Possibly the toughest position to be in defensively is having to defend the ball in a 1-on-1 situation. More and more teams are using the dribble to create offense. You do need to have good helpside defense but the best initial line of defense for this is to develop a solid foundation of individual defensive fundamentals.
1-on-1 defense should be a part of every practice and the following must be stressed as part of the defensive stance:
The defensive stance should be a comfortable stance that allows you to move freely and easily. The body weight should be well distributed with the center of gravity lowered. Good mobility is essential to good defense, therefore the stance must allow you to move quickly in any direction and to stop and start quickly without any loss of balance.
The head should be up with eyes looking at the dribbler’s belt buckle/midsection. By looking at the midsection, you will be less likely to fall for various head and shoulder fakes. Peripheral vision, however, must be maintained so you stay aware of what is going on around you.
The back should be straight. You needn’t be bolt upright so you can’t move, but good posture allows for maximum effort.
The arms are primarily used for balance. Secondarily, they are used for deflecting passes, blocking shots, and stealing the basketball. Therefore, the arms should be kept out and low when the ballhandler has a dribble or is on the move. Once the offensive player picks up his dribble or is preparing to shoot or pass, the forward arm should be raised to the ball while the back arm stays low and extended. The forward arm is always the one on the side of the forward foot.
The legs should be about shoulder-width apart with the knees slightly flexed. The lead foot should be about 12-18 inches ahead of the trail foot. The lead foot will also generally be the foot closest to the center of the court (this automatically forces the ballhandler toward the sideline and out of the middle). The weight should be evenly distributed on both feet; however, there are a couple of exceptions to this. 1) When guarding a player that likes to penetrate, keep more weight on the back foot; and 2) when guarding a shooter who doesn’t drive particularly well, keep more weight to the front when he has the ball.
Simple Drills to teach 1-on-1 Defensive Fundamentals
Hands Behind the Back:
Start at midcourt – One offensive player with a ball and one defensive player. Have the defender place his hands behind his back. The offensive player attempts to beat the defender and get a layup. The defender should not use his hands as this is excellent practice for defensive footwork.
Again, start at midcourt like the previous drill. In this drill, the defender may use his arms but must evade the five or six cones that have been placed on the court. This gives practice in peripheral vision, feeling for screens, and staying low.
1-on-1 From Positions:
Have the guards, forwards, and centers go their positions on the court and play 1-on-1.
1-on-1 Full Court:
Play 1-on-1 full court. This is a good drill for footwork and conditioning. Have the ‘winner’ drop out and get back in line while the ‘loser’ defends the next player.
These are just a few simple drills to help teach and develop 1-on-1 defensive fundamentals. Be sure to check out all of the other Individual Defense Drills here at the Hoops U. Basketball Coaching Academy.
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