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Transition breakdown drill: a "3 on 2" to "2 on 1" (focus on defense).

Basketball coaches have to make their drills as game-realistic, competitive, and time efficient as possible. They may also choose to incorporate an offensive approach with one group of players while working on specific defensive skills with another.


Such drills can be very effectively used as breakdown drills by specific players, enabling them to work on their particular transition responsibilities both offensively and defensively.

The accompanying drills can be set up primarily for the two most important players in a team's defensive transition--the two defenders who get back first on defense. Every player should be required to work on these two defensive positions (X1 and X2) because you never know who is going to end up in one of these positions.

The two players who become the focal points of the coaching attention are the two initial offensive players who become the two defenders (X1 and X2) in the transition from offense to defense in the following diagrams.

The next focus must be on the three offensive transition players who initially started on the defensive side (1, 2, and 3). During the next phase of the drill, the defensive focus will be changed to the lone defender that goes back to the defensive end, either 1, 2 or 3.

During the same phase of the drill, the offensive focus will be centered on X1 and X2 as they come down the floor on a 2-man fast break.

If an offensive team shoots, misses, and surrenders a defensive rebound; there will be two assigned positions for the first two defenders who are trying to get back to protect their basket. If the offensive team loses possession via a turnover, there will be no definite defensive transition assignments-it will be simply imperative to protect the offensive basket immediately, regardless of who gets back first. That is the main reason why every player should be worked in these two positions on this drill.


The drill can be set up with two defensive players (X1 and X2) starting the drill by literally being seated near the offense's sideline hash mark, and three offensive players (1, 2, and 3) in lines that start on the offensive baseline.


The ball is advanced via dribbling and / or passing with the three offensive players staying in their three wide lanes to attack their basket as quickly as possible. The two defenders must quickly scramble to their feet and then sprint back to defend their basket.


Diag. 2 presents a more game-realistic method of starting the drill. You have the three offensive players (X3, X4, and X5) start in a "3 on 3" defensive alignment against three other players (1, 2, and 3), with the potential two transition defenders (X1 and X2) making one or two passes before one of the other offensive players attempts to shoot and (intentionally) miss.


The original three defenders (soon to become offensive players--1, 2, and 3) work on boxing out, securing the rebound, and running a three-man fast break in the three lanes.

The two original offensive players out in the front of the offense (X1 and X2) sprint back as quickly as possible, communicating loudly on who is to become "Ball-Man" and who is going to become "Basket-Man."


The dummy offensive players (X3, X4, & X5) step off the court and get ready to step into the roles that 1, 2, and 3 currently are playing (See Diag. 2).


The first defender who gets back (X1 or X2)--in this case it will be X1 in Diag. 2--will settle in near the dotted circle in the middle of the lane and yell "Basket!"


The second defender (X2 in the same diagram) hustles back, settles in the lane, and cautiously approaches the dribbler as far out as the top of the key by yelling "Ball!"

The "Ball-Man" (X2) stops the penetration of the dribbler, while the "Basket-Man" (X1) protects both low-post "blocks" and takes both the first and second perimeter passes made to either wing and then back to the center of the court.


Thus, when the offensive team passes the ball to either wing, the "Basket-Man" (X1) will rotate out to defend the ball, while the original "Ball-Man" (X2) will drop quickly down the lane to protect the basket. (See Diag. 3)

If the ball is passed from the wing back to the point, the original "Basket-Man"--X1 (who has defended the "Wing-Pass," the first pass) would then also defend the "Reversal Pass." This will allow the original "Ball-Man"--X2, who has dropped down to protect the basket, to remain low to continue protecting both "blocks" and the basket (See Diag. 4).

To explain the rotation and the coverage in a simple manner, coaches should use the phrase: "The first 'Ball-Man' must stop the ball and the first 'Basket-Man' must take the first two perimeter passes!"


If the ball is centered up and then passed again from the top of the key to the wing on either side, the current "Basket-Man" (X2) would again come out to take the next two perimeter passes, with the current "Ball-Man" (X1) again dropping quickly to protect the basket.

The major points of emphasis for the two defensive players (X1 and X2) in Diags. 2 thru 5 are:

Make sure that there is absolutely no question or doubt about who has taken the "Ball-Man" responsibilities and who has taken the "Basket-Man" assignment (Diag. 2).

"Ball Defender" (X2) must prevent dribble penetration and drive to the basket and encourage the offense to pass the ball as often as possible--the more passes the opponents make, the greater the chance of a turnover and the more time the defense has bought to allow other defensive teammates to get back to help defend the basket (Diag. 3).

After the "Ball-Man" (X2 in Diag. 3) has stopped dribble penetration and influenced a pass to either wing, he must quickly drop to the weak side block area as if defending a backdoor cut. That is, he would turn his back on the ball and face the weak side block area where 3 would most likely cut, looking down his extended right arm for the ball.

The original "Basket-Man" (X1 in Diag. 3) should take the first and the second perimeter pass.

Both defenders should remember that once the ball is centered back up, the new "Basket-Man" (X2 in Diag. 4) will again take the "next two perimeter passes."

The phrase used in teaching this part of the defensive transition is, "Solidly build the defense starting from the basket and then build it out to the dribbler."


The two wing players (3 on the left and 2 on the right in Diags. 2 thru 5) should sprint out and get ahead of the ball, while constantly looking for the pass.

When the cutting wings hit the free-throw line extended, each should plant off of their outside foot, and slash-cut directly to the basket.

The offensive team should try to keep the ball in the middle and get down the floor as quickly as possible, but under control.

The dribbler (1) should not anticipate that the defense will stop the dribble penetration and, if not stopped, the defense will continue attacking the basket until someone does stop them.

If and when the defense does stop the ball, the ball handler should make a solid jump-stop and look to make a bounce-pass (below the outstretched arms of the defenders) to one of the cutting teammates.

All offensive players should avoid offensive fouls as a result of out-of-control dribbling.

If the ball is passed into a wing area to a player who is not driving (2), that passer (1) should follow the pass a few steps to shorten the length of the potential return pass. (Diag. 4).

Every offensive player should remember to "take what the defense will give you" and not force the action.


When the three offensive players (1, 2, & 3) lose possession of the ball because of a made shot, a missed shot, or a turnover, either the shooter or the player who committed the turnover must turn and sprint back to protect the far basket by himself.

The original two defenders (X1 & X2) would then sprint back and run a two-man offensive fast break against the new lone defender. (In this case, the lone defender would be O3.)

The new lone defender works on his defensive techniques against the two offensive opponents trying to score an easy basket against his transition defense.


Get back to protect his basket as quickly as possible.

Not worry or sulk about the missed shot or the turnover.

If possible, sprint into the lane and then turn around in the path of the dribbler with a wide and sideways stance, facing the receiver who is without the ball. In this manner, the defender is discouraging the dribbler from driving all the way to the basket.

Being in this specific position-location, the defender has encouraged the dribbler into taking a jump shot or passing the ball to the seemingly open teammate. Being in the sideways stance will allow the defender to quickly rotate to the open man, when and if the pass is made.

Coaches should use the phrase: "Physically you are here, but mentally you are there" to describe the "cat and mouse" game the lone defender must play with the two offensive opponents (See Diag. 6).

Slash at the new driver (if the pass is made to the open player, X2) at an angle that would put him behind the driver and let him go for the block with his belly facing the back of the driver and his right hand going for the ball. This body position will allow the defender to avoid the light contact and foul.

Coaching staffs should not encourage cheap-shots or dirty play, but tell their defenders that if they are going to foul, to do it in a clean manner so that the offensive opponent cannot get the shot off. They could use the phrase, "No cheap shots, but no touch fouls!"

Look to draw an offensive foul before a shot is taken. If the offensive charging foul is not called, a turnover might be caused or, the worst-case scenario, a blocking foul. But that isn't as bad as a two-shot shooting foul for the opponents.

Coaches should constantly remind the lone defender that he is at a numerical disadvantage and that he is just trying to "buy his teammates some time." The more passes and dribbling he can influence, the more time he can give his teammates to get back and help him "defend the gold--the basket."

Encourage the defender to be aggressive, but NOT to go out and attack the dribbler. This saying can be used frequently: "Remember that you have something that the bad guys want--our basket. You have something to protect, so stay at home and protect it."


Both players should sprint down the floor as quickly as possible under control and looking for defenders as well as the basketball.

Both should stay widely apart to prevent the one defender from being able to guard both of them,

Offensive players should not make a decision too early on what they are going to do with the basketball. They should have an idea, but must still read the defense and take what it is giving them.

Offensive players should remember that "rebounders jump while passers stay on the ground." Offensive players should not leave the ground to pass and get lured into an offensive foul, especially when they have an offensive numerical advantage.

Offensive players should look for bounce passes to teammates close to the basket, as such passes are more difficult for defenders to deflect or intercept.

After one shot or turnover, the "2-on-1" action is over. The offense should then quickly begin to set up the next "3-on-2" scenario, and continue the drill without any interruptions (See Diag. 7).

This drill works on specific techniques for both the defensive and the offensive transitions. Offensive fundamentals such as passing, catching, dribbling, running, shooting, and quickly getting back on defense should be incorporated in this drill on a fast-paced full-court scale. Also:

Defensive fundamentals such as stopping dribble penetration, guarding the ball, reacting to passes, defensive box outs, defensive rebounding, and quick immediate full-court transition. A certain level of physical conditioning can be achieved in running full-court sprints both offensively and defensively.

By John Kimble, Retired Basketball Coach Crestview (FL) High School
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Title Annotation:BASKETBALL
Author:Kimble, John
Publication:Coach and Athletic Director
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Dec 1, 2005
Previous Article:Basics of match-up zone coverage.
Next Article:Building up the attack and attacking the goal.

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