This article was written by University of Tennessee Martin assistant men's basketball coach Jermaine Johnson. Before joining the Skyhawks coach Johnson coached at Georgia Southern University. However, Jermaine is most well known for coaching the Melrose High School boy's basketball team and developing them into a top 25 team in his 5 years as a coach there. He is an up and coming college coach with a history of winning.
Over the past several years our program has begun to notice that most offense actions include only two or three offensive players in any play. We believe, however, that five committed defensive players can beat two or three offensive players consistently, if you are willing to work together as a team.
The second major concept of our philosophy as a team is to take all the guess work out of our defense. That is, we dictate where we will allow the offense to go, and then try to take the offensive movement away.
Third, we work at being in better condition than our opponents. Our players are made to believe that they are in better shape both mentally and physically than our opponents.
Fourth, defense starts on offense. Our players will not be careless ball handlers on offense, and we will do an adequate job defending against any stolen pass.
In this article I am going to share with you some keys to a great team defense, which will hopefully help you with improving your teams defense! Here are the four areas that will be covered.
- Defensive Philosophy
- Defensive Goals
- Rules for Defense
- Implementing a Defensive System in Practice
I am a firm believer that defense truly puts your team in a position to win games and eventually championships. From your defense you can do a number of positive things such as:
- Team work—everyone must do his job.
- Create offense from your defense.
- Make every offense trip a tough trip.
- Every player must give 100% effort ALL of the time.
Defensive Must Haves
- 1. 5 ON DEFENSE VS THE BALL!
- 2. PLAY THE BALL AND SEE YOUR MAN.
- 3. CONSTANT BALL PRESSURE (PRESSURE/FORCE/CONTAIN)
- 4. PACK IT IN TO PREVENT PENETRATING DRIVES, CUTTERS, PASSES AND REBOUNDING.
- 5. FORCE EVERYTHING BELOW THE FOUL LINE TO THE MIDDLE.
- 6. FORCE EVERYTHING ABOVE THE FOULINE TO THE OUTSIDE.
- 7. MOVE AS THE BALL MOVES. ROTATE IN ALL HELP SITUATIONS
- 8. SHRINK TO THE BALL MENTALITY (ON THE FLOOR OR ON THE GROUND)
- 9. ALL DEFENSIVE STOPS END WITH A DEFENSIVE REBOUND.
Your goals are measuring tools to help motivate your team. The team should always be striving to reach the teams defensive goals. These goals should be adjustable as the season progresses. The goals must must also be adjusted in accordance to the game plan that will be implemented for each game.
Your defensive goals should be visible for the team to see. Coaches should chart the goals as statistics and talk about them at the right moments during the course of a game or practice.
Example of Team Defensive Goals:
- 1. Hold opponent to 50 points or less
- 2. Hold opponents to 40% or less from 2pt fg%
- 3. Hold opponents to 30% or less from 3 pt. fg%
- 4. Limit opponents Free Throw attempts to 10 or less per game
- 5. Avg. 25-30 Deflections per game
- 6. Avg. 8-10 Steals per game
- 7. Take 6 charges per game
- 8. NO TRANSITION BASKETS
- 9. Hold opponents to 20 dribble paint touches per game
- 10. Out Rebound and commit fewer fouls than the other team.
The first principle in teaching this defense is to Divide the court into HELP-SIDE AND BALL SIDE:
Ball Side Rules
- Always keep pressure on the ball
- Make it tough to make a penetrating pass.
- Help and Rotate
- When your man passes the ball, jump to the ball
- The further your man is from the ball, the further you play from your man.
- When your man is above the foul line, you are one step off the line of your man and the ball, and one step to the man side.
- Front every cutter going to the basket
The second principle is to divide the court into post responsibilities and guard responsibilities:
Basically, this is why we switch the guard to forward cross. We always want the big men where they are more effective. They are better rebounders, better defensively under the basket, and better at defending the forward and post area.
On the other hand, the guards/wings do a better job defending out away from the basket, and they cover more area quicker. We only switch on crosses, or when the post players are close enough to verbally switch effectively.
Drills to Teach
Playing Angry Defensive Series
- post defense
- gap position
- High hip close outs
- 1 on 1 sideline alleys
- 1 offensive player vs. 2 defenders (working on trapping)
- 4 offensive players vs. 3 defenders (working on rotations)
- 5 offensive players vs. 4 defenders
- 6 offensive players vs. 5 defenders
Close out Drills - John Cheney Series:
- Basic slides
- High/Low cross closeouts
- High/Low cross closeouts with dribble
- High/Low cross closeouts with post feeds.
In all of these drills, we are working on:
- Sprinting to the ball
- Rotations-Drawing the charge
- Building swagger and trust in our team defense
Recommended: Defensive Basketball Drills
Implementing a Defensive System in Practice:
- I teach using the WHOLE/PART/WHOLE Method.
- Practices are broken down into 8 - 10 minute blocks
- I use the station format as often as I can, depending on the number of assistant coaches that are at practice.
Must have pressure on the man with the ball. The first consideration of every player is to stop the ball with gap protection and rotation principle. Each player must feel a deep responsibility to do everything possible to keep the other team from scoring. This is the team defense principle. The return will come in the form of more wins and DEFINITELY championships. DEFEND TO WIN!