Full Court Pressure (or "Press") Defense

The full court pressure defense, or “press,” is intended to attack and harass an offense all the way down the court, making it difficult for an opponent to advance the ball to their side of the court. Typically, this kind of defense can force a turnover by forcing a mistake such as a bad pass that leads to a steal or goes out of bounds, or by preventing the opponent from crossing half-court in the required 10-second period.

Defenders in the press need to be aggressive, but they must also be disciplined and alert. The press defense requires that designated defenders are “on the ball,” but keep in mind that this type of defense can lead to gaps in coverage that the offense can exploit if the defense lets them. It also enables a team to get a fast break, because most of the defenders are playing up.


Our press break has three specific roles. Like positions, these are roles that players assume while we are running the press. Roles may be assigned according to a player’s position in our half-court defense or according to his skill set.

The press roles are:

“Mosquitoes” – We have two “mosquitoes.” Mosquitoes are pests. They need to continually harass and annoy the player with the ball, preventing the ballhandlers from advancing effortlessly. They have to be quick, alert, and have endurance, because they may do a lot of point-to-point sprinting. At least one mosquito should always “on the ball.”

“Trappers” – We have two “trappers.” Trappers have to be quick and aggressive and have a good sense of anticipation. If the ball comes out on his side, the trapper pounces on the ball handler, attempting to “trap” the ball against the sideline, with help from a mosquito. If the ball goes away from him, the trapper plays “one pass away” defense, attempting to deny passes from the ball handler.

“Alamo” – The fifth role in our press defense is the “Alamo,” our last line of defense. (If you saw Saving Private Ryan, you'll remember the bridge to which Private Ryan and the other soldiers retreated for their last stand.) The Alamo has to be smart and patient. He needs to hustle, because he has a lot of court floor to cover quickly. It is important that the player in the Alamo role is aware of where all five offensive players are; he must position himself behind all five players. In the case of a long lob, the Alamo may try to intercept, but he cannot let anyone get behind him for a fast break.

Set Up

Our press set-up is shown in the following image; explanations follow.

The mosquitoes set up close to the ball. One mosquito (unless otherwise assigned, the taller of the two) is “on the ball,” harrassing the player attempting to bring the ball onto the court. The other mosquito sets up in the middle of the key, adjusting relative to where the opponents are, and jumps on the first pass receiver. This determines which side of the court each mosquito covers.

The trappers set up on the extended free throw line, near the three point arc (about the same location our wings set up in our half court offense.) Each trapper is responsible for “trapping” the ball on the side he starts on.

The Alamo sets up at half-court, or deeper (depending on where the offensive players are...he should be able to spy all 5 offensive players). He should be about half way between the two sidelines.


Movement in the defense is aggressive, but it must be disciplined. If players don't know or don't perform their jobs, big holes in the defense and fast breaks by the offense can result. The next two images show how the press defense might move with the ball coming in on either side of the court. Descriptions of the players movements follows the two images.

When the ball is passed onto the court, Mosquito 2, who set himself up in the middle of the key, jumps the pass and picks up the ball handler. This is now his side of the court. Each mosquito is responsible one side of the court; when the ball is in his half of the court, or the middle of the court, the mosquito is “on the ball.”

If a mosquito is not on the ball, he is playing “one pass away,” anticipating possible passes around him and denying or intercepting those passes. Mosquito 1, who originally set up on the ball, will be one pass away.

When the ball makes it onto the court, the trapper on that side sprints forward and establishes a good defensive position in the ball handler’s lane. He and the mosquito harass him from advancing or passing effortlessly. Ideally they are using the sideline to pin the ball handler down.

The trapper away from the ball, moves downcourt and toward the ball (at an angle), playing “one pass away,” anticipating possible passes around him and denying or intercepting those passes.

The Alamo wants to continue to try to keep all 5 offensive players within his field of vision, giving ground as the ball advances. The Alamo must be careful about being overly aggressive, because if he rushes up to deny a pass, but misses, there is no one to prevent the offense from scoring a relatively easy goal.

The Alamo may have to defend against very difficult circumstances, such as 3- or 4-on-1’s. His job in this case is to slow the offense enough to allow his teammates to sprint downcourt and help him defend.

If the offense brings the ball across half court, they have broken our press, and we should shift into our normal half-court defense, with players assuming their assigned defensive positions.

If our press is successful and we get the ball, we need to hustle to offense. In the transition to offense, the player handling the Alamo role will likely have longest distance to run to get into offensive position, but he needs to sprint down in order to help with the half-court offense and rebounding.