Man to Man Positioning

Notice: This article was written by Steve Jordan, Coach's Notebook. Email the author at sjordan@alaskalife.net.

This article is a brief description of where a defensive player should be located relative to the position of the ball with consideration given to the stance of the ballhandler. The object is to reduce the inherent advantage the offense has by being able to initiate the next  move. By anticipating the offense's next action, we can hopefully mitigate reaction time. It may seem like there is a lot to memorize, but once you work with these steps, you'll see they are simple common sense precautions. The positioning decisions can be drilled until they are second nature, and several drills are offered here.

The situations covered are:




This drill can be done with two sets of players using the same basket.

Y4 and B3 start the drill by passing the ball to B1 and Y4 respectively. Y4 and B3 are now each on defense, Y1 and B4 are now on offense. This is a 1 on1 drill. The two sets of players to not interact.

 After passing, Y4 and B3 close out on their man as quickly as possible. Critical points are hustling as fast as they can, then using controlled stutter steps to come to a low defensive stance.

The ball handlers, upon receiving the ball, go into a triple threat position and wait for the defender. Once the defender is in a good defensive stance, the ballhandler goes through the four positions outlined in item A for the on-ball defender. The defender must react accordingly when the ball is on the hip, at the shoulder, above the head, and back into the triple threat. The coach must correct both players as needed.

Step three (above) can be omitted if you just want to work on triple threat and defensive stance. However, after the players go through the steps, its a natural progression to let the offense try to score. The line on the left must shoot a mid range shot, and the line on the right must go to the hole to provide enough spacing for everyone. This is an excellent chance to work on boxing out as well as defending a shooter.

The drill continues with defense going to offense (same side) and the offense going to the baseline to play defense on the other side of the floor. Y3 and B1 pass the ball out to Y2 and B5 and the the drill goes on as before.

 

I. On-Ball Defender

  1. Ballhandler can dribble
    1. Ball on hip
      1. one step back (more if he's quicker)
      2. hands out, palms up
      3. lower center of gravity than ballhandler
    2. Ball at shoulder
      1. arm's length away
      2. hands mirror ball
      3. same center of gravity as ball handler
    3. Ball over head
      1. chest to chest
      2. both hands high
      3. stand tall, but don't jump
    4. Ball lowered to hip
      1. Retreat to one step back

  2. Ballhandler in motion (dribbling)
    1. overplay the middle of the floor
    2. encourage movement to sideline
    3. don't give up forward progress without sideline progress
    4. ideally, ballhandler dribbles to sideline and is forced to stop

  3. Ballhandler gets by you
    1. call for help
    2. attempt to recover own man asap
    3. if teammate says switch, get his man
    4. call for switch back when safe

  4. Ballhandler is loose (not your man)
    1. challenge immediately, don't backpedal
    2. call for help
    3. slow progress until help arrives
    4. switch or recover when safe

  5. Ballhandler picks up dribble
    1. straddle foot nearest basket
    2. hands mirror ball
    3. do not reach in for held ball
    4. do not jump or bump



This drill can also be done with two sets of players using the same basket. It starts with B1 on Y1 (coach can throw the ball to Y1 to begin the drill). As Y1 has his dribble, B1 overplays the middle and B2 protects against a penetrating dribble. Y3 is open. But ... that is where we want the ball to go.

Y1 picks up his dribble. This is a situation we want to exploit defensively. B1 is chest to chest. B2 is denying an escape pass.

Let's say Y1 passes to Y3. Now B1 must protect against a penetrative dribble. B2 should overplay the middle side as we prefer the ball to advance to the corner. However, a pass to the middle is better than a penetrative dribble, so we will concede it if necessary.

If Y3 picks up his dribble, then we aggressively deny a pass to the middle. The only escape will be to the corner.

 

II. Defending Man Close to Ball

  1. Ballhandler can dribble
    1. prepare to defend penetration dribble
    2. one step toward ball
    3. must keep own man in view
  2. Ballhandler in motion
    1. slide to defend penetration dribble
    2. call switch if needed
    3. switch or recover when safe
  3. Ballhandler has ball at shoulder or is shooting
    1. contact your man
    2. position for rebound
    3. lower center of gravity than your man
  4. Ballhandler has ball over head
    1. full denial of pass to your man
    2. hand in passing lane
    3. anticipate opportunity to steal pass
    4. beware of backdoor cut




The coach can start this drill to simulate the ball on the far side of the floor so B3 can be in the full help position. His main job here is to prevent a lob pass or intercept a skip pass.

When the ball reaches the neutral area at the top, the main threat is a penetrative dribble, which may pull B2 from his position. The long pass to B3 is a minor threat in comparison.

When Y1 drives, B2 must help. B3 must step up to cover Y2. If Y1 gets stuck, we can exploit and deny all passes. The only escape can be to the corner. If the pass goes to the corner, B3 must rotate there and B2 must recover and guard Y2.

When Y2 goes the ball, B3 is now the on-ball defender. B2 drops back on the switch and B1 recovers. It is essential that the players talk.

 

III. Defending Man Far From Ball

  1. Ballhandler can dribble
    1. establish position within the key
    2. must keep own man in view
    3. deflect lob pass to post
  2. Ballhandler in motion
    1. prepare to defend penetration dribble
    2. prepare to guard helper's man
    3. call switch or recover when safe
  3. Ballhandler has ball at shoulder or is shooting
    1. contact your man (go get him)
    2. position for rebound
  4. Ballhandler has ball over head
    1. attempt to steal/deflect any reachable pass
    2. if skip pass succeeds, become on-ball defender
    3. deflect lob pass to post




We will front low posts to prevent the ball getting to him, but the ball will get there sometimes. The post defender must hold his ground. Everyone else must help.

B3 collapses and tries to force Y5 to throw the ball back out to Y3. We prefer the ball to go to the wing rather than the top. B3 will need to scramble back to guard Y3. Give B1 the freedom to read the situation. If he anticipates a weak pass from Y5 to Y3, he can try to get it.

 

IV. Defending Post With Ball

  1. Post has ball chinned
    1. hold and maintain position between man and basket
    2. hands are high and straight up
    3. help should come quickly to trap
  2. Post is shooting
    1. do not try to block shot unless you have clear advantage
    2. after shot release, face shooter until contact is made, then seal for rebound




The red line is the free throw line extended to the sides of the court. If the ball is above that line, the post defender denies the high side of the post. If Y3 drives down a bit and creates a straight line from Y3 to Y5 to the basket, B5 must slide over to the front of Y5 for a full denial.

When the ball goes to the corner, its below the red line, and the post defender must cross over in front of the post and protect the other side.

If Y2 manages to drive baseline, Y5 must help. As the ball is in "the yard", B3 goes to help and covers Y5.

When the ball is on the weak side, B5 is in full help position.

V. Defending Post Without Ball

  1. Ballhandler can dribble
    1. partial deny baseline side if ball is same (or less) distance from baseline as you
    2. partial deny top side if ball is farther from baseline as you
    3. if ball passes to higher/lower position, cross in front of post to change position

  2. Ballhandler in motion
    1. prepare to defend penetration dribble
    2. prepare to guard helper's man
    3. call switch or recover when safe
  3. Ballhandler has ball at shoulder or is shooting
    1. contact your man (go get him)
    2. position for rebound
  4. Ballhandler has ball over head
    1. attempt to steal/deflect any reachable pass
    2. if skip pass succeeds, become on-ball defender




VI. Defending a Shooter

  1. No uncontested shots, attempt to run at, distract and change shot
  2. Do not try to block shot unless you have clear advantage
  3. After shot release, face shooter until contact is made, then seal for rebound
  4. Do not try to block shot unless you have clear advantage