Basketball Systems, Skills & Drills


Fast breaks
Zone offence
Zone set plays
Other offences
Quick hitters
Press breaks
Skills & Drills
Free throws
Post play
Fast break
Press break
1 on 1
clear.gifCoaches Handbook - Practice Structure

This practice structure is intended for U13-and-older teams, and can be used to plan practices through-out the season. See the Coaches Handbook for information on fundamentals and teaching them (including practice planning), e.g. using Go-To Drills. For teams up to U12, see Youth Practice Structure.

Divide each practice into

For similar approaches, see Canada Basketball - Daily Practice Plan, Coach Mac - Practice Planning Made Easy, also Youth Practice Plan

Time allocations will vary, e.g. more on systems if you have an upcoming tournament. In the practice plan, show the time needed for each drill, e.g., 2-5-10 minutes (see Ray Lokar Practice Structure). It's also useful to show the practice time remaining (Steve Nash) or elapsed (Hubie Brown).

Warm-up (about 5%)

Typically start with a halfcourt or fullcourt basketball drill (e.g. Around the world layups, 5 ball), followed by a 4-minute active warm-up (see Early time, also Youth dynamic warm-up).up

Individual skills & conditioning (20-50%)

Do shooting and finishing (every practice), mix in dribbling, passing, footwork, post play, rebounding, defensive skills, and 1 on 1. Individual defensive skills include denying cuts, close-outs, on-ball defence, and jumping to the ball. Supplement with conditioning drills as needed, especially agility.

Use shooting to transition between practice drills, e.g. Alternates, Sevens, Tom Crean fill cuts, 5 ball. I like one team at each main basket with 3-4 balls, first team to make 20 to 30 threes (pick a number).

See the Skills checklists, also YouTube skills playlists.up

Breakdowns & transition (20-50%)

Break down team offensive and defensive skills using small-sided drills and games, and modified rules, e.g.

For halfcourt 3-on-3, see Kick-out (great to work on spacing, 3s, layups), Cut-throat, 3 times and out, also use close-outs, e.g. Woodley, and advantage situations (Pasquali).

Also use a progression to build up the fast break without defence, from 1 on 0 to 5 on 0, e.g. Six cycles (see the Coaches Handbook).

Transition drills work on playing fast (and conditioning), often in advantage situations, e.g. 5 on 4 continuous.

Defensive & offensive systems (10-60%)


4 on 4 shell is a practice staple (usually every practice). Work on different aspects, e.g. defending screens, jump to the ball, etc. Woodley 4 on 4 is a very good drill (we force left), add 4 on 4 help rotations, post defence (e.g. green shell), ballscreens, and off-ball screens (e.g. downscreens). Team defensive skills are highly transferable.

See Scrimmage Ideas. 5-possessions-then-switch is a halfcourt staple, you can use regular scoring or give points for stops (see 4 on 4 shell). Alternatively, one team stays on offence, the other on defence, give points to both, flip-flop after each game (see To 7, Tom Crean 4 on 3).

For defensive emphasis, also see Cut-throat (defensive), Spurs 4 on 4 on 4, and fullcourt Score-stop, Spurs stops.

Fullcourt 4 on 4 on 4 is a good progression, you can go cut-throat (make-it take-it) and add pressing (see Hurley 4 on 4 on 4). Also see Pistons 3 on 3 continuous.

Fast Break

If you want to play fast in games, you have to play fast in practice. Use fullcourt 5 on 5 with multiple trips, e.g. play to a dead ball then re-start (see Tar Heels 5 on 5, also Circle break), or just play on, any ball out of bounds goes to the defence. Optionally outlet on a make, everything is a miss (see 5 on 5 defensive transition). You can also use a shot clock of 16 (or 12) seconds.


To work on halfcourt offence and set plays, start 5 on 0 halfcourt, then go fullcourt for timing and conditioning, e.g., up and back with players starting from both ends (see Dribble-drive 5-on-0). Also do fullcourt 5 on 0 press break.

Go 5 on 5 against dummy defence then live (see Huggins, Pasquali stunt-recover). Fullcourt, the offence can go upcourt 5 on 0 and come back against defence (see Pistons scrimmages).

For halfcourt sets plus fast break, 3 trips (halfcourt-up-back) is a practice favourite (see Pistons, Spurs one-way), also see Stop and break and Enfield 5 on 5.


Start fullcourt scrimmage with a shot, both teams rebound using your defensive and offensive schemes (including transition defence), see Disadvantage, Tar Heels, Illinois war, 4 on 4 closeout. You can instead focus just on rebounding, either halfcourt (Florida circle the wagons) or fullcourt (Hanlen 4 on 4 on 4).

Other Systems

Work on other systems occasionally or as needed, e.g. inbounds plays, specials (see Ray Lokar). I like Nash zone gap to work on zone-offence fundamentals, and can then use 5 on 5 on 5 (with enough players and coaches).

Dead-ball presses and Free-throw break are good to work on pressing and press break, also Spurs stops.up

2007-21 Eric Johannsen