Annawan Defensive Philosophy

The following is from Jason Burkiewicz, Head Girls’ Basketball Coach, Annawan High School (IL):

Career – 112-15

  • All 15 losses are to top 10 ranked opponents in 1A, 2A, or 3A
  • 11 of the 15 losses are by 5 points or less

Defensive Philosophy

When I was a player in high school I did not take as much pride as I should of in my defense.  I was a three point specialist from the point guard position who focused primarily on offense while occasionally getting a hand in the passing lane or getting a steal out front.  However, after becoming a coach defense has quickly become my primary focus and it has become the identity of my coaching style.

My outlook on defense all started to change when I took my first job coaching freshman girls’ basketball at Princeton High School.  I had coached boys’ basketball before but had no experience when dealing with girls sports.  This was a school in which volleyball was the known sport for girls and basketball was just an afterthought.  I could see that our girls were athletic.  They could run, jump, accelerate, change direction quickly, and even shoot a little bit, but for the most part when you put a ball in their hands all of that ability seemed to disappear.  After teaching the basics I knew about basketball we started off the season 0-12 before going into Christmas break.  After seeing my first dose of girls’ basketball for a month and a half I noticed that even the good teams lost quite a bit of athleticism when they had to handle the ball at the same time.  Their eyes were down and their passes were not sharp when faced with pressure.  So over Christmas break I threw out everything else we were focusing on and I taught my girls a 1-2-1-1 full court press and a 2-2-1 full court press.  I figured we were going to use our athleticism when not in possession of the ball and our defense was going to create our primary source of offense.  Our first game after Christmas we played a 12-0 team in our conference and beat them having scored forty-five points.  Our full court pressure made the game very difficult on our opponent and after we would cover a passing lane and get a steal we would pass the ball ahead immediately to someone going to the basket for a lay-up.  This game shaped me and my ideals of girls’ basketball.  Today I am a four year varsity girls’ coach at Annawan High School with a record of 112-15 and I attribute a great part of it to our defensive philosophy.

After becoming a girls’ coach I soon realized that when you have a fast male basketball player and put a basketball in his hand, he is still pretty fast, but when you have a girl who is fast and put a basketball in her hand, on average she is quite a bit slower.  Therefore I determined that the best place my girls could showcase their athleticism and be aggressive was on defense.  I grew up playing in a man to man system.  I still teach man to man and we will play it because I strongly believe you need to know good man to man principles in order to play a zone effectively.  With that being said I have become a strong believer in aggressive, trapping zone defenses.  No matter who we play I always start off in either our 2-2-1 or 1-2-1-1 full court pressure.  These two presses are very similar in trapping style and rotations but I teach two because it can be confusing to opposing players just by making a subtle change in alignment.  We will also run a 1-2-2 three quarter court press.  By throwing different looks at the defense it causes our opposing coach to often times have to use timeouts to show a different way to attack our press.  Then I just simply change back to a different one.  It is my philosophy that I do not have to coach against our opponents coach but rather I have to outsmart our opponents’ players.  By allowing our team the option of changing looks it forces the opposing players to make adjustments because their coach cannot call a timeout every time we switch things up.  Also when pressing the girls can really free themselves up to use their speed and athleticism without having to control the basketball.  My girls in the past have told me how much they really enjoy playing this up-tempo style of basketball.  I find that it keeps them engaged in the game and even takes away from any sort of nervousness that may occur in a big game because of the constant movement that forces them to react more than think.  In fact, there have been games where we have had to pull the press off because our opponent was beating it consistently but toward the end of close games when nerves start to kick in we have gone back to it.  After making this move we almost always find that in this high pressured situation our opponent cannot handle the same press they did earlier in the game.

If we are not using our full court pressure that drops back into a man defense then we will be using our 1-3-1 half court trap.  This has been my go to defense the past couple of season for a couple reasons.  We have been able to form great traps because I have had multiple lanky girls with long arms that cause opponents to throw rainbow passes over the top.  After we steal these rainbow passes it allows us time to set up for a lay-up whereas our full court pressure sometimes still causes us to make contested lay-ups after steals.  The main reason I like this defense so much is because it forces our opponents to not be able to run whatever offense they practice all season long.  Against our 1-3-1 we know our opponent is going to show us a 2-1-2 look.  Because everybody tries to attack the 1-3-1 the same way it allows our players to recognize what teams are looking for and gives us a huge advantage when anticipating passes.

The last thing I want to mention in our defensive philosophy that is preached and taught every day in practice is, “No Middle.”  No matter what we are running defensively rather it is our man to man or any of our zone defenses we never want our opponent to be able to catch a pass or dribble penetrate to the middle of the floor.  I feel that too much damage can be done to a defense when the ball is in the middle of the floor particularly at the free throw line.  When a good guard can get to this position on the floor too many options become available.  They can shoot a nice short jump shot or help can come from either side of the floor allowing the guard to dump the ball off either direction for a lay-up.  Instead we want to ball to go baseline, behind the basket, where we can again set a trap.  Shooting from behind the basket is not a high percentage shot in my opinion so we want to overplay the hand that the offensive player would have to use to get to the middle of floor, making them go toward the baseline if they put the ball on the floor.  When I first teach this concept many fans, coaches, and players will remind me of the old basketball saying, “Never give up baseline.”  I respond with, “We don’t give up baseline, we force baseline!”  When it is part of your defensive concept it is easy to force a player down there and get a trap.  After our rotations there is only one place to pass the ball and it is away from the basket to a wing on ball side.  This has been very effective for us and this concept too takes our opponent away from what they want to accomplish offensively because through high pressure, we determine where the ball is going to go, not the offense.

A Basketball Philosophy

The following is from Jerry Wainwright, former Head Men’s Basketball Coach, DePaul University:

Our Defense

1. Transition and talk – a defensive fast break.

2. Know who you are guarding – his number and his game.

3. Ball pressure – early help and quick recovery.

4. Shut down scorer in the post and give no open threes to a shooter.

5. Contest shots.

6. Block out and pursue rebounds.

Our Offense

1. Look to run on every possession.

2. Handle the ball – pass to the first open man. Make the easy pass.

3. Help teammates get open.

4. Take our shot – shot discipline.

5. Get fouled – make more free throws than the opponent attempts.

6. Cover the offensive boards.

Notes on Defense

The following is from Steve Kuhn, Head Sophomore Boys’ Basketball Coach, Marquette Academy (IL):

Four truths on any defense.

It’s always ball you man. The ball is the key.

Defense is one man guarding the ball and four others helping him.
“Mike Krzyzewski”

The hardest a player has to work is when he/she is not guarding the ball.

Focus, see, anticipate, act.   “Bob Knight”

There are four secrets to playing great defense.

Always be in an athletic stance.

Move on the flight of the ball/bounce of the ball.

Commit to the helpline.

Communicate.

Aggressive Zone Trapping Philosophy

The following is from Jason Burkiewicz, Head Girls’ Basketball Coach, Annawan High School (IL):

Full court:

  • 2-2-1
  • 1-2-1-1
  • 1-2-2

Half court:

  • 1-3-1

Rules and thought process to trap our trap defense:

  • Constantly have two people on the ball pressuring
  • The ball is never allowed to go middle
  • Remaining three players off the ball are playing gaps and reading the next pass
  • Our goal is to get our opponents to focus on simply getting rid of the ball and hoping for a shot rather than running a comfortable offense that they practice over and over.

Player thought process:

  • We do not play “safe.” We rotate and go for steals in the passing lane all game long
  • We will trade a lay-up for 3-5 steals any day so our players are quickly taught to not get discouraged when we allow an easy lay-up
  • I choose zone traps because most coaches choose the same or similar ways to attack them.  By midseason our girls have a great recognition of what opponents will try to do and it can often times be like playing the same game over and over again.
  • The two trappers are relentless
  • Our two trappers on ball are taught to force the ball handler toward each other leaving 2-3 ft. gap between them while the player is dribbling
  • If we leave that gap the ball handler is tempted to split, where our ball side defender will sweep the ball as it cannot be protected dribbling between two people.  It will be exposed to one. (We have become very good at this over the years)
  • We want them to pick up the ball as much as possible to promote as many passes as we can in order to try and take one out of the air for a lay-up
  • I put my quickest defender on the left side of the court always to protect against the guards who always want to dribble right.  Their rule is to keep their right shoulder outside of the ball being dribble in the right hand of the ball handler.  In addition they should never fall for jukes, stop and go’s, etc.  I know that ball handler wants to stay right.
  • When they overplay the right hand and get the ball handler to pick it up, that’s when we immediately go on the attack.  Their partner who was 2-3 ft away closes quickly
  • Our goal from here is to get that person to throw it quickly to the first person they see or turn their back on us.
  • Lastly, if they keep the ball and turn their back on us we show our players and drill that the offensive player only can pivot, whereas us on defense can continue to move our feet.  Therefore we will continue to slide our feet and keep our bodies in between our opponent and forward progress.  They will not be able to pivot out or complete the only pass we leave open.  The long ball!
  • Many coaches want to throw the ball long on us as we do often times leave a girl open.  However we only rotate and leave her open after we feel we have the trap that takes it away.
  • If these things take place we feel we will have a lot of success
  • The ball handler never splits our traps.  In fact we bait you to go there and we’re ready when they do.
  • Opponents that have failed with the pass begin to try and dribble through our pressure defense
  • When this happens we teach the ball side defender only to sweep at the ball
  • If they get a piece of it their job is to head to our basket and the next level’s job is to pick it up and throw it ahead for a lay-up

Trapping Drill

  • Put a ball handler on the end line starting at mid-lane with a goal of trying to dribble to halfcourt
  • Have your two trappers start at the elbows
  • Teach them to come down the lane line to start.  It is important to teach angles to your players in order to get you opponent to pick up the ball.  If your player runs straight at them they are going to allow their opponent to blow around them.
  • I teach when the ball handler is aggressively coming forward we need to move backward with them while staying in front to slow them down.  We call it, “catching” them first.
  • After the ball side defender gets the ball handler to slow down, stop, or even retreat.  That is our cue to begin the attack.

Mustang Drill

The following is from Nick LoGalbo, Head Boys’ Basketball Coach, Lane Tech High School (Chicago):

LOGALBO Mustang Drill 001

• We begin 3 on 3 and run through an action.
• Here we are running a fade screen (or an up from the 2 man side).
• We will discuss how we defend and on the action we will go live.
• We can run several actions so we can learn how to defend.
• We can go stagger, cross screen down screen, pick and roll, etc.

LOGALBO Mustang Drill 002

• From that action, we get into conversion.
• On a make the ball must be inbounded, on a miss we are in Flash vs. Rambo.
• Two offensive players come in from baseline, two defensive players come in FT line extended.
• As they are converting, they must sprint and touch baseline.

A Defensive Philosophy

Teaching our teams to be strong defensively is the foundation of our basketball program. Regardless of how our teams are playing offensively, we know that are defense will always be there for us. We must work on the fundamentals of our defensive system on a daily basis and emphasize behaviors that make us strong in that regard.

To ensure defensive success, we must:

  1. Communicate on every possession. 
  2. Be committed to getting back and not giving up easy baskets. Make them face our set defense. 
  3. Be able to pressure the ball.
  4. Be ready off the ball.
  5. Allow no middle seam penetration.
  6. Fight to keep the ball out of the post.
  7. Help early on all dribble penetration.
  8. Be in position early. Don’t react, anticipate on defense. 
  9. Challenge all shots with TWO hands. 
  10. Rebound the basketball.
  11. Know our assignments and coverages against opponent actions. 
  12. Dodge and defeat screens.
  13. Make toughness and hustle plays (ex. loose balls, taking charges).

We will work on individual and team defensive fundamentals on a daily basis at all levels in our program. We fully subscribe to the concept that offense may win games, but defense wins championships. 

Defensive Drills: Paint Game

The following is from Chris Snyder, Head Boys’ Basketball Coach, Lakes Community High School:

We put a lot of emphasis on proper close outs on the ball and we also want to keep the ball out of the paint. This is a drill we use to work on that. It is a competitive drill that requires players to keep the ball out of the paint on the closeout. It is a great game simulation drill and requires strong closeouts to make sure the ball stays out of the paint!

Paint Game 001

• 1 passes out to 2 and closes out
• 2 tries to drive the ball and get two feet in the paint using two dribbles or less

Paint Game 002

• If 1 stops 2 from getting in the paint, he gets a point
• If 2 gets into the paint, he gets a point
• Either way, 2 will pass to 3 and 5 will close out on 3

Paint Game 003

• 1 (defensive player) will replace the offense, 2 (offensive player) goes to the end of the line

Paint Game 004

• Same process continues
• 3 will pass to 4, 6 comes out and closes out
• After 4’s possession, he will skip across to 1 to continue drill
• Play until a player gets a certain amount of points, great way to emphasize hard closeouts and keeping the ball out of the paint.
• Side benefit is offensive player working on using his dribble effectively.

Concepts for an Effective Defense

A good defensive team may take some chances in the full or half court areas. They may mix their defenses in various ways. But a great defensive team is always solid in the scoring area. If we make this commitment, we can be good as any team defensively.

To excel in team defense, you must be willing to do certain things:

• Put playing defense high on your list of priorities – have pride in playing it as an individual and team.

• Talk on defense.

• Be willing to give yourself up to help on defense. We are always defending against penetration; each man defends his man, the ball, and the foul lane.

• Be willing to identify with the rebound and loose ball.

• Have the courage to be physical – to put your body on people, to make the first hit on block outs, and to defend cutters.

Once we are committed as a team to playing the most consistent defensive game possible, our basic plan in setting our half-court defense then follows:

• Be a great transition team. Stop the fast break, easy sideline break, or easy early offense shot. Make the opponent have to play us 5 on 5, not 2 on 1.

• Push the ball to a sideline so we can establish a strong side defense. Then, we can set our weak side help defense and make the try to beat us on the entry side of the court.

• Stop easy penetrations and swings to the weak side by having our team defense set quickly. 

• Stop the low post attack. Prevent easy passes in and also prevent scores, if the ball does get inside (i.e. weak side help, trap, etc.).

• Rotate to cover up any opponent who was left open because one of our defensive teammates left to attack a penetrating drive or low post pass.

In the end, each player must commit himself to his teammates. He must be willing to say he will give his best to help his teammates get the defensive job done. It is not enough to say, “I’ll get mine, you get yours.” You must be willing to say, “I’ll get mine and yours too, when you need me.”

By being willing to give help to attack every penetration into our defense and to rotate to every open man we will be able to challenge every shot in good shooting range.

When the day arrives that each teammate feels we are going to war together and that each man has his teammates to back him up, we will have a team we can be proud of, and one that will win consistently.

Coach Quotes on the Importance of Defense

“You win in this league on defense.” – George Allen on the NFL

“Winning is more related to good defense than good offense.” – Dr. Jack Ramsey on the NBA

“My philosophy of defense is to keep the pressure on an opponent until you get to his emotions.” – John Wooden, UCLA

“It’s fun to play defense. It’s fun to watch the opponent sweat on offense, start complaining to the officials, and eventually be taken out of the game because he’s making so many offensive mistakes.” – Maury John, former college coach

“Defense is the great equalizer. It’s the chief characteristic of the champion and the trademark of the underdog.” – Dr. Jack Ramsey

Pete Carroll on Defense

“From the discipline and repetition comes the ability to improvise and be creative,” he said matter-of-factly. “If you try to be creative and improvise without the discipline, you have chaos. But once you have the discipline, once you take care of all of the details, you can play with it. You gain the ability to add accent, to improvise with trust and confidence, to make it into jazz.” – Pete Carroll

Doubling the Post

The following is from Coach Mike Neighbors, Head Women’s Basketball Coach, University of Washington. You can follow him on Twitter @CoachNeighbors.

As a result of graduation and injury, we have utilized double teaming of a dominate post player more this year than every before. It has forced us to become bet- ter at a skill we have never taught, drilled, or evaluated. It has forced us to simplify the endless number of possible ways teams may attack us as a result of the actions. Now 20 games into the season, while it’s still a work in progress, we at least have a plan that we try to execute.

When you make the determination that you will be using a double team on an opponent post player you are essentially saying to your team that we don’t have a defender who can effectively contain this player one-on-one. I realize there are certain times double teaming a turnover prone post player can be a valuable attack, but for our purpose today we are focusing on trying to contain a dominant post player.

PRIMARY DEFENDER
A) Push the post as far from post-up as possible… 6-8 inches can make a big difference with even the best post move
B) No angle to basket on catch… position body between offense player and the bucket
C) Active Wall-Up knowing the players go-to shoulder

DOUBLE TEAM DEFENDER
A) Awareness to move to trap on the air time of the post feed to be there on the catch
B) Velcro to the player showing both hands to official
C) Sprint out of the trap when pass is made

3 OTHER DEFENDERS
A) Cover the RIM
B) Cover the NAIL
C) Shade to best perimeter shooter

Varying the trap adds another element to the attack. You can vary the person who does the doubling and you can also take the double completely off if a post begins to anticipate being trapped.

We drill this with our normal shell defense sessions and also when we are scouting specific actions in preparation for games.