The LMU Fast Break

Howell Peiser gives a tutorial on the LMU fast break.

After receiving so much positive feedback after posting diagrams of both football and basketball strategies in the past six months, and after fielding requests to explain what I call the "all-out fast break," I have decided to include it as a brief tutorial.

This fast break is quite similar to the one Paul Westhead used at LaSalle, Loyola Marymount, and with the Los Angeles Lakers. While this only touches on the fine points of the strategy, it will clearly explain just how simple it is to implement it into a team's repertoire.

I taught this fast break to my teams, and they were able to learn the basics in about 15 minutes. The secret to its success lay not in the complexity of its deployment (since it is quite simple), but in the perfection of simple fundamentals. When it worked, my teams could score 10 points in two minutes. Combining this fast break with a sound early offense frequently meant my teams ran its half-court offense less than 10 times per game. 

The key to the entire fast break lies in the inbounds pass or outlet pass off a rebound or steal. The first drill that must be implemented is one demanding the initial pass take place in less than one second. This sounds almost impossible, but once you get your players in-tune to this style, it will become second nature. When the opponent scores, the player closest to the basket (almost always the center or power forward) must catch it in mid-air, sprint out of bounds, and pivot and throw the ball inbounds in one motion. The receiver of the pass should always be the same position. Usually this will be the point guard. If the point guard must inbound the ball, then the 2-guard will know automatically that he must be the receiver.

The point guard (1) must stay on a parallel plane with the inbounds passer. It is his responsibility to get open, since the passer will be concentrating on getting the ball inbounds within one second. (1's) goal is to gain as much depth as possible so that the pass will be completed close to mid-court.

If for some reason the point guard cannot get open, he will yell out an audible call to alert the inbound passer not to look for him. Instead, the inbounds pass will go to the big man not passing the ball inbounds (the power forward if the center throws in the ball and vice versa). The point guard will then maneuver to get open for a quick second pass from the first receiver.

Once the point guard gets the ball, it is his responsibility to advance the ball to the scoring zone as quickly as possible. The goal is to advance the ball to the top of the key within four seconds of gaining possession of the ball. If a player is wide open, the point guard can immediately deliver the long pass to the goal.

Meanwhile, the two other players not yet mentioned (usually the two wing players) sprint for assigned positions toward the basket. One player will sprint to a 45-degree angle from the basket behind the three-point line. He must sprint full speed to that spot, jump stop, and prepare to receive the pass for an instant three-point attempt. The other wing player must sprint down the opposite side of the floor and make a late inside cut to the goal looking for the ball the entire time. If he gets the ball, he can either shoot a 10 foot jumper off the glass or take it to the hoop.

It does not matter which wing player takes which position in the implementation of this fast break, but it must be consistent. If the shooting guard position becomes the designated three-point shooter, then he must do so every time.

The big player who did not pass the ball inbounds becomes the first cutter. He trails the point by about one second and does so from the opposite side of the court. He should arrive at the top of the key just after the point has arrived there and had a chance to pass the ball to either wing or take the shot himself. The first cutter stops at the top of the key for a possible three-point jumper. If the ball is passed to the three-point wing shooter, then the first cutter cuts diagonally to the low post block, looking for a pass. If the ball is passed to the inside wing, the first cutter crashes the board looking for an offensive rebounding opportunity.

The original inbounds passer becomes the trailer and follows the same footprints of the first cutter. He replaces the first cutter after the cut. He will be the first option if the early offense sets up.

Diagram 1

Diagram 1 shows the initial setup if the ball must be brought inbounds. If possession is gained off a rebound or steal, it becomes much easier to start the transition. Here we see the center (5) catching the ball before it bounces to the floor, taking two steps to get out of bounds, and passing the ball into the point guard (1) on the third step. My team practiced this catch, step, and pass drill every day (we called it the 51 drill).

(5) passes the ball to (1) within one second, and (1) moves the ball up the floor as quickly as possible. He will throw the pass the instant either (2) or (3) becomes open. (1) will drive the ball to the top of the key all the while looking for the opportunity to pass. (1) can also drive to the hoop or shoot the three-pointer from the top of the key if he is open, but for the overall success of this attack, it is better for him to become a double-digit assist man and not the prime option.

(2) has sprinted down the floor and flared to the spot behind the three-point line that is on a 45-degree angle to the basket. He looks back to (1) and makes a target with his hands. If he gets the ball before (1) gets to the top of the key, that means he is open and will shoot the trey as soon as he catches the ball. If he gets the ball after (1) has stopped at the top of the key, it means he is the post-feeder for the first cutter. 

(3) sprints wide and then cuts sharply inside looking for the ball at all times. If he gets it early, he can stop for the three-pointer or shoot the 10-foot running jumper off the glass. If he gets it later, then he goes for the lay-up.

(4) trails (1) by about one second and sprints to a spot about six to eight feet to the opposite side of the top of the key. He looks for a quick pass from (1) for a possible three-point shot. 

(5) trails (4) by two seconds and tries to cover his footsteps.

Diagram 2

Diagram 2 shows what happens when (1) cannot get open for the inbounds pass. (1) calls out an audible while (5) runs out of bounds. (4) now cuts quickly to the same side as (5), while (1) fakes in and then cuts quickly across the backcourt gaining depth toward the mid-court area. (5) now passes to (4) and (4) passes to the sprinting (1). Play continues as it did in diagram 1, except (1) and (4) flip sides of the floor. 95-100% of the time, this move will not be necessary, as the defense is usually not prepared to stop any move within one second of their transition from offense to defense.


Diagram 3 shows how play advances if (1) arrives at the top of the key and passes the ball to (2). The first cutter (4), cuts to the block ready to receive the ball and use a power move. (3) sets an up screen for trailing (5) to start the transition from fast break to early offense. (3) will then cut outside to the three-point line. (2) looks inside to (4) or passes back to (1) to start the early offense.

In Diagram 4, (1) has driven to the hole and has not been able to complete the play. He throws back to (4) who has moved to the top of the key. (4) can shoot immediately if he is open or drive the lane if that option is feasible. Once (1) drives, (3) clears out looking for a possible pass and then sets the pick for (5). (4) can pass the ball to (3) or (5), or look for (2) outside if he is now open.

Diagram 5 shows how to proceed if (2) gets the ball and cannot complete the pass to the low post. (1) moves laterally out to the side and (2) passes out to him. (5) sets a down screen for (3) who hustles to the top of the key. (1) passes to (3). (3) can shoot the trey or look inside to (4) who has wheeled around or (5) who has rolled to the hoop after setting the screen. Additionally (1) is often open for a quick return pass for the three-pointer.

Diagram 6 combines one of the best three-man games with the fast break (part of the early offense). (2) has passed the ball to (4) in the post (like in diagram 3), but (4) does not have a good scoring opportunity and has not attempted to put on a muscle move. This play is called "splitting the post." After (2) passes to (4), he fades to the baseline looking for a return pass, while (1) replaces (2) on the 45-degree angle. If nothing happens, then (2) and (1) cross behind (4) and cut to the basket. Meanwhile, (3) sets the up screen for (5).

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