Defending The Dribble Entry

by Coach Ronn Wyckoff, Author/Producer

Basketball On A Triangle

Playing defense between the ball and the basket is only part of defending the ball.

Now let's put pressure on the dribbler and attempt to influence where the dribbler goes.

Usually, the dribbler has an idea where they want to go. If it's at the point, the dribbler will be attempting to start their offense, to get a shot or to penetrate to the basket.

Good position defense, coupled with influencing pressure, can help eliminate some of the dribbler's options. Right here, though, let me make one thing very clear: The first job of the defender is to buy time. Maintaining the on-the-ball position of "Ball-Me-Basket" for as long as possible, helps your teammates to be able to defend the possibilities the offense is attempting to put into play. Stealing the ball, blocking a shot, etc., are good, but not every possession will end this way. So if all we do defensively is to buy time, we are not allowing a score during that amount of elapsed time, and that's good defense.

I define pressure defense on the half-court as "telling" the offense where they
can go and "taking away" where we don't want them to go. Within the strength of our team defense, we may want the offense to go away from our weakest player. From
experience or from a scouting report, we may want to direct the offense away from their strong player or from the way they like to start their offense.

We can draw an imaginary line from basket to basket and call that the mid- line. We want to get the dribbler to one side of that line. When the on-the-ball defender meets the dribbler and takes the dribbler to one side of the floor or another, we are establishing "ball side" (strong side) or "off side" (weak side). If we don't establish a "ball side", the defense is in limbo. We want a "ball side" so that other defenders on that side of the floor can be in overplay, while the players away on the "off side" can move into "help" positions.

We want the defender on the ball to meet and "check" the ball just over the half-court line, "telling" the dribbler by the pressure we put on one side where the ball cannot go, and by that pressure, showing the dribbler where they can go.

Make the dribbler have to start the offense much farther out than perhaps they'd like. "Checking" equals denial. Don't wait for the dribbler to come to you. Attack the ball and establish where they cannot go by playing strong to that side, forcing the dribble away to the other side. Over-play to the side you want to deny by bringing that foot outside the ball and getting your body in front of the ball. Once you get the dribbler to change directions, now jump-switch your front foot to the dribbler's front foot, get your "nose on the ball", use your arms properly to pressure the ball, and have the back foot outside the ball, pointing at about a 45- degree angle toward the sideline. If the dribbler keeps trying to turn the corner, and the defense continues the pressure, it will drive the ball to the sideline. If this happens, this is outstanding defense.

The defender must stay low, slide the feet quickly and maintain balance and stance as has been described above. At the same time, the defender must keep away from the dribbler by using the front arm to measure the distance yet remaining tight to the ball by placing the front foot to the dribbler's front foot and the back foot outside the ball and keeping the "nose on the ball". The ball side arm should worry the ball and the dribbler should never be able to turn the corner on the defender.

Verbalization can be effectively disconcerting too. Yell at the dribbler. Make the dribbler think they're in a karate match every time they have the ball.

The dribbler is having to fight you for this side of the floor. If the dribbler determines the corner can't be turned, and there is no outlet for a pass, he or she may try to take an easier path and reverse the floor and try the other side. The defender on the ball must work hard and fast making the jump-switch in order to secure the same defensive posture and pressure on the ball as used prior to the reverse. If done correctly, again the dribbler will not be able to turn the corner and the angle the defender is forcing will be to the other sideline. On this side of the floor now, the other defenders will move into overplay on their offensive payers to eliminate the passing outlets. Maybe on this side the other offensive wing isn't as strong or maybe the dribbler doesn't dribble as well with the hand now being used. (Drill taking the dribbler from sideline to sideline without allowing the dribbler to turn the corner to the basket.)

This may seem overly simplistic, and while it is unrealistic to expect it will happen all the time, or even with frequency, it does happen. It is a thing of beauty, I can tell you. Remember, good defense buys time! I have had teams that were so "in the zone", playing pressure/denial defense, that we have actually burned four minutes off the clock with the other team not being able to penetrate, score or pass inside.

If a player really wants to challenge their own abilities, have them do so on defense and see how it pays dividends for that player's own offense and for the team offense. Everyone won't be an offensive standout, but defensively, if each player has the mindset, the heart and the work ethic, they can all be standouts.

Until next month, Yours in Sport & Spirit,
Coach Ronn Wyckoff

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