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Basketball Defense Drills:
Recovering Under Control

Most basketball defense drills focus on good defensive stance, on directing the offensive player to his weak side, on denying the pass in to the offensive mark, recovering from a pick and roll. All good practices - essential basketball skills - for any player to know when they are playing tight defense on their man.

But often in the game, we tell our players to play off their men when they are on the weak side - better for them to be a few steps toward the key so they can help out if needed, rather than guard someone closely who is far from the ball and would require a long pass or, more likely, two passes to receive the ball.

Of course, sometimes the offensive player will get that skip pass while his defensive mark is a few steps away, and the defensive man will need to recover fast. In this situation the defender has a two-fold problem - he needs to stop the shot, but at the same time he can't allow a drive. If he rushes the offensive player to try to stop the shot, the offensive player will have a good opportunity to give him a shot fake and then drive past him as the defensive man barrels ahead; if the defender is too slow approaching the offensive player, the offensive player can get off a good shot.

The basketball defense drills that follow work on the approach the defensive player must make to his offensive mark so that he can pick him up quickly and under control, cutting off the drive and stopping the shot, or at least forcing a rushed shot.

Before tackling the basketball defense drills for this skill, let's review the skill itself.

Basketball Defense Skill: The Fencer Stance

  • Defenders should be low to begin with - in a game situation they would be a few steps away from their man, watching to help out someone else - they should already be in defensive stance

  • Immediately upon seeing their man being passed the ball, the defender needs to react, getting into the fencer stance and pushing off toward the offensive player
  • In the fencer stance, the player's feet are in a T position, with the long part of the T pointing toward the offensive player

  • The movement is explosive at first, coming from the back foot (the top part of the T) - the defender uses this foot to push off toward the offensive player

  • The defender makes one strong, quick push toward the offensive player, and then a couple of shorter steps as he gets close - the short steps keep him under control and allow him to react if the offensive player tries to drive past

  • The lead hand (same hand as the front foot) is raised, to cover the shot; the other hand is low to provide balance and to deflect any passes

  • The defender must stay low the entire time - if he raises too high, he will lose his ability to react quickly to any moves the offensive player throws at him
basketball defense drills - fencer stance

Basketball Defense Drill: The Fencer Charge

This is a simple drill but necessary to teach this essential skill. Players need to focus on staying low throughout the movement, keeping one hand raised high, good footwork and control

  • Players line up across the baseline, in fencer stance

  • On the whistle, the players push off hard with their back feet, then take 2-3 shorter steps before stopping, hands raised as if guarding their player

  • On the next whistle, players repeat the movement - 1 hard push, 2-3 shorter steps, pause

  • They continue this series until they reach the far baseline, then turn and do the same back to their starting point, this time leading with the opposite foot
basketball defense drills - fencer charge

Basketball Defense Drill: 1-on-1 Defense Approach

  • Defensive players begin on the block; offensive players begin at the wing. A coach holds the ball at the top of the key

  • The drill begins when the coach passes the ball to the wing - ensure that the defensive player doesn't move before the pass is made

  • The defensive player moves immediately once the pass is made - using the fencer stance - out to the offensive player with the ball

  • The offensive player tries to read the defender - he shoots or drives depending on the option he feels is best

  • The defender needs to get to the ball quickly, put a hand in the offensive player's face to make a shot difficult while at the same time stop a drive
basketball defense drills - 1 on 1 approach

  • Note the placement of the defender's feet - on this approach he must make sure to channel the offensive drive into the key and not give up the drive to the baseline - there will be more traffic and help in the key than along the baseline

  • The two play one-on-one with the offense allowed only one shot

  • Rotate players from offense to defense to the end of the offense line
basketball defense drills - channeling

It is a tough position to be in - there is a reason I tell my players to play really tough denial basketball: once your offensive mark has the ball he becomes a threat that can cause you a lot of grief. But if your players can master the fencer stance and use it consistently in the game, they'll be able to shut down most offensive players when this situation arises and minimize that threat.

Have your players practice these basketball defense drills with commitment and focus, and then apply them in the game. I haven't met any player who liked being scored on - this is one skill that can help players reduce the number of times this happens to them.

More Basketball Defense Drills here

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"I don't measure a man's success by how high he climbs but how high he bounces when he hits bottom."
- General George S. Patton

Want something more visual?

Check out UMass Head Coach Derek Kellogg's video package of drills


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