“Moving on the Pass”

A common mistake made by defenders of all ages is being slow to move in response to the offensive play, or not moving to the correct position. Every time the ball is passed, all defenders must move, even if only a subtle adjustment of position (e.g. in post play). Defenders should reach their “new” position, by the time the pass is caught – it is too late to wait until it is caught before moving.

When an offensive player passes the ball, young defenders will often move backwards (or stand still) which enables the offensive player to “face cut” the defender – simply, this means the offensive player gets between the defender and the ball.

As the ball is passed, x2 should move towards the ball (often called “jumping to the ball”) so that they are in position to guard any cut made by Player 2.

Similarly, if x4 doesn’t move, or simply steps backwards, it enables Player 4 to “face cut” them and to receive the ball.

If x4 initially moves toward the ball (moving to the “split line”), they are then in a position to guard Player 4’s cut to the basket.

shell drill

Using 4x4 activities is recommended as an effective method for developing player’s understanding and execution of basic team defensive positioning.

With 4x4, coaches can include each of the defensive positions (on ball, one pass away, two or more passes away) that may be encountered during a game.

An activity widely used is “shell drill”, which is simply 4x4 in the half court. Initially, offence may simply pass the ball between themselves, with each defender adjusting their position each time a pass is made.

Whilst this defensive movement may initially be practiced with passive offence, it should be quickly progressed to a contested situation. Repetitive drilling in an “artificial” environment is unlikely to translate into game situations. The activity could be progressed as follows:

Stage 1 - “5 Ball Reversals”

Activity is 4x4 in the half court, with offence making 5 ball reversals (passing the ball from one side of the court to the other). Focus is on the defenders moving to the correct positions as the offence plays with restrictions (offence does not shoot, examples are below).

  • offence stationary;
  • offence cutting but no dribbling;
  • offence score a point for getting the ball into the keyway (by either passing or dribbling), defence score a point for any interception or when dribble penetration has been stopped.

Stage 2 – “3 Possessions”

Offence has 3 possessions and score with any successful shot. The offence plays with restrictions:

  • offence cutting but not dribbling;
  • offence must reverse the ball twice before attempting a shot;
  • offence must penetrate the ball into the key (by either passing or dribbling) before they can take a shot.

If the offensive team get an offensive rebound, they may continue with the same possession.

Stage 3 – “Contested”

Teams play 4x4 for a set time or up to a set score. Points may be deducted (or awarded to the opponents) where defensive position is incorrect.

However, rather than stopping the activity constantly, this should be done “on the run”.

Shell Drill
Jump to the Ball