Man-to-Man Defense: 3 Breakdown Drills to Improve Team Toughness

Looking for ways to increase intensity and toughness on the defensive side of the ball? In this week’s team concepts feature, Northern Iowa head basketball coach Ben Jacobson reveals three energetic man-to-man defensive drills that will provide a solid foundation for your practices.

Slide Run Pivot

Overview: This first drill works on technique and building the mindset that “We will guard the basketball.”  It’s a great drill to do during the first few months of practices.

How it Works: Start in the far baseline  corner. When players get to the elbow, they should make a jump stop. After this, make a reverse pivot, make three defensive slides, turn, and sprint to half court. Make a jump stop at half court. Then make a defensive slide all the way across half court. Next, repeat but on the other side of the court. Finish by sliding across the baseline to your original starting point.

Keys to the Drill:

-Shoulders and head must stay level. Widen your hands out.

-On jump stops, make sure your feet are wider than your shoulders.

-Players should say, “Push push push” while making a slide. Talk the entire time.


Alley Drill

This is one of Coach Jacobson’s favorite drills. An offensive player starts at half court and must get the ball to the end line. They are NOT trying to score. The offensive player must stay inside the free throw line extended area on both sides. He/she only has this alley to get the ball to the endline. Defensively, it’s all about working on technique and avoiding fouls. There will be some contact, but it’s essential to do this drill without fouling.

Tips: Start with the dribble alive. Turn the defender as many times as you can. Any time the ball goes outside the lane lines, you must move back three feet and start again. Keep your feet on the ground with hands wide. Rotate through three offensive guys and then switch defenders.


1-on-1 Live From the Wing

For this final drill, it’s a similar set-up to the last drill except now we are starting from the wing area and the offensive player is looking to score.

Defensively, don’t get beat baseline. Look to level the dribble off going toward the top of the key. Trace the basketball with one hand. It’s the job of the defender to stop the offense with a loose ball recovery, charge, or defensive rebound. The offensive player only has three dribbles. Look to go through three offensive players before switching out. Defenders, get those hands up and chest out on every shot.


The previous clips can be seen on Championship Productions’ DVD “Competitive Drills for Man-to-Man Defense.” To check out more defensive-oriented videos, simply head over to our basketball library

Leave a Reply


This blog is kept spam free by WP-SpamFree.