November 2, 2009

Individual Defense

Individual defense largely depends on a player’s lateral quickness, basketball intelligence and desire.

Defensive Stance

    • A defensive stance is a basic athletic stance with a flat back, chest and eyes up, hips back, shoulders over the knees and knees over the toes and weight balanced on your two feet.
    • Depending on philosophy, most people teach defenders to have one foot forward, while others teach a parallel stance.
    • Some coaches teach players to have a “dig hand” down to poke at the ball and the other hand high to defend passes; others teach players to have active hands to distract the offensive player and force him to devote his attention to protecting the ball.
    • Against a player holding the ball, use a wide stance with feet wider than shoulder width. Be ready to move in either direction.
    • Against a player dribbling, use a slightly narrower stance with feet about shoulder width apart. Keep your feet moving.


  • Defensive positioning depends on a team’s defensive strategy. Some teams force players to their weak hand; some force to the sideline-baseline; and some force to the middle.
  • The on-ball defender generally should be an arm’s length away from his offensive player though that changes depending on court location and individual match-ups.
  • Above the free throw line, the defender’s backside is toward the baseline.
  • Below the free throw line, the defender’s backside is toward the opposite sideline.
  • Nose on the ball.

Defensive Movement

    • An individual has three general speeds: defensive shuffle, crossover step and sprint.
    • When the defender is in front of the offensive player, he uses the defensive shuffle.
    • When the offensive player starts to get an advantage, the defender uses a crossover step.
    • If he cannot keep pace with the offensive player, he turns and sprints.
    • Defensive Shuffle: To move to your left, push with the inside of your right foot. Lift your left foot slightly off the ground and push with your right foot. Push with the trail leg rather than stepping with the lead leg.

    • Crossover Step: When moving to the left, the right foot crosses in front of the left foot (like carioca). As the right foot pushes down, the left foot steps and pushes. Keep your hips square to the offensive player.
    • Sprint: Turn and run. Pick a point ahead of the offensive player and beat him to the point. When you get there, do not stop moving; stay even with the ball – not the player.
    • To change directions, stop with your foot outside your knee and knee outside your hips to stop momentum and push in the desired direction. Meet your momentum. Prevent your upper body from swaying. When your upper body sways, your shoulders continue in the direction that you were moving, making the change of direction more difficult and slower.
    • To change direction and angle, use a hip turn.
    • Hip Turn: If the right foot is slightly forward, angling an offensive player to the defender’s left, the hip turn moves the left foot slightly forward to angle the offensive player to the defender’s right. On the hip turn, as the feet hit the ground, they reactively push in the direction of the desired movement.


  • Sprint two-thirds of the way to the offensive player and then break down your steps. Sit your hips back and down and keep your head centered over your center of gravity.
  • Either stutter-step or use several quick jumps to cover the last couple feet.
  • Close out with a hand up to contest the shot and take away the player’s vision for a quick pass.
  • Against a shooter, close out so you can touch the shooter.
  • Against a non-shooter, leave space to contain penetration.
  • Be prepared to move in any direction.



Related Content:

Defensive Footwork Drills
Example of On-Ball Defense

1 thought on “Individual Defense

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.