Category Archives: Defense

NFHS Rule Changes Send Mixed Message

NFHS Rule ChangesThe National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS) Basketball Rules Committee approved two rule changes last month that in my opinion send out a severely mixed message.

The first rule change now allows players lined up along the lane for a free throw to move on the release of the ball instead of waiting for it to hit the rim, What this does is give the offensive rebounders in the second spot on the lane a much better chance of securing the rebound by simply being quicker to the ball.

As a result, defensive rebounders will now need to be much more physical when boxing out on free throws.

The second major change now says that when defending a dribbler the following acts are an automatic foul: 1) placing two hands on the player, 2) placing an extended arm bar on the player, 3) placing and keeping a hand on the player and 4) contacting the player more than once with the same hand or alternating hands.

As a result, defenders will now be forced to be much less physical when guarding a ball handler. (This same rule was instituted at the college level at the beginning of last season.)

To keep things consistent the NFHS rules committee should have kept the free throw rule the same and thereby eliminating the extra contact that it is surely going to be generated. Of course it won’t really matter if the high school officials take on the same philosophy as their college counterparts did last season – call every single defensive touch a foul early in the season and then completely ignore the rule as the season progresses.

If and when that happens the two new high school rule changes will actually be completely consistent with each and the game will be more physical than ever,

Dynamic Defense

Dynamic Defense DVDsI just finished watching a set of DVD’s that I wish was available years ago and I feel compelled to recommend them to every player and coach who reads this! Whether you are a young player or an experienced coach or anything in between, Better Basketball’s Dynamic Defense will change the way you think about defensive basketball.

If you are a coach, have you ever told a player that he needs to play better defense if he wants to get more court time or if he wants to move up to the next level of competition? What exactly does “play better defense” mean? How do you (or your player) actually know if he’s improved or not?

If you are a player how do you know whether or not you are a great, good, or average defensive player? If you want to improve your defensive skill set so you can get more playing time, how should you go about it? More importantly, how can you convince your coach that your defense might actually be better than he thinks?

Dynamic Defense answers each those questions for players and coaches of all levels with a concept originally taught by long time NBA assistant coach Dick Helm and expanded by Better Basketball’s Rick Torbett.

The premise of the DVD set is that there are four distinct levels of defense that describes both individual and team defenses. Each level has a specific list of essential skills that makes it extremely easy to measure progress and promote accountability. Now instead of telling one of your players that he needs to play better defense you can tell him, “Right now you are an average Level 1 defender. If you want to get more playing time you need to be a good to great Level 2 defender. If you want to play in the close games, or in the big games, then you need to get to Level 3.” Your player now knows exactly where he needs to improve and shoulders the responsibility of strengthening those required skills.

The exact same concept applies to scouting your opponents. For example, after watching these DVD’s and classifying your upcoming opponent as a team of Level 2’s then you will know exactly what it takes to exploit their defensive weaknesses! On the other hand if you can develop several Level 3 defenders and a couple Level 4 defenders then you are going to win a lot more games!

One of the best segments takes place when two coaches from the Point Guard College (an extremely well known and extremely expensive camp that emphasizes both physical and mental training for perimeter players) breaks down and teaches how to take a charge in minute detail. Players are taught the proper way to take charges both on and off the ball and three specific instructions are included to insure the defender’s safety. Lots of coaches run “off the ball” charge drills but how many break down the techniques used in taking “on ball” charges?

While there are dozens of drills introduced and demonstrated to help develop the required skills in each level, these are not primarily “drills” DVDs. Instead they provide a framework that coaches and players alike can use to set and reach specific, measurable goals which undoubtedly will improve everyone involved.

I took over 15 pages of notes, many of which will be turned into player handouts so they can be referred to over and over again. If you are interested in playing better basketball, then Better Basketball’s Dynamic Defense is a must have!

If you’re interested in checking out these DVDs then click here to get the full rundown.

Overloads Can Improve Both Offensive and Defensive Transition

Overload TransitionThere is a point in every transition situation where one team has at least a slight advantage over its opponent.

The offensive teams that can capitalize on those advantages on a consistent basis and the defensive teams that can “weather the storm” until help arrives will usually put themselves in a much better position to win the game.

To work on these crucial situations try using “overload” scenarios to create game like competitions

Assign 3 players to start on offense and place 2 players on defense at one end of the court and 2 players on defense at the other end.

If the offense scores at one end they immediately inbound the ball and attack the defenders at the opposite end.

If the defense gets a steal or rebound they outlet the ball back to the offense who turns and attacks in the opposite direction.

Have the same group continue going back and forth on offense for a predetermined amount of time or until they score a set number of points.

To add variation, use the following combinations:

  1. 3 offense, 3 defense, 2 defense
  2. 4 offense, 3 defense, 3 defense
  3. 4 offense, 4 offense, 3 defense
  4. 5 offense, 4 defense, 4 defense
  5. 5 offense, 4 defense, 5 defense
  6. 5 offense, 4 defense, 3 defense



Stanford Defensive Fundamentals

Stanford Basketball DefenseBy any standard Tara VanDerveer is one of the greatest coaches of all time.

Her teams have won 2 National Championships, 22 Pac 10/12 Championships, have been in 12 Final Fours and have made 26 straight NCAA Tournament appearances.

She also coaches the US Olympic team to a gold medal in the 1996 Summer Olympics.

The following fundamental information comes straight from the official camper notebook that is distributed at the Tara VanDerveer Stanford Basketball Camp:


  1. Assume a semi crouched position with your knees flexed.
  2. Good weight distribution creates good balance.
  3. Be comfortable.
  4. Head up – you must be able to see all the action on the court. Eyes off the floor.
  5. When moving on defense , try to slide by taking short, choppy steps. Keep your feet shoulder width even while sliding and never cross your feet.
  6. Never take your eyes off your player and the ball. You will have to use your peripheral vision, but know where your player is in relation to the ball at all times.

Defending a Player with the Ball

  1. Get down in your stance and stay between your player and the basket.
  2. Look at the central portion of the offensive player’s body, as this will give you better concentration. This will also help prevent the offensive player from faking you out of position with a head or ball fake.
  3. Hold your hands just above the waist with your palms up while your opponent has the ball.
  4. Arms must be up once your opponent is ready to pass or shoot. This will limit the offensive player’s vision and make the shot or pass more difficult.
  5. Try to keep your hands active in order to deflect a pass or dribble.

Defending a Player without the Ball

  1. Maintain a good defensive stance. Play far enough away from your player to help your teammates if required, but still be in a position to contain your own player should she get the ball.
  2. Your body position will allow you to see your player and the player with the ball without turning  your head. (peripheral vision)
  3. When the shot is taken your final defensive responsibility is to block out your player and go get the rebound.


What Do You Do When a Player Gets 2 Fouls?

Two Early FoulsWith the NCAA’s renewed emphasis on “freedom of movement” officials are being told to crack down on all contact that essentially prohibits a player from attacking the rim.

The result is going to be a huge increase in the number of fouls called, especially in the preseason until coaches and players learn to adjust. (In a recent University of Portland exhibition game there were over 60 fouls called.)

Teams everywhere will need to play more pack line or soft man to man or will be forced to go into a zone defense as more players than ever before will be in foul trouble.

How do you handle players in foul trouble?

Do you sit a player in the first half once he gets two fouls or do you wait until he gets three?

This is what current SMU coach Larry Brown (the only coach to win both an NBA and NCAA Championship) has to say about the subject: “If a guy has two fouls and we’re still in the game, I’d be real careful and probably wouldn’t play him much. But if we’re about to get blown out and he’s our best player, he’s going to be playing. You don’t want to lose the game in the first half with your best player on the bench.”

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Run a Flawless Zone Defense

zone-defense-guideIf you’re a high school coach there are 4 things you can do to virtually guarantee you’ll have a successful preseason. One of those 4 things is to play zone defense.

Why? Because with limited preparation time the vast majority of coaches choose to work on their man to man defense and man to man offense before even thinking about how to attack a zone. Therefore, teams are often unprepared in the early stages of the season to properly exploit a zone defense.

They will be much better at it by the time league play rolls around but springing a zone on an opponent is a great way to get a couple more preseason wins and build your team’s confidence.

If you’re thinking about playing a zone this coming season you might want to check out HoopSkills’ Complete Guide to the Ultimate 2-3 Zone Defense.

It was written by a current NCAA Division I coach for high school, middle school, and youth coaches. You don’t have to have D1 talent to run effectively run this defense. Look, if you’re going to play a zone you might as well run it correctly!

Check it out in the HoopSkills store now.

LSU Defensive Principles Part 2

Once we have our defense set properly, we want to make sure that we are anticipating situations that need help. We want our help to come early. We don’t want to have to help once the ball is in the paint, rather before it gets to the paint. We don’t think we can help too early, but we certainly can help too late. Another reminder in regards to our help is that recovery is just as important. Help without recovery lessens the effectiveness of the defensive possession.


Because of the way we play defensively, we will often force the offense to skip the basketball or pass the ball in such a way that forces our helpside to rotate to ballside. How we closeout will be critically important in our ability to contest shots on shooters as well as how we take away penetration against the drivers. Know who you are closing out on and defend accordingly.


The worst thing we can do defensively is to put together a tremendous possession and not finalize it with a good blockout and rebound of the basketball. Treat each possession like a “work week” and the basketball is your “paycheck.” Make contact, maintain contact, find the basketball, and go rebound the basketball.


It is vitally important that we do all the previous mentioned steps without fouling. There are three things that we don’t want to give up on defense. One is an open shot by a good shooter. We take this away by putting our hand on the ball when it is shot. The second is to not allow an uncontested lay-up (we will talk about this in #12). And finally, we don’t want to bail out the offense and let them get to the free throw line for easy points.


In the proper outlining of our defense, this should be listed first. Before we can play outstanding half-court defense, we must first sprint back and take away easy opportunities from our opponent when they fast break. We must stop the basketball first and make sure we don’t allow any open lay-ups. Next we should make sure that all good shooters are not allowed an uncontested shot. The goal of our transition defense is to force the opponent to play against our half court defense.


We will rely heavily on scouting to take our opponent’s out of their offense. It is important for our players to know what our point of emphasis is defensively and for them to understand who they are defending individually.Scouting has been tremendously important to our defensive success and will continue to be.

The above post was originally written by Coach Bob Starkey while he was coaching at Louisiana State University

LSU Defensive Principles Part 1

Defensive Principles1. STOP THE BASKETBALL
This is the overriding principle of our defense. Everything that we do in our defense is designed to stop the basketball. The way we defend the basketball, the way we contest the passing lanes, the way we deny the low post, the way we play helpside, the way we defend cuts, the way we jump to the ball — all designed with the thought of stopping the basketball.

Pressuring the basketball in the proper manner effects so much of what we do defensively. It allows us to overplay the passing lane as well as extend our help. We want to constantly influence the basketball away from the basket. When it is up top, we want to influence it to the sideline. When it is on the sideline, we want to influence it to the corner or back towards the jump circle. We ALWAYS want our hand on the ball. Regardless of whether it is before the dribble, during the dribble, or after the dribble has been picked up. If the ball is passed, we want a hand on the ball. If the ball is shot, we want a hand on the ball.

This is a critical part of our defensive philosophy. Anytime the ball is passed, we should have five players jumping to the ball. More importantly, they must be jumping on the airtime of the pass. In other words, we want to begin our movement the instant the ball leaves the passers hand. Too often, a defensive player or team, moves after the receiver has caught the ball — that’s not quick enough.

Games are won down on the block. We must be a good low post defending team if we are to be successful. When the ball is above the free throw line extended, we want to 3/4 the low post with our lead foot in the passing lane. When the ball is below the free throw line extended, we want to front the low post. Unless our scouting report says differently, we don’t want to allow any low post touches.

We believe this is simply the most dangerous place on the court for the basketball to be. Not only is it in the middle of the court where we cannot establish helpside and ballside principles, but it is close enough to the basket to be shot or driven. Defensively we must be able to anticipate the post flash and contest the pass to the high post. We should have a foot in the passing lane and contest with such vigor that we force the high post player to cut backdoor or extend her cut well beyond the high post area.

It is our helpside that makes our defense strong. This does not mean that we want to play in such a way that we are constantly relying on our helpside. In fact, the use of our helpside means that some form of our defense has broken down. The key to helpside is to take away offensive spacing for our opponent. Our opponent should constantly be looking at 3 (offensive players) vs. 5 (defensive players) situation if we are stationed properly. If the ball is above the motion line, we want the helpside defensive player to have 1 foot in the paint forming a triangle with herself, the ball, and the player she is defending. If the ball is below the motion line, we want the helpside defensive player to have 2 feet in the paint, again forming a triangle.

The above post was originally written by Coach Bob Starkey while he was at Louisiana State University


Two Important Questions About Your Defensive Philosophy

Defensive Philosophy While official practice is still several weeks away, coaches everywhere are busy refining their philosophies, prioritizing objectives, and finding ways to improve their teaching techniques.

I’ve found that a good place to start when it comes to establishing a defensive philosophy is to ask yourself two simple questions.

1.  What is our identity?

At first glance it doesn’t really matter what you determine to be your team’s defensive identity as long as you have one that everyone in your program can completely buy into. Full court pressure? Stifling half court man to man? Extended or trapping zone? Switching back and forth? Regardless of what it is, you need something that shouts “This is who we are!”

2.  What are we willing to live with?

Unfortunately, it’s nearly impossible to totally  shut out every offensive tactic. If you are going to always collapse on the post you run the risk of giving up a three pointer. If you press full court you are going to give up more layups than if you race back and protect the basket. Every defensive tactic has its pros and cons and it is up to you to decide if their strengths outweigh their weaknesses when used by your personnel.

One you determine your team’s defensive identity and then decide exactly what you are willing to live with, you can then proceed to organize all the specifics details and teaching points.


7 Simple Steps to Great Individual Defense

7 steps to great individual defense

  1. Eliminate offensive transition, especially all layups and uncontested 3’s. Slow the ball down if that is your responsibility and if not then SPRINT back.
  2. Pressure the ball without fouling or allowing dribble penetration. Strive for deflections on the ball and steals when off the ball.
  3. Any time the offense shows you the ball, grab it with two hands and either get a steal or create a jump ball situation.
  4. Take your man out of his comfort zone – deny him the ball the ball and limit his touches, make him use his weak hand, don’t let him use his go to move.
  5. Never let the ball enter the paint whether it’s by the pass or by the dribble.
  6. Get the proper hand up and contest every single shot. (Having your right hand over a shooter’s left shoulder does absolutely no good if the shooter is right handed!)
  7. Screen out and aggressively pursuit the ball. The possession isn’t over until you have the ball!