Houston Cougars: Defensive Concepts Featuring “Monster” Traps

By Tony Miller

Houston Cougars Kelvin Sampson basketball defense monster trap

Coach Tony Miller breaks down the principles behind Kelvin Sampson’s Houston Cougars elite defensive system, including one specific tactic.

Houston Cougars – Sustained Success

Sure, to win a basketball game, a team must score more points than its opponent. But, stopping opponents from scoring is also a great strategy. Coach Kelvin Sampson, a veteran of the game, certainly knows this and has his Houston Cougars playing some of the best defense in the NCAA. Specifically, there’s one tactic the Cougars use to disrupt opposing offenses.

Defensive Elements

Years ago, Sampson decided that in order for his team to take the next step, it needed to create an identity. The result was the establishment of the “Core Four” – pick and roll defense, post trapping, transition defense, and offensive spacing.

Here’s a closer look at one element of Sampson’s Core Four: post defense.


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“Monster” Traps

Swift, aggressive traps are the key for Houston’s post defense. Even before the ball is caught, post defenders are taught to try to take away easy looks into the post. Never be content to play behind the offense. Three-quarter front to deny the pass. Arm bar on the hip. Other hand out to take away the pass.

If the offense does decide to pass, the goal is to force passes in the air. With the ball in the air:

  • x4 comes across the “blue line” to double with hands high
  • the post defender (x5) moves to take away the baseline
  • the guard on the trap’s side (x2) prevents a pass back out to the perimeter
  • the guard defending the top of the key (x1) drops to the nail to see everything
  • the guard opposite the trap (x3) drops to take away the low man’s cut
Houston Cougars post traps fastdraw diagram

What sets Houston apart? The speed and consistency with which this happens…

More from Coach Kelvin Sampson and the Houston Cougars:

In this Championship Productions video, Kelvin Sampson’s Program Development Guide: Better Practices, Better Defense & Becoming a Great Coach, you’ll learn Coach Sampson’s keys to improving rebounding, strategies for defending the pick-and-roll, and more!

Here’s a clip from the clinic:

More from Coach Tony Miller:

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Tony Miller

Men's Assistant Basketball Coach at Bob Jones University Bruins
Dr. Tony Miller is the men's assistant basketball coach at Bob Jones University in Greenville, SC. In addition, he serves as the director of BJU's sport management degree program.
November 24, 2023: Houston Cougars head coach Kelvin Sampson calls a play during an NCAA college basketball game between the Houston Cougars and the Montana Grizzlies on November 24, 2023 in Houston. Houston won, 79-44. (Credit Image: © Scott Coleman/ZUMA Press Wire)
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