patterns that will provide an offensive triangle around the basket when the shot is taken. This will allow two players to contest offensive rebounds and a guard should be high as the defensive safety. After a defensive rebound, one player is usually assigned the job of putting pressure on the ball to prevent, or at least delay, the outlet pass and the fast break opportunity. So when designing your offence, make sure you have a player in position as a safety and someone to contest the offensive rebound when a shot is taken.


Tempo is the speed at which the game is played. Some teams like to play quickly with each possession, others prefer a controlled offence with deliberate moves. Many cannot operate effectively at other than their normal speed and that is why you will

often hear coaches say, “Whoever controls the tempo controls the game”. So teams should be able to adjust their tempo to slow down and be more deliberate, or to speed up. A team may trail late in a game and need to score quickly. Unless the team has practiced at speed it will surely make errors. Also if the offence’s design does not provide early scoring opportunities, even if the team moves quickly, it is unlikely it will obtain a high shooting percentage. A team used to quick tempo, on the other hand, may want to protect a lead and slow down.


Continuity of motion is necessary for any offence to be successful. When a certain play situation does not provide a shot, the offence should be designed so the play continues fluently to the next option. The defence will have no difficulty recognising there is no continuity and the offence has to re-set every time a play is completed. This also wastes times for the offence and could lead to the shot clock expiring.

With balanced continuity, players will rarely mistake their responsibilities, they are able to move fluently from one option to the next and make it more difficult for the defence to overplay or predict the offence.


It is a sign of good coaching when a team executes a simple offence effectively. Players should be taught to react almost instinctively without having to think about the structure of their patterns.

Follow the links below to view the previous parts in this series.



Nellakir helps young athletes reach their goals by providing the highest quality Sprung Timber Sports Floor playing surfaces.