There are a number of techniques for defending a player that does not have the ball:

  • Denial stance
  • Open stance
  • Hedge & Recover.

Off Ball Defence – Denial Stance

In denial stance, the defender’s back is to the ball and their chest is facing the person they are guarding. One arm is stretched out, with thumb pointing toward the ground and the palm facing the ball, so that they can deflect a pass.

The defender should keep sight of both the person with the ball and the person they are guarding by putting their “chin to shoulder”.

The closer the defender is to the “passing lane” (imaginary line between the person with the ball and the person being defended), the more aggressive the defence is.

The defender may have their body in the “passing lane”, often called full denial, or they may take a step towards the basket and have their hand in the passing lane.

Off Ball Defence – Open Stance

In an open stance, the defender generally has their back to the basket and is standing “side on” to both the player they are guarding and the player with the ball.

 Off Ball Defence – Hedge & Recover

A “hedge” is simply a fake by a defender. The defender “fakes” that they are coming over to guard another player. This is typically done when an opponent is dribbling, although it can also be used to pressure a post defender.

The footwork is the same as for lateral defensive movement – taking one or two steps. Most importantly, the defender should move both feet! Keeping a balanced stance is very important, and lunging (stepping with one foot only) will make it hard to then recover to guard their own player.

Below are a range of activities that can be used to practice guarding off the ball.

“Guard the Lead”

Players are in groups of 3, with 1 ball.

The player with the ball passes to their team mate and then makes a “v-cut” lead to receive a pass back. The third player defends this lead.


The player with the ball in point guard position dribbles side to side, with wing players trying to get open to receive a pass at the wing position.

Defenders are in open or denial stance, depending upon ball position. After receiving the ball, the players contest 1x1.

“3x2 Half court”

Players play 3x2 in the half court. Initially, make the goal of the activity to dribble into the key, to emphasise both offensive spacing and also defensive containment.

The defenders should aim to have one person defending the ball at all times and the other defender in a “help” position in the key.

After the ball is penetrated into the key, the two defenders play offence to the other end of the court, defended by the player that dribbled into they key.

“Guard the Cutter”

Players compete 1x1, while the player with the ball attempts to make a pass from a dribble. The defender should adopt a good position, relative to ball position.


2x2 contested drill. Play to a score or defensive possession.