To be a dominant basketball player you must be solid on both sides of the ball - offense and defense. Many young players are so focused on becoming good scorers that they completely neglect sharpening their defensive skills.
If you aren't good on defense your playing time will be cut short. This article focuses on specific tips and drills that players can use to help them become better defensive players.
When guarding a player how close should you be? Is it better to sag off or better to crowd them? In my opinion, it is always better to crowd the offensive player.
Get up into him and let him know you are there. Some coaches suggest you be an arms-length distance but that is too far for me.
If you are close and pressuring, the offense will have a tough time getting around you or even getting a good shot off. So get up close to your man before he has dribbled and force him where he doesn't want to go. Sure it may seem like a guess at first but you'll learn. Make the adjustments when you have to.
Watch the Mid-Section
I have heard this a million times and I agree with it completely. Always watch a player's midsection because it won't fake you out. Oftentimes a player will be able to fake with his eyes or shoulders or even the ball. If you are watching the mid-section you will be just fine.
The second thing to focus on is your stance. If you are in the proper stance your nose should be about chest high. If you are eye to eye then you are too high, unless he's an extremely short player. Get low, pressure the ball and watch the belly.
Sitting against the wall is one of the best exercises around for conditioning your body to play good defense. I hate them. Present tense, I hate them because I still attempt them today. The only reason I recommend them is because of how beneficial they can be. They truly get your legs ready to play good solid pressure defense. You can also do them while watching basketball games.
If you haven't done these before it is pretty simple to explain. Go to a wall and sit against it pretending that you're sitting in a chair. You should have nothing at all to support you except your legs. Time yourself to see how long you can go for and build up from there. Don't quit when things get tough because that's when you determine how good you're going to be.
Close-outs are used when you are coming to defend a player who is a good distance away from you. For example, you are guarding a wing player who passes into the post. You turn around and attack the post player and try to force him to make a mistake. Instead the post player passes it out to the wing player. This forces you to run at the player with the ball. If you keep running at him he will simply dribble past you. You are out of position. But if you close out on him you will be in better position to stop him.
I coach players to run about half way to the offensive player and then get in a position to contest a shot or stop a dribble by keeping your feet apart but one hand is up in the air. If the player shoots you are in a good position to jump up and contest the shot. If the player attempts to drive past you then you are in position to slow down or stop the dribble. Practice this drill relentlessly by lining up shooters who have the defense running at them. Give the offense the chance to shoot the ball or attempt to dribble.