Turn Up The Intensity: 3-on-3 Guts

By Randy Sherman

Refine your team defense, motion offense and mental toughness with this live, competitive drill: 3-on-3 Guts.

Basketball teams across the country at all levels are getting back into the gym for preseason workouts soon. Early season practices feature a lot of “install” and team concepts.

Do not neglect drills that measure your team’s competitive fire and mental toughness. 3-on-3 Guts is one such drill. Can your team handle adversity? Can they fight through fatigue and execute on the defensive end when the stakes are high? Will they give in when a few things go against them? 3-on-3 Guts is an excellent live and competitive drill designed to find those answers.

3-on-3 Guts

Divide your team into teams of three (Note: this drill can also be done as 4-on-4 Guts as well). Pictured below (Phase 1) are three teams: Black, Grey and Red. The Grey team has the ball first and will go down and back on offense before a new offensive trio comes on the floor. Red is beginning the drill on defense. They must get four consecutive stops before rotating to offense. 

Defense must make four consecutive STOPS before going to offense. STOPS are defensive rebounds, steals or out of bounds possessions. If the offense scores or is fouled, the defensive STOP count goes back to zero. Offensive charges count as four stops. Offense goes down and back, and a new offensive group comes on the floor. The offense TAKES NO PRISONERS! The defense must earn its way off the court. GREY team brings the ball up against the RED team.

While in halfcourt play the offense is playing within their motion offense principles. Defensively, have your team play within your philosophy whether that is Pack Line or pressure man-to-man.

There are a few rules that guide the drill during halfcourt play (see Phase 1A below). First, teams only switch directions after a made shot or a defensive rebound. If a foul or steal occurs, the defense “checks” the ball in. Finally, the offense must inbound the ball on all out-of-bounds situations.

STAY. Do not change directions until the ball touches the rim. Check ball in after steals and fouls. Offense must inbound the ball on all out of bounds situations. Offense: Play within motion offense rules Defense: Man-to-Man rules.

When the offense takes a shot there will most likely be a change of direction, but the Red team stays on defense until they get four consecutive stops. A foul or a made shot against them brings the “stop count” back to zero.

In the diagram below (Phase 2), the Red team got a defensive rebound (one stop) and gives the ball back to Grey then retreats to defense on the other end. Grey advances the ball.

Switch Directions. Teams switch directions after a MADE shot or DEFENSIVE rebound.

At the end of the possession in Phase 3 below, there will be a new offensive group. An offensive group only goes down and back before rotating off.

In Phase 3, we see Red get another stop with a defensive rebound. They then give the ball to the new offensive team (Black) and get back on defense where they will (hopefully!) collect another stop.

New Offensive Group. Offense goes down and back, and then is replaced by a new group. Black team is now on offense. Defense must earn its way to offense by making four consecutive defensive stops.

The drill continues in this manner until the Red team gets four consecutive stops. The offense “takes no prisoners!” The defense must fight through fatigue and adversity and find a way to get four consecutive stops.

More Drill Tips and Rules

Below is a summary of the rules that govern the drill:

  • Defense must make four consecutive stops before going to offense
  • Stops are defined as defensive rebounds, steals or out-of-bounds possessions
  • If the offense scores or gets fouled, the defensive “stop count” goes back to zero
  • Offensive charges count as four stops
  • Offense goes down and back and a new offensive group comes on the floor
  • Do not change directions until the ball touches the rim or offense scores (teams switch directions after Defensive rebouds or Offensive FGM)
  • Check the ball in after steals and fouls
  • Offense must inbound the ball on all out-of-bounds situations
  • You can award the defense one 30-second timeout that they can call during a dead ball situation
  • Play within the motion offense and man defense rules in your program

Another interesting way to approach the drill is with a football analogy. Each stop is like a “down” in football. And like in football, when it is third and fourth down the pressure mounts. Will you stop them one last time or give them a fresh set of downs?

A foul or a made shot results in a fresh set of downs you must defend, just as a defensive penalty or a successful offensive play does in football. Can your team get the stop to win the game on a pivotal fourth down or will they fail and have to fight through fatigue and stop the offense with a fresh set of downs?

3-on-3 Guts will reveal a lot about an individual’s and your team’s fortitude. There will be in-fighting when a team’s stop count goes back to zero on fourth down. There will be players that want to “throw in the towel” and surrender when their stop count resets yet again. Use this drill to see who your true competitors are.

But this drill can referred back to late in a pivotal game when a make-or-break possession arises. Your team will call for “guts” and get the stop needed to win and this drill may be a big reason why.

Continue the basketball conversation: 

For help with teaching and drills for the pressure man defense and a motion offense attack, check out the RAMP program.

Any questions: Contact me. Happy to talk hoops any time day or night! If you would like to be added to the motion offense mailing list, email and let me know!

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Randy Sherman is the owner and founder of Radius Athletics - a basketball coaching consulting firm - where he consults with basketball coaches at all levels on coaching philosophy, practice planning, Xs & Os and teaching a conceptual style of basketball. While a head basketball coach at the the interscholastic level, Sherman's teams won 197 games in nine seasons.
Jan. 12, 2015 – Florida, U.S. – Forest Hill High School basketball coach Nate Vera leads varsity practice on Monday, January 12, 2015. ”This is my second year as coach,” he said. ”All of our assistants are locally grown. We are all under 27. (Credit Image: © Bruce R. Bennett/The Palm Beach Post/ZUMA Wire)

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One Comment;

  1. JACK SINGER said:

    This sounds like an excellent drill that I will be adding to my Under 19 high school programme in North London, England. I intend to add blocking out as an extra STOP.