Chase Press: An unconventional, chaotic half-court pressing defense

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Chase Press - Chaos on the Court

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The "Chase" half-court press is a strategic option for the little league, junior high school, or high school coach to utilize. 'Chase' is meant to be a game changer. It can be used to change the momentum of a game, force a team to change from a very deliberate style into playing at a much faster pace, or help your team make a comeback by forcing many turnovers. It can also be used to force a crucial turnover at the end of a close game to put your team over the top. All of this, combined with the fact that it is relatively simple to teach and execute can make 'Chase' a difficult defense to play against.

How Can You Attack What You Can't Identify?

One opposing coach described 'Chase' as a kind of Run and Jump half court defense. He was close to being correct, but still couldn't figure the whole thing out.

'Chase' begins with man on the ball pressure almost at half court. The best on the ball defender should pick up his man right before half court and try to force the ball handler to spin dribble over half court, preferably to his weakest hand. This after is forced by the defender over playing the dribble with his head on the ball.

As soon as the ball handler crosses into the front court (thus no longer being able to pass the ball into the back court), defender 2 attacks and double teams the ball. Defenders 1+2 are now double teaming, trying to block the offensive player's vision and forcing the player to make a bad pass.

Defenders 3 and 4 are used as center fielders. They are not playing a man or really a zone either. Instead, they are playing passing lanes from the ball handler to open players. In fact, they are usually stationed 2-3 steps off the line of the ball in order to create false openings for passes to be made so they can step in the passing lane to make a steal. The ball handler is forced to pass the ball under pressure, increasing the chance of a bad pass. Defenders 3 and 4 are coached to step in the passing lane to steal the pass. 

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Chase Press - Chaos on the Court

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Basketball. Andrew Burton / Staff / Getty Images

Chaos

Here's where the 'Chase' defense becomes chaotic to the offense. If the pass is not stolen, defenders 1+2 now chase the ball wherever it goes while defenders 3 and 4 fall back to playing passing lanes again. Defender 5 is a safety protecting the basket at all times. Overall, this defense looks like two players chasing the ball all over the courts with two players in a 2 front zone stealing passes. The back player is the safety valve. It is a two player chase with an inverted triangle!

Many times the first pass will be completed, and the next pass will appear open as players are moving to defend passing lanes, not players. It may appear easy to get rid of the ball even if the player is under extreme duress. But, without warning, the defender will step into the lane and picks off a pass.

This defense used to be called 'Chaos' because that's what it causes. It doesn't involve much teaching as defensive players 1+2 need to be taught to trap the ball at half court while everyone else needs to be taught to anticipate passes, read the eyes of the passer, and step into passing lanes. Players are also taught to recover to their original position and reset 'Chase' if the first pass over half court is completed. This defense is built on anticipation and energy and can really get a team pumped up and running, while devastating the offense of the opponent.

The Unconventional Press

Since this defense has no specific rules and set positions n the court, it is very difficult to play against. Some coaches have been initially effective by placing 2 offensive players on the low blocks to double up on the back man. This can be effective if every pass leading up to it is pinpoint, but due to the pressure put on the ball handlers, that is rarely the case.

How to Combat Fatigue

The only negative that can cause 'Chase' to be less than effective is the fatigue of the Chase guards. This can be counteracted by substituting players or falling back into a traditional half court press at times. Actually changing defenses camouflages 'Chase' and allows it to be more confusing.

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Chase Press - Chaos on the Court

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Boys Playing Basketball. Hulton Archive / Staff / Getty Images

The Secret Weapon

I have never had an opposing coach figure out exactly what we were doing. They typically try to beat Chase with a stationary zone press offenses, thus playing into our hands. Opponents are trying to fill in gaps to beat the press while we are actually anticipating where gaps are and stepping into them for steals!

I have used 'Chase' to turn many games around, come from behind, or take a small lead and extend it. I like to use it in the second half, rather than in the first half, to eliminate coaching time at half-time to adjust to it. Surprise is an ally.

At times, I have even inverted the triangle in the back to change the look and negate the double team strategy on the back as a coaching adjustment. My players have actually stolen the ball up to seven times in a row and totally disrupted their opponents play as a result. Chase causes chaos on the court and can be a great option for teams to employ in specific situations.