defense

Defense: Rebounding

You can play amazing defense for the duration of the shot clock but if you don’t grab a rebound on a missed shot, you are not rewarding yourselves for the hard work on defense. It is crucial to have all five players on defense be involved in the rebounding.

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By implementing rebounding time into every practice, you are teaching the necessary skills to finish off a possession. I am also a tremendous proponent of teaching all players to rebound. Especially for a team that is smaller like mine, you have to get your guards to come back and rebound/

Here are some points that I always bring up to my team when rebounding:

  1. Anybody guarding someone close to the rim needs to box them out and ensure that they don’t get the rebound.
  2. Guards and exterior defenders need to come back to get two feet in the paint and rebound.
  3. Always rebound with two hands.
  4. Once you get a rebound turn and face to assess the court before making a read on what to do with the ball.

Defense: Steals Are Overrated

This will be a short post but I want to give a special emphasis to my least favorite statistic (maybe). I do not like on-ball steals. This is a risky play and can often lead to getting beat and also drawing fouls. The best place to get steals is on poor passes (never gambling though).

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If a player is in good help-side defense they can jump a pass and get a steal if they read the play properly. Another great emphasis that I place is for players to deny once the ball is dead. What this means is that when I ball handler picks up their dribble they are no longer a threat to drive. This means that once we see this, we pick up our man in a full denial.

Defense: Off-Ball Defense

The next type of defense that you need to emphasize with your players is off-ball defense. I will often refer to this type of defense as help-side defense. If you have a player get beat when on-ball, having defenders ready ad able to stop penetration will be a huge benefit to your team. Teaching players what position they need to be in and how to rotate when helping on defense will take your teams to the next level.

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Some teams are able to stay glued on to their defensive assignment and have no breakdowns but we are not one of those teams and I have never had one of those teams. The main teaching point that I emphasize when working with off-ball defense is that players must always see both their man and the ball.

Here are some other teaching points that I bring up when implementing off-ball defensive fundamentals:

  1. If your player is one pass away, you are around 2/3 of the way over and helping down.
  2. If your player is two passes away you need to get at least one foot in the paint to be in position to help.
  3. Side front the low-post.
  4. Play behind the high post.
  5. If your athlete is on the opposite side of the court, you need to be at the midway point of the court.
  6. Always bump cutters.

Defense: On-Ball Defense

The first type of defense that you need to emphasize with your players is on-ball defense. If you can lock down the person that you are guarding, then you are a tremendous asset to your team. As a coach, it is crucial to try and get your athletes to where they are able to be strong on-ball defenders.

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It is a tremendous mistake when coaches teaches players to slide constantly in the full-court. Your athletes are going to have to be able to slide and sprint when guarding someone. A major point of emphasis that I always like to teach is watching the offensive players waist. You can fake with your eyes and fake with the ball but you cannot fake with your waist.

Here are some other teaching points that I bring up when implementing on-ball defensive fundamentals:

  1. Give a bit of a gap in order to stay in front of the defender.
  2. Push off with the opposite foot of the direction you are going in order to power into a defensive slide.
  3. Don’t reach at the ball or defender unless you know with 100% certainty that you are going to get the ball.
  4. When sliding, don’t allow your back foot to come over to far and work on balance.

Defense: It’s Most Important

Defense is by far the most important skill in the sense that if your opponent can’t score, they can’t beat you. In addition to limiting your opponent on the scoreboard, great defense will provide your team with easy scoring opportunities. If you can be a disruptive defender and a tough rebounder, you will find yourself as a player that is in the games during crucial situations.

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In todays game, players look mostly at scoring and the glory that is given to those who perform well on offense. Defensive stoppers do not exist like they used to and players who choose to commit to playing defense will find themselves getting more minutes on the court. If a player scores 26 points in a game but allows the person they are guarding to score 42, it doesn’t benefit the team.

Unlike some of the other fundamentals that I have outlined over the past few weeks, every player on your roster must be able to defend every position on the court. By having flexibility with where you can put your defenders, it will make your team very difficult to play against. For players, it benefits them to be ready for all potential situations as well.

Not only do I spend time in every practice on defense but I spend more time on defense than any other fundamental skill.

The Key Fundamentals (Ball Handling, Shooting, Passing, & Defense)

Today starts a series of posts that I will refer to as the fundamental series. Over the next few weeks I will be posting a series of posts detailing different aspects of each fundamental.

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The four main fundamentals that we will be focusing on will be:

  1. Ball Handling
  2. Shooting
  3. Passing
  4. Defense

I recognize that rebounding can be considered its own category but I lumped this into the defense category and will be posting more about rebounding at a later date. If you have anything that you would specifically like to see me cover when it comes to any of these fundamentals, please send me a message and I will include an answer in the post it pertains to.

The hope is that this series will be useful to coaches of all levels as they look to improve the fundamentals of their teams.

Footwork

One of the first things that you can do to help improve your athletes skills is to emphasize footwork. In my first few seasons at Ontario, I jumped right into basic skills like ball handling, passing, defense, shooting, and rebounding. These are all great skills but without proper footwork, your teams will not have the building blocks necessary to compete at their best. This past offseason, with all of my athletes including those with years of experience, we committed to spending part of each practice learning and improving our footwork.

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The result of my offseason emphasis has shown on the court and we improved greatly over the summer in virtually every statistical category. Most noticeably, we lowered our number of turnovers per game which I see as a result of our new found understanding of footwork.

Some coaches might wonder how I can spend an entire post talking about footwork as it only applies to one or two aspects of the game. I counter with the fact that footwork plays a key role in every basic fundamental as I will outline below:

Ball Handling- When dribbling the ball at full speed in a game, I am sure that most coaches have told their players to jump stop. Teaching players how to jump stop and pivot will help reduce the number of turnovers on a fast break. Additionally, learning how to jab step and use fakes with footwork will help players become better scorers.

Passing- Many player will turn the ball over because they do not step into passes on the outside. Step right to throw right and step left to throw left. When trying to get a pass into the paint, you need to be able to step through with your opposite foot to protect the ball and create a passing angle.

Shooting- I have coached a lot of players who do not set their feet before they shoot. When working on jump shots I like to teach players to keep a back foot down and step in with their lead foot to power into a shot. Also, footwork on lay-ups (a euro-step is an excellent move to teach starting in high school) also plays a role in player skill development.

Defense- Pushing off the back foot when sliding is a basic technique when discussing footwork but I also point out the fact that you want to teach your athletes to keep their toe pointing forward and not out to the side because you want to use big muscles like glutes and hamstrings to power your slide. Sticking your toe out to the side works the adductors which do not have as much power and ability to provide you with a quick slide.

Rebounding-Using your feet to seal someone on  a box-out is a great technique to teach when rebounding on defense. On offense you can teach a jab and spin to help improve your offensive rebounding as well.

As you can see from the above that using attention to detail when going over footwork will help your teams get better and also further develop the skills of your athletes. I incorporate footwork into every practice and see it as a huge benefit to us.