Edit: 03/11/2016 – We just published 8 breakdown drills for implementing this Havoc press. Check it out here.
We’re going to break down Coach Shaka Smart’s famous “Havoc” press defense. As the name suggests, it’s going to create havoc!
Coach Smart led an underdog VCU team to the NCAA final four in 2011 with less talent than many big name teams with this system. Is your team lacking in talent? Read on.
In every other sport, the defense plays defense for the entire length of the playing field. So why do we retreat to our own half and let the opponent casually stroll up the court? I love the full court press because it gives each player more playing time and it’s exciting! Famous coaches that run full court press are team USA’s Don Showalter and VCU’s Shaka Smart. I’m going to breakdown why you should run the “havoc” press and the principles to make it work for your team!
Pros of a Press
1. More players get to play
Particularly in youth basketball, as you want your players to get playing time because you never know when a player is going to get a growth spurt or suddenly improve over the summer. I even recommend having two units and substitute all 5 players each time. It also means that depth matters, so who’s bench is better? Most teams have a significant drop off outside their starting 5.
2. Exciting style of play, builds chemistry and everybody get shot opportunities
Every player will get a chance to score. It’s fast paced and gets everyone involved.
3. Keeps teams from running their offense (especially if you’re shorter)
Press is difficult to prepare for because if they aren’t committed to it, it’s very hard to simulate in practice. Even pressing teams find it difficult to break a press. Opponents get shots that they normally don’t take at faster speeds than they normally take them. Forcing a tempo upon the opponent they’re not accustomed to. If you’re a short team, it’s great for preventing the taller players from getting a close shot.
4. It exhausts your opponents
Very few players like to be pressed. Over time, there is a cumulative fatigue effect because it’s at such a fast tempo.
5. Great if your team can’t shoot or not very skilled
If you manage to force a turnover, it’s usually in the opponent’s half and often results in a layup. If your players aren’t very skilled, it also helps because you’re relying on defense for offense. Trade in effort and stamina for skill.
Cons of press
- Effort and stamina – This is an all or nothing system. It’s very tiring and requires players to sprint. You’ll need to coach effort and conditioning.
- You need NASTY players – If your players are not aggressive then this is not for you.
- Transition speed – If your players are slow, this is not for you. Everything is about speed of transition. You need to force a high tempo.
Things to keep in mind to keep you from losing it
- This is an “all or nothing” system – it requires constant attention
- It very often will seem “bad” early on; be patient with it and teach it well.
- Sell the players on it by promoting it as “OUR BEST OFFENSE” – explain that the harder they play on defense, the more shots they will get. If they can’t handle that, find someone who can.
- It will be described as “hully gully”, “jungle ball” and with various other terms and phrases, especially when it is very good or very bad; by both your opponents and your school board. Stick to it and see what they have to say at season’s end.
- If you have a dog, he will still love you no matter what happens with it – if you don’t have a dog, GET ONE!
11 Key Press coaching points
- Ball pressure is crucial at all times – “press” means ball pressure (arm’s length away).
- Be patient – good things take time. It may work for long spurts of short spurts, but it will work, and it will work in spurts. Stay with it, as there are some intangibles that are constantly in your favor, if you allow them to be.
- Deflections are KEY, even more important than steals. Aim for 20 per game, 10 by the half.
- Set good traps and DON’T REACH! Spring to your teammate when trapping.
- HANDS UP! HANDS OFF!
- SPRINT out of traps! Square shoulders to point to which you’re running.
- Look to tip from behind when you are behind the ball. Aim for 2-3 steals like this each game.
- Anticipate the next move of the opponent, read their position and eyes.
- REBOUND and RUN!
- Make opponents take jump shots. Be there when they shoot it – be there when they miss. Give them one shot or less.
- HAVE FUN – winning is lots of fun.
4 – “Madman”
This player is the “heart” and “soul” of the system. You want a taller, mobile player with an aggressive, relentless attitude. Competitive spirit at this position, along with tremendous footwork are of paramount importance. This position is filled first in the selection of personnel.
3 – A taller wing player is desirable at this spot since it will involve numerous possible “first traps”. Must be very good with left hand. “Lefties” have been very nice players in this spot.
2 – Smaller player of the 2 wing players. Weaker of the 2 wings in regard to defending on the ball. Must exert patience when the ball is reversed, hence, player who find it difficult to play hard for extended spurts fit nicely here. Anticipation should be better than 3 since this player will play more passes than the other wing.
1 – Point guard. Often called “interceptor” since basic responsibility is to play passes. Quickness and anticipation are of great value at this spot.
5 – Center or bigger of the 2 posts. Must protect the basket, normally, and become adept at defensive faking (stunting) and buying time for team mates to recover in defensive transition. Must communicate with teammates at this player can see the entire press attack of the opponent.
The madman has to angle themselves so that the pass does not go to the WEAKSIDE middle. All the other players must make sure the ball does not get inbounded to the middle.
Next we want the ball inbounded to the “coffin corner” as indicated by the dotted line.
Once the ball gets inbounded, both the mad man and 3 must trap the ball handler.
- 3 must NOT allow the ball handler to beat him/her down the sideline.
- Force the ball handler to pick up the ball and then immediately close the space to force the ball handler to pivot.
- 2 must look at the ball handler’s eyes and body to anticipate where he/she will pass the ball.
- The goal is not to steal the ball on the first pass but on the 2nd pass.
If the opponent manages to pass the ball back to the inbounder, it is 2’s responsible to defend both 1 and 2. DO NOT trap 1 in the middle because it is difficult to trap in the middle of the floor and if they pass to 2, the press is broken.
2 needs to “stunt” and pretend they will commit to the dribbler while buying time for the mad man to recover.
If they swing the ball to the opposite 2, then immediately trap. Ideally you want to trap around the half court line area and use the baseline as an extra defender.
“Fix it” situation
If they break the press somehow, immediately call “fix it” and every man needs to SPRINT back. It doesn’t matter who guards who, as long as the ball handler is being pressured and everyone has a man.
It’s important that the opponent does NOT get a layup. It is 5’s responsibility to prevent layups and usually with a numbers disadvantage. Again, the 5 needs to “stunt” (jab step) towards the dribbler to pretend they are committing to buy time for other team mates to come back.
Try to tip the ball from behind, aim for 1-2 tips from behind each game.
- Do not allow the offense to break the press the SAME WAY twice.
P.S. If you run a full court press and have anything to add, please leave a comment. I’d love to learn from you too!