Three Basketball Skills to Drill Frequently by Adam Spinella
As a coach, one of my main coaching points and mantras is to “be good at what you do a lot”. Scoring the basketball is important, as is working as a team on defense. Coaches rep team defense frequently, working against different offensive alignments to see how your team reacts. Coaches have their team gets shots up because, let’s face it, teams need to score.
There are other skills that happen frequently within a game that you can drill in a practice setting. If you truly want to be good at what you do a lot, you will drill more than just scoring. You will understand that there are several microcosms of team defense that need to be worked on individually.
Here are three types of basketball skills with high value for your team that may go unnoticed in box scores but can have a tremendous impact on the game’s outcome.
Every close-out in a game matters. Team defense is built to bend a little, helping on the ball to prevent the man with the ball from scoring. As he gets rid of the ball, the help defenders must recover by closing-out to their man, or to the man with the ball. Drastic close-outs (from the lane to the perimeter) can be the most impactful for a team. Offensive players frequently will shoot if not challenged on a kick-out, or will penetrate the lane if a defender is over-anxious to block the shot.
You must teach proper close-out form first and foremost: hands high, voice pressure, choppy steps with your feet and influencing the ball away from the middle. Defenders closing-out must be low enough to stop middle penetration but have their hands up high enough to discourage a shot. Once your team has proper technique, put them in disadvantage situations: force defenders to help, then close-out to the perimeter once again to prevent a shot or middle penetration. The best defenses can dictate where the ball goes with each close-out. They force an extra pass, and trust their teammates are anticipating the same, getting in position to finally settle the ball.
Close-outs happen several times a game, especially at high levels of basketball where teams have skilled enough players to get into the lane when they want to. Help defense is not done when everyone is in position to stop the ball from scoring – it is finished when the ball is forced out of the attacking position and finally settled.
2. Weak-side rebounding
On a shot from the wings or the corners, about 80% of all shots have a long rebound. Whether you are on offense or defense, making your team aware that shots will likely come off on the weak-side means the weak-side players are more lively. Either an offensive or defensive team should strive to bury their man out of bounds on the baseline, giving them an ability to get the ball with momentum carrying them towards the basket or their attacking end of the court. The higher defenders on the weak-side should either block out their own man, or chip down on a larger competitor in the paint.
Drilling weak-side rebounding can be done in many formats. Most teams run rebounding drills, whether 2v2, 3v3 or 5v5, so rebounding drills and scoring should be nothing new to you or your team. But putting an emphasis on long rebounds and shots from the corners are important. These matter – it does not matter if you are a man-to-man team or a zone defense team. Shots that come from the wings or corners usually result in long rebounds.
3. Passing through pressure
Whether in the full-court, in a half-court trap or when someone has picked up their dribble, players must be able to get the ball to where they want it to on the floor. The responsibility is equally distributed on the team in this situation: the man with the ball must not put himself in a “weak” position, and his teammates must cut hard and effectively in order to get open.
A “weak” position is one where the defender can dictate where on the court and how crisply the pass would be thrown. This can be difficult in a one-on-one situation, let alone a two-man trap. Players must keep their eyes up court, protect the ball from being placed where a hand can get on it, and maintain composure.
Teammates must cut hard to get open, but not all teammates can run towards the ball. Spacing is necessary to create an advantaged scoring situation once the pressure is broken. Pressure is uncomfortable, no coach will deny that. If your team can penalize a team for trapping or pressuring you by getting quick layups or wide-open shots whenever you break pressure, they will stop trying to make you uncomfortable.
This is incredibly important for a team that is used to playing with a lead. Teams that are behind frantically trap and create pressure, with nothing to lose by doing so. Rep this in traps in the full-court and in the half-court. Drill it in a game where players are not able to dribble in the half-court and must score, or where they get a point for each completed pass without a deflection.
Coach Adam Spinella is entering his first season as an Assistant Coach at Culver Acadelinmies in Culver, IN. Spinella spent the three years prior as a Student Assistant Coach at Division III Dickinson College. The Dickinson Men’s Team advanced to two NCAA Tournaments and accumulated an overall record of 59-26 (.694) during the three-year span, with the 2013-2014 season ending in the Division III Elite Eight. A native of Bow, New Hampshire, Spinella has a keen interest in X’s and O’s, particularly in professional basketball, and skill development.
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