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In this week’s player development feature, we’ll focus on individual defensive technique, a crucial area that defenders must be proficient at in order to stop the opposition. Duke assistant coach Chris Gabrielli breaks down key defensive concepts like trailing, angles, and footwork before revealing a key defensive drill to help your defenders take that next step.
A complete defender has terrific individual technique on the ball. You must be able to deter an opponent and stop them from accomplishing what they are trying to do, all while playing within your own team system. The better we can defend the ball, the easier it will be for our off-ball teammates and goalie. Focus on being aware on the field, take a great approach, and put yourself in a good spot to be successful.
Trailing is a term used to describe areas where the ball carrier is going that aren’t threatening to us. For instance, if he’s running toward X, this isn’t threatening to us and we have accomplished something. So the goal is to trail our opponent and keep him over there.
Once a ball carrier decides he wants to become a threat and tries to get to an area that we may be vulnerable, we need to take a proper angle to deter him from getting to that spot. If we beat him to that spot, we then want to hold him. This is where it becomes a strength competition between two opponents. If you are in the proper spot and use the proper technique of holding, you should be in good shape.
We also believe there is a certain progression in defending one-on-one. It all begins with your feet. A good defenseman in our sport is similar to a basketball player. He wants to move his feet and get himself in front of that ball carrier. Our advantage is that we can foul and use our hands and stick to push and hold people.
Next, we emphasize the hands. If we get to the spot with our feet, we can put ourselves in a good position where our hands will be there. Now we can apply some pressure and get our hands on the ball carrier and push them around.
Finally, it’s key to use the stick effectively, sometimes a last resort to throw a check or get the stick in there and lift to force a turnover.
Behind the cage, the goal for the ball carrier is to get to 5 & 5, an area five yards off the pipe and five yards off the GLE. If he gets to this area of the field, he’s a threat. The offensive player could inside roll his man and get to the front of the cage easily, he can also step away and shoot, step away and feed, or come up with many other options in this area. Being an aware defender, we don’t want our man getting to that area of the field at all.
So how do we force a player out of this area? It starts with footwork. If the defender can beat his man to his spot with great footwork, he’s thinking of turning him back and not getting to 5 and 5, plus he’s putting himself in a great position to be successful through great footwork. The goal is to turn the defender at a 45-degree point behind the cage. If he doesn’t do that, and say cuts him at the GLE, by the time he stops the goal carrier’s momentum, very often the offensive player will still end up at 5 and 5.
Therefore, we want to beat our man topside by the time he gets to that 45-degree mark behind the net and apply our hands. Play with your feet first, and then with the hands. Do not lunge with the hands. Instead, bring your hands to the correct spot through proper footwork and team speed.
For this drill, get the guys to drop the sticks, grab an 8-lb. med ball, and focus on moving their feet quickly, all while having their hands away from their body to apply hands and push opponents out. Once a ball carrier gets into your chest, you will get pushed back and moved around. Defensively, we want to do the pushing and move people around.
This drill gets players to squat with their hands away from the body and moving the feet. Simply, we set out two cones at the 45-degree marks behind the cage. Defenders one at a time go back and forth between the cones moving their feet quickly and holding out the med balls with proper technique. Pretend you are cutting angles as if going against an offensive player.
Ever wanted to see a top college basketball team go through a typical midweek practice session? In this week’s edition of All Access, we take you to Lexington, Kentucky for an exclusive look at a University of Kentucky men’s basketball practice. Watch as head coach John Calipari walks through several team defensive drills for you and dishes out overall strategies, general tips, and player guidance.
This behind-the-scenes glimpse comes from the first few days of practice during the 2010-2011 basketball season with the focus being squarely on defense. According to Coach Calipari, while many people may talk about the program’s effective dribble drive offensive approach, defense has really been the key for years. In this feature, you’ll see exactly how Kentucky teaches defense and hopefully this will give you some insight into what the Wildcats do, the intensity they play with, and the key pieces of defense the program works on in order to be successful.
This drill starts with an offensive set — “Money” — in the half court (and involves a ball screen first). As soon as the ball goes in the basket, the unit must sprint back on defense. Says Calipari, “If we are going to be good defensively, we gotta get back on defense.” As the team gets back, a pass up court is intercepted, and the squad finishes the play offensively on transition. The goal is to get from defense and back to offense as quickly as possible.
Many people will want to run back to the opposite paint, but the problem with this is that they throw the ball, suck your defense down, and all of a sudden you have problems. For Calipari’s teams, the key is trying to run back, cover both wings, cover the basket, and shadow the ball. For this drill, the one big man who rebounded is behind the ball.
It’s also crucial to get the players to communicate. According to Calipari, at that moment, the team doesn’t talk much and they won’t be good if they continue to not talk. When the squad hits the road, it’s very difficult to hear each other. Therefore, it’s imperative that the players communicate effectively. This drill works on building team communication extensively.
The team works on the following offensive sets while practicing its transition defense: Crunch, Motion, and X.
Calipari’s teams will typically run this drill for the first three weeks of practice before incorporating it into more game-like situations. It’s not quite game-like enough, but it’s simple and very effective. If you’ve got 15 guys and want to work them, this is a perfect defensive drill.
One at a time, players will sprint from the middle baseline with both hands out/up and proceed to close out on a coach with the ball at the elbow. Players will then slide diagonally across the lane to the baseline and then will immediately close out again, this time towards another coach standing on the opposite elbow area. The player will finish by sliding to the far corner of the court and return back to the end of the line. Once the first player makes his first diagonal shuffle, a second player should commence.
The Wildcats typically go through this drill early on in practices. The bottom line here is that you must closeout to the wing and be the weakside help. This is called the “Impossible Close.” It’s key that your team can do this well.
If the defender’s hands are not up, the offensive guy should be shooting. If his hands are up, the guy is driving. Players end with a rebound in this drill. With the closeout, you don’t have to stop the offensive player from going anywhere, you just have to make him go wide because your help will come if he’s wide. However, on a straight drive, there’s no help, so you better hope for a charge.
The drill can play out on both ends of the floor. It starts with the defender in the middle of the paint. Next, there’s a pass across to the wing and the defender must closeout on the wing player. Players finish the play (and always with a rebound) with a 1-on-1. Remember, the goal for the defender is to make it as hard as he can for the offensive guy to score.
The previous clips can be seen on Championship Productions’ DVD “All Access Kentucky Basketball Practice 2010-2011” with John Calipari. To check out more college teams in our All Access lineup, visit our basketball DVD library.