Tuesday, July 21, 2009

The Closeout: When the Defense is Most Vulnerable

I spent my Monday sitting down with a local college coach, and among the many things we talked about was his offensive philosophy. He's a good coach who has been at some Division 1 stops along the way in his coaching career. His comment to me about his offense was that he wanted to make the defense close out as much as possible and then take advantage of the closeouts mistakes. I like that and think it can (and should) be a part of any good offensive philosophy. It's nothing new, but something that I have not personally heard coaches specifically talk to players about often - taking advantage of the defense on the closeout.

Some mistakes the defense is going to make (and you should talk to players about) are closing out:

1. Too loose - this allows you to attack with a shot or a jab fake and drive.

2. Too tight - this allows you to simply blow by the defender or use a shot fake and drive.

3. Too high - going to allow you to attack low.

4. Too low - going to allow you to attack high.

Attacking the closeout defender is something that players should be taught and learn how to do. Hit a couple shots? Know the defender is going to close hard and probably be taken advantage with the shot fake or blow by. Have you driven a few times on this guy? Well, know he is going to close out softer and will likely be more apt to bite on a jab fake.

As always, simple things to think about that could make a big difference for your guys. Some of these things we at times expect players to know, but unfortunately most don't until they are told.

As a coach, how can we work more closeouts into our offenses? Three ways I can think of are:

1. Drive and Kick. The enter DDM or AASAA offensive scheme is predicated on beating people off the closeouts and getting to the basket.

2. Skip Passes. The skip pass is the ultimate way to get a closeout because normally you are making a guy go from help position (many times mid lane) to the opposite side of the court, lots of ground to cover. So if you like the idea of getting closeouts, try to get your guys to throw an occasional skip pass. These will also open up the lane for you as defenders start to cheat them.

Also, while watching a practice a DeLaSalle High School (Mpls. MN) I heard Coach Thorson say to his players: "One good skip pass deserves another". His idea was that if the player does not have a shot or immediate drive on the skip to skip it back because the defense coming to help side may have overplayed to get to help side.

3. Ball Swings. Swinging the ball side-top-side in rapid fashion is a great way to force defenders to move from help to ball in quick fashion. Notice the good dribble drive teams may swing the ball 1-2x probing the defense and waiting for that suspect closeout to occur so they can take advantage of that.

Anyway, there are some thoughts and ideas on taking advantage of closeouts. Hopefully you can find this information helpful!

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