As far back as I can remember, I have had a desire to play fast. My move to wheelchair basketball has not altered this desire to bring the danger into the opponent’s court as quickly as possible. To illustrate this passion for “total basketball”, I will now explain the concepts that frame the game that I, along with the various staff members that I have had the pleasure to work with, like to set up.
To begin with, playing fast is not necessarily a bad thing. Our goal is to teach players to increase their technical skills to a very high level in order to be able to make decisions swiftly. The fundamental idea we promote is that every decision should follow this process: OBSERVE – ANALYZE – RESPOND and then EVALUATE the response.
Consistent practice should help players to:
- know the game well enough to reduce their observation time (we encourage players to move away from “repetition”), and to be able to identify the different situations that are presented to them;
- understand the internal logic of the sport to reduce the time needed to analyse the situations identified;
- to have a sufficiently high level of technical skills to be able to respond effectively (and above all, swiftly) to the situations identified.
The shorter the time between observation and response, the more likely the player is to reach a top level. We want to train players who are able to respond quickly and effectively to situations that they are faced with within the game.
The fast break situation should not only be linked to offensive superiority. We prefer to talk about a defensive imbalance. The proposed situations should all lead the team to have a shooting situation linked to an advantage:
- open shot (alone) in the paint;
- open shot (alone) outside the paint, but in a comfort zone;
- contested shot in the basket, but in a mismatch situation (a height advantage over the opponent).
It is “fast play” that will enable the creation of the defensive imbalance that we seek.
Playing fast should not be reduced to simply sprinting.
Playing fast is often associated with a sense of ease. For us it is the opposite, it is much more difficult to set up an efficient game at full speed than to play 5 against 5 in the half court. The fast break situation becomes “easy” when it is mastered and a defensive imbalance is achieved (more on this later).
In order to implement this, we need to identify all aspects of the desired fast break game, and we need to categorize the whole process. The criteria obtained will allow us to evaluate the quality of our fast break situation in a very precise manner, and in so doing, to perfect the technical/tactical and physical aspects necessary for its achievement through practice.
To do this, we need to set up teaching situations that best reflect the reality of the game using criteria that are by no means exhaustive. They are simply those we have identified to assess the quality of our ability to:
- change status (defence-attack);
- find free space in order to project ourselves forward quickly;
- make the right choices (for example, use of the dribble or the pass);
- Use the lanes of play (spread or cross to force the defence to make choices). Passing lanes should be open (angle of reception) and not closed (passer and receiver on the same line). The reception problem can be accentuated by the lack of mobility of the trunk of some of the players;
- cooperate (passing, catching and crossing to open the path of the ball carrier or the receiver of a pass);
- stop or slow down an opponent to create an advantage situation;
- choose the appropriate finishing zone according to the defence faced;
- choose the appropriate type of finish according to the defence faced.
Our desire to involve all players offensively is very strong, as is the case with the GB men’s team, where all players are a threat, regardless of their classification. All players in a team must be ready to score (we don’t consciously talk about just being able to shoot, it’s scoring, that interests us). Physically, everyone has to be ready to move quickly and repeat the effort. Here are some training situations that illustrate our work on the fast break type of game:
Objective: Change of status from def to off or off to def.
- Move forward quickly / offer solutions (passes or blocks) to the ball carrier.
- Reduce the distance to the offensive player to stop the attack immediately.
At the signal, the offensive players drop the ball and the defensive players take it into offence. We can change status several times to get the players used to this transition between attack and defence (image 1).
Objective: To move forward in an offensive outnumbered situation (image 2).
After the shot, the rebounder has two options depending on the positioning of the defence:
One of the defenders jumps on the ball carrier and the other on one of the offensive players
both defenders go back to defend their zone
- The rebounder passes to one of the free players in front (image 3).
The two defenders jump on the two free offensive players.
- The rebounder pushes the ball as fast as possible (image 4).
This situation is interesting because it is the fundamental form of play to learn when a player should or should not dribble. The quality of his reading of the game in front of him determines the technical response he will make. Whatever the outnumbered situation, we teach our players to read the game to make the right decisions using 3 basic rules:
- If there is no defender in the direct lane (lane between the player and the basket) and no free offensive player in front: I dribble to attack the basket,
- If there is a defender in the direct lane, I pass the ball to a free player in front of the defender,
- If there is a free forward in front of me, I always pass the ball.
And in general, we must never stop attacking and we must keep the ball alive. This is fundamental!
Regardless of the type of drill proposed, the notion of time must be added very early on. Each proposed situation is linked to the desire to find a shooting solution between 3 seconds (long pass) and 7 seconds (pass or dribble). The stopwatch helps us and gives the time scale to the players. Saying that you have to play fast means nothing if you don’t add a quantifiable notion of time.
We can also add an extra defender (late), to push the attack to go fast, otherwise they lose the advantage of numerical superiority (image 5).
The extra defender starts to go when the ball leaves the 3-point area.
Objective: Change of status and desire to go fast.
The situation starts with a 3v3 and then we link two successive changes of status for each team (image 6).
The numerical equality eliminates the initial advantage of the 3-2. The speed and crosses of the offensive players to unblock (his partner) and block (his opponent), will allow a situation of defensive imbalance again.
In wheelchair basketball we ask the offensive players to cross (mobile screens without contact) behind the ball carrier’s defender, in order to slow down the ball carrier and to offer an advantage situation in 2v1. It is very important to stay in motion in order to offer a forward passing solution to the ball carrier (image 7).
Regardless of the fast break situation exercise, we will add the notion of time very early on. Each situation proposed is linked to the need to find a shooting solution between 3 seconds (long pass) and 7 seconds (pass or dribble). The stopwatch assists us and gives the timeline to the players. Saying to play fast means nothing if it is not accompanied by a quantifiable notion of time.
Objective: Offensive outnumbering due to the “man out”.
5v5 on 1/2 court. When a player is in the zone or very close to it, one or two players block him/her for a moment, in order to be in a 5v4 situation (image 8).
It is important that possession is not stopped. The game must be free flowing, and we must take advantage of the defensive retreat to gain an advantage, as a settled defence is always more difficult to move afterwards.
Solution with a blocking player
The ball carrier must always be dangerous.
If he is just waiting to pass, one of the two defenders on his side will slip into the central gap to contest the arrival of the extra player. He must therefore attack his opponent to fix him (image 9).
Or if he waits behind a screen of his partner, the result will be the same. He must be aggressive in order to fix the defenders and favour the zone of extension of the FT line to attack (fixing the player closest to help in the centre) (image 10).
Solution with two blocking players (image 11).
The player on the opposite side comes to take the central gap to fix the defence and open the weak side for a 2v1 with the arrival of the 2 extra players.
Objective: Running shot under pressure (image 12)
The coach indicates a basket with an arm. The player in the lane closest to the basket changes direction on receiving the signal and dribbles to shoot as quickly as possible. The second player passes to the coach and defends.
The action of the pass gives the attacker time to shoot alone in 1c0 if he does not slow down his progress:
- by using inappropriate dribbling;
- by looking at the defender’s position;
- by moving out of the way of the basket to find a different shooting angle.
Objective: Sequence of outnumbered and equal number situations (image 13).
The idea is to alternate fast break situations in outnumbered or in numerical equality while changing the status.
After each change of possession, a player enters the game from the back line to change the balance of power.
The desire to play fast remains the priority (maximum 7 seconds from the moment of taking possession).
Objective: Succession of situations (image 14)
We can also combine the situations as follows:
- receiving a pass on the move;
- shooting on the move with defensive pressure;
- quick release of the ball;
- attacking with numerical superiority and with a defender behind.
The combination of game situations allows the players to better understand the game and to contextualise the exercises that are worked on in training. The game must be at the centre of all learning. Our job as coaches is to help the players to better read and understand the game in which they have to play.
Playing fast requires practice, to enable players to learn to make decisions at a high speed.
These game situations will provide the coach with ideas to work on in view of the problems encountered. Individual progression work with or without the ball (dribbling and chair skills), cooperation between players (passing and catching) as well as the finalisation of possession (shooting) will be repeated in order to develop the skills of each player.
This desire to carry the danger forward will be combined with defensive aggressiveness 1/2 or fullcourt, in order to provoke loose balls, to steal balls, to control our defensive rebound and not to leave any easy shot to our opponent. To run the floor, we need the ball in good conditions. Inbounds after conceded baskets are not one of them.
Thank you for your attention and I wish you good practices.
Text: Franck Belen | Photo: Hannah Schrauth