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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.
This week’s team development feature focuses on man-down defense and a key drill that can help boost your team’s overall defensive play. Led by Brown University head men’s lacrosse coach Lars Tiffany, the drill featured in this segment will teach your defenders how to knock down crucial passes in 5 v 3 situations and get them to learn proper positioning in specific man-down formats. This 5 on 3 drill — easy to implement at practice — will also have players going at full speed.
For this scenario, A, B, C, D, and E are all offensive players. For defense, we have D1, D2, and D3. With this drill, the defense has more opportunities to see the ball flying around from different angles. The offense will be set up in an outside formation of a 3-3 offensive set. Meanwhile, the defenders will be put in the skip lanes, the primary lanes you need to knock down passes. Coach Tiffany has excluded the two defenders who might be responsible for defending the crease.
With this drill, if the ball is with B, we need D1 and D3 to be responsible for the skip lanes, i.e. from B to E, and B to D. As the ball moves around the outside, we must define what the next stick lane will be. If the ball is passed from B to C, D1 must adjust his positioning to be in the skip lane from C to E. He must also peek to see if E is moving. If E cuts in, he must cut down further. We tell the top defender (D2 here) that he can’t let a skip go between C and A.
This is an ideal drill to do a day before a game when you’re trying to get the stick skills flowing and don’t want to wear out your players’ legs. Be sure to get a lot of balls behind each offensive player. We want the players to throw a lot of passes, taking a lot of chances, and giving our defense lots of reps to intercept balls, knock them down, and put them on the ground.
Now we are really building up the picture to be more like a man down scheme against a 3-3 offensive set. We have five offensive players around the horn and have also eliminated the crease player. Remember, the defenders are three perimeter defenders and not the two crease-guarding defenders. The offensive players should remain relatively stationary (i.e. no dodging or attacking the goal).
Be sure to pick up some additional man-down drills by reading our previous blog features starring Coach Tiffany: 3 Effective Man-Down Lacrosse Drills to Boost Defensive Play, plus Man-Down Defense: The General Drill.
This week, pick up some tips from one of the game’s sharpest minds as Tiffany highlights key defensive strategies in a 2 vs. 2 format. Tiffany first breaks down the 2 vs. 2 action using whiteboard diagrams before taking to the field for some live simulations with his squad.
The action focuses first on using no picks before eventually getting into screens up top and behind the net. Also, be sure to pick up more defensive tips and key terms from our previous feature starring Coach Tiffany.
We are adding to our team defense scheme development with 2 vs. 2 action, which really emphasizes on ball and off ball skills. This is more free-flowing than most other defensive drills. With the up top offensive player, we will say to them, can you beat your opponent? For the defensive player, we will say, can you prevent your opponent from beating you? For the two off ball players, can the offensive player rotate to a good spot to be an outlet and a scoring threat? Defensively, do we need the defender to slide? Should you slide?
In this first scenario, we’ve got a dodger up top and an attackman on the crease. But we will also put the offensive players behind the goal, too. Perhaps there’s a defender on-ball and then another defender ready to slide from an adjacent position.
On the Field
We do a lot of 2 vs. 2 work at Brown. Let’s start with an on-ball defender and a help defender (hot man). Defensively, do we need to slide? If so, can we do so in a way that won’t leave his man wide open? For now, there will be no picks on the ball.
On the field, players go 2 vs. 2 in live action. Meanwhile, Tiffany provides the play-by-play and uses slow motion replays to highlight his tips and suggestions.
Next, the players move behind the cage. Still, there are no picks yet. The key here is to really emphasize communication between teammates, plus slides and recovery tactics.
Now, what happens if the offense brings a body to the dodger with a pick? There are three ways to counter.
1) Get Through. Our communicator is the defender off ball (D2). As the attackman approaches the pick, the defender says “Get Through” and he wants to be a yard or two off his man and a yard or so over, giving room for D1 to get underneath the pick and through it.
2) Switch. D1 is on the ball. D2 should position himself a little wide and off his man. D1 will let go of the man he was guarding, releasing him, and switching to guard the picker. D2 will now step up and guard the dodger.
3) Double. This is where we jump the pick. D2 will trail his man in initially. As the pick is set, he will jump up and attack the ball carrier. D1 will trail the dodger into D2, hopefully forming a closing-in tactic on the offensive player.
A lacrosse team that rides effectively can generate extra possessions in the double-digit range. Ultimately, your team will cause key turnovers, get odd-man breaks, and have a better shot at coming away with a victory. This week, former NYIT head coach Jack Kaley explains his 10-man riding package, an effective system that recently netted his squad an average of 10 extra possessions per game.
Riding demands pressure by the riding team and hustle all over the field. At NYIT, the team features six different rides. According to Kaley, turnovers off of rides are some of the best turnovers you can get in a game because now you have numbers. When you get the ball back via rides, you normally end up with an extra man in transition. Plus, the pressing, turnovers, and extra possessions you get via riding far outweigh any goals you might give up.
NYIT starts incorporating riding techniques on day one of the season. Even early in the year and we’re doing 1-on-1 drills, the drill isn’t over until the team has cleared the ball. For instance, on a 1-on-1, if the offensive guy takes a shot, and the defender breaks out to receive the ball, the offensive guy must get back to get in the lane. He may not be able to get up to the man, but he can still deter the goalie from passing to that open defensive player.
We must stop the man who was playing the shooter. Once we stop him, it’s easier to cut off the rest of the players. The goal is to cut off all of the opponent’s top players, especially their top sticks or anyone breaking out up field. Remember, we are riding every single day, on every single drill.
The first series is a ten-man package, or 90/100. This is a zone ride.
We always have a man on the ball and are always cutting off the adjacent player. Near the midline, we’ll have midfielders on the opposing midfielders. We will also have a midfielder zoning ball-side, and the player in the middle. Our zone attackman is zoning off-ball side.
Meanwhile, we will also have a long pole in the middle, perhaps over the midline or back. He is the quarterback of the ten-man zone. He is working with the outside guys. If the outside guys are down low, he will come back and they will go low. If they are high, he will stand to zone the middle.
Key: All of the on-side players should be cut off. Only the far-side players should have options. If the opponent goes over the top, for instance, with a cross-field pass to the opposite defender, players will bump up and play tight. Watch Coach Kaley diagram where the riders should move in this situation.
Any time the opponent gets the ball underneath us, we want to press, take away the outside, and force the ball carrier to roll back and to the inside. That’s where we have the most underneath support.
Also, it’s key to remember that the role of your zone players is to not take the ball away or cut the player off, but to pressure him back to the middle of the field. If we get our trap in the middle of the field, where we have a long pole pressuring from the top-side, we have three guys on the ball. If just one of them gets a check, we will have a 1-on-1 chance or possibly even a 5-on-3 opportunity.
Note: On all of your pressure rides, should the opponent clear the ball, your attack has to be within ten yards of the midline. This helps particularly with any throwbacks at the midfield.
Learn from one of the game’s sharpest minds as Tiffany highlights some key defensive terms, strategies, and goals. Also, Tiffany runs through some basic slide schemes on the whiteboard before taking to the field for some live simulations.
It’s vital that six defenders and the goalie communicate to each other while playing together in order to be successful and stop the opponent.
The goalie’s focus should always be on-ball. We want the goalie watching the ball and dodgers and talking to the on-ball defender (with terms like step left, step out, step in, etc.). It’s up to the defense when it comes to slides.
Next, we need the defense to say, “Who is the first slide?” At Brown, the terminology is “hot” or “hotman.” This person can also ask questions to build trust in the defense. For instance, things like, “I’m hot,” or “who’s my fill”, or “who’s my second slide?” Fill means to fill into the crease and take care of the crease and the insides first and foremost.
The hot player identifies the fill player. Those extra words really make a difference. Meanwhile, the third slide is “the three” or “crash” into the crease. There’s not always a third slide and getting there isn’t easy.
Okay, so the hot man is identified and has his fill, but when he slides, what does he say? At Brown, the saying is “go.” This player sends himself. If he doesn’t slide, he yells “stop” and he stops the slide scheme. Now you must get back to your man.
The final term is used in our recovery. Once we have slid, the man who has been slid for (the original on-ball man) – when he is flying into the hole – well, we need to talk to him and tell him where to go. In Brown’s schemes, they look to the crease first and find the open man. When looking for the open man, the defense can tell him where to go. If he hears “bump”, he goes to that voice. It tells the man who is beat to come to me and follow me back to my own man so we can match up quickly.
Here are some key terms to determine how the defense will slide. We can slide from different areas with the hot man. Then we can mix up where our fill slides come from.
Coming from the Crease: the hot man slides from the crease.
Crease, Crease: the hot man comes from the crease and the second slide comes from the backside crease.
Adjacent: We may come in hot from the adjacent defender initially. The second slide could be adjacent as well, meaning the first slide hot player and the second slide fill player.
First Slide Hot from an Adjacent Defender, Second Slide from the Crease: The first slide is from the crease defender and the second slide is from the adjacent defender.
Sliding Cross Crease: When we are defending the ball on the dodge from behind the goal.
Cross-Crease Slide: When a defender slides across the crease from the backside.
Brown uses a variety of drills that start at the base level of 1 v 1 and eventually build that up to 6 v 6. The goal is to start with the fundamentals and then evaluate the decision-making skills of each player. The first drill here works on such.
One player will start in the middle with a ball up top and a defender on him. The hot man is on the crease with a coach nearby. This drill is indeed 1 v 1. The slide man is only a decision-maker. The coach will sit there and evaluate his decision-making. The coach will keep the hot man in there for 3-4 reps. Meanwhile, the dodger dodges 1 v 1. The Coach will then have the defender in a good open stance and ready to go. Next, the coach will ask the player about his decision-making. Should he “Go” OR not say anything? The coach has the same vision as the hot man and can give some good feedback right away.
The team’s slide scheme development begins with on-ball play. This focuses on a few key principles, particularly being good 1-on-1 defenders. Here we’re going to work on some on-ball play with an offensive player dodging from up top. The cardinal rule for the defender on the 1-on-1 is to not give up the middle of the field. Remember, the goalie focuses solely on the ball and the on-ball defender.
This 1-on-1 drill can be run from up top, the side and behind the net.