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.
Are you searching for ways to thwart opponents in their own half of the field? Look no further than the 33 Zone Ride, a proven zone transition defense designed to stop all forms of clearing and transition. Watch as Limestone College head women’s lacrosse coach Scott Tucker lays out the foundation of the system, first using whiteboard diagrams before heading out for on-field demonstrations. This system is an effective way to force turnovers, control the tempo of the game, and keep the ball on your offensive end.
The purpose of the zone ride is to slow the ball down, prevent fast breaks, force long passes, and create turnovers.
Low Attackers – Responsible for protecting the middle of the field. Put pressure on the goalie with one of your attackers. Get one low attacker on the goal circle with his/her stick up and occupy that space. Force the goalie to pass to the outside or low defenders. The other low attacker is responsible for the 12-15 meter area. This player has the same goal as their teammate, but just in a different spot.
High Attackers – These players line up on the outsides. Put them up on same level as the 12-15 meter low attacker and about 4-5 yards from the restraining line. Occupy that space and pinch toward the middle. Adjust based on your opponent.
Middies – Set up just over the restraining line. All players must react to the ball. Every player’s responsibility changes, however, when the ball is passed. They must know where the ball is at all times.
Players will shift when the ball is passed by the offense. The ride starts off with pressure on the goalie by the low attacker. The riding team must anticipate the pass going to the outside. If the ball gets passed out to the wing, we must now shift all of our players to the ballside of the field. Occupy the clearing team members that are the biggest threat. Possession by the low defender triggers this shift.
Next, the low attacker (formerly on the goalie) now must drop to replace the spot by the other low attacker who was responsible for the middle. This low attacker now must shift to the ballside and the ballside middie will come up and support the high attacker. These two players are now responsible for double-teaming the ball on the ballside. Note: Never pursue the double team. Let them come to you.
From here, all other players are shifting and occupying the threats on the same side of the field that the ball is on. Take control by getting within a stick’s length of the nearest opponent in this space. Shut them off. Sometimes you must improvise. Look to be where you can be helpful. There should be no open players in this area.
After the double team is in place, the rest of the riding team will be in new positions after shifting. It’s key that the adjacent threats are cut off, otherwise the double team is a waste of energy. The only option for the clearing team now is the opposite low defender or the goalie.
Now let’s talk about the recovery when the ball switches to the other side of the field. Don’t run in straight lines. Instead, run in angles, or shift at a 45-degree angle to get ahead. We should give the new ball carrier only one option, which is to carry the ball up the field. If they do, it takes time. If we continue to shift over, eventually they will be forced to redirect the ball again. The low attacker and high attacker on that side will eventually go in for the double team while the trailing teammate must now shift and occupying those new spots. Stay ahead of the play and keep everything in front.
Watch in the video below as the clearing team comes in and we walk through this ride. The clearing team will break out into a basic clearing pattern. Notice the shift when the ball is passed to a low defender (when ball is in the air).
In the latest edition of All-Access, we take you back to Hyattsville, Maryland for an inside look at a DeMatha Catholic High School boys’ basketball practice. Follow along as head coach Mike Jones leads his team through a number of warm-ups and drills focusing on transition defense.
Five players at a time start out facing the baseline. On the coach’s whistle, all five players smack the floor to commence the drill and work on defensive slides all the way down the court. Once the players get down to the mid-court line, they sprint to the opposing baseline. Once at the other end, players close out toward the three-point line shouting, “Ball, Ball, Ball” before sprinting back to the baseline. As soon as each group has finished, the first group starts all over again and heads down the opposite end repeating the movements.
This is DeMatha’s take on the standard “Shell Drill.” The team divides into four white team players and four blue team players. The squad is simply working on perimeter ball movement, defensive adjustments, and overall technique. There is constant ball movement and defensive movement going on in this drill. The coach may yell out “Drive” or Shot” at any time and players must be ready to rebound and box out.
The squad sets up a line of players at the midway point of the sideline. A coach has a ball in the paint. One at a time, players sprint toward the basket, receive a quick bounce pass, and then finish strong at the rim. That same player then immediately sprints down the court to get ready for defensive responsibilities in a transition setting.
Players finish the rep when they reach the opposite foulline, plant, turn forward (open up), get into a good defensive stance, and then slide toward the sideline and off the court.
After moving through a number of layup reps, there’s a switch to short seven-foot jumpers using the glass. Next, players work on lob plays and finishing up high and in tight. The coaches make some contact as well so players must finish in traffic and with defensive pressure.
To wrap things up, DeMatha runs Oklahoma Shooting on both ends of the court at once. Down at each end, players form two lines total, one on each side of the sideline and around the top of the key extended. One player has a ball and passes to his opposite teammate, who is cutting hard to around the free-throw line area (the squad places a chair right in front of the line to mark the exact spot). Next, he catches the ball right on the side of the chair and shoots immediately.
The drill is simply catching the pass, taking two steps to the side, and then letting the shot go with a quick release. Be sure to work on your footwork, elevating, and knocking down your shots.
Next, move the chair towards the wing and have guys shoot off the elbow and in the corner. Use similar passing techniques and movements like before. Then switch the chair to opposite side of the court and continue shooting directly off the pass.
The previous clips can be seen on Championship Productions’ DVD “All Access DeMatha High School Basketball Practice.” To check out more videos in our exclusive All Access collection, simply head over to our basketball library.