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Basic Defense


Good offense wins games... great defense wins championships. Believe it! When your offense is struggling, good defense can keep you in the game until your shots start falling. How are you going to catch up the second half if you are down 12 at the half? ... by playing great defense. Simply scoring more baskets won't do it if you allow the other team to score also. You must keep the opponent from scoring by playing good defense and rebounding, to allow your offense a chance to get back into the game. Believe me now?

Everyone on the team must play good defense, because one weak link will cause the entire defense to fail, and a good offense will eventually find out who the weak defensive player is. Playing good defense involves hustle, inspiration and perspiration (sweat!). You gotta want to play good defense. Defensive skills are fairly easy to learn, unlike some offensive skills, and everyone can learn to become a good defender. If you are a poor, non-aggressive defender, you will hurt your team.

Here are 5 important elements in playing good "D".

Stance and Focus

Your weight should be on the balls of your feet (not your heels), and have your feet about shoulder width apart. Keep your knees bent and your your back straight. Keep your head up, eyes foward, arms out with your palms up and elbows bent a little. Watch your opponent's belly-button. Your opponent can fake you with eyes, head bob, shoulders, a jab step, but the belly button is only going the way they are.

Slides

When guarding your opponent, slide your feet sideways, using quick, short steps, and don't get your feet crossed. Don't hop. If you get beat in the open floor, don't just yell for help... turn and sprint after your opponent. Once you get in front of the opponent again, get back into your defensive stance.

On the Ball

Over-guard toward the offensive player's strong side. If the player is right-handed, they will probably want to go to their right, so over-guard that side and make them go left.

If your opponent is on the right wing, drop your left foot back a little toward the baseline and overplay a little to the right side, as this will give you time to react to a move to the right. You can run them to the baseline. Once at the baseline, trap them there, and do not allow any further penetration along the baseline.

Keep the palm of your lead hand facing up. Try to get at the ball from below, not by slapping down it. Slapping down will usually result in a foul. Your other hand should be in the passing lane. Slide with your opponent, and try to get them to stop her dribble, and once she does, close in on her with good pressure. But don't reach in and foul them... or you'll change a good defensive stop into free throws for the opponent.

Denial

Clog the the passing lane and prevent the player you are guarding from getting the ball, that is, "deny" them the ball. When guarding an offensive player who is one pass removed from the ball, you should be in denial. If you keep your player from getting the ball, you keep them from scoring, as they can't score without the ball. Play the passing lane and stay between the player you're guarding and the ball. Place your foot and hand nearest the ball slightly forward, and turn the palm of your hand toward the ball, so that you can reject any incoming passes. Be in a position to see both your player and the ball. If the ball-handler picks up their dribble, you have a "dead situation" and everyone should in close on their player, in "full-denial".

Helpside

When your opponent is two or more passes from the ball, you should be in "help" position. This involves dropping off your player some (but without losing sight of them), and sagging a little toward the ballside, or often into the lane, in order to assist your teammates. Stay between the ball and your player, but sag toward the ballside. Be ready to help defend against another player driving or cutting to the hoop, and "help" your teammate who may have gotten beat. Once the ball comes back to within one pass from your player, you get back into denial with them. If the ball is passed to your player, quickly get back up on them.


Shell Drill

Remember, good defense is "team defense". Man to man defense is a team defense just as much as zone defenses. Here is a good quote: "The best man defense looks like a zone and the best zone defense looks like a man.

Set-up:

Use a half court setup with a total of eight players. Four offensive players are positioned around the three point arc. Start with two wings and two players in the corners. Match-up four defensive players with each of the offensive players. You could also use five on each team with a point guard, two wings and two corners. Additional players can sub in and out at your discretion.

The Drill:

The offensive players are stationary, no cuts or dribbling. This is a defensive drill and the offensive players simply pass the ball sharply around the arc. Make sure they make good passes (use this as a passing drill also), make sure they receive the ball in "triple threat" postion, and have them make some "skip" passes too. The defensive players are not to steal or intercept the ball, since this is drill designed to emphasize proper positioning on the floor. The defensive players must work on proper relationships in positioning with the offensive player they are guarding. If the defender's man has the ball, they should be applying "on-ball" pressure. If the player is one pass away, they should be in "denial". If they are two passes away, they should be in "help-side".

Once you feel your team has an understanding of these basic relationships, and all players have been on offense and defense, you can let them play half court all out with cutting, screens, shooting, etc. Watch the defenders carefully for proper defensive positioning. Blow your whistle when you need to make points with the players... somebody messed up, or somebody did something really well.

Thanks to James Gels of the Charlevoix Northern Lakers. Visit his Coach's Clipboard site.


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Excellent video with thoughts and drills on organizing your practices. Learn from one of the greatest coaches of the game, Coach "K".
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