Notice: This article was written by Steve Jordan, Coach's Notebook. Email the author at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Sometimes you get to coach a team that is blessed with a gifted athletic player that has the ability to move around the floor much faster than the rest. How can you maximize such a person without diminishing the role of the remaining players? One way is to highlight your star on defense. The Wildman press places your tiger player in the center of the floor and offers many chances to intercept or trap the ball.
Here's how you might set up to initiate a full court man to man press.
The red lines show the passing lanes. Notice that all the lanes are covered by a blue player. The blue players are close enough to the lanes to be able to deflect a pass along the red line.
This concept is very important and must never be abandoned during the Wildman Press.
How to Set up for the Wildman Press
The wildman is the player marked blue 3.
What we have done is decided NOT to guard the inbounder. Instead we have designated a wildman to take the middle of the floor.
The wildman needs to be just that: a player that can cover lots of space and loves to cause disruption. And... the wildman must be willing to take big chances. If he can intercept the pass, its an easy basket. Usually, though, the wildman is an intimidation factor. The defense will try to avoid him. That makes their movement much more predictable. Predictability is one of the main things that strips the "power of possession" from the offense.
The remaining players need to locate their offensive counterparts. Do not go to the areas shown by green ovals in diagram 2 if their are no offensive players there! The key is to hook up with an opponent and protect the passing lane.
See how the passing lanes are covered?
We are not guarding the inbounder. He is not a threat - yet.
Blue defenders 4 and 5 must communicate with each other. It is vital that they each take personal responsibility for one of the last two yellow players back. These players will likely move around trying to get open. Its like man to man coverage, but this far away from the ball they can allow some distance from the passing lane as long as they have time to intercept or deflect the pass.
The ball is inbounded safely. Because the inbounder is unguarded, the ball will likely be returned to him.
The wildman's first priority is to stop that dribbler. This is critical. If the dribbler goes right by your best athlete, you're in trouble.
The other up-front defender is playing pass defense.
The back two defenders are playing pass defense.
What Also Happens
Sometimes the initial receiver will decide to make a go for it and dribble up the sideline. This is very good for the defense.
Defender 2, who is responsible for the ballhandler in this situation, should close out the dribble by herding the ballhandler to the sideline.
Once the dribble is stopped, the pass options are limited.
The wildman is responsible for the inbounder. We don't want the ball going back to him.
Everybody is anticipating the interception once the dribbler has stopped.
When Bad Things Happen
What happens if the initial receiver drives by the defender and goes up the sideline? Like a full court man to man pressure defense, the next players back step up to help.
Blue 2 can best help by covering a pass back to the inbounder, Yellow 1.
Blue 5 leaves his man to stop the dribble. Its not always Blue 5's job. The job belongs to the next closest defender, so sometimes Blue 4 takes the dribbler. The key is to stop that dribble.
The wild man needs to recognize that the press has been compromised. Its his job to beat feet back to the basket area and pick up Blue 4's man.
What Happens Next
Take a quick look at diagram 4. That's where the initial receiver get the inbound pass. He tries to drive, but sees that its a nowhere path. He reverses the ball to the inbounder.
The wildman should stop the dribble here. Look at the possible passes. Expect the ballhandler to look for a quick way out and throw the ball to one of his teammates. They should all be deceptively covered.
A well covered player looks just barely open. The defender should have just enough time to move in for the interception or deflection.
What Also Happens Next
Another common situation is where the initial receiver tries to move upcourt and gets closed off, but keeps the dribble alive. He then attempts to drive around Blue 2 and progress up the middle of the floor.
The wildman must slide over and stop the dribble. Blue 2 should be moving that way as well and be able to "shut the door".
The dribble will have a safe pass back to Yellow 1 because the wildman has left him to help guard Yellow 2. That's OK. Yellow still hasn't reached half court.
If Yellow reverses the ball and goes up the other side of the court, the steps are all the same. By closing off the middle of the floor and the sideline, they have very few options for advancing the ball.
If the press is run effectively, the deliberate offense will suffer 10 second violations as they try to reverse the ball again and again. The anxious offense will try to pass down court. If Blue's defensemen are licking their chops in anticipation, then they will be ready to pick off any long, downcourt passes.
The kids will enjoy being the "wildman". The wildman must be able to lock up the dribble (diagram 4), Beat feet downcourt if the press is broken (diagram 6) and close off any dribble attempts up the middle (diagram 8).
If you have somebody that can fill the wildman role, and the other players can cover passing lanes, your team will be very tough to beat.