Randal S. Doaty
Focus & Attitude Coach
Co-Developer of BIMPS4 Basketball Software
You just picked up your dribble and you are instantly surrounded by two opponents – you are trapped. You look for an outlet pass and there is none. The ref’s countdown has started and you have just seconds to decide what you will do. The defenders are skin tight against you and your heart and mind are racing. Just get rid of the ball! Bounce it off your opponent’s leg! Hang on to the ball – anything but a tie-up! If that is what you think, you don’t understand the odds when trapped.
As a Focus & Attitude Coach, I carefully study what basketball players do under mental pressure. Few events in the sport of basketball provide greater mental pressure than a two-man trap. This is a ball handler’s worst nightmare. For some reason, the worst outcome in the mind of most players is a tie-up. It seems better to hold on to the ball or wildly pass it out of the trap and take the chance that one of your teammates will recover the ball. Bouncing the ball off of your opponent’s leg is also a popular alternative that is taught.
I track this stuff. If you just hang onto the ball, you have a 100% chance of losing possession. Bouncing the ball off the opponent’s leg is successful one in three times, so you have a 66% chance of losing possession. Wildly passing the ball out of the trap is a 50/50 proposition, however when recovered by your opponent it usually results in a runaway basket because your defense has not had time to reset. All of these are the least likely solutions in terms of mathematical odds when you are trapped.
So what is the best alternative? Intentionally allowing the ball to be tied-up by your opponent is your best bet. Depending on the direction of the possession arrow you have a 50/50 shot at retaining possession. If you do lose possession, it will now be a controlled re-entry of the ball into play. Finally, you have the real possibility of drawing a foul if you have been properly trained at drawing contact while in a trap. This is by far the best solution mathematically and one that is rarely endorsed by coaching staff. Think about it!