OVERRIDING DEFENSIVE PRINCIPLE
A strong defensive system should have an overriding principle — a theme in which the defense is built around. At LSU, that overriding principle is: “stop the basketball.” It is very simply stated, but within that concept is a challenging goal for any defensive team. What we have done by making this our primary principle is give us a reference point for all other guidelines in our defensive system. As we go through all of the areas of our base defense, you will see that the reason for much of what we do defensively will rely on putting our players in position to stop the basketball.
All good defensive systems must start with the stance. This is relative regardless of how you play defensively, whether your are a man-to-man coach, a zone coach, or choose to play a multiple defensive system. If you are going to be solid defensively, you must first teach your players the proper stance and, more importantly, condition them to stay in that stance.
For us, the stance begins at the bottom where we want the feet a little wider than shoulders width. The body should be low, bent at the knees (not at the back) with the head up. We like our elbows tucked and tight to the body with hands extended and palms up.
If stopping the ball is the overriding principle to our defense, then ball pressure becomes one of the most critical elements. We want to be able to control the basketball and dictate where it will be dribbled. Our point of pick up on the basketball will start at half court at which time we want to influence the ball to one side of the floor. We believe it is advantageous to the offense to have the ball in the middle of the court as our defense is unable to distinguish ballside and helpside. Once the ball is on the side we want to influence the ball to the corner. The terminology we will use is “influence” rather than “force.” This is also somewhat of an alteration of our past philosophy. In the past, our defense has gotten up on the top foot of the ball handler almost inviting her to drive baseline. Influencing to the corner will give us a better stance to take away the direct penetration to the block. This is a slight change in philosophy when in the past we have taught forcing the ball to the baseline. We believe by influencing to the corner, we are keeping the ball on the side with less allowance for baseline dribble penetration . Because we’re influencing and not forcing, there will be an occasion when the ball handler will bring the ball back to the middle. This is allowable as long as the ball is on an angle going away from the basket.
In terms of ball defense, we have adopted a very simple yet strongly felt phrase that we use with our team: HAND ON THE BALL.
►If the ball handler has the ball but has not used her dribble, we want to be down in our stance with one hand “mirroring” the basketball at all times.
►If the ball handler is dribbling, we want to be down in our stance with our outside hand pressuring the basketball.
►If the ball handler picks up her dribble, we want to get as close to her without fouling as possible and have both hands aggressively “mirroring” the basketball.
►If the ball handler is attempting to pass, we want to have our outside hand extended in the passing lane, attempting to alter the pass or deflect it.
►If the ball handler attempts to shoot, we want to get a hand up on the ball in an attempt to block or alter the shot. This is an aggressive maneuver, but we want to challenge every shot taken by an opponent. We do not believe that a hand in the face will effect a good shooter — we want to make her change her shot.
Pressuring the shot is something that many defenses do not talk about or work on enough. A great way to gauge the value of this is to take a couple of game videos and chart shots against a contesting hand and shots that were totally uncontested. The difference in shooting percentage will greatly differ the majority of the time.
The importance of your opponent’s field goal percentage cannot be overstated. Roy Williams of Kansas says: “The most important stat to us is what our opponents shoot from the field.” Echoing that thought is Utah’s Rick Majerus: “The first and most important stat we look at after a game is our opponent’s field goal percentage.” Our goal is to make sure that our team is more attuned to what our opponents are shooting from the field. This will start in practice with our scrimmage sessions. Sometimes its not necessarily what you teach, but what you emphasize.