Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Defensive Instincts

Last night I pulled out a DVD of one of our games from last season at Olivet.  I was struck by the team's ability to react to the ball defensively, to move to new areas of the court while making split-second decisions regarding trap, lag, and basket coverage. 

This ability to instantly anticipate is not easy to do, and is even harder to teach.  Of course at ONU the team has a strong core of System veterans who had developed these instincts over a period of time.  At NCC, starting from zero, we are seeing gradual progress, but are continually trying to find new ways to hasten the learning process.

One such learning tool is our "5 on 5 Trap Drill," which is described in our book and in my DVD series.  Five defenders in the half court must chase and trap while five passer--stationed at the curls, fades, and high post--move the ball around the perimeter for up to 15 seconds. 

The problem is that because defenders almost always start the drill from their "home" positions (our PG and Safety, for example, typically begin in the back line), they tend to become stereotyped in their movements and responsibilities.  It's almost as if they think they are playing a standard 1-2-2 zone trap.

But System defense requires players to react and cover every area of the floor as the possession unfolds.  If they become predictable and cover only their "zone," then the offense's job becomes much simpler.  The more our defenders learn to play multiple positions/areas, the better our press works.

Today, to enhance the players' understanding and execution of these rotations, we ran our 5 on 5 Trap Drill, but began it by having the defenders begin by runnig in a circle around the high post while waiting for a coach with the ball near half-court to pass to any offensive player.  At that instant, each player reacted by sprinting from their current location in the circle to cover either the trap, the lag, the high post , or the skip-gap.

And it worked!  Their defensive instincts seemed to grow almost before our eyes as players gained confidence in anticipating and covering all areas of the floor.   Hopefully now, with a better comprehension and better instincts (and fresher legs) we'll see how well this translates into our defensive coverage against Elite Eight qualifier Carthage College on Wednesday night. 

Stay tuned!

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