In the second of our five-part blog series, Mark Seeberg explains why forming the all-important attack box, and moving it up the floor as the ball advances, is key.

In my last blog, I introduced the first three lessons of a comprehensive strategy to defeating full-court pressure. Now we’ll get a little more detailed.

Lesson 4: Don’t rush the ball inbounds.

Don’t be in a hurry to pick up the ball after your opponent scores. When possible, let the official retrieve it. 

You have five full seconds to complete the throw-in after the ball has been placed “at your disposal,” usually by the official bouncing or handing you the ball. Use this time to your advantage. Teach your players to move into the proper positions before they inbound the ball.

Lesson 5: Form an attack box.

It makes little difference whether the press is a straight zone or man, or a combination of the two. All presses have the inherent potential to morph into a trapping defense, and therefore can be attacked in the same basic manner. It’s easiest to demonstrate this principle and those that follow by applying them first against zone pressure, then man-to-man, and finally, a combination or full-court matching zone.

Let’s examine a 3-1-1 or “Diamond and One” press.

Once the throw-in occurs, the receiver turns toward the defense and prepares for the trap. The in-bounder steps parallel about 15 feet away—now the attack box is formed.

As the defenders move to trap the ball, the offside midcourt attacker—in this case, #3, the man away from the ball—steps to the middle, altering the shape of the attack box.

There are now two defenders on the ball, leaving the remaining two defenders to guard three attackers. If we space properly, we create three potential passing lanes and the two defenders must choose which to choke off.

The ball handler reads the defense and defeats the trap by passing to the open man.

Lesson 6: As the ball advances, move the attack box with it.

Imagine that the defenders have denied the passing lanes to our middle and side attackers. As illustrated below, the ball is simply reversed to the parallel guard. He begins to advance the ball up the floor until he, too, is trapped. 

As the ball is in flight from one guard to the other, the midcourt men exchange positions. Player #3 moves back to his sideline and is replaced in the middle by his midcourt teammate #4, who now finds himself opposite the ball.

Note that as the dribbler advances the ball up the floor, the attack box must move with him. Consequently, as #3 and #4 exchange positions, they must do so at an angle so they can maintain their spacing (relative to the advancing ball and to one another). This way the three potential passing lanes are preserved every step of the way.

Proper spacing is the key to preventing the defenders from successfully guarding the three attackers. If the space between attackers becomes too great, the distance the pass must travel—and the time it will take to get there—lengthens. One defender can now cover two attackers and the numbers advantage is lost.

The attackers (and therefore the attack box) advance up the floor as fast as the defense permits, every step of the way looking to turn a trap into a numbers advantage at the other end of the floor. 

With patience, and bit of guile, the attacking guards will eventually throw the ball “over the trap” to the middle or sideline attacker. That player can then advance on the basket, creating a 3-on-2 or 2-on-1 advantage.

Next up is Attacking Full-Court Pressure Series, Part Three: Strategic Spacing.

Mark Seeberg was an assis­tant bas­ket­ball coach at Loyola Academy in the pow­er­ful Chicago Catholic League for near­ly twen­ty years. He was also a stu­dent train­er for the Notre Dame men’s bas­ket­ball team dur­ing the Austin Carr era, 1967 – 71. Today, Seeberg runs a blog on col­lege bas­ket­ball, Better than a layup.