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Developing a Defensive Philosophy

We are getting closer to the “Official” start of basketball season.  Anything within the “T-Minus 30 days” and counting is good enough for me.  Let’s start talking X’s & O’s.

Attending the Nike Championship Basketball Clinic today has me really thinking of basketball philosophy. It’s so important to develop your basketball philosophy.

I believe you must always start with defense. With the talent and skill of the players you will need to choose a defensive identity, which will give your players purpose for what they are doing.  Defense involves sacrifices.  The sooner you start building the habits your players will need to compete within your defensive philosophy the better.  Hopefully you did that during preseason workouts.

Two Defensive Keys:

1. What is our identity?
It doesn’t matter what it is necessarily, it just matters that you have one that
you firmly believe in and one that you can teach to your staff and players and have them believe in.

“What do we want to be about?” More than just Man or Zone.

You have to ask yourself that question.  You, your staff and your players have to be on the same page and buy into this philosophy.

2. What are we willing to live with?
Every defense has a fallback. Do you want to pressure the length of the court?  Great.  If so, you have to accept that you will give up some easy layups.

Do you want to double-team the post?  If so, you have to accept that you will give up some un-contested jump shots.

Are you willing to do that?  Is that OK?
Do you have non-negotiables in our program?:

What thing or things are not up for negotiation on any level?

Mine are:

1. Don’t give up middle
2. Control the defensive back board

Those two things are, in some part, controllable with technique, foot work and effort.  Tracking your defensive rebounding percentage is key to helping players set goals and reinforcing your teaching of technique, foot work and effort.

Defensive rebounding percentage (DRP) = Your defensive rebounds / Your defensive rebounds + Your Opponents Offensive Rebounds.

eg: 30 (Your Defensive Rebs)  /  30 + 7 (Opponents Offensive Rebounds)

30/ 37 = 81%    A good game goal for DRP (Defensive Rebound Percentage) is 75%.

How do you measure yourself defensively?

Stops?, Deflections? Turnovers?  Whatever it is, chart it and hold players accountable to it.  Charting is great, but if you don’t do anything with it, it’s a waste of time.

I love deflections, charges taken and missed box outs.  Anytime you get a hand on the ball in any way counts as a deflection. I believe you need 40 a game as a goal.  I want these things charted and displayed in the locker room (with other items as well.)  Charting and displaying makes the goals real, personal and teammates see and talk about them.  I like them in the team meeting room so there is a sense of pride with each team member.  It also, when the result is not as good, is a sense of motivation to “get my name on the board.”

Other Defensive Thoughts:

– Teach a “center of the body” approach.  Knowing which hand a player goes to best is the start.  If the player is right hand dominant, teach putting your right foot in the center of their body to take away a quick “rip-and-go”.  (Left foot for left handed players.)  Players will go to their dominant hand nearly 75% of the time.  This takes time, repetition and drill work in the shell.

– Don’t believe there is an original idea left in basketball. Every scheme or thought is stolen or modified.  Opponents will be ready for what you do.  You aren’t a genius, none of us invented the game.  All of us steal everything and adapt it into our philosophy.

– Define how you teach.  Grad school taught me there are many ways in which players learn.  Seeing.  Reading/Writing.  Doing.   Address all these modalities.  Video, mimicking, playbooks, scouting reports, drill work, live 5 on 5.

– Are you a “Whole-Part-Whole” instructor?  Do you prefer to teach all in “Live” situations.  Know that.  Stay with it and help your players develop a consistency in how you teach.

– Address ball pressure.  You want it or you don’t.  Where will it begin: full, 3/4 or half-court.

– Establish rules for defensive transition.  Sprinting to the level of the ball.  A “numbered” defensive transition (like a numbered offensive break) and/or sprint to the paint and fill out.  Whatever it is, discuss it – show your staff how you want it taught.

– With that.  Get on the same page with your terminology.  No terminology is right, wrong or better… it’s just different.  Your staff will appreciate you having them “clued in” on how, what and why you teach certain things and what you call it.  Be receptive to change.

– Every drill, everything defensively has to be loud. There needs to be a talking aspect to everything you do.

– You must be aggressive defensively. That doesn’t mean reach and gamble, but you have to allow players the freedom to try to make plays in your system without looking over their shoulder.  Fouls happen, deal with it.

– Best way to slow offensive movement is to have active hands.  Teach your players to use their hands as weapons.

– If you’re going to pressure and trap, you CANNOT give up straight line passes. The lofted or tipped pass gives your defense time to recover.

– When trapping, don’t reach, but be physical with your lower body. Allowing opponents to split traps kills your defense and ALWAYS teach sprinting out of traps. The best trap accomplishes little if we walk out of it and the offense can do whatever they want.

– Use 1-on-1 drills in defensive teaching situations.  It instills toughness and it forces players to find a way to get stops, there’s no hiding in a 1-on-1 situation.

Love “Roll the Ball” drill for time and stops.  Email me, I’ll send it to you.

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