Contributed by Brett Ayers. Email the author at

As I sit and watch college hoops up here in New York City from my "bedroom/living room/TV room/den/dining room" I have over the course of the past four or five years noticed more and more that the art of breaking the press, even by teams who do press, has somehow gotten lost. I can only come to the conclusion that they either do not know how to teach a press breaker or simply do not spend the time on it they need to in practice. This is in relation to the full court or 3/4 court trapping press. Half court presses are attacked in a slightly different manner.

There are several things to keep in mind when facing teams such as Florida, Georgia Tech and Louisville, who want to create 40 mintues of insanity for you on the defensive end. The first thing you want to ask yourself is this, where do they want to get their traps in these two types of presses? The answer is up high when the ball first comes in near the sideline or against the sideline on either side of the half court line. So, these are obviously the spots you want to keep the ball out of. Next thing you want to ask yourself is what type of players do they use to trap? Do they put their four man up front on the trap or do they put him on the ball when it is being taken out of bounds? Here are the things to teach or run when combating such presses.

1. Tempo - Now this sounds odd, perhaps when talking about beating the press, but not only is this the key to the game flow in general but it is the absolute intention of a pressing team to dictate tempo. When you are pressed it is absolutely necessary that you ingrain into your kids to NOT run to take the ball out of bounds. Whoever you designate, which is usually either the 3, 4, or 5 man, you make it a must for them to walk to take the ball out of bounds while the other guys jog to get into position. Once this happens you also really practice with your kids to not move until the man out of bounds slaps the ball. If you have such a luxury, you can hopefully have your 5 man take the ball out of bounds, if you feel he is good enough with the ball. If not then I would try to make it your four man. The reason I say this is that you want as many viable ball handlers out against the press as possible.

Secondly, once you beat the press, you want to attack it, and if you have both wing spots taken up by your four and five man, you will not have the potency once the press is broken to attack it as the ball gets in the middle and crosses half court. The best way to get a team to quit pressing you is to get 3 or 4 quick lay-ins. Something a lot of teams also seem to not understand is that when you do get the ball across the timeline and you do not have an easy shot, back it out and run your offense.

This is a key to tempo against a pressing team. Make them play some half-court defense. This will do wonders for your shot selection and do damage to their feelings about the success of the press. It will take an edge of the traps and an edge reaction time they have in cutting off the middle and sideline ball side.

2. To the Middle - The next thing that is very important when breaking the press is just as I mentioned above, getting the ball into the middle of the floor. No matter what pattern you use in the backcourt, 4 across or two guard stack with your wings at halfcourt, you need to try to get the ball into the middle of the court and into someone's hands who will then take the ball, face up and attack the basket. There are a couple of different ways to do this.

One of them is to run the stack with your point guard and second guard from around the top of the key opposite of where the ball is being taken out from with your point guard setting a pick for your two who then pops diaginally towards the ball side, but not into the corner while your point guard rolls right back down the middle of the key towards the ball, but he should not get himself under the basket.

I see a lot of teams try this stack but they do it ball side when the press occurs which often puts the two guard too far into the corner and allows for a trap to be easily formed there on him. You also see the guard who rolls back get himself under the basket and suddenly is unable to make anything other than a bounce pass from under the basket. Both guards when they get the ball should NOT dribble but turn and face up down the court.

With the size of today's players you have to make alterations to this form of press breaker to accomodate teaching the kids where to stack. Once the ball comes in to the second guard you then cut the one man in front of any defensive player who might have stepped up once the top man and the side man on the ball side have gone forward to trap. You cut your point man IN FRONT of this defensive player and your two guard has to get him the ball and you are then off to the races as the wings fill the lanes and you make this press pay. Now, it is imperative that the two man handle the trap properly. You can teach one of a couple different things to get the ball through the coming trap. First he can obviously pass over it. Next he can learn to step through the trap by taking the ball high and as the defensive players stand upright to follow the ball he rips the ball down low and splits the trap.

If he can not get the ball into the point guards hands the guy who takes the ball out of bounds then steps in and he passes it back to this man. The point guard should then run down until he is a bit past the half court line then bust straight up towards the inbounds man who now is inbounds and has the ball. It is impreative that the one man understands he has to get open and get the ball. Take his guy away, take him to the side, whatever it takes.

3. Attack -Once the ball is gotten in the middle, or a longer cross court pass is completed then the ball is gotten into the middle you must attack the press and make it pay. While the ball is in the backcourt with the two guard and the man who has taken the ball out of bounds neither of them should abandon the other until the ball reaches the middle. When the two guard passes the ball back to the man stepping in bounds if he is not able to get the ball to the point guard cutting to the middle then the two guard positions himself about two steps ahead of the 4 or 5 man who has stepped inbounds and keep himself available to get the ball back. This will also have an affect of creating a non-trapping placement of the ball. Always, the kids should be aware to not be in a hurry at any point in time.

4. Wing Movement -Wing movement is also critical when breaking the press. If you start your wings, your 3 and the 4 or 5 depending upon which is taking the ball out of bounds, along the sidelines around the mid-court area they have got to be active. If the ball can not be inbounded, the wing who is on the side the ball is being taken out on needs to take his guy two steps backwards than bust up to the ball along the sideline, but not to close to the sideline. Two steps off would be the most preferable.

If the ball is then passed into this wing player coming up from half court the ball almost always is passed in further down the court than the press would like it to be to obtain a trap. Once the ball is gotten there the point guard still has to try to cut in front of what ever defensive player is in the middle and you still want to try to get him the ball on the move and the oppossite wing can then fill the weakside lane and try to get a two on one break against the back man. The wing player along the sideline needs to also turn and square up and look down court, you never know where the defensive players might be.

If the guy coming up from the wing gets inbounds pass and can not get the ball to the point guard cutting almost always, this deeper pass has the affect of collapsing the press back below the ball and will allow him to pass the ball back to the two guard who originally cut off of the stack towards the corner. You then can attack the press from there. When the wing on the ball side busts up the wing on the weakside of where the ball is being inbounded has to come up a couple of steps and bust long. Now, if they guy taking the ball out can run the baseline the half court wing players have to be aware of this and, of course, come up and go long depending upon which side the inbounder is on.