by Coach John Kimble


Because of the 3-point play and the potential three points that could be scored on every offensive trip, the importance of every possession of the basketball has grown dramatically.  Gaining possession of the ball (via a defense-caused turnover or a defensive rebound) is much more important now not only to prevent opponents from scoring a possible three points, but to also give the “defensive-turned” offensive team an opportunity to score a possible three points.  Defensive rebounds (that most likely require a solid defensive box-out) disallow the opponents an opportunity for an offensive rebound that gives the opposition another possession that could then produce a “3” or a “2.”  That defensive rebound (that follows a fundamentally sound defensive box-out) could help lead the way for a possible six point swing on a mere two possessions of the game.  The value of the ball and therefore the value of the defensive rebounds (via a good defensive box-out) has increased dramatically with more 3 point plays being produced in today’s game.

With the seemingly increasing popularity of the 3-point shot comes the probable increase in the number of 3 point shots taken by teams in each game. This means possibly more missed field goal attempts, which means more overall rebounding opportunities for both the offensive and/or defensive teams.

These factors could help make the defensive rebound become an even more frequent means of obtaining the basketball. Also comes the fact that 3-point shot misses will mean a tremendous increase in the frequency of “long rebounds” on the 3-point shots that are missed.

After the shot has been taken, it remains very important for the individual defenders to stay between the ball and their man—the potential offensive rebounder. Because of the long rebound, having the inside position is only half of the battle for the defender.  Defensive rebounders must have inside position on their respective opponents, but also should make contact with their man slightly outside of the free throw lane.  This is to prevent the long rebound from going over the defender’s head and more likely towards the offensive player who is outside of the defender.  Defenders want to have a “position advantage” on their opponent by not only having inside position, but also by being outside of the free throw lane.  Being on the inside of their offensive opponent, but being too far underneath or too close to the basket gives the defender a “position DISadvantage”—not a “position advantage.”   See Diagram 01.

With the presume increase in long rebounds should also come the increase in the importance (and therefore an increased emphasis by coaching staffs) of boxing out opponents on the perimeter; both on the ballside perimeter and the defense’s weakside (or helpside) perimeter.

Since ballside defenders should already be out on their opponent on the perimeter, there should not be any drastic position change for the ballside defenders. The possible changes in the points of emphasis and in teaching techniques will occur most likely only for helpside defenders.

In all man-to-man defenses, helpside rebounders are initially helpside defenders. They must start off being good helpside defenders by having T-I-P-S

  1. a) good Techniques, b) good Intensity c) good Positioning and d) good S


We believe a good stance for our helpside defenders is being is a semi-crouched stance, with the legs bent, the back fairly straight, the head up and the defender using his peripheral vision. The foot and the leg closest to the ball (called the “ballside foot” and “ballside leg”) should be slightly ahead of the other leg and foot (that is closest to his man—the “manside leg and foot.”)  We want our helpside defenders to be in a ”pistols stance”—always pointing to (and seeing) both their man and the ball.  Diagram 02.

The location/position of all helpside defenders is a “ball-you-man” flat triangle. The flatness of this defensive triangle depends on the relative quickness of the defender and his opponent and the relative proximity of the ball and the defender.  The quicker the defense is, the further off of the (imaginary) “passing line” the defender can be.  Generally speaking, we want our “off-the-ball” helpside defenders to be one to one and a half steps off of the “passing line.”  See Diagram 03.

If the ball is above the free throw line extended, helpside defenders (that are two or more perimeter passes away from the ball) should be in a “ball-you-man” flat triangle position “ONE-STEP-MANSIDE.”  This means that those particular defenders are one full step off of the imaginary vertical center line of the free throw lane and towards their “MAN.”  See Diagram 04.

If the ball is below the free throw line extended, the helpside defenders  (that are two or more perimeter passes away from the ball) should be in a “ball-you-man” flat triangle position “ONE-STEP-BALLSIDE.”  This means that those particular defenders are one full step off of the imaginary vertical center line of the free throw lane and towards the “BALL.” See Diagram 05.

The “pistols stance” should remain the same also with the same techniques previously discussed. But the defender’s position in relation to the center of the free throw lane changes as the position of the basketball changes from above or below the free throw line extended. 

Therefore, all helpside defenders should start within one full step of the exact center of the free throw lane-either towards the ball or towards their respective man. When a helpside defender sees the shot taken from the opposite side of the court, he immediately becomes a “helpside box-out defender.”  He therefore will start from the middle of the lane and go outside of the lane to approach his offensive opponent. We teach the helpside defenders to approach his man under control and to aim for the offensive player’s outside (or baseline side) shoulder.  This is to dictate and force the offensive player (in this defensive overplay) to go where WE want him to go—towards the middle.  This is called a “funnel” overplay.  The techniques are similar to how we close out on an offensive player that just received a “skip pass” with the exception of the direction we force the offensive player to go.  We “fan” (force to the sideline) all skip pass receivers by closing out and shading their inside shoulder.  We “funnel” all potential offensive rebounders that come from the offense’s weakside by (somewhat) closing out and shading their outside shoulder. 

We want these helpside defenders to initiate contact with the offensive player with a defensive box-out by shading the outside shoulder and then making a reverse pivot off of the top pivot and swinging the hips in the direction of where we have influenced the offensive opponent.  We use the phrase “butt to gut and hands up.”  This is to emphasize that we make the initial contact with a wide and strong base and that we have both elbows “high and locked,” making a “V” with both arms and back.  We want to “see the opponent by feel” with the elbows and butt. When the offensive player attempts to break our defender’s contact, we have the defender make short choppy steps to maintain contact and stay between the ball and the opponent.  We want our helpside defenders to go outside of the lane two full steps or as soon as they can initiate contact with the opponent.  If the rebound in fact, is a short rebound; the box-out still gives the defender the “position advantage” over the offensive opponent.  A good box-out by the defender too close to the basket does more harm than good.  A good box-out by a defender who is away from the basket helps guarantee defensive rebounds.   See Diagram 06.

Defenders on the actual perimeter shooters must immediately make and maintain contact on the shooter from where the shooter took the shot. We emphasize to those defenders, particularly on the perimeter to not try to block those shots.  Again, a cardinal rule for defenders must be applied, “Don’t foul a jump shooter.”  We want our perimeter defenders to be the tallest obstacle to the shooter, not a shot-blocker.   We coach our perimeter defenders to use a different type of pivot on opponents that just shot the ball.   Instead of the reverse pivot, we have them use a front pivot to box out shooters.  We do not try to influence the shooter any more than the original positioning when defending the shooter.  After the shot is taken, we have that defender wait to see what direction the offensive player takes towards the basket.  As that offensive player then steps to his right or to his left towards the basket, we have that defender step diagonally across the path the offensive player is about to take to then initiate contact with that offensive player.  The front pivot allows the defender to quickly pick up the sight of the ball at the same time he makes contact with the shooter.  After the initial contact, we then emphasize the same techniques as all off-the-ball defenders, such as:  swinging the hips in the direction of the offensive opponent, again going “butt to gut and hands up,” still having a wide and strong base with both elbows “high and locked,” making a “V” with both arms and back.  We want these ball defenders to also  “see the opponent by feel” with the elbows and butt. When the shooter tries to break our defender’s contact, we have this defender also use short choppy steps to maintain physical contact and to stay between the ball and the shooter.  See Diagram 07.

Defenders guarding perimeter players who are “one pass away from the ball,” should be boxed out with the same type of reverse-pivot. The offensive opponent should be influenced by the defender’s initial denial stance.  The defender’s actual “ballside foot”(located near the “passing line”) will swing around to initiate contact with a reverse pivot off of the “trail foot”-the foot that is the furthest from the (imaginary) “passing line.”  Again, those defenders should utilize the same “butt to gut” technique in making contact and having the same  wide base with the “elbows high and locked.”  Short and choppy steps are again used to maintain the contact and keeping the offensive player outside.  See Diagram 08.

Defensive players defending offensive post players must box-out even more quickly, maintain that initial contact and then keep from getting pushed under the basket. Proper positioning of the hands, elbows and arm are even more important to a defender who has been forced to box out inside the free throw lane.  Again, the elbows definitely should be held “high and locked” with the hands open and the fingers extended.  The head and the eyes of the post defender’s box-out must be looking up for the quick carom of the rebound off of the rim.  The coaching staff can make comparisons of post defense being very similar to defending a perimeter player that is one pass away (from the ball.)  Therefore, the same the reverse-pivot and “butt-to- gut” techniques should be utilized.   Establishing a wide base is even more important to prevent the post defender from being shoved closer to the basket.  See Diagram 09.

The coaching staff must determine the best particular techniques that should be used. Once that decision has been made, the staff must make the commitment to believe in, to sell to the players, to teach and coach the players and to emphasize those specific techniques that are to be used. 

With the proper stances, the proper techniques and the proper positioning/location strongly emphasized by coaches as being an important part of the defense; defenders can use the 3-point field goal misses by an opponent as an invaluable tool to obtain possession of the basketball. These defensive rebounds off of the long rebound could help fuel your team’s own fastbreak opportunities if that fits your team’s style of play.  Regardless of the offensive style of play your team is using, your team now has possession of the basketball.  Regardless of the defense your team utilizes, the best defense your team has is when your team has possession of the basketball. With the 3-point play being a huge part of team’s offenses, that possession of the ball has an even greater importance and value to everyone. 

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