Hunting Pitch Ahead Passes

Updated: Apr 2

From the moment that a defense gains possession of the basketball the hunt for a pitch ahead pass begins.

To start this deep dive into transition offense we are going to first look at the pitch ahead pass. We believe that the pitch ahead represents the best chance for the basketball to beat the defense down the floor. From the second that the basketball has been secured the player with the basketball should have his eyes up the floor hunting for a pitch ahead opportunity. With players sprinting on the ball side sideline, opposite sideline, and the rim those pitch-ahead opportunities will present themselves in a number of ways.

In this post, we will focus mostly on the scoring options that exist off of pitch ahead passes, but it is worth noting that there are a number of other benefits that come from consistently pushing the ball up the floor. We find that teams who are willing to consistently pitch the ball ahead will result in players that are more eager to sprint the floor knowing they will be rewarded. Ideally, this habit will have a domino-like effect on the other layers of transition offense. In later installments of our transition deep dive, we will examine how an increased willingness of players to sprint the floor will result in more opportunities for ball handlers to attack the middle third and for trailers to take advantage of collapsed defenses.

Teaching Points -

As a general principle, I think it is important to keep our teaching points to a minimum. In order for our players to be able to problem solve quickly and accurately, we want them to react and not overthink. This is especially true in transition due to the speed at which decisions need to be made. A good offseason best practice could be to undergo the process of narrowing down our teaching points to only the essentials. With that being said, when it comes to asking players to consistently pitch the basketball ahead there are a few things teaching points that we want to emphasize on the practice floor and in-game.

  1. Sprinting the First Three Steps

  2. No Backwards Passes: Long Outlets or Bust out Dribbles

  3. Make Eye Contact before Pitching Ahead

  4. Avoid Late Pitch Ahead Passes

1 - Sprinting the First Three Steps:

Those first three steps once we gain possession of the basketball are critical in creating separation from your defender. Since pitch ahead passes depend on this separation it becomes a crucial point of emphasis to make sure players are "sprinting out of the gate". As possession is gained we are expecting that:

  • Our 4 or 5 Man to Sprint to the Rim

  • Our Wing Players to Sprint to the Sidelines

After sprinting those critical first three steps players should be looking back over their inside shoulder expecting the pitch ahead pass.

2 - No