Building A Defensive Practice Plan

By Andrew Lacey

Our defensive philosophy is developed around our style of play. We are a running, pressing, up-tempo team. We want our defense to be an AGGRESSIVE, DISRUPTIVE, and DISCIPLINED style of defense. Our goal is to force our opponent to “make a play” versus being allowed to “run a play.” We are a defense that creates deflections, turnovers and transition opportunities through constant pressure. We make our opponent “React.”

This will be accomplished through full court pressure and aggressive half-court defense. Our goal is to create a high number of possessions each game by taking teams out of their comfort zone. Our mentality is to force tempo and fatigue.

We develop the mentality EVERYDAY at practice to improve our conditioning, intelligence and toughness. We make it an emphasis to pressure opponents and be willing to give up nothing easy early or late, especially second shots.

Below you will find a couple of the drills that we use each day to help teach this principles to our players. They can be tweaked to fit your personal defensive philosophy or used as they are a diagrammed.

1 v 1 Close Out


  • Coach or Manager stands at the top of the key, with an offensive player standing on the wing free throw line extended.
  • The lone defensive player will be standing a the elbow in a defensive stands.
  • Coach/Manager will command the defender to run in place briefly. Once the Coach/Manager passes the ball to the offensive player on the wing, the defender will close out and defend.

Teaching Points:

  • Move on air time, break down with short choppy steps when you get to the offensive player.
  • Player should throw both hands up on close out in order not to give a high foot or open up for a straight drive.
  • Force to the baseline side. NO MIDDLE DRIVES.

2 v 1 Square Up



This is probably one of the most beneficial drills we do. Being disciplined in a 2 v 1 situation and forcing a contested shot or that extra pass until help gets there is rarely practiced in most high schools. But this drill teaches that and we do it at the beginning of practice everyday by every player.

  • The two offensive players start on opposite elbows and one player will have the ball.
  • The one defender will be positioned in the middle of the lane just about the volleyball line.
  • At this point they will simulate a 2 v 1 situation looking to score. The defender is trying to get into a position to force two passes or to contest (w/o fouling or giving up a lay- up).

Teaching Points:

  • Defender should stunt at the ball-handler trying to make them make a quick move.
  • Defender should square up on the shot by the offense. Square Up means that we put both hands in the air towards the sky, and be ready to take a charge or if we do make contact its with the chest not the hands.
  • Defender does not want to give up a lay-up. BUT DO NOT FOUL.

2 v 2 Stunt & Go


  • Coach/Manager will start at the top of the key.
  • Two offensive players will align on wings free throw line extended.
  • Two defenders should be aligned in the alley splitting the difference between the ball and the offensive player they are defending. We want this to look like we are doing the pass that is one pass away but we are really protecting against the drive.
  • Coach/Manager will pass the ball to one of the offensive players on the wings…at this point the defender will close out to the ball and the weak-side wing will sprint to the help line covering the basket.
  • On the pass back to the top of the key. The weak- side defender will sprint to protect the gap from a quick drive and the strong side defender will sprint back to protect the gap.
  • We tell our kids to stunt at the ball-handler to discourage the drive.
  • If the coach drives; the defender will stunt at the dribbler then recover to their man on the pass.

Here are just a couple drills that we use in our defensive practice plan. Stay tune for part two of this blog for the Weak-side Awareness Drill and Trap Transition drill that we use.

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Andrew Lacey

Head Coach at Richard Bland College of William and Mary
Successful head coach at Richard Bland College of William & Mary in Virginia. Coach Lacey has a proven track record running all aspects of a program. Accomplishing 166 wins coaching at the high school level; with a proven ability in developing basketball programs into playoff caliber teams with an emphasis and focus in preparing student-athletes for college-level competition. Coach Lacey guided Varina HS team to the VHSL Class 5 State Title during the 2018 season, along with the 2019 5B Regional Title and 2018 5B Regional Title. He was named VHSL Class 5 State Coach of the Year. An article of his titled "Using Ball Screens in your Motion Offense" was published in Winning Hoops Magazine in September 2015. Coach Lacey is also the founder of Andrew Lacey Basketball and the host of his on podcast called "It Takes What It Takes."
Feb. 24, 2015 – Florida, U.S. – Darius Banks, 16 works out during St. Pete High School basketball practice Tuesday February 24, 2015. .JOHN PENDYGRAFT | Times (Credit Image: � Tampa Bay Times/ZUMA Wire)

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