Breaking Traps

Contributed by Brett Ayers. Email the author at

I had the question posed to me via e mail on discussing how to beat the half court and or full court trap from both a team perspective, and how to handle being trapped or avoid being trapped on the individual level.

One of the most important things to remember when you are on the offensive end and are trying to beat the trap as a team and or a player is that when you get the ball out of the trap it is best to remember that you have an advantage numbers wise now, and it is imperative that you attack the basket, if you can, and score thus creating a need for the defense to get out of the trap.

On an individual basis, breaking the trap can be accomplished in a one of three ways, basically. The first it to get rid of the ball before the trap can get to you by having your head up, and of course depending upon the constant movement of your teammates.

The second way to break a trap, if it has been sprung on you, can be described as the take them low to come high or go high to take them low. Much like throwing a pass to the post and even around the perimeter, there are times when guarded tightly that you will need to use a ball fake prior to making the pass. In respects to doing this to get out of the trap you can of course bring the ball up high, thus having the effect of standing the trap up, getting the defensive players out of their good stance, usually, and when you bring the ball back down low you will find that the trap, for a split second will have wholes in it, so to speak from which you can pass out of. Either employing the wrap around pass to get the ball out of the trap and or the "split" methodology, stepping between and splitting the now erect trap to pass the ball out a player can get the ball out of the trap to an open teammate thus immediately creating numbers.

The third and final way to get the ball out of a trap successfully is to use a back dribble, quickly, creating space to pass the ball out of the trap. When doing this often a player will have to make a jump pass over his head, clearing the hands of the trappers.

One of the most important things to remember is that you need to work on not only coordinating the proper way to trap, but in the process you can use what is primarily a defensive oriented set of drills, such as two man trapping drills, to also have your kids work on how to get the ball out of a tough trap. Another thing to really emphasize with your kids is that they should, like when a post man gets the ball and or they rebound the ball, "chin the ball", getting those elbows out a bit, not swinging the elbows, but creating space with them and also getting a good hold of that basketball. Every possession is precious, that basketball is of the utmost value when you have it on offense.

The next thing to instill in your kids is this, being strong with the ball when trapped, do not get scared and or panicked. That is what a trapping defense really is looking to get you to do. Hurry and make an errant or unwanted pass that either leads to a turnover or a quick shot. The second thing to really drill your kids on is to remember that even when using the take the ball high to go low philosophy of getting the ball out of he trap, at no time does the man getting trapped stand up and become a stick figure. Stay in good "sit-down" basketball position. Keep a your base, do not bring your feet together. You do this, put the ball above your head and or turn your back on the trap all you do is assure the trap of accomplishing what it wants to do. Another thing I see to much of these days is kids trying to dribble out of the trap by themselves only to turn the ball over and or attempt some Magic Johnson-like pass that gets easily picked off or goes out of bounds. The only time you leave your feat against the trap is to make a pass. Keep your head up at all times and for goodness sakes, be strong with the ball.

These are some of the ways an individual player can beat and get the ball out of a trap. Now, as for ways to attack the trap either in the 3/4 court and or 1/2 court form there are certain things, regardless of how you attack it and with what trap offense you run that you want to accomplish within that set.

One of the first things to get through to your kids is that when they get trapped to see that as a chance to get easy baskets, not to be scared of it and or get panicked.

Then next thing to remember as a team is that when you receive the ball out of the trap, turn and face the basket, even if you are not a ball handler. If you are not a ball handler, look to either make a direct pass to someone who can get an easy shot and or get the ball to a ball handler who can then do something with it.

Another thing that players who are off the ball offensively have to keep in mind is that they really need to make sure to come towards the ball when it is passed to them. Even more so than usual when being trapped and or pressed. This will also greatly cut down the defensively angles available for shooting the gap defensively.

In attacking the trap as a team, spacing is a necessity, and of course the willingness once the ball is passed out of a trap to attack the defense and score is tantamount to getting the trap taken off. Simply breaking the press and or the trapping scheme being used against you is not always going to bring it to an end. Especially when playing teams like Florida and or Louisville, for example.

I think one of the last overriding things to be aware of as a team when attacking the press and or any trapping defense is to remember that in advancing the ball via the pass is always most desirable and most importantly is getting the ball into the center of the court. You do this you open up the entire rest of the court for passes and the like. It also tends to collapse most trapping defenses when you do this. It also keeps the ball of the sidelines and or out of the corners where most trapping defenses are trying to get you to put the ball.