4 Options for Driving in Fast-Break Play

When dribbling directly at an opponent, you must avoid charging into him/her. So you must execute a change of direction either away from the ball or toward it. Depending on how the defender reacts to your change of direction, you select from a group of four play options the most appropriate one to execute to go by him/her.

There are three phases involved in executing each play option: the initiation phase, in which you execute a change of direction, the decision-making phase, in which you select the most appropriate play option to execute, and the execution phase, in which you execute the selected play option.

Following is a detailed explanation for each of the four play options: two involve a change of direction away from the ball and two toward the ball. The explanation assumes that the dribbler is advancing the ball with the right hand. A player using the left hand to dribble would execute everything in reverse. Start practicing each play option by walking, making sure that you are executing all the movements as explained. Then execute them at a slow run, gradually increasing the speed until you can execute them at full speed.

Before examining these explanations, you should be familiar with the following tips in Coach Vic's Instruction and Advice category: Basic Dribbling, The Speed Dribble, Driving by an Opponent, and Initiating and Executing.

Change of Direction Away From the Ball

The Initiation Phase

Using your right hand, drive directly at the opponent with stride footwork. When you are just over an arm's length away, execute a change of direction to your left, away from the ball. This involves:

  • stepping to the left with a normal stride with your left foot at a 45-degree angle away from your initial drive line and
  • rotating your head, shoulders, and hips along this new drive line to the left. You want to make the defender believe that you are going to continue driving along this new drive line.

Executing this maneuver too far from the opponent will allow him/her to recover during the execution phase.

The Decision-Making Phase

As you initiate the change of direction to the left, read how the defender reacts. Does your opponent move to his/her right to block the new drive line or does he/she stay on the original drive line? If he/she reacts by moving to block your new drive line, execute the over-the-top play option. If she/he does not react or reacts too slowly, execute the front-cross-over play option. The moment for selecting one of these two play options occurs as you complete the change of direction maneuver, that is, as your left foot makes contact with the court.

The Execution Phase

The over-the-top play option: As your left foot contacts the court, use it to push your body quickly back to the original drive line and step along that line with your right foot.

The front-cross-over play option: As your left foot contacts the court, use your right hand and wrist to dribble the ball directly in front of you to your left hand. As the ball moves to your left side, push off your left foot and take cross-over step with your right foot onto the new drive line to the left.

Change of Direction Toward the Ball

Using your right hand, drive directly at the opponent with stride footwork. When you are just over an arm's length away, execute a change of direction to the right, toward the ball. This involves:

  • Executing a front cross-over step to the right with a normal stride with your left foot at a 45-degree angle away from your initial drive line;
  • Rotating your head, shoulders, and hips along this new drive line to the right as you execute the front cross-over step; and
  • As you step with your left foot and rotate your shoulders, rotate your lower arm and hand so that the ball is behind your right hip with the fingers pointing directly behind you. This maneuver is called dropping the ball.

Again, you want to make the defender believe that you are going to continue driving along the new drive line to the right. Again, executing this maneuver too far from the opponent will allow him/her to recover during the execution phase.

The Decision-Making Phase

As you initiate the change of direction to the right, read how the defender reacts. Does your opponent move to his/her left to block the new drive line or does he/she stay on the original drive line? If he/she reacts by moving to block the new drive line to the right, execute the behind-the-back cross-over play option. If she/he does not react or reacts too slowly, execute the over-the- top play option. The moment for selecting one of these two play options occurs as you complete the change of direction maneuver, that is, as your left foot makes contact with the court.

The Execution Phase

The behind-the-back cross-over play option: As your left foot contacts the court, execute a front cross-over step with your right foot and use your right hand and wrist to dribble the ball behind your back and to your left hand. As your right foot moves ahead of the left one, pivot on the left foot to bring your body onto the new drive line to the left.

Dropping the ball: Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart. Move your left foot ahead of you in a normal stride. Bend your knees slightly. Dribble the ball with your right hand. Your forefinger should be pointing straight ahead of you. As you are dribbling, rotate your lower arm and hand until the forefinger is pointing directly behind you. At that point, reverse the action so that your forefinger is pointing straight ahead.

The over-the-top play option: As your left foot contacts the court, use it to push your body quickly along the drive line to the right and step quickly along that line with your right foot. At the same time, reverse the dropping the ball action to get the ball ahead of you.

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