Basic Primary Fast Break

Notice: This article was written by Steve Jordan, Coach's Notebook. Email the author at

Introduction: The fast break is the most efficient way of scoring points. With the defense on the run and usually out of place, the offense often has advantages in momentum and manpower. Imagine if you also add a reliable plan to your list of advantages! This basic primary break can be taught in simple stages and rehearsed sequentially. There is an opportunity for each of your five players to score, so they should all be motivated to hustle down the floor. Even better, you can run your primary as a fast break drill by requiring the team to use one option on the first trip down the floor, another option on the way back, and so on until all five players have scored. Then your second unit can run the same patterns.

Benefits: Players learn passing, receiving, handoff, cutting and shooting skills. Even better, they are learning in practice exactly what they should be running in the game. You are essentially practicing one of your offenses and at the same time improving your conditioning and fundamental skills.

Pitfalls: Players making lazy passes and making lazy approaches to the basket. Watch out for ambiguous cuts. Make L cuts and V cuts instead. Don't let the drill bog down because some players trot after they have taken their shot. Perform the drill as if it were a game situation. If players are struggling with timing, then slow it down and gradually speed it back up.

Good Tip: Time the team and see how fast they can score on all five options. That's five trips downcourt. They should be able to do it in 30 seconds. If you want the drill to end where it started, force them to do the five set plays, but on the sixth (the trip back to where they started) let the players use anyone to score the last basket. That should take 35 seconds. Make sure they meet your standard. If they don't, make them do pushups, or another token exercise, for every second they are too slow.

Good Tip: Insist that your 2 and 3 players run on the outside lanes, NOT down the middle of the court. If they take shortcuts, they will not be open. The defense will be running down the middle of the court, so stay away from there. Your wings should stay in the outside lane until they get to the FT line, then cut to the basket. Insist on this.

Diagram 1

Players will run the same pattern every time. That's what makes this so easy to learn. However, your 2 and 3 should become totally comfortable running either side (as a 2 or a 3) and the same goes for the post players. Whoever takes the ball our of bounds after the basket is the 5. The other big guy plays the 4. In the game, your players won't have time to argue about who plays where. They should get in the closest reasonable position and start the play.

Notice that the even numbers 2 and 4 are on the same side. The odd numbers, 1, 3 and 5 are on the right side. You may want to be rigid in this starting configuration when they first try to learn it.

Option 1

Dirt simple. Inbound the ball to 1 at the FTE. First look and pass is downcourt to 3 who drives to the basket for a layup. If he misses, all must rebound and shoot until the basket is made.



Diagram 2

With the players running the same pattern, we assume that 3 cannot easily drive to the basket. Very often the defense will have one defender back. So here's what we do:

Option 2

Player 3 sees 2 cutting in from the opposite side and passes to him for a layup. The basket must be made before continuing.

Teaching Point:

With a real defender, 3 should drive at the basket until the defender commits to him, and then pass. Passing too early allows the defender to essentially guard both players, hedging 3 and still close enough to guard 2. By attacking the basket, 3 can make 2 more open.


Diagram 3

If 2 doesn't get the pass, he goes to the FT line.

Option 3

By now the 4 should have reached the block on the ball side. If he is open (meaning his defender is behind him, he should get the ball. 4 can make a post move to score.

Teaching Point:

After passing to 4, 3 must MOVE. Don't let your wings pass, stand and watch. I drew in a cut to the key, but the 3 can easily cut to the corner instead. That way, if the post does not have a move to the hole, he can pass back to an open 3.



Diagram 4

Everybody is down the floor now. What we want to do is act quickly and organized. We want to follow a practiced plan while the defense is still trying to match up and stabilize the action. Not going to happen!

Option 4

1 has followed down the court as quickly as he can. When he see that there is no pass to 4, he takes his man away from the ball, then changes direction sharply to use 2's screen. If 4's defender has been fronting or even denying the passing lane, there should be a nice open area near the basket. 3 passes to 1 for a layup.

Teaching Point:

The cut by 1 is a basic skill that all your players must understand. To beat your defender to the place where you want to get the ball, you must take him away first, then win the race back to that point. Watch your defender as you move around the screen. If he follows you, you already have him beat. If he goes the other way to take a shortcut, flare away to maximize the distance from him.



Diagram 5

We have 5 out front as a safety. Now it is time to give him a look. If he doesn't get a shot, that's fine. Everyone is in place to start the regular offense.

Option 5

If 1 doesn't get the pass on Option 4, he clears out to the wing. 3 reverses the ball instead to 5 who passes to 1. As the defense moves to the ball side, 2 and 4 screen as needed to give 5 some space. I drew in a staggered screen, but it can be a double screen, or 5 can even go between them, depending on how his defender reacts.

To start your regular offense, 1 can dribble to the top or 2 can pop out there. The posts are already down low so they can set up in their normal positions.

We gave the fast break our best shot, looked at all the options, and decided to run our offense instead. They to make the transition from primary to set offense as seamless as possible. Don't let the defense catch their breath!