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Defensive Basketball Drills:
Deny and Help

You want your defensive basketball drills to teach tough defense, and really good defense begins well before the offensive man receives the pass - i.e., really good defense is denial defense.

It will always be easier to play defense on your man if he doesn't have the basketball. This is something we are constantly driving at our players - don't wait until your man gets the ball to play defense. Deny the ball. Get your hand in the lane and don't let your man touch the ball.

But at the same time, basketball is a team game, and our players need to work together to pull out tough team defense. So that means our players also need to know what is happening around them, and be able to help out teammates that get beaten by the man they are guarding.

This defensive basketball drill focuses on denying the ball when the player's man is one pass away, and stepping back to be prepared to help when the man is two passes away.

Instructions to Players

Here's what players need to focus on:

  • Defenders cannot be flat-footed - they must be low, hands out, on the balls of their feet, so that they can quickly react to whatever happens

  • Players must understand that "one pass away" means the man they are guarding is close enough to the ball carrier that he can receive a quick chest pass - maybe 10 feet away or less

  • The man they are guarding is "two passes away" if he is far enough from the ball carrier that any pass to him would be a relatively slow, looping pass - greater than 10 feet away

  • Players must always use their peripheral vision - they need to know where their man is always, but they also need to know where the ball is and what is happening in the area of the ball, so they can help out when they see the need

  • In this drill, players cannot go into the key unless they are driving to the hoop or helping out on defense

How this Defensive Basketball Drill Works

  • Players are set up as in the diagram below - 3 offense and 3 defense, paired off man to man. One pair sets up on one side of the key - the left side here, though that is your discretion; the other two pairs set up on the other side - the right side here

  • The coach is at the point with the ball

  • The coach dribbles the ball from one side of the court to the other, looking for an open man to pass to

defensive basketball drill - Deny and Help

On the Right Side of the Court

  • The offensive players set picks for each other, trying to get someone open for a pass from the coach

  • The defensive players deny the ball when their man is one pass away, communicating with each other to call picks - fighting through and switching according to the situation

On the Left Side of the Court

  • The offensive player cuts, using V cuts or jabs to free himself from his defensive man

  • The defensive player denies his man the ball whenever the coach comes to his side

  • When the coach moves the ball to the right side, the defensive player steps back toward the key, using his peripheral vision to see both his man and the action happening on the other side of the court. In this position he is able to prevent backdoor cuts from the right side and be ready to help should the offense break through

  • When the coach passes the ball to one of the players on the right side of the court, the defensive player on the left side jumps into the key to stop any cuts, or moves to take the charge if the player with the ball drives to the hoop

This drill allows the coach to simulate a game situation, with players working several skills - offensive players practice setting picks, cutting to the ball, backdoor cuts and drives.

But really it is a defensive basketball drill. Defensive players practice denying the ball, calling screens and working through them, and the weak side defensive player practices helpside defense - a necessary skill to have when your team is playing man-to-man defense

Overall, this defensive basketball drill practices skills that are essential to any player who wants to play solid team defense

More Defensive Basketball Drills here

Go to the Better Basketball Coaching home page

"Failure is the only opportunity to begin again more intelligently."
- Henry Ford

Want something more visual?

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


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