It's took me a while, but I wanted to share with you some of the good responses I got in regard to what different coaches are doing in regard to the closing out. I honestly believe it is one of the most important phases in defensive play the way the game is played today. I want to apologize in advance but our compliance office said it was against NCAA rules to me to mention high school coaches by name in this blog (don't you just love the NCAA!), but I am very much appreciative to all of you -- high school and college -- that have participated. Here are a few of the responses:
Coach, at our level (girls high school) most of the three point threats have to catch and set up (step into their shot). The high hands lets us take away their set up. I think if the offensive player is not a "dead 3", but more of a driver you can get away with out high hands. By high hands we mean hands just above shoulders. As we stutter step we start to throw hands up from natural running position. By guarding our yard we buy time for the help side to get into position and we can push the ball to the baseline check point (Kloppenburg's SOS defense). UNM Drill: player with the ball (defense) starts at mid line of court (line running from rim to rim). Offensive players is on sideline. On first whistle defense pass to offense and close out. Three step sprint, close out low, wide and noisy. Hands up bump down. Offensive player is in "tough" position (ball under chin with elbows out). Defensive player will mirror ball while offensive player works on tough position. (We teach defensive player to cross arms X shape after close out to take away vision.)
What I’ve learned about closeouts comes from Jim O’Brien when he was coaching the 76ers. Always closeout with the first step being the leg away from the ball. Leading with weak side leg whipping across eliminates 1 step and makes for a quicker closeout. If you closeout with the ball side foot making the first step you add a step with the half step as you closeout on the ball.
The first drill that comes to mind has a name, as I learned it, can have a negative connotation, so for your sake I will call it Tiger in the middle or tiger in the cage. Needed are 3 players or groups of 3. This drill can put in reps for close out foot work and an offense player staying strong with the ball and creating passing angles to the post. 2 players are passers about 15ft-18ft apart. Passers always catch in shoot ready position, use several jabs and pass fakes before passing back to other passer. The Tiger in the middle continues to close out on each offensive player discouraging shot, then playing ball and protecting against dribble. The drill can be continuous for :15-:20 seconds or as you see fit, rotate players till each get a few reps. So in all it can be done in 5 minutes as a repetitive drill or warm-up.
-trust system and team if beaten on dribble, no hesitation, 1st 2 steps vital in discouraging shot
-shoot hands towards shot pocket then up into shot line, no uncontested shots
-good quick choppy steps 2 strides out, hands out, up, and lower hips
-force ball outside
-stay down-- I remind players how rare a shot is blocked out on the perimeter by asking them how many they think they had last season (1,2 or none)
-know offensive players tendencies
**stop the shot from happening, protect the basket, contest the shot
I am not sure if this will help you or this is unique, but we try to help our guys close out by playing 1 vs 3. We have 3 players along the perimeter. The one defensive player rolls or throws the ball out to one of the players. They are now "guarding" this person. The ball is passed or skipped along the perimeter and the defensive player adjusts his position relative to his man. Once the ball gets back to their match-up (it could also be the second time back), the players play live 1 on 1 with the closeout obviously included. The defensive players defends all 3 perimeter players and then we rotate. I also feel like if you teach a 2 hands high closeout, with slippage, we may get 1 hand up on the shooter.
As far as closeouts I believe it is one of the most important aspects of defense (ball pressure, defeating screens and help side defense being the others). We teach a three step sprint to closeout. Sprint three steps and then break down with shuffle steps (stutter steps or hockey steps). We want hands high and bump (butt) low. We talk about throwing our hands up and taking away vision and rhythm shots. We want to closeout to within three feet. (Close enough to touch the offensive players hip so that we can bother the shot pocket.) We want feet wide in our stance to force any drive around us 1 yard. (Guard your yard concept.) We will adjust this depending on the the skill set of the offensive player and the quickness of the defensive player. We teach being loud low and wide on closeouts.
I use the term, "Sprint, Sprint, Squeak, Squeak, Squeak" to emphasize proper footwork and the distance you run at the shooter before breaking down into your defensive stance.
I am a Coach Meyer guy and I know that you are as well, so this may be redundant. As a high school coach, our kids really struggle with the attention to detail needed to be good at this aspect of the game. Here are some of the things we do.
5 man closeouts
Three in a row before we switch, our emphasis is active hands, active feet and talking our game. It is sometimes the first thing we do in practice.
Starts,Stops and Turns
After they pass, they must closeout on the receiver.
You must start it with a close out Partner shooting, passer closes out on shooter, shooter must read the defenders hands and decide if he is gonna drive it, or catch and shoot.
Our emphasis for our kids almost always is in this order....Path of closeout ( we don't want to be toe to toe) our closeouts are high, we talk about cutting the offense in half. Hands, they feel funny with high, active hands so they don't do this much...we have to emphasize it. Third, it's talking your game and fourth is making your shoes squeak.
Pretty basic stuff, but in my opinion (that and a dollar and you will have a dollar) it's like rebounding. After you teach them the basic technique, now you have to emphasize it in everything you do. So if we are in a 5-v-5 setting, we may start it with a closeout, if we are playing three on three we may do the same. I guess the best way for me to put it is this: It's always a secondary emphasis in what we do. Not sure if you can have a secondary emphasis:)
Villanova Closeout Drill
Start with a player in each corner and a player on each wing. One of the players in a corner starts with the ball. He passes the ball to the wing on his side and starts to sprint diagonal across the lane while the wing player makes an overhead pass to the opposite wing player. The man that started with the ball in the corner closes out. The wing player who caught the overhead pass makes a shot fake and passes to the corner. The wing player who made the overhead pass is sprinting diagonal across the lane to close out on the man in the corner. You can have the man in the corner shoot it and work on blocking out or play 2 on 2 live from there.
Kentucky Closeout Drill
2 offensive players vs. 2 defenders. Two defenders start on the blocks and a coach is at the top of the key with a ball. Two offensive players are on the wings. Coach passes to one of the wings, on the pass, defenders closeout. One closes out to the ball and the other to the help position. Players are limited to 2 dribbles on the catch. 1 point for 1 deflection, 1 point for 3 consecutive good closeouts and 3 points for a charge. Play to 5.