A fast-break offense that produced 95.2 points per game
Our team’s philosophy on offense and defense is to keep constant pressure on the opponent. We want our players to run as fast as they can on offense and even faster on defense.
Our fast-break system has evolved into 90 percent of our offense. We now use this system on dead balls, walk-it-up-the-floor situations, and following out-of-bounds plays that do not lead to shots. In fact, there’s almost no situation where we’ll not run our fast break as our primary offense.
Running this offense almost exclusively, Pfeiffer led Division I and II in scoring (95.2 points per game) from 2003 to 2005 and won 80 games. Our team also averaged 30 free-throw attempts per game and made 132 more foul shots than our opponents have attempted. We also averaged 14 offensive rebounds per game.
The goals of every offense is to achieve good floor spacing, get the ball inside, put ball handlers in position for good driving angles, draw fouls and find multiple rebounding opportunities. This fast-break system:
- Spreads the floor for post isolations and penetrations.
- Allows for good floor spacing.
- Allows players to find their teammates at all times.
- Offers four great offensive rebounding angles.
Our goals for every possession is to get quality shots, be attackers, beat our opponents down the floor, and wear them out as the game goes on. We liberally substitute 10 to 12 players per game.
The fast-break system is run from a four-out, one-in alignment. It’s most commonly referred to as a secondary break, but we use it as our primary break. We run it at all times with the exception of a 2-on-1 advantage.
» RELATED: An aggressive fast-break practice drill
Players know their positions by immediately going to designated “break spots” on the offensive end of the floor. The break spots consists of the rim (not the block), two corners (outside the 3-point line at the block extended) and two spots located at the top (straight up from the elbow). We also have a unique labeling system based on these positions:
- The rim (post player).
- The point guard.
- The wings (corners).
- The inbounder (trailer).
DIAGRAM 1: Fast-break spots. The point and trailer set up from the lane-line extended outside the 3-point circle. The corners are each positioned behind the 3-point circle at the block extended. The rim player heads directly under the hoop. Each of the four perimeter spots are interchangeable. The key to this fast-break system is that it’s not a numbered break, but rather a “read-and-fill” of the five break spots.
Positions & rules
The break starts with five rebounders crashing the defensive glass. Once we gain possession, on either made or missed shot attempts, the players quickly set up into their designated positions.
→ Trailer (inbounder)
On made baskets, we instruct players to quickly inbound the ball. In our system, we name our inbounder prior to the shot, but another option is for the point guard to always inbound and receive a quick return pass.
The inbounder stays behind the ball, at an angle where an easy pass can be made at all times. This provides an easy outlet if the dribbler gets into trouble. The inbounder is always the trailer on made shots. On missed shots or turnovers, we throw an outlet pass or the rebounder takes off on the dribble. Our rule is to get the ball down the floor the fastest way possible without turning it over.
The rebounder is the trailer (staying behind the ball at an angle for an easy outlet) unless the person we name as our “run-to-the-rim” position secures the rebound. The run-to-the-rim position outlets and sprints down the floor, while the inbounder comes back and fills the trailer spot.
→ Run-to-the-rim player
This player sprints in a straight line to the basket on the made shots or rebounds. They decide whether they can seal the defender in the post and get into good scoring position.
If the run-to-the-rim player can’t immediately seal the defender, they run under the rim and wait. This sets up the defender, who can only front and ultimately gets sealed in the post on the turn. We have used both our 4 and 5 players in this position, but we found that by naming and demanding it of one player ahead of time, it works more effectively and keeps the middle of the floor from becoming clogged.
→ Corner spots (wings)
These players get wide by the time they reach the hash marks. If we’re having any trouble inbounding or outletting the ball, these players come back down their sideline to help. If this occurs, it usually leads directly into our press offense.
Since we do not number our break, it’s possible for both wings to start up the same sideline. Our rule is the wing who is behind (he or she can see the teammate ahead) switches sides of the floor to achieve balance. There is a read-and-react aspect to this decision.
Our point brings the ball up the floor most of time, but all players designated as capable are allowed to push it. If the ball handler is ahead of his teammates on a steal or a quick outlet, he dribbles to the corner break spot and keeps the dribble alive. The goal is to dribble at full speed toward the top “break spot,” looking for the run-to-the-rim player.
→ All positions
All players are required to stay on their break spots. The exceptions are to rebound or rescue a teammate who is about to get called for a 5-second violation.
The run-to-the-rim player must remember to step out of the lane to avoid the 3-second call. They then return back to seal in the post or stand under the rim to set up the seal.
There are four primary scoring options in this system.
• Option 1.Look inside to hit the run-to-the-rim player over the top. This is open when the player outruns the opponent. We get this easy basket at least one to three times a game and sometimes more.
• Option 2.Turn it/look inside. This is a method of “turning the ball” by changing sides of the floor (see Diagrams 2-4). This is done in three ways — a skip pass to the opposite corner; a pass to the trailer; or using the trailer as a ball pick at the top of the key and hitting the post, who has sealed the post defender on the turn.
If the post wasn’t open on option 1, that player runs under the rim. This sets up an excellent opportunity to seal the defender on each of the turns, as the defender always fronts when he or she stands under the rim. It also allows for great block-out opportunities on perimeter shots.
DIAGRAM 2: Skip pass. On this play, after looking to hit the run-to-the-rim player first, the point guard throws a skip pass to the weak-side corner player. As the pass is being thrown, the rim player steps in and seals the post defender. The corner player always looks inside first.
DIAGRAM 3: Pass from point to trailer. A quicker method of “turning the ball,” the point guard throws a pass to trailer position. As the pass is thrown, the rim player steps in and seals the post defender.
DIAGRAM 4: On-the-ball screen. The trailer sets an on-the-ball screen for the point guard who dribbles around the screen and looks to hit the rim player on the post seal.
» RELATED: The 5-man, continuous fast-break drill
• Option 3. Attack. When the player who is catching the skip or trailer pass or the point guard who’s using the ball screen is unable to immediately feed the post (option 2), he or she drives to the basket.
If a scoring opportunity isn’t available, he or she will pitch the ball to a teammate. Since all players know the spots on the floor, they automatically know exactly where to find teammates.
Drivers replace themselves in the four-out, one-in set if a shot isn’t taken.
• Option 4. Repeat option 3. Players look inside to feed the post, attack the rim, penetrate and pitch. Our point guard gets back on the shot no matter where he or she is located. The other four players crash the offensive glass from the four different angles.
Shot selection is critical. We teach our players that it’s always right to take a great shot. Any shot that isn’t great is a selfish shot.
Our team averaged more than 10 made 3-pointers per game, and we shot just over 40 percent as a team. We teach the 3-point shot as a byproduct of trying to get the ball inside and attacking the goal.
When we do attempt a 3-pointer, we often get wide-open looks. This comes as a result of pushing the ball up the floor, applying pressure, or using the penetrate-and-pitch method of attacking the offensively.
While we scored 30 points per game from 3-pointers, we also scored 65 points per game from conventional field goals and at the free-throw line. The large number of free throws comes as a result of our offense’s inside emphasis and the dribble-drive scores with drawn fouls.
Dave Davis is the head men’s basketball coach at Newberry College in South Carolina. He formerly served as the head men’s coach at Pfeiffer University. He was named the CVAC “Coach of the Year” in 1998, 1999 and 2004. In 2004, he was named the NCAA East Regional Coach of the Year.