Note: Many of the principles I use come from Bob Huggins' book, Building
a Man to Man Defense. I highly recommend this book.
The purpose of our defense is to support our overall team goal, which
is to get 50 shots per game. Our defense will do this by doing the
Additionally, playing this style of aggressive defense in practice will
force our offensive players to work harder to get open. They will need
to learn how to move without the ball.
- Create turnovers that lead to fast break layups.
- Be in position to rebound and start the fast break.
- Force the other team to shoot quickly. This will create more
possessions per game, whether they make the basket or not.
- Wear the other team down. A team that is not prepared for such
a fast-paced game will tire out and breakdown on their defensive
How We Will Accomplish Goals
The defense will use these principles to achieve the goals:
- Pressure the dribbler and force the dribbler to the weak hand.
- Deny all passes by positioning on the line, up the line.
- Box out on all shots.
- The defender closest to our offensive basket will release for the
fast break on every shot. Note: On a made basket, this defender will
continue to the offensive basket, even if she is the point guard. One of
the other guards should then look for the inbound pass.
- Positioning - On the Line, Up the Line
On the Line, Up the Line
On the line, up the line is the term we use for the position of the
defensive player who are not guarding the person with the ball. All players
"off the ball" should draw a direct line between their man and the ball and
then position themselves on that line. This maneuver accomplishes the
- It takes away vision from the offensive player. Anytime you can take
away the vision of an offensive player, you are increasing the defenders'
chances of being successful.
- It discourages the skip pass by making the receiver more difficult to
see and the pass easier to intercept. A completed skip pass makes the
defense change boxes from side of the floor to the other.
Sprint to Help
The term sprint to help is used when a defender goes from checking
the ball to being in a help position on the line, up the line. The
natural tendency of the defender is to drop more toward the basket than
toward the ball.
Description of responsibility the defender has when his player passes
- The defender is guarding the ball on the wing.
- The ball is skipped to the opposite wing. While the ball is in the
air, the defender must sprint to the middle of the floor so he can be
close enough to be within one step of having a foot in the box.
- The defender positions himself to be off his man and in a direct line
between the ball and his man - on the line, up the line.
The off-the-ball defender is to be in the pistol position.
Correct pistol position:
- Open Stance - Both toes are on the line between the ball and the
man he is defending.
- Athletic Position - knees bent, hips down, back straight - like a
shortstop in baseball.
- Pistols - Point at the ball with the index finger of the hand closest
to the ball, and point to his man with the other index finger.
- Allows the defender to keep track of both the ball and his man.
- Helps the coaches quickly observe players who are properly aligned
and those who are out of position.
- If the defender has his hands up and is not pointing toward the ball
and the man, he has lost track of one or the other.
- The arms should be away from the body at about a 140-degree angle so
that the defender can meet and shed screens.
- The defender's head must be constantly turning to see not only his
man and the ball, but also any offensive players approaching who could
potentially set a screen on him.
- The pistol position helps the off-the-ball defenders see where everyone
on the floor is positioned so they can make straight-line rotations in a
The coaches will reinforce the defensive system as follows:
- Never yell at a player who gets beat while following the principles.
We will give up some easy baskets with this defense, but they will be
offset by the times that we get the steals or force a turnover. We
can't expect to have the girl play aggressively in the passing lane
and also never get beat to the basket.
- Remind the players to be "On the Line" and in the "Pistol" position.
Repeating the words "On the Line" and "Pistols" will be sufficient.
- Do not tell the defender to stay between her girl and the basket.
Remind her to be "On the Line" instead.
- If a defender gets beat back door, it is because she is not watching
the ball or is not close enough to her defender. We want to encourage
the back door pass, because we will be in position to intercept it.
- Help defense is important when we are overplaying. This is why it
is critical that all players know where the ball is at all times and
be preparing to jump in front of a girl driving to the basket. If the
help defender leaves her player and her player ends up scoring because
of a pass from the driving offensive player, that it not a mistake - it
is just a good play by the offense.
- "Release" - The player closest to the offensive basket will
release on every shot. The coach should watch this and encourage
this. If this defender's players end up getting a rebound or getting
a shot by a pass from another player after a rebound, it is not the
releasing defender's fault. It is the responsibility of the other
defenders to get the rebound.