The article was written by Ben Thompson who is an assistant men’s basketball coach at UNC Pembroke. Ben has previously held coaching staff positions with Saint Leo University, Virginia Tech, and UNC Greensboro. Ben graduated from Virginia Tech with both a Bachelor’s and Master’s degree. Coach Thompson continues to develop as a coach and is continuing to turn heads in the college basketball world.
In basketball coaching, we hear the term foundation a lot. We know what foundation means, but many times it is just a word, not something we embrace. Webster’s defines foundation as the basis or ground work that anything stands on or is supported by.
In religion we hear about pillars, cornerstones, & tenants. These are all building blocks upon what people believe. My question for you, is what do you believe and what is your defensive foundation?
For this article, I’m going to give you my personal beliefs for building team defense. Many of you may feel the same way or you may have your own thoughts.
We all know that different words have different meanings. However, numbers do as well. For instance, the number seven means perfection or completion. In my mind, a perfect or a complete defense, has seven elements.
- Ball Pressure/Fronting in the Post
- Help & Helping in a Stance
- Protect the Paint
- Closeout & Contest
- Block Out
These elements are in a specific order. I believe that everything starts with communication. You can do everything right on the defensive end of the floor, but if you do not communicate, there is very little chance of success.
Proper stances and stance work are lost in today’s game. Too many times, we see players standing straight up or not being in a proper stance to play the game. Basketball is played low to high; low man always has the advantage.
Ball Pressure is key. I've worked for several coaches, but one had a quote that stated “the ball can’t make a pass it can’t see”. He is right, if you are pressuring the ball/tracing, an offensive player becomes uncomfortable and may even turn their back to the play. When this occurs, the offense stymies. Ball Pressure is also a big key to defending the post. If you have ball pressure, good backside help, and a post player that works to front, you can defend the post more effectively.
We all talk about help defense, but helping in a stance gives you a greater chance of success. If you are low and ready, you can help cut off the attacking offensive player, as well as recover to your man.
Suggested Drills: 1 on 1 Help Side Wing Closeout Drill
Protecting the Paint
Protecting the paint is crucial to team defense. It is the “NO FLY ZONE”. Protecting the paint has to be a focal point of your defense. Once the ball gets to the paint, breakdowns occur easier and your defense is in scramble mode.
Closeout and Contest
Too many players fly at the ball on closeouts. To be a really good defensive team, your players have to buy-in to closing out with a hand above the ball and being on balance.
Finish the possession. There are several ways to teach blocking out, many are effective. However, rebounding is an effort part of the game, if your team is more determined to block out than the offense is to crashing the boards, you win the battle. Every rebound is a 50/50 ball, usually the ones who want it the most are the ones who get it.
These are my seven foundations of team defense and what I believe make a complete and perfect defense. Strategy is going to change on how you guard different actions and the amount of pressure that you apply, but with these seven principles you can set your team up to be a great defense.