The Carolina Break for Middle and High School Teams

STACK Expert Danny Wilkerson illustrates options of the Carolina Break, named after the fast-paced offense of the University of North Carolina Tar Heels.

Coach drawing up play

Middle and high school basketball coaches who prefer an up-tempo style have several options when using the Carolina Break. The offense works well because you can run the options against either man-to-man or zone defenses.

The Carolina Break, named for the quick style of play showcased by the University of North Carolina, is a secondary break with players "reading" the court to make the calls. With younger kids, the coach probably needs to call the options out to the players.

Primary Break

In our primary break, when two or fewer defenders are back, we try to get the ball up the floor as quickly as possible. If we are in a two-on-one situation, the only thing we want is a layup.

Every player must recognize whether we are in a primary or secondary break. Our main drill for the primary break is a 3-0, 1-1, 2-1 drill. You should perform this drill daily.

3-Man Weave

  • Player 1 passes to player 2, who passes to player 3.
  • On the pass to 3, 1 becomes the defender, and 3 is the offensive man in a one-on-one situation.
  • 1 sprints to protect the basket, 3 attacks the basket.
  • 2 touches the free-throw line and sprints back.
  • No matter what happens with the one-on-one situation, after one shot, 1 and 3 attack 2 two-on-one. They need to stay wide and pass the ball to each other as they move down the floor.
  • 2 sprints back to protect the basket. His job is to force the offense to use extra time to get down the court.
  • 1 and 3 should always score in a two-on-one situation.

During a game situation we want all five players to box out and crash the defensive boards.

After we secure the rebound, the 2-guard and the 3 stay wide and run the right and left wings. The first post player down the floor looks to run rim to rim, or at least from the top of key to the top of the other key. When he or she gets to the top of the offensive key, he or she should find the ball and look to post up on that side. The other post player stays behind the ball in case of a turnover. The point guard (1) looks to get the ball up the floor as fast as possible, always trying to pitch it ahead to an open teammate.

If the opponent makes a basket, we still look to run. Our 4 man is designated to take the ball out of bounds. The 4's first look is to throw it long to 2 or 3 running the lanes. We are not concerned with a long pass being thrown away or stolen, because if the opponents expect a long pass, they will sprint back on defense and forego the chance to put any type of pressure up front. On the outlet, the 1 needs to get as deep as possible, come back to the ball and use an L-Cut or V-Cut to get open.

When 1 gets the outlet, we teach him or her to catch the ball, put it on his or her hip (in triple threat position) and attack. This technique gets the 1 under control and reduces the chance for the defense to sneak in and take a charge. The 1's job now is to get the ball down the floor as quickly as possible and get under control. Any time there is an open man in front of the 1, he or she should pitch it ahead. We drill this each day. It's an error not to give the ball up to an open teammate in front of you.

Diagram 1: Alignment on a Made Basket

Secondary Break

The main job in the secondary break is to get the ball inside to the post. If you have really good shooters, give them the green light to shoot 3-pointers on the secondary break. We follow the rule that if I feed the post and he or she kicks it back out to me, then I've got the green light. Or if dribble penetration draws a second defender, and there's a kick-out pass, take the open 3-pointer. On a kick-out from the post or a drive, the shooters need to call "top" or "bottom" to let the passer know where they are. A good pass is necessary in this situation, because it will lead to a good shot. Hit the shooter in the hands.

Option 1, Feed the post.

  • 2, 1 and 4 look to get the ball inside to 5 (Diagram 2).
  • On ball reversal to 3, 5 works from block to block, and 2 comes to the block and up the lane to set a back screen for 4 (Diagrams 3a and 3b).
  • Against a zone, 2 back screens the middle of the zone (Diagram 4).
  • If 5 or 4 are not open on the lob, 3 passes to 2, 5 seals, and 4 ducks in (Diagram 5). 5 now sets a cross screen for 4. 2 can feed the post or attack the basket (Diagram 6).
  • On a skip pass from 2 to 4, or from 2 to 3, 5 looks to seal (Diagram 7).

Diagram 2, Diagram 3a, Diagram 3b

Diagram 4, Diagram 5, Diagram 6

Diagram 7

Secondary Break Plays

You can call these set plays out of the secondary break.


  • 2 and 3 cross under the basket. We usually look to get a defender caught up in traffic and then shoot the 3-point shot, but you could use this to reverse the ball if the wings are being pressured and cannot get the ball (Diagram 8).


  • On ball reversal to 3, 5 goes block to block.
  • 4 and 1 set a double screen for 2 (Diagram 9).

Clear out

  • 1 dribbles toward 2, 2 clears out to the opposite side.
  • 5 back-screens 4 and pops out.
  • 3 replaces 1.
  • 1 looks for 4 or swings the ball.
  • We can stay in the break—a perfect option if 2 is overplayed (Diagram 10).


  • 1 passes to 2.
  • 4 sets a down screen for 3.
  • 3 reads the screen and runs a curl, flare or straight cut (Diagram 11).


  • 4 sets a ball screen for 1.
  • 5 goes block to block.
  • 2 back screens for 4.
  • 1 makes a play coming off the ball screen, draws a defender from 3 or 5, or looks for 4 coming off the back screen. (Diagram 12).


  • 2 reverses the ball to 1.
  • 1 swings the ball to 4.
  • 4 passes to 3.
  • 5 sets a back screen for 2.
  • 2 runs a flex cut.
  • 5 pops out (Diagram 13).
  • You can stay in the flex from here if that is your offense.


  • As 4 reverses the ball to 3, 4 moves to the block.
  • 5 flashes to the high post (Diagram 14).
  • Anytime 1 cannot get the ball to 2 or feels pressure, 1 dribbles toward 4, signaling a high ball-screen (Diagram 15).

Diagram 8, Diagram 9, Diagram 10

Diagram 11, Diagram 12, Diagram 13

Diagram 14, Diagram 15

When running the secondary break, we want to get the ball inside first. That opens up the outside shot.

To play like this, your team has to be conditioned and must run on every possession. We want to negate the other team's pressure and score before it can set up on defense. The opposing defense is forced to give us something. It cannot pressure the perimeter and keep the ball out of the post at the same time.

I wouldn't recommend trying to run every option—pick a couple that work for your team. This offense can work with all levels of players. Use a fewer number of options for younger players as they learn the offense and then add more plays as the players progress.

If you have any questions, you contact me through email at or on Twitter at

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