Turn All Your Fast Breaks into a 2 on 1 Break

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I can’t say all, but I will say most, players and coaches want to run some type of fast break game. It’s fun, exciting, and can be devastating to your opponent. But, like any other offense, you have to plan and practice it for it to be productive.


Maybe not at lower levels, but as you move up, the running game involves much move than just seeing who get up the floor the fastest. Getting shooters and finishers in the right spots, creating options and flowing directly to a half court offense become more and more important as you play against better and better teams.

Just like any offense, you have to decide what objectives you want to meet. As it develops, your break can take many forms, so my first step is always to lay out how I want the break to end. To that end, my objectives look like this:

1 on 1 - Lay up

2 on 1 - Lay up

3 on 1 - Lay-up

4 on 1 - Lay up

3 on 2 - Lay up or short jump shot

4 on 2 - Lay up or short jump shot

5 on 2 - Lay up or short jump shot

In short, anytime there is 1 defender back, we look for a lay up, only. In an advantage break where there are 2 defenders, we still look for a lay up but if we get a short jump shot, we’ll take it and then try to use our number advantage on the glass should we happen to miss the shot. Anything other than those objectives, my break turns into my transition offense.

The second thing I do in constructing my break is to see where it is I want to end up. I just seems strange to me to run a break, gain an advantage, and then have to stop and re-set into a half court offense and loose any advantage I have gained. I believe your break should end up in the positions you would want when entering your offense.

For example, if I ran the flex, I would want my break to end with players in these positions:

Flex Set1

Most importantly, I try to develop my break philosophy. This, I believe is the most important aspect of anything in basketball. Your philosophy is what makes everything work. I am in coaching, the longer and longer I go, when it comes to my break, my philosophy becomes clearer and clearer. Since a 2 on 1 break is the most successful set, I simply try to turn every break into a 2 on 1.

To do this, I try to accomplish 2 things. First, I try to get my best finishers out to the wings and ahead of the ball. Most teams send shooters, as I used to. But, I have found the getting a shooter a shot on the break is not difficult. In fact, it’s easier to use a shooter as a trailer. So, instead of sending a shooter, I send finishers.

Next, I will headman the ball if there is a sliver of daylight between the player and his defender. “Headmanning” means, throwing the ball to a man ahead when the opportunity permits. Most coaches, as I used to, like to keep the ball with their point guard. I know longer feel that way. While good point guards are good at running the show, bad points guards are bad at it. My intention in running the break is to put pressure on the defense. Nothing does that like getting the ball up the court. In my break, I want to get the ball to the corner within 4 seconds of making the pitch. If we don’t get the early shot, the “Headman” brings the ball to the corner and everyone else fills their spots and we immediately go into a transition offense.

 Headman1  Headman2

Getting the fishers out and headmanning the ball

Resulting 2 on 1 opportunity

 Headman3  Headman4

Without the 2 on 1, ball goes to the corner

Players then fill transition offense spots.

I don’t want to give you the impression that I am talking about running out of control and throwing the ball to anyone. If Roy Hibbert were the headman, I probably wouldn’t pitch it. But then again, If Roy Hibbert were running a wing, I probably haven’t done a good job of role definition in practice. But, anyone else who has the role of running the wing, I would pitch it.

Headmanning and trying to turn all your breaks accomplishes a lot of things. It puts pressure on the defense, gives you opportunities for break out baskets and a surprising number of 3-point plays (lay up and a foul) and if you don’t get a 2 on 1 basket, it really forces the defense to protect the basket and the baseline.

I abandoned the ball in the middle of the floor with a point guard long ago. I really found it too confining if I really wanted to get up the floor. I much more favor trying to turn all breaks into 2 on 1s. It is much more efficient, you get better scoring opportunities, have more lanes for trailers and a lot more flexibility for transition offense. Compressing the defense to the baseline immediately gives great offensive advantage.

Don Kelbick

Coach Don Kelbick has had 27 years of coaching experience, 25 at the college level including 14 years as a head coach and 10 years as a Division I assistant including stops at Hofstra University, Marist College, Keene State College, and Florida International University. In 2 years as a high school coach, his teams produced 6 Division I players and was ranked #1 in Florida 28 out of a possible 34 weeks. In addition to coaching he has scouted for NBA teams, including the Knicks and the Hawks, and served as a general manager in the USBL.