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All Access Kentucky Basketball Practice: Transition Defense and Closeout Drills

By adam.warner - Last updated: Wednesday, January 11, 2012

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.

Transition Defense

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.


Box Closeout

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.


Impossible Close

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.

12 Dynamic Ball Handling Drills Designed to Build Quickness

By adam.warner - Last updated: Wednesday, September 7, 2011

If you want to develop into an elite guard, it’s imperative that you work on your hand-eye coordination and hand/ball quickness. Watch as University of Kentucky head coach John Calipari and former NBA standout Rod Strickland lead you through 12 useful ball handling drills that focus on improving ball quickness. Coaches can then look to implement these simple, effective drills into their own practices this fall.

Front to Back Dribbling

While there are hundreds of drills we could cover to work on ball handling, we’re going to start with the basics and build from there. Remember, the more that you work with the ball, the better off you’ll be. Ultimately, you want your right hand and left hand to be the exact same.

First, start with these dribbling drills:

1)    Front to Back Dribbling – Right Hand

2)    Side to Side – Right Hand

3)    Side to Side – Left Hand

4)    Front to Back – Left Hand

Don’t be afraid to make a mistake. Start slow and then build up speed. The reason you go fast is that it’s not about making a mistake. You want to make yourself uncomfortable. The goal is get faster and faster every day. Keep in mind that this is not just a drill for drill sake. You must be able to move the ball.

Remember at all times to keep your head and eyes up. Bend your body down and get low during the drills, as well.


Carry Drills

Instead of dribbling, now we’ll move to carry drills (where the ball is kept off the floor). Consider running a clock for 30 seconds and counting the number of carries you can make in 30 seconds, then improve upon it.

1)    Single Leg Carry (Start slow and then build up faster)

2)    Carry Drill Double Leg

3)    Carry Drill Waist (Get those hands moving fast)

4)    Carry Drill Figure Eight (Do the drill front and back)

Two-Ball Drills

Get a feel for using both basketballs at once. Start by standing in place and pounding both basketballs at the same time. Then, transition into one high and one low before moving into alternating dribbles.

1)    2-Ball Dribble, Pound Together

2)    2-Ball Dribble, 1 High, 1 Low

3)    2-Ball Dribble, Alternating (Really move those shoulders)

4)    2-Ball Dribble, Circle


The previous clips can be found on Championship Productions’ DVD “MVP Training: Basic Point Guard Skills & Drills with Derrick Rose and John Calipari.” Also, check out the companion video entitled, “MVP Training: Advanced Point Guard Skills and Drills.”

New All Access Kentucky & Dematha High School Basketball DVDs!

By mike.oconnell - Last updated: Thursday, July 14, 2011

New All Access Basketball DVDs featuring John Calipari and Mike Jones!

All Access Kentucky Basketball Practice (2010-11) with John Calipari

Watch as John Calipari prepares his young team for the 2010-11 season which included a run into the NCAA Final Four. In this All Access DVD, Coach Calipari reveals everything he teaches and drills to get the Wildcats into an aggressive, attacking mindset on both the defensive and offensive ends of the floor. With this video set, Coach Calipari breaks down every drill in more detail than ever before to teach his team how to play the right way!

All Access DeMatha Catholic High School Basketball Practice

Mike Jones and Alan Stein bring to you an all access look at the DeMatha basketball program. Coach Jones, a former DeMatha player and assistant coach under basketball Hall of Famer Morgan Wootten, shows why DeMatha is one of the top high school basketball programs in the nation. Learn DeMatha’s entire system- offense, defense, drills, warm-ups, and conditioning – all in one DVD series (3-discs that include over 5 hours)!

Interested in multiple All Access DVDs? Purchase any 3 (or more) All Access Basketball Practice DVDs for only $99.99 each. Enter promo code AA99BB at checkout to redeem savings!

WIN a Basketball Signed by Derrick Rose, John Calipari and Rod Strickland!

By mike.oconnell - Last updated: Thursday, May 26, 2011

Submit your favorite drill of play to and you will be entered for a chance to win a basketball signed by Derrick Rose, John Calipari and Rod Strickland!

The winner will be announced July 15! Good luck!

6 Effective Shooting Drills Designed for Point Guards

By adam.warner - Last updated: Wednesday, May 18, 2011

This week’s player development feature focuses on ways that point guards can hone their shooting skills. With 2011 NBA MVP Derrick Rose and University of Kentucky head coach John Calipari as your guides, follow along and discover six effective shooting drills that are easy to implement and have been used at every level of basketball.

Remember, an elite point guard must learn to play fast and yet still be in balance and have the skills to gather themselves and make shots. Learn the techniques through these easy workouts that Calipari and Rose used frequently while at Memphis.

Transition Shooting Drills

According to Calipari, if you’re going to play fast and be able to attack the rim, you need to gather yourself and still shoot the ball (often with a one-dribble pull up). It’s important to make big steps as a point guard. This is key for any player in order to get necessary separation from defenders. By having great separation, defenders now need to close out to guard you. As they close out, you can now beat them and become an effective point guard. Remember, the goal here is that you’re looking to score and create for your teammates.

Start these transition shooting drills at half court with the ball. Throw the ball to your  coach in front of you and then run to the top of the arc before anticipating a pass back from your coach. Catch the ball and take a shoot at the top of the arc. After the shot, the player will then jog back to the half court line and then run to the top of the arc again before receiving a pass before another shot at the arc, and so on.

This drill should go through three sequences and produce three shots per player at the top of the arc.

1. Jog and shot.

2. Sprint and shot.

3. Big steps and shot.

Keep in mind that by using those big steps, it’s one less step to get where you need to go. You’ll be faster ultimately with those bigger strides.


Big Steps from Baseline

In these big steps drills, players should start out in the paint under the basket and facing away from the hoop. Drill techniques include “Flat”, “Curl to Elbow”, and “Fade.”


Start under the basket facing out. Make a fake to one side and then come off to the wing area behind the three-point arc with big steps. Catch and shoot in full stride.

Curl to Elbow

Here, instead of flying out to the wing area, the player should curl to the near elbow before catching and shooting.


Finally, make your fake before fading into the near corner for the shot.

Always use big steps with all three drills. This will ensure you’ll never be out of balance. Also, you must set-up your defender at the start. Get the defender on your hip and then by using big steps, you can create space to be effective. Keep in mind that you need to have space to catch the ball, give a ball-fake and then have time to shoot the ball or drive it.


The follow clips can be found on the Championship Productions DVD “MVP Training: Basic Point Guard Skills & Drills” starring 2011 NBA MVP Derrick Rose and University of Kentucky head coach John Calipari. Check out additional videos featuring Coach Calipari in our extensive library.


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