Four Ways a Defense Can Guard You and How You Counter


The Four Ways a Defense Can Guard You

As you know, at every Elite Basketball Training skill development workout, I strive to develop your basketball skills as well as teach the game of basketball. Learning the game will help basketball players build up their basketball IQ. They will know more about how defenses are playing them, where and how they should cut based on this, and how they can counter the defense once they have caught the ball. Knowing this information will ultimately make for a much more efficient and effective basketball player on the court. That being said, there are really only four ways a defense can guard you.  They are:

  1. Play in your face, guarding you tight.
  2. Play an arm’s length away.
  3. Force you to your right.
  4. Force you to your left.

Knowing this information will give you an understanding of not only how the defense is guarding you but also how you can counter that defense with specific offensive moves.

Offensive Moves That Counter the Defense

Knowing how to and being able to counter a defense as an individual player will make your own personal offense and the team offense click. You, as a player, will be able to break free of defenders and create space for yourself to get your own shot. Furthermore, getting into space with the basketball will put pressure on the team defense, forcing them to rotate and ultimately leaving one or more of your teammates open.  Looking at each example of how a defense can guard you, we can break down the best and most efficient counter moves to use. If a defense is playing up and pressuring you (ie. guarding you tight) there are a few ways you can create space. First, a player should rip over or through and step across the defender leading with the hips. This will force the defender to back off and once you step back to triple threat you will have space for yourself. It should be noted, that when you step across your defender, if your knee is outside theirs then you should drive by them. Finally, as you step across, instead of coming back to triple threat, you can spin back and drive the opposite direction.

The second way a defense can play you is an arm’s length away. If the defense is guarding you with an arm’s length distance, you have space there already for you to do one of three options: shoot, pass, or drive. In the third and fourth ways a defense can play you basically counter by going the opposite direction the defense is forcing you. In other words, if they are playing you to go right, then drive left and if they are playing you to drive right, then attack left. Doing so, will require you as an offensive player to attack the defender’s front leg putting pressure on the defense by forcing them to drop step and or backpedal. As an offensive player this is exactly what you want to make the defense do. It will help you cut the defender off and get them on your hip, rather than having them slide with you which is exactly what will happen if you have attacked the basket in the same direction they are forcing you.

Tips on How the Defense is Playing You and Your Options

  • Tight Defense = Step across and rip through series
  • Arm’s length away = shoot, pass, or drive
  • Forcing you right = drive left
  • Forcing you left = drive right.

How Thorough is Your Basketball Training Program?

The Most Thorough Basketball Training Program The

As you know, at Elite Basketball Training, we strive to be the most thorough basketball training program in New Jersey. It is for this reason that I offer both basketball skill development, sports performance training, and nutrition and supplement advice to all of the basketball players that train with me. This approach will insure that the players that come out of my basketball training program will have the complete package on the basketball court. To break this down even further, each Elite Basketball Training workout is as thorough as they come and cover all facets of the game including ball-handling, attacking and finishing off the dribble, passing, shooting, cutting, reading the defense and reacting to your read. Sound like a lot? It is, but it is well worth it. In fact, last week I heard one of the parents tell his son, “You learn more in one session here than you do in your whole season with you team.”  I thought that was such an amazing compliment for my basketball training program and it got me thinking about how thorough a basketball training workout should be.

European Skill Development vs. American Game Play

When I sit down to design my basketball skill development workouts, I do so with the purpose of developing the most well rounded basketball players that I can. These multi-skilled players have proven to be the most successful players on the basketball court. Having played, coached and studied the game of basketball for over two decades I am off the opinion that they way Europeans develop their basketball players is a far better approach to skill development than our current AAU/Travel team model here in America. Instead of play, play, play like we do here in the states, the Europeans focus on skill development with drills and repetitions in order to learn the game of basketball. It is for this reason that foreign born players have more overall skill than the American players who often rely on their athleticism. It is also the reason that my workouts are so thorough and cover so many aspects of the game of basketball.

Progressive Approach to Skill Development

At Elite Basketball Training, we have a progressive approach to basketball skill development. That is to say that each skill that we learn builds upon previous skills. Not only that, each individual workout is progressive as well and each skill and drill covered in the workout builds on the previous one. For example, in a recent workout, we covered finishing off one leg. We began by teaching this skill and explaining its purpose. From there the players worked on form finishing off one leg striving to execute proper form at about 60% of their game speed in single leg layups, reverse layups, inside hand finishes, etc. From there, we incorporated these finishing moves into an attack drill that forced them to go at game speed. Finally, the players were asked to finish with contact in order to make the drill more game like. I refer to this method as the “form, speed, contact” method and it plays right into our progressive mentality. Furthermore, at the next workout, we will review these finishes and then add single leg counter move finishes which would be the next series in the progression. We have found that this progressive teaching philosophy works far better than throwing together a hodge podge of drills you happen to find on youtube.

Teach the Game and Build Basketball IQ

Aside from the most obvious skills like dribbling, passing, and shooting there are less obvious skills that also need to be developed that include reading the defense and building your basketball IQ. Both fall into the category of “teaching the game” and are always a part of our Elite Basketball Training workouts. For example, in the last two weeks of our Saturday Skills Training program we have been covering reads off of a narrow pin down. Following our progressive teaching philosophy, in week one we taught a stop and go cut with reads that you can make coming off a curl. This began with a tight curl because the defender was trailing and there was no help and advanced to two different wide curl reads. The following week we proceeded to flare cuts out of the same narrow pin down and how to make moves and countermoves out of that cut by reading the defense.  This, teaching of the game, builds players’ basketball IQ and is vital to their success on the court. A player’s knowledge of the game will serve to elevate their play by making them more open than just relying on sheer athletic ability. It’s part of the reason why all time greats like Chris Mullin and Larry Bird were so amazing. They were basketball savants along with having amazing individual skills.

Tips on How to be Thorough With Your Basketball Workouts

  • Let basketball skill development be the focus of your training and game play be the cherry on top.
  • Teach skills progressively. Build on each skill within the workout and then move forward when the players have mastered the skill.
  • Teach the game. Include basketball IQ building drills into each and every workout.

Two Simple Ways to Add Conditioning to Your Shooting Drills


Jump Shooting When Fatigued

Last night I was fortunate enough to work with a rising sixth grade basketball player that could really shoot the ball well.  This player’s technique is textbook, incorporating all aspects of the Pro Shot System. As we began the workout, he was shooting the ball very well, and making a large percentage of his shots.  His form was perfect. However, as the hour and workout went on, he began to fatigue and subtle nuances began to creep into his shot, making him miss. Now I am probably nitpicking here because overall, throughout the course of an hour, this player shot the ball really well. However, it is important to be able to continue to shoot the ball when you are fatigued, particularly at the end of a basketball game or in the case of an AAU tournament in the games that matter most toward the end of the tournament. Shooting the ball when fatigued is a skill that can be developed. It just takes practice, like anything else, and some simple adjustments to the way you train. Those adjustments include incorporating both running and even defense into your shooting drills.

Having a Touch Spot and A Shooting Spot

One simple way to add conditioning to your shooting drills is to include a touch spot in the drill. Simply state, this is a spot that the player must run to and touch after every shot is taken. For example, if the player is shooting from the wing, have them touch the corner of half court after every shot and return to the wing or shooting spot. The purpose of a having both a touch spot and shooting spot is to keep the player moving throughout drill. This will make the shooting drill much more game like and force the player to shoot through periods of fatigue.

Incorporate Defense Into Your Shooting Drills

Another great way to condition your players while shooting and also work on defensive technique is to incorporate defensive close outs and/or defensive slides into the shooting drill. For example, you can have the player start on the baseline with the basketball, pass you the ball at the top of the key, close out on you with proper defensive technique, defensive slide to the sideline, and approach the wing for a jump shot. Adding close outs and slides makes the drill multi-functional. You will, not only, be working on jump shooting and conditioning, but also defensive skills like closing out properly and sliding as well as the proper footwork for pivoting and changing directions.

The Wilson X Basketball

Although not related to conditioning, the Wilson X Connected Basketball is a great device that is relatively new to the market and will help you track your makes and misses throughout your workout. The Wilson X Connected Basketball works in accordance with the Wilson X App that is available in the App Store or on Google Play. Once the ball is connected to the app, you can play fun games that simulate real game like experiences such as a countdown timer and crowd noise. The most important part here though is that you can track your makes and misses and the valuable information learned from that data will help you determine where you are missing from and at which point in your workout. There is no doubt that the Wilson X Connected Basketball is a game changer when it comes to your basketball skill development workouts.

Tips For Adding Conditioning to Your Shooting Drills

  1. Have a touch spot and a shooting spot in as many jump shooting drills as possible.
  2. Incorporate defensive slides and defensive close outs into your shooting drills to make them multi-functional.
  3. Track your shots to know where and when you are missing. (Invest in the Wilson X Connected Basketball to help with this)

Bodyweight Training for Youth Basketball Players

Youth Performance Training

 Three Components of Youth Performance Training

After having sent out the email this week that included a sample 4 day workout plan for basketball players, I was asked by some of the parents of my Elite Basketball Training family to provide workouts for players who were younger, not ready to go to the gym and could be done at home.  As a IYCA Youth Fitness Specialist I often find myself working with younger athletes, particularly basketball players, who have never worked with weights before and in many cases have not done any sort of athletic development training. Their inexperience combined with their young age, lack of physical development, and short attention spans pose an interesting challenge to training these athletes. Aside from the unique challenge, it is also a chance to get athletes at a young age and provide them with the fundamental building blocks of performance training, or build them from the ground up. With all of this in mind, it is important to develop an age appropriate training program that focuses on proper technique, a variety of skills, and is fun and engaging for the young athlete.

Bodyweight Training to Build a Solid Foundation

I have never understood why parents and coaches are so hesitant to have athletes strength train at a young age. In one breath they will say how weight training is bad for the physical development of a child, but then take their son or daughter to play in a weekend soccer tournament where they play in 5 games over the course of two days. How does this make any sense?  It doesn’t, and it is totally safe for youth athletes to be involved in a performance training program that is well designed and done with the correct coach. For us at Elite Basketball Training, we focus the majority of our younger athletes’ training on body weight exercises. This is based on the premise that unless you can control your own body weight you cannot control additional weights.  So exercises, like bounding, jumping, pushups, squats, lunges, rows, situps, etc dominate the landscape of our basketball performance training programs. Doing so will build a strong bodily foundation for these athletes, one in which they will be able to control their own body and develop the core strength and stability to handle heavier weights when the time comes to progress. That being said, I am a huge fan of the TRX Suspension Trainer Home Gym and use it regularly when training athletes of all ages. The TRX Suspension Trainer uses the athlete’s own body weight as the resistance and you can perform a multitude of exercises like the ones previously mentioned and more.  The best part about it is that you can take it anywhere you go. Use it at home, take it with you to the park, or even bring it on your next vacation. Ultimately, your training will never stop with this super functional piece of equipment, and it fits perfectly into our youth training system that we employ at Elite Basketball Training.

A Sample Youth Basketball Performance Training Workout

All of this being said, here is a sample training program that we would use in one of our basketball performance classes (with credit given to the IYCA):

Dynamic Warmup x 10 each

On your back: Leg Kicks, side to sides, rolling V’s

On your stomach: scorpions, knees to elbows, super mans

Standing: Leg swings front to back and lateral, jumping jacks, seal jacks

Explosive Training:

180 degree Jumps 2 x 10

Med Ball Chest Pass 2 x 20

Strength Work:

A1. Body Weight Squats to a box x 8, 8, 10, 12

A2. TRX Pushups x 8, 8, 10, 10

B1. TRX rows 4 x 8-12

B2. Body weight Lunges 4 x 8 each leg

B3. Planks 3 x 30 seconds


5 x 1 min As Many Cones As Possible

Set up 10-20 cones randomly around the gym. In five, one minute rounds have the athlete touch as many cones as possible. They must touch 5 cones prior to coming back to one that they have already touched. Try to maintain the number of cones touched over each round.

Stretching and foam rolling.

Tips For Youth Basketball Performance Training

  1. Use bodyweight training to build a solid foundation.
  2. Teach and stress proper technique.
  3. Incorporate a variety of skills.
  4. Make the workout fun and competitive.

Three Questions to a Better Baller

Say No to New Year’s Resolutions

With the new year well under way, many people have made their new year’s resolutions, began them, and in some cases done away with them already. It is a shame but it is also the reason that I no longer make new year’s resolutions. I came to realize long ago that, for whatever reason, they just do not work. In fact, by the end of January and early February the new year’s resolutions have been thrown out the window and most people are back to their regular self. If you need proof of this, just go into any gym (WOW, Retro Fitness, Gold’s, etc.) during the first two weeks of the new year. It is jam packed with people who have decided to get off their couches and exercise after becoming disgusted with their diet of cookies and cake during the holidays. They make a new year’s resolution to get in shape this year and are all gung ho right off the bat. They get the new gym clothes, the protein shakes, the sneakers and hit the gym regularly in January. Go in three to four weeks later and these new year resolutionists are mostly all gone and it is the regulars who are still there plugging away at these gyms. Resolutions just don’t work. They are dream, not a reality. It’s unfortunate, but it’s true.

Three Questions to Becoming Better

With that in mind, I decided to share what I do at the end of each year in order to better myself for the next. I use my time off from work to sit down and ask myself the following three questions:

  1. What have I done well this year?
  2. What can I do better next year?
  3. What do I need to stop doing in order to advance myself?

I have been using this method for about five years now and have found that it works far better than creating a new year’s resolution. Why? These three questions are a self evaluation rather than a dream that you conjure up as a resolution. They force you to look into your life over the past year and give an honest critique yourself. These findings can then be used to set challenging but attainable goals for yourself. They can also be used in any aspect of your life, from business to relationships, to fitness training, to basketball training.

Your Basketball Training Goals for 2016

Use the three questions to set a plan for your basketball training in 2016. Sit down and ask yourself those three questions. Write down your answers to the questions.  It is always best to have the information in writing, it holds you accountable. Then set to task, solving your problems.

If you handled the basketball well this year, but couldn’t shoot to save your life then maybe it’s time to hire a shooting instructor. Maybe your conditioning is good but you are physically weak. Then consult a basketball sports performance coach and come up with a well thought out strength and conditioning program. Maybe you need to stop eating junk food and fill your body with good, nutritious food and supplements. Either way, asking yourself these three questions will set you on a course to becoming a better basketball player and a better person.