Transition Defense

Stopping a fast breaking team from running

by Coach Brett Ayers email the author at

One of the things that are either simply taken for granted and or simply ignored by a lot of coaches out there is the need to understand and practice how to stop a team such as say, Florida, from being able to get out and run their fast break. Teams like Florida, Louisville and Oregon really tend to be put off their game when their primary offensive weapon is taken away from them and their athleticism negated.

There are couple different schools of thought on this matter.

The first one is more a natural reaction by some players, but sometimes it is done on purpose by coaches and it is not a method I ascribe to. When the ball is secured on the rebound, either one of the post men who are now on defense will close out on the rebounder and try to get him boxed in with one of the guards making the pass out difficult. More often than not the big man makes the pass out to one of the guards and the offense instantly has numbers and the defensive team now has a guard and a primary rebounder is now taken out of the equation on at least the first shot, perhaps even the second shot. This also tends to lead to a couple of different things.

First on is cheap reach in fouls by the two guys trapping, usually the big guy who is not used to do this and second thing it leads to are over the back fouls by the big man as he tries to catch up with the play. You also, of course see the net effect of the other team getting way to many open quick shots. Open shots happen, but quick shots, the tempo that they want is not acceptable.

The second method that can be used to stop teams such as Florida, Louisville and Oregon from getting out and running up down involves a dividing the floor up into three lanes length wise on the court and much like in football you will see that the theme of this method is to not let the opposing team run up the middle.

First you take and divide the court into three lanes. The first lane goes right down the middle of the court and covers from about two feet off one side of the free throw lane to about two feet off the other side of the free throw lane. In the full court game, in the transition game this is the place that the ball has to first come in order to allow for the most court to attack once the ball is moved across the half court line. By forcing a team to bring the ball up the sideline you greatly cut down their options once the ball gets across the half court. There is a reason that in camp from the time you are 9 they tell you to get the ball to the middle of the court on the break either with the pass and or by dribbling it there.

Now that you have the three invisible lanes on the court, the middle and the two outside you have to first start with what to do once the ball goes up. Now I am a big believer on a team that likes to run that you need two guys back. I would put my point guard at or a step inside the top of the key and my two guard back at half court. Now, if one of these guys drives then it is the responsibility of the 3 man, small forward to get back. With Kentucky next year knowing the way their point likes to drive this might be something you just designate before hand and move your 2 guard into where the point was and put the 3 man back at half court.

Now, once the ball is shot these guys get to these positions. Now, if the other team releases a guy, the man at half court will go what is called 1/3-2/3 spacing. What I mean by that is he will get divide the space between where the ball is now 1/3- 2/3. He will get 1/3 from the man and then of course be 2/3 from the ball so that they can not throw the long pass.

Once the ball is secured by the rebounder, usually it is not the point guard, the 1 man who is positioned around the top of the key must find the opposing team's point guard and make it difficult for him to get the ball, pushing him back up the court and making him come back to the ball to get it. Also, not allowing him to get it in the middle of the floor, in that middle lane if he is further down the court than the top of the key in the backcourt is also something you need to impress upon your point guard. As this is going on the 3 man sprints back and goes to the top of the key on the opposite end and the 4 and 5 man lumber on back as best they can into the key, one on either side of the key and or defending the opposing teams big man. One thing though, they must not do is get to deep into the key because to many teams have 4 and 5 men who can shoot the 17 footer on out and if they are back there and you are in man to man, which teams usually are in after misses this will create a lot of space to make up if that 4 or 5 man who can shoot trails and steps right into an open 3 pointer or foul line jumper. Both the 4 and 5 men need to be up around the second hash mark on the key on either side. If you are able to do all of the things I have said in terms of slowing down a fast breaking team but do not secure the rebound once they put up a shot you have still not accomplished what you set out do. This has to be looked at from beginning to end when defending fast breaking teams.

Now with your 1 man putting preasure on the opposing teams point man to get the ball, and your 2 man at half court looking to keep the ball out of the middle of the court you will either get the point guard to come back and get the ball much further up then he wanted to, and of course hopefully outside that middle lane of the court and or make the opposing team pass it out to their 2 guard, once again outside of the middle lane with the net effect of making them start any break they are intending to run with their secondary ball handler getting the ball and or on the sideline with their point and or 2 guard.

Once the point guard does get the ball and if he is an exceptional point guard a'la Luke Ridnour of Oregon and can really handle the ball you have your point preasure up on him but a guy like Luke will get that ball across with some urgency and with some quickness. Something that could be done is to preasure him in the backcourt knowing he will beat the your 1 guard and if he does that in the backcourt you then have your 2 guard, who is at half court pick him up and try to keep him on the sidelines and if nothing else make him feel preasured and keep him preocupied just enough to not allow him to see the whole court and his fellow teammates well enough to get a pass off up ahead.

I see way to many teams that allow point guards on teams that want to run get the ball and then try to put preasure on them to late and the ball is out of the point guard's hands up the court. You want to try to make the point guard dribble the ball at least three or four times. In that time you should be able to get everyone back on defense and stop them from getting that desired quick shot and or fast break opportunity.

I think the thing that has to be kept in mind is that you do not need some unreally quick and defensive apt team to do these things. You need to have a team that understands what the other team wants to do and that in order to stop them there are key points in transition that you have to disrupt in order to keep them from doing it successfully all game long.