When an open opponent has the ball, the defender must close out (run out), typically over a distance of 12 to 30 feet (4 to 9 m), to contest the shot. The key here is control. The defender should sprint for about three-quarters of the distance (figure 7.12a) and then drop, bend down, and take short, choppy steps (figure 7.12b), making sure to be well balanced with the arms up when approaching the ball handler (figure 7.12c). The defender must avoid taking the ball fake and jumping off the floor, which permits the ball handler to blow by and get to the basket.
Because our goal is to prevent the middle drive, we must add another element. The defender must execute the close-out technique in a way to get the angle that forces the ball handler baseline. The concern is not to block the shot but to be under complete control and give the offensive player only one option—to drive the ball baseline, where help is waiting. Here we begin working on the team concept by building in a weak-side baseline rotation. This player is in a sink-and-fill support position, looking to protect the basket and rebound weak side.
In general, the following drills are a solid way to reinforce the four Cs of individual defense. These four factors come into play each time the defender guards the player with the ball. When a defender moves out on the floor to challenge an opponent with the ball, the following is the proper sequencing:
- Close out under control.
- Contain by staying in front of dribbler.
- Contest by getting the hand on the ball side up.
- Clear the rebound aggressively.
Closing out so that no middle penetration occurs.
Players begin on the half court. Split the team into two even groups. Begin with the understanding that the offensive player has the advantage because the defensive player is going to close out to the high side. Relative distance, speed, and size put the responsibility of getting to the offensive player in time to contest a shot squarely on the defender. Follow these steps:
- To start the drill, a coach can pass the ball to O. Alternatively, X, starting under the net, can speed roll the ball to O.
- X begins in an all-out sprint and then slows down for control, balance, and proper close-out angle.
- X should get to O in time to contest (not block) a jump shot, be down and under control to prevent a middle drive, and in proper position to force a baseline drive (figure 7.13). X is not giving up the baseline but rather is driving O with pressure.
Players rotate offense to defense, defense to offense. The objective of the drill is to teach the defender how to get the correct angle and force a baseline drive. Coaches must constantly emphasize good footwork. As players learn to close out properly, adding a come-from-behind, shot-blocking feature enhances the drill.
Close, Contain, and Contest
No-middle emphasis for close-out, contest, and contain techniques.
Players begin three-on-three. Follow these steps:
- A coach begins the drill by passing to O2. X2 yells loudly, “I’ve got ball!” while rotating to close out and force O2 baseline.
- X4, defending low on the weak side, must read, anticipate, and yell (so that all can hear), “I’ve got baseline!” X4 then sprints across the free-throw lane, clearing it, and establishes position with both feet on the opposite block. X4’s call tells X2 that he has support. X4 looks to double-team the driver, block a shot attempt, or get the charge.
- X3, defending at the top of the key, sees the drive and then yells, “Basket!” while sinking and filling, telling everyone that the basket is protected (figure 7.14). If O2 shoots a quick baseline shot, X3 must zone up and go for the weak-side rebound.
- The drill continues until the offense scores, the defense steals the ball or captures the rebound, or the ball goes out of bounds. On defensive fouls, the offense retains the ball and repeats the drill. On offensive fouls, teams exchange positions.
Defenders rotate and play all three positions. After they’ve completed the cycle, another group of three steps in. The emphasis in this drill is on technique, spacing, communication, weak-side rotations, basket-protection responsibility, and weak-side rebounding.