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In this week’s Playbook Series, we highlight three proven defensive drills that focus on transition basketball. Competitive and effective at improving defensive recovery, these drills should become staples in your future practice plans.
Never Too Late Drill
Submitted by Will Mayer, Middletown North HS, Middletown, NJ
“Never too late” runs for three minutes before the offensive and defensive players switch off. A coach is on the sideline and inbounds the ball to either player 1 or player 2. Meanwhile, player X2 is starting at the hash mark, gets back on defense while X1, positioned on the opposite foul line, sprints in behind to provide catch-up defense in transition.
Look to put a scoring system in place where an offensive basket counts for one point and a defensive stop or turnover results in minus two points for the offensive team. After both teams have played offense for the three minutes, the team with the least amount of points must run laps.
Two Player Recovery Drill
This next transition drill uses the same time limits and scoring system as the previous drill. Player 1 begins the drill by passing to player 2. Player 2 then passes to player 3. Meanwhile 3 and 4 attack defender X1 in a 2-on-1 situation. X2 must sprint back as soon as X1 makes his or her pass and tries to provide defensive help while on transition.
The offense rotates after each possession in the following manner: 5 goes to 1’s spot, 1 to 2, 2 to 3, 3 to the end of 4’s line, and 4 to the end of 1’s line.
Breakdown drill for 2-2-1 Full Court Press
Submitted by Larry King, Binghamton University, Binghamton, NY
This breakdown drill enhances your team’s presses using groups of three players. To begin, there are three offensive players going against three defensive players playing over a full court. O1 starts in the right corner, while O2 and O3 are located at half court, one on each side of the floor. X1 is positioned on the foul line in the backcourt, x2 is at half court, and x3 is at the foul line in the front court.
Restrictions for the offense: O1 must take three dribbles before passing to either O2 or O3. O2 and O3 must catch the first pass in the front court. O2 and O3 cannot cross into the backcourt to catch a pass.
The drill begins with X1 passing the ball back to O1. X1 forces O1 up the right sideline and must prevent O1 from dribbling to the middle of the floor. At the same time, X1 and X2 are trying to trap O1 just before or just beyond half court. X3 is trying to steal the pass that O1 is trying to throw to O2 or O3. If the pass cannot be stolen, X3 must quickly get back under the basket ready to play 1-on-2 against O2 and O3 until X 1 and X2 recover and come back to play help defense.
The goal for the offense is to score in a fast break situation. If there’s no score, the play should evolve into a 3-on-3 contest.
In this behind-the-scenes look, we travel to Storrs, Connecticut for a glimpse inside a University of Connecticut women’s basketball practice. Follow along as head coach Geno Auriemma leads his squad though a number of team drills, including backdoor cuts and defensive zig zags.
With backdoor cuts, it’s essential to time these so we catch the ball and then throw a backdoor cut at the same time. For this particular drill, ball handlers should look to cross half court opposite of where we want to set up the offense, crossover, and then make our play before we reaching the other dotted line.
It only works if all three people work together effectively, so stay wide and spread the floor more. The wider you are, the better you will be. If you get wide, you will know immediately if you are being overplayed (especially if your opponent comes out beyond the three-point line).
To recap, one player dribbles up from half court, crosses over, and passes to a flashing player at the elbow. This player then immediately dishes off to a cutting wing player toward the hoop for a layup. There is also the option to dish back to the original ball handler for a layup or jumper.
Tips: Ball handlers must always follow their first pass. Also, make that cut so you can get the ball back for a shot or layup. Make the cut every time regardless of what your teammate ends up doing.
For this drill, players will go 1-on-1 down the court in zig zags. While the offense works on their ball handling, the defense must work on defensive slides and strong transition play. Do not just go through the motions. Don’t make this drill pointless with predictable movements. There is no point to it unless you do it exactly as you would in a game.
The defensive player should be taking the offensive player where they want without touching. To help, put your hands behind your back and use your feet to get where you need to go. Get your head right on the opposing player’s elbow. When you get to the lane, use your feet in order to turn the offense. Dictate where you want them to go.
Tips: Stay down low and always move your feet. Get your hands back. The offense should use this opportunity to work on ball handling. Don’t go so fast that you lose control. Stay balanced.
Watch as Hall of Fame basketball coach Bob Knight reveals how you can improve your man-to-man offense by eliminating the dribble in practices. Incorporate this practice technique today and watch your squad improve its ability to pass, cut, screen, and play with confidence.
According to Coach Knight, there’s nothing better for developing cutting, screening, and spacing than eliminating the dribble. For this drill, get your team in a 5-on-5 set-up. Have your offense start in a “high” offense to begin. In other words, get your post man down on the block but have everyone else above the foul line extended high.
Once the offense crosses midcourt, there will be no dribbling. Let’s see if we can get a basket on just passing and cutting. After all, that’s what the guts of our offense is.
Every day, you should work without the dribble. The dribble is effective when we want to change position and drive to the bucket. However, you don’t want the dribble used because your team doesn’t have anything else to do. Essentially, you want your team to be able to play offense against man-to-man defense with confidence that they don’t ever have to put the ball on the floor.
Also, if the defense makes a mistake, get that corrected. That’s just as important with our team as the offense. It could be a missed blockout, poor positioning, not setting up a cut, etc. Coaches should simply take the player out and talk about the mistake on the sideline to make sure he/she corrects it. Then the drill can continue seamlessly. This is also a great role for assistant coaches. Head coaches can’t see everything out there, and this strategy is key to getting mistakes corrected.
When it comes to defense, the last line of resistance is the three-point line or top of the key. This is as far back as we can go with our defensive pickup. So how far out exactly do we want to go? Well, you can pick up from here to midcourt.
The deciding factor on where exactly to pick up is: How quick are we as opposed to how quick are they? If we are quicker, look to extend your pickup. However, the further you extend the pickup, the more you are opening yourself up to a lot of easy scores against you. Coach Knight is not a fan of full-court pickup, especially if you don’t have the same quickness that the offense has.
For this drill, the defense will play straight man-to-man defense with no switching. When the ball handler crosses midcourt, there should be no more dribbling. From here, it’s the rest of the team’s job to get open, screen, cut, and maintain balance.
Follow the 5-on-5 action as Coach Knight provides insights and strategies for each simulation. Remember, it’s critical on offense to get good screens and have players cutting to the bucket and cutting to the ball. See what’s there and then react.
The previous clips can be seen on Championship Productions’ DVD ”Bob Knight: Practice Planning and Drills for Mental Toughness.” To check out more videos focusing on practice planning and organization, visit our DVD library.