A defender must be able to move quickly in any direction while maintaining balance. To do this, a defensive player must be in a well-balanced defensive stance that allows the player to move quickly, change direction, jump, and stop under control.
In this defensive stance, the player’s feet should be positioned slightly wider than shoulder-width apart and should be staggered, with one foot in front of the other. The front foot, sometimes called the lead foot, should be positioned outside the opponent, and the back foot should be positioned in line with the middle of the opponent’s body. This allows the defensive player to be in control of dictating the direction the offensive player will move. Additionally, when positioned in the defensive stance, the player should bend the knees and keep the weight evenly distributed on the balls of the feet. The player’s back should be kept straight, and the head should be positioned over the support base, slightly behind the knees and over the waist. Additionally, defenders should strive to always keep their eyes focused on the opponent’s midsection so that they don’t react incorrectly to a head or ball fake by the opponent.
Hand positioning is important for a defender. The hands can be used to pressure an opponent in a closely guarded situation, or they can be used to deter and deflect passes. It becomes much more difficult for an offensive player to see an open teammate when the defender’s hands are up and active. Your players can use three basic hand positions to their advantage when playing defense:
1. To pressure the shooter, the defender should keep one hand up (the hand on the side of the lead foot) to defend against a shot. The other hand should be held to the side to guard against a pass.
2. To pressure the dribbler, the defender should keep the lead hand at waist level with the palm up. The defender can then flick at the ball with the hand that is closest to the ball. The trail or back hand should always be near the back shoulder of the defender, moving back and forth like a windshield wiper to cover the passing lane by the head.
3. To pressure the passer, the defender should keep both hands up above the shoulders, making it difficult for the offensive player to make an effective pass. Ideally, this will force the offensive player to use a lob or bounce pass, which can be intercepted more easily. The defender will also be in a good position to block shots because the hands are already up. Defenders should be careful not to spread the hands too far apart because this may cause them to lose balance.
When moving to take away an offensive player’s move, defensive players should use a step-slide motion, commonly referred to as the push step. Defenders should take very short, quick steps; the first step is crucial because if the defender is late with the first step, the offensive player will gain an advantage. From the balanced stance, the defensive player should take a short first step with the nearest—or lead—foot while shifting weight in the direction the offensive player is going (in an effort to stop the opponent). The defender uses the trail foot to push the weight to the lead foot and then performs a pulling slide step to regain basic position. For example, when moving to the right, the defender shifts the weight to the right and takes a step in that direction with the right foot, keeping the feet wide and moving in straight lines at all times. Defenders should use the floor to their advantage, pushing off the floor with the opposite foot as they step.
This is an excerpt from Coaching Basketball Technical and Tactical Skills.