When players are first introduced to the skill of “closing-out”, the key principle is for them to get into a good defensive position to guard their opponent as they catch the ball. Typically, they should be within arm’s length however they must be balanced to ensure that they can move laterally to contain the dribbler.

It is recommended that at the end of the “close-out” the player lifts both hands as this will help to centre their balance.

With more experienced players they may adjust their close-out depending upon whether the opponent is a “shooter” or a “driver”, based upon either a pre-game “scout” or their performance earlier in the game. A pre-game scout should identify for each of an opponent’s players:

  1. Whether they tend to drive or shoot when catching the ball on the perimeter
  2. Which hand they shoot with
  3. Which side they prefer to dribble (sometimes a right hand dribbler will tend to drive left first)
  4. Which hand they prefer to dribble with
  5. Whether they prefer to drive to the basket and shoot or tend to drive and pass

Closing-Out a Driver

If the opponent is a driver, the defender will close out “short”, giving themselves more room to move laterally to stop the dribbler’s penetration. The defender should move to a position that is consistent with the team’s defensive rules (e.g. the team may “force middle” and so the defender should close out to a position that is outside the opponent’s baseline foot).

To practice closing out a DRIVER

Close Out 3

3 offensive players and one defender (x1). x1 passes the ball to 1, and must start with their feet in the key. 1 may start anywhere and must penetrate when they receive the ball (max 3 dribbles).

Offence attempt to penetrate into the key using a 2 foot stop. If they do not get into the key, x1 receives 1 point

Once 1 has finished dribbling (whether or not in the key), they dribble back to the perimeter. x1 receives the ball from one of the perimeter players and then passes it back and closes out. Again, the offensive player must penetrate.

Activity can be played with each player on defence for a certain amount of time (e.g. 1-2 minutes) the winner being the player with the most points. Importantly, the defender scores points equally whether it was “bad offence” or “good defence”.

Alternatively, play for a set time (e.g. 3 minutes) where if the offensive player makes the key, they become the next defender and remain on defence until another offensive player gets into the key.

Closing Out a Shooter

When closing out a shooter, the defender will sprint toward the offensive player reaching with one hand to put pressure on the shot. The defender may even run past the shooter. By having one hand outstretched the defender is likely able to put more pressure on the shot than with a close-out where they have two hands in front.

However, the drawback of reaching on a close-out is that the defender’s balance is affected and they will not be able to quickly move laterally to defend a drive. This technique is also called “running at the shooter”. In doing this, the defender must ensure they do not foul the shooter.

The defender should run past the “shooting shoulder” reaching with the hand closest to the shooter (i.e. have the right hand extended when running at a right handed shoulder).

This ensures that the defender’s body will run past, not into, the shooter. When closing out on a shooter it is important not to foul the shooter.

If the defender must move across the body of the shooter (for example, if they are closing out from opposite the shooter’s hand), they should reach with their opposite hand (i.e. if it is a left handed shooter, reach with the right hand).

This turns the defender’s body away from the shooter which again reduces the likelihood of contact.

Every shooting activity that is done in practice also presents an opportunity to practice closing out a shooter. This will both help create the habit in the defence to contest every shot and will as well as the offensive player’s ability to concentrate on the basket when they are shooting.

To practice closing out a shooter:

Close Out Shooter

This can be done in groups of 2 or 3. One player passes the ball to the shooter and then runs at them to contest the shot. They get a point if they can “tip” the shot or if they can cause a “shot fake”.

The defender runs past the shooter and touches the sideline to return to be the next shooter. The shooter rebounds their shot and passes from wherever they receive the ball.

Shooters are encouraged to use a shot fake if necessary, rather than take a bad shot. By making their shot, it keeps the score even. Deduct one point for any bad pass to the shooter.

The pass to the shooter is made from wherever the rebounder got the ball. This may mean that they are very close to the shooter, and the shooter will need to fake (shown in black) or that they are a significant distance away but must still “hustle” to get in to their next shooting position (shown in red).

The same activity can be done with two groups. The shooter rebounds their ball, then passes it to the next person in the other group and runs at them to contest the shot.

Scoring is the same. Continue for a set time or until one group has reached a particular score. Teams can win either by making a basket or by getting a defensive point.

Close Out – Box Out

x1 defends the ball and x2 must have at least one foot in the key.

If 1 is able to dribble into the key, they shoot and 2 must contest the rebound. x2 must “box out” 2.

If x1 is able to contain 1, then 1 passes to 2, who is sliding to the corner and will catch and shoot. x2 closes out the shooter, making sure that they run past the shooter’s hand.

Close Out – Box Out, 2v2

1 starts with the ball on the wing and 2 is on the other wing. The two defenders adopt the usual position.

1 can either drive or pass the ball to 2, who drives.

x1 and x2 defend accordingly.

If 1 is able to beat x1 to the baseline, x2 must rotate to stop any penetration into the key. 1 should then retreat to the perimeter, and x2 returns to the split line (although the coach could allow the defenders to switch).

If 1 is able to beat x1 to the middle, x1 shoots as they penetrate the key. x2 must box out 2. If the offensive players rebound the ball, they may shoot again.

Once the defenders secure the ball, they push the ball down the floor looking to get an advantage. The teams play 2x2 in transition.

Another tactic when closing out the shooter is to “hit and run”. In doing this the defender runs toward the shooter and stops without running past them. Once the shot has been made (and the shooter has landed), the defender “checks” or “hits” them with an arm bar and then sprints the floor.

The “check” or “hit” is to stop that player getting to the rebound contest. Importantly, it is done by stepping into the shooter and making contact with an arm bar.

The defender should not reach beyond their cylinder nor hit the shooter before they have landed, as both will result in a foul.

This technique can be practiced using the same activity as above.

Close Out Box Out
Close Out Box Out 2v2