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Pressuring the Player with the Ball

"Pressuring the ballhandler makes passing and dribbling more difficult, and increases the chances of an offensive mistake."

CAUTION: You play defense before your opponent receives the ball not after. In forcing the opponent out of their normal operating areas, it creates offensive spacing problems which benefit the defense. Post passes are longer and more difficult, outside shots are longer, and it takes an extra dribble or two to reach the basket.

In guarding a player with the ball, defenders must attack, rather than react to offensive actions, and eliminate the "triple threat" (shot, pass, drive) by taking away the shot and pass options, and forcing the ball hander into dribbling. The reason being is that the offense can "put points on the scoreboardquot; off a shot or pass, but cannot score when dribbling.

The defender's feet should be in a "heel/toe/pushpoint" alignment influencing the ball handler towards a sideline or trap zone preventing any dribble penetration into the middle of the court.

Basic on ball defense stance.

  • Stay low in a bent knee, "nose on chest" upright position. Do not lean or reach
  • Have both hands up to take away shot and post pass options.
  • Keep fingers spread
  • Have active feet. Keep feet moving with small chatter steps. Do not ever stand flat footed

Have Very Active Hands

When guarding the player with the ball, both hands should be held up in a shoulder high, martial arts position where they can strike out and recover with lighting speed. The defender should have very active hands and must be ambidextrous using both hands equally well.

Active Hands

  • One of the defender's hands should be held up close to the ball tracing (following) the ball movement.
  • The other hand is held lower and slightly to the side waving to distract the passer and to cut off the passing lane into post.
  • Stay on balance and do not reach.

Having both hands up where the officials can see them also eliminates fouls.


Defending Against
Offensive Moves & Fakes

Since almost all offensive moves (jab steps, crossovers, reverse pivots, etc.) are predicated in getting past a defender, rather than trying to counter every offensive move, defenders should simply back off (build cushion) and protect against drives.


In building cushion and neutralizing the offensive move, the defender should execute a quick, short 12" hop back with both feet.

Jab Step

If the ballhandler takes a jab step toward the basket, the defender must protect against the drive by countering with a quick, two footed drop (short hop) maintaining a low "nose on chest" push position.

Jab Step Recover

When the ballhandler steps back and reassumes a triple threat position, the defender immediately closes back out using a quick, two footed short hop to an on ball position with both hands up.

Since most offensive players tend to over stride when executing jab steps and crossovers, it reduces the effectiveness of the moves and provides the defender with a slight advantage.