Simplifying transition play for easy shots By Brian McCormick, High-Five Hoop School, Sacramento, California

A coach once asked me how I run my fast break.

“Quickly,” I replied.

While I was somewhat joking, I do believe that the transition game is one of the most glaring examples of, as Bob Knight said, “basketball being over coached and under taught.”

I marvel at teams that run more than one secondary break and spend hours perfecting the motion, working on the timing of their cuts and setting the screens. My problem with running a secondary break is that, in most secondary breaks, the ball is swung around the perimeter from side to side. To me, this negates any advantage that a team may have over a slow transition defense or defensive players being out of position.

Players should attack the basket when the advantage presents itself, or they should look for trailers cutting to the basket or spotting up for early shots (which I don’t consider bad shots because, with the numbers advantage, you’ll also have an offensive rebounding advantage).

We teach a quick transition break with very few rules.

1. Outlet the ball to the sideline as quickly and as far up the court as possible. The outlet-pass receiver must have his or her back facing the sideline to allow for maximum court vision. As that player receives
the ball, he or she should push the ball toward the middle
of the court with his or her head up watching the court. It should take less than two dribbles for the outlet player to pass ahead to either wing. The outlet player follows the pass to the 3-point line and becomes the ball-side trailer.

2. Wings need to quickly fill the lanes. Once the wing receives the ball, he or she needs to quickly decide whether there’s an opportunity to create a shot by attacking the basket. If not, then the wing player should keep the ball and maintain proper court spacing.

3. The first post-player runs down the middle of the floor and then makes a diagonal cut to the ball-side block. If the wing is attacking the basket, the post should run to the front of the rim for the offensive rebound. The second post should fill the weak side.

4. If the pass ahead from the outlet player to the wing isn’t open, the outlet player should attack the front court from the middle of the floor. The post players must make sure they do not crowd the ball handler.

There are three main drills that we incorporate into our transition game.

2-on-0 fast-break drill

This drill begins with a line of players under each basket (P1s) and an outlet line (P2s) for each basket. Have a coach or player toss the ball off the backboard. P1 grabs the rebound and throws an outlet pass to P2, who begins transition downcourt. P1 should fill the outside lane, running wide while P2 takes the ball to the center of the court. As P2 drives to the other basket he or she has several transition options. For example:

Drive all the way to the hoop for a layup. P1 follows to the front of the rim looking for a rebound and follow-up tip.

Executes a type of open-court move around the 3-point line to simulate beating a defensive player and attack the basket. P1 trails.

Quick stops at the 3-point line and pass to P1 filling the lane for a layup. P2 remains beyond 3-point line, sliding toward the side of the pass.

Quick stops at 3-point line and passes to P1 for a transition jump shot.

Army Drill

This is a very simple drill and can be used in a number of different ways to cover multiple situations. Line up two teams of five players across from each other, one on the baseline (offense) and one on the free-throw line (defense). The coach throws a ball to any one of the five offensive players to begin transition downcourt.

When the pass is thrown, the corresponding defensive player must run and touch the baseline and then get back into the play. The other defensive players must retreat, communicate and try to slow the progress of the ball. The offensive players must get the ball downcourt as quickly as possible to take advantage of the 5-on-4 situation. At any point in the drill, the coach can yell out a defensive player’s name and that player must run from wherever they are on the court and go touch the baseline before returning to action.

This allows the offense other temporary advantages, such as a 5-on-3 break.
This drill can be set up with as many people as needed to work on other types of transition situations (2-on-1s, 3-on- 1s, 4-on-2s, etc.).

Transition progression

Here’s another simple, yet competitive drill that works a number of different transition situations. Play begins with a 5-on-4 fast break. On the shot, both the offensive passer and shooter step off the court to create a 4-on-3 fast break going the other way. The passer and shooter on that break step off to create a 3-on-2 and then a 2-on-1 respectively. Each team has two possessions in each series.

To make it competitive, play a game where each team gets four possessions. This is a very quick drill and forces the offensive players to communicate with one another about transition defense as soon as a shot is taken.





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