FACE – Full Court Press

By Randy Sherman

West Virginia Press

Volume I – The FACE full court press. An aggressive, quick hitting press used when a quick turnover is needed.

The type of press a coaches decides to deploy will vary according to player personnel and game situation. Depending on the circumstances, various types of presses can be deployed to either increase or decrease game tempo. They may also be deployed as a change of pace or as a surprise tactic.

The FACE full court press is best used when behind to spark a comeback or to increase tempo.

Press Strategy: Generally, press an inferior team, a slow team, when behind, or as a change of tempo. 

FACE is a 1-2-1-1 or diamond press meant to be aggressive and quick hitting. Use when a turnover is needed by pressuring the inbounder and face guarding primary receivers. Get one hard trap and then recover.

Below are the basic setup and rotations for the FACE press:

Phase One – Hard Trap

FACE - Full Court Press

X1 assumes a pass denial position against Player 1. Face guard and as they cut to receive pass stay on their inside hip. X1 traps Player 1 with X4; X1 sets the trap, X4 seals the trap.

X2 assumes a pass denial position against Player 2 then rotates to TOP I helpside position denying any pass into the middle.

X3 assumes a pass denial position against Player 3 denying the critical sideline pass. CANNOT ALLOW THIS PASS!!

X4 pressures the inbounder angled to influence the inbounds pass to the sideline by over-playing to the inside. If/when the inbounds pass is made X4 seals the trap with X1.

X5 assumes a helpside LOW I position against Player 5 and protects the basket

NOTE: If inbounds pass goes to Player 2, same actions occur with X2 & X4 trapping on the ball while X1 assumes the TOP I helpside position

Phase Two – Pass Out of Trap

FACE - Full Court Press

X1 maintains a pass denial position against Player 1 preventing the return pass to the primary ball handler.

X2 closes out to an on ball position against Player 4 pushing him/her to nearest sideline checkpoint. Take a proper angle! Charging at the receiver will cause X2 to lose contain.

X3 assumes a LOW I helpside position against Player 3 and is responsible for the basket area.

X4 sprint releases to top of circle and closes out into a pass denial position against Player 5.

X5 rotates out to a pass denial position against Player 2 denying the critical sideline pass.

Individual Player Roles and Responsibilities (FACE)

Below are some of the roles and responsibilities for each player and position in the FACE press.

  • X4 – Point of the Press
    • Immediately puts pressure on ball (inbounder)
    • Influence inbounds pass to sideline by over-playing to inside
    • Traps ball handler with ballside chaser (X1). Seal the trap! Do not allow the ball handler to split the trap
    • Seal the trap aggressively, but avoid fouling
    • Anytime the ball is passed out of trap, sprint release and match up using “near man” rule
  • X1 – Ballside Chaser
    • Face guard ballside entry target
    • Stay on inside hip when Player 1 cuts to the corner
    • Set the trap! Do not get beat up the sideline!
  • X2 – Helpside Chaser
    • Face guard weakside entry target
    • Once ball is inbounded, becomes the interceptor
    • Takes away middle and defends closest opponent to the ball (most obvious pass)
    • Must anticipate, read hips and eyeballs
    • Anytime the ball is passed out of trap, sprint release and match up using “near man” rule
  • X3 – Sideline Contain
    • Deny the critical pass up the sideline
  • X5 – Director
    • Must sprint back and protect the basket
    • Protects against the long pass. Cheat up as far as possible, but don’t get beat deep
    • Must rotate to deny critical pass up sideline when ball is passed out of trap

Common Errors Made When Trapping

It is important to evaluate the performance of your press. Are you getting the yield in turnovers and tempo to justify the risk involved in pressing? If the common errors below persist, your team has no business pressing.


  1. Indecision. Use the “all or none” principle. Either trap of don’t trap. Never get caught going halfway and then deciding not to trap.
  2. Not setting and sealing the trap. Must take proper angle and tighten the trap to prevent the dribble split
  3. Not building enough cushion (space) and allowing a dribbler to drive by with one dribble. Must stay down in a “nose on chest” position when guarding a dribbler. Corral the dribbler to a checkpoint.
  4. Fouling. Pressure the ball handler, but do not foul. Must “trace” the ball with both hands rather than reaching when the ball is in the trap.
  5. Not influencing the dribble to sideline checkpoint. No middle!
  6. Not containing the dribbler. Must not allow the dribbler to drive by defender on the sideline or baseline side. Must use teamwork when trapping; one player sets the trap another player seals the trap.
  7. Not rotating quickly after pass is made out of trap. Must sprint release as ball leaves the passer’s hands.


  1. Not playing “up” in the passing lane (between ball and man) and allowing the critical sideline pass as trap is being set.
  2. Allowing pass into the middle of court once trap has been set.
  3. Slow defensive transition. Not hustling into proper position before offense sets up.
  4. Playing below free throw line extended when the ball is in the backcourt.
  5. Going back on defense with back to the ball.
  6. Playing too tight on the helpside. Not establishing “Helpside I” position creates too far of a distance to rotate.
  7. Not anticipating pass out of trap and taking away passing lanes.
  8. Not closing out quickly after pass is made out of trap. Must rotate to nearest opponent as ball leaves passer’s hands.

Extending the defense can be a potent and important weapon at times. However, the effectiveness of a press is dependent on the execution of the basic individual defensive fundamentals and timing. Trapping in proper areas with proper angles and helpside positioning are vital components to any press. Quick rotations are also key to a successful press.

The FACE press is best deployed when behind to mount a comeback or to force tempo against an inferior or slower tempo opponent.

Upcoming: Volume II – The SHADOW Press

For more on these pressing concepts check out “Disruptive Pressure Basketball” by Ernie Woods

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Randy Sherman is the owner and founder of Radius Athletics - a basketball coaching consulting firm - where he consults with basketball coaches at all levels on coaching philosophy, practice planning, Xs & Os and teaching a conceptual style of basketball. While a head basketball coach at the the interscholastic level, Sherman's teams won 197 games in nine seasons.
March 10 2017: Kansas State Wildcats forward Wesley Iwundu (25) looks for a teammate as he finds himself double teamed in the corner during the 2017 NCAA Phillips 66 Big 12 Men’s Basketball Championship Semi-final game between the West Virginia Mountaineers and the Kansas State Wildcats at the Sprint Center in Kansas City, Missouri. Kendall Shaw/CSM(Credit Image: � Kendall Shaw/Cal Sport Media)

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