We've struggled in recent games running our "11" defense, which is nothing more than the back end of our press. Once the ball crosses the half-court line we want our players to continue trappping and covering near passing lanes, especially lag passes (passes backwards or from guard to guard), and passes into the high post.
Why does this matter? Because unless your defense can get the ball trapped and move into open gaps almost instantly after each pass, opposing offenses will have time to see the next open player and pick your press apart. We then find ourselves constantly 1 pass behind.
That's been our problem lately. As we transition back into our backcourt (the opponent's frontcourt), we don't seem to grasp that we must move directly into "trap and lag" coverage and smother the passer's vision. I think this is due to our player's old conventional basketball habits... they still must be thinking, "Okay, we are out of the press now, and we need to set up our half-court defense, and--of course--protect the basket at all costs!"
Wrong. Our 11 Press is merely a teaching tool, and perhaps they believe it must be "set up" first before trapping commences. And they are so worried about giving up an occasional layup that they all five instinctivley run back inside the arc, rather than sprinting to a person (the ball handler, or the player(s) behind the ball-handler.)
These are hard habits to break, harder than I expected. Maybe I was spoiled, because after my first System season at ONU we had enough veterans onboard that they could help train the newcomers on the proper approach to defense. I guess I just didn't realize that with the entire team at NCC starting from scratch, it is going to take them more time to execute these radical (to them) defensive concepts.
But one thing that helped today was our "Free Throw Press Drill." It works like this: We put 15 seconds on the clock (or shot clock, in our case), and have the pressing team shoot a free throw. After the make or miss, we jump into our "On" Press (we call it 55) or our Missed Shot Press as the opponent attempts to advance the ball into their offensive end. The shot clock begins as soon as an opponent touches the ball inbounds (off a rebound, or the throw-in).
Once the ball is advanced into the frontcourt, however, the opponent moves into a "Box" set (2-1-2 alignment) and is not allowed to shoot. Our pressing team, meanwhile, attempts to create a steal by flying to the trap while covering the lag and high post areas. If they force a turnover, we break to the far end and score. If the shot clock runs out before a steal, the offense wins the possession.
We motivate the drill by telling the defense, "Imagine you are down 2 points with 15 seconds to play, and every player on the opposing team is a 90% foul shooter." It might even help to put the score up, but you get the idea.
I like this "Drill" because it is the most realistic way I can think of to teach players to run our 11 Press vs. a delay-spread offense, something no amount of conventional drilling will do. Like all 5/5 System "Situation" drills, it teaches System habits by creating a game-like controlled scrimmage, and then teaching-correcting-polishing until the players demonstrate proficiency.
As I mentioned in a previous blog post several weeks ago, unlearning 10 years of conventional basketball takes time and there's no better way to accelerate the process than controlled scrimmaging of System situations.
With the start of conference play only 3 games away, we need all the "acceleration" we can get.