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Defending the Post

This is an excerpt from Survival Guide for Coaching Youth Basketball 2nd Edition by Keith Miniscalco & Greg Kot.

Teaching young players how to defend a player who wants the basketball in close to the basket is another challenge. It requires defenders to get even more up close and personal with their opponents. Remember the old Olivia Newton-John song "Physical," as in "Let's get physical"? Get that boombox ready, Coach, because that song should be the soundtrack for this drill.

Most post players position themselves in the low post, just above the low block and outside the lane (to avoid a three-second violation). If they position themselves at the free-throw line elbow, this is the high post. A post player positioned in between is in the mid-post area.

At the younger age levels, mid-post and high-post defense can be accomplished using the close-out technique described earlier in this chapter. Doing so prevents the post player from being able to dribble to the basket for a layup. If the post player dribbles and then picks up the dribble, the defender should "belly up" to make a shot or pass difficult. Defending the player who sets up with back turned to the basket to receive an entry pass in the low post requires defenders to know how to handle the following situations.

  • Entry pass to the post. A defender can deny the entry pass to the post by extending the arm closest to the ball into the passing lane, thumb down, and creating an arm bar with the opposite arm to lean against the post player (see figure 4.7). To make the entry pass even more difficult, the defender also can step into the passing lane with the foot closest to the ball. This defensive tactic will be used when the basketball is being entered from the point or wing area of the court.

Defender denying an entry pass to the low post.

Defender denying an entry pass to the low post.

  • Pass to the corner. If the ball is passed to the corner, the defender must "step through" and then deny the pass. A step-through is a two-step footwork sequence. The defender steps through the passing lane in front of the post player (see figure 4.8a), then turns 180 degrees and denies the entry pass (figure 4.8b). The defender is in position to block or intercept any pass to the corner and to discourage a drive from the baseline. When the basketball is passed back to the wing or to the point, the defender must step back in to deny the defensive stance, with the body between the offensive player and the basket and outside hand extended into the passing lane.

(a) Steps through the passing lane

(b) Turns 180 degrees to deny the pass

When denying a pass from the corner, a defender (a) steps through the passing lane and (b) then turns 180 degrees to deny the pass.

  • Size advantage. To defend a player with a size advantage in the low post, a defender can "front" the post (see figure 4.9). The defensive player stands in front of the low-post player to prevent other players from being able to enter a bounce or chest pass into the low post. Fronting the post requires balance and footwork because the defender cannot see the post player. But it forces the offense to attempt a risky lob pass to get the ball to the post. If the offense attempts the lob, the post defender must have help from a weak-side defender to "sandwich" the low-post player.

Defender fronting a low post with a size advantage.

Defender fronting a low post with a size advantage.

Drill 1 Ready, Set, Defense


Equipment None

Purpose This drill reinforces the proper stance needed for good defensive play.

Procedure Players form a circle (or line up on the length of one sideline) and maintain the proper defensive stance position for several short time sequences. Make a little game out of this drill to see who can hold the best defensive stance the longest. Coach shouts, "Ready, set, defense!" Players assume the stance and hold it for as long as possible or until Coach blows the whistle. The player who holds it the longest or exhibits the best form then gets a turn to shout, "Ready, set, defense!" for the next round.

Coaching Points Defenders should bend knees slightly and get butts down. They need to stay low for quick lateral movement. Make sure arms are spread wide, elbows slightly bent. Players should not stand up or straighten knees while holding the stance.

Drill 1 Ready, Set, Defense

Drill 9 Cut the Cutter


Equipment Basketball

Purpose This drill helps defenders practice disrupting offensive cutters to prevent the offense from creating easy baskets in the lane.

Procedure Start with one offensive player at the point with a ball and another offensive player at the wing. On the opposite wing, create a line of offensive players outside the three-point line. One defensive player lines up in deny position to defend the first wing player. The point and the opposite wing player are not defended.

The point passes to the unguarded wing player. On the pass, the defensive player jumps to the ball and arrives with an open stance at the help line in the middle of the lane. The defender's outside arm (closest to the ball) goes up to deny the pass to the cutter, and the defender's opposite arm (closest to the cutter) creates an arm bar to prevent the cut. Walk through this part of the drill so that players develop the proper technique and position. After the defender jumps to the ball, rotate players: The player in the cutter line moves to defense, the defender moves to the unguarded wing, the wing moves to the point, and the point moves to the back of the cutter line.

When players are ready, begin working on cutting the cutter. After the point passes to the unguarded wing, the weak-side cutter tries to cut over the top of the defensive player to get in position for a pass from the wing. The defensive player puts up an arm bar and forces the cutter to move away from the free-throw lane area.

Drill 9 Cut the Cutter

Coaching Points Defenders should stay low and balanced and get an arm bar up. Body contact between defender and cutter is a must. Encourage the players to get physical but to avoid swinging an elbow that could hurt the cutter. Tell the players to think of the arm bar as a wall, not a weapon.

Drill 10 Shell


Equipment Basketball

Purpose This drill reinforces the concepts of jumping to the ball, moving to the help line, closing out, putting a hand in the passing lane, and staying open to the ball.

Procedure Begin with four defensive players: two on opposite low blocks and two at opposite elbows. These positions are the "home" position for the defenders. Five offensive players start around the perimeter: one at point, two on opposite wings, and two in opposite corners. The point guard's job is to rotate the ball to the opposite side of the court, so for this drill, the point guard should not be covered by a defender.

When the ball is at the point, the defensive players are in their "home" position (see a). On a pass from the point to the wing, the defenders should move on the flight of the ball to coverage areas (see b). The defender closest to the wing should close out. The defender closest to the strong-side corner player should move to deny a pass to the corner. Defenders at the weak-side elbow and weak-side low block must move to the help line. On a pass from the wing to the strong-side corner, the defenders should move on the flight of ball (see c). The strong-side corner defender closes out. The strong-side wing defender denies a return pass to the wing. The weak-side defenders slide to the help line.

Start slowly by passing the basketball from point to wing to corner around the perimeter. Don't allow any skip passing across the court yet. Give the players a chance to react to the basketball. Defenders need to understand that they must adjust their physical relationship to their man and to the ball with every pass. Each time the ball moves, they need to move - and fast. When defenders jump to the ball, the offense will find it that much harder to penetrate the defense and score easy baskets. Defenders should be communicating. If on the ball: Ball! If in deny: Deny! If in help defense: Help!

For beginners, the offensive players should pause for a few counts before making the next pass. As players learn the drill, increase the speed. Once players learn to quickly adjust to the ball movement, allow skip passing to all points of the floor. Skip passing will give more of a game-type feel to the drill. Defenders should not attempt to intercept or impede any pass. The focus should be on reacting to ball movement and realigning themselves during each pass.

Drill 10 Shell a

Drill 10 Shell b

Drill 10 Shell c

Coaching Points Defenders must jump to the ball on each pass. Pass receivers should be closed out. All defenders must stay open to the ball and also the weak side of the floor. Defenders who are one pass away should deny the pass. Remaining defenders who are more than one pass away should be at the help line.

Advanced Variation

Shell Plus Cut the Cutter

When ball is passed to one side of the floor from the point, weak-side offensive wing player tries to cut to the strong-side elbow, and weak-side corner tries to cut to the strong-side low block. Help-line defenders must cut the two cutters. Offense tries to pass the ball to either of the two cutters. Defense wins if the pass is tipped or stolen or goes astray.

Shell plus the Cutter a

Shell plus the Cutter b

Coaching Points Defenders must make physical contact with the cutters so the defenders can still see the ball and deny the pass. This requires balance and proper position, with back to the basket, low center of gravity to absorb contact, and arm nearest the ball extended into the passing lane with thumb down.

More Excerpts From Survival Guide for Coaching Youth Basketball 2nd Edition