Monday, May 28, 2012

Thinking Beyond the Box and 1: The Stick and Three Defense

Story Behind the Stick & Three

During my one year at South Tama County High School we had to be a little bit creative in order to compete. We had to do some outside the box thinking in order to give us a chance. We had a great group of guys, but we were not tall and did not have great foot speed. To top it off we were a small AAA school (second biggest class) playing in a big AAA conference where at one point four the the eight teams were ranked in the Top Ten in Iowa!

One night we had to go against the number one rated team at the time, Norwalk. Norwalk was 6-8, 6-6, 6-3, 6-3, and had a 6-2 point guard. Our tallest starter was only 6-2!! They were big, fast, strong, and just plain good, but relied heavily on their three studs. The point guard scored 20+ a game, the 6-6 player was a D2 player, the 6-8 kid ended up at division 1 Drake. How were we going to compete against those guys?! Well we knew their point guard was kind of the key, he could score and get others points when he drove the ball. We also knew they played a lot of high low and wanted to go into their bigs. Another key piece of information was their other players were not scorers, they defended and passed to their big three. With that information there was only one defense that really fit what we were looking for - the stick and three.

I had picked up the Stick and Three when talking with Marshalltown Community College Coach Brynjar Brynjarsson. He talked about using it against some of the local community college teams that had 3 great studs and a bunch of guys who didn't want to score. The strategy seemed perfect for Norwalk.

Although we didn't beat Norwalk, and ended up losing by about 15, the Stick and Three actually kept us competitive in the game. We were down six points with the ball in the fourth quarter. We played well offensively, but it was the defense that gave them the most fits. It disrupted what they wanted to do, as a matter of fact, one of their role players traveled on the first play because he caught  the ball, looked to pass right away, realized NO ONE was close to him and tried to stop passing. Having two players in the lane at all times, and fronting both of their bigs allowed us to keep the ball out of the high and low post - which was a big part of their game. It also allowed us to deny their point guard all over the floor with several of our players - holding him to six points for the game. Without the defense I think the score may have been even farther apart than what it was.

Basics of the Defense

The defense is actually very simple. You match up on three players and you leave the other two guys in the lane - usually high and low post. The guys in the lane prevent post entries, drives, back cuts, basket cuts, etc.

If a player you are guarding  1 on 1 is a post player, you front him at all times. You don't have to worry about the lob because you have two guys in the lane.

If a player is a perimeter you go belly to belly and deny him all over the floor. Forget help, forget anything else, you lock onto your man and don't let him touch the ball.

The diagram below shows the basic set up of the Stick and Three. As you can see, three guys are locked onto their man while the other two are zoned up on the inside.

The players defending the studs man to man are locked in, post is being fronted and the perimeters are being denied. Notice that the players who are not the three studs are not being guarded at all.

The guys on the inside do NOT leave the lane to cover the other 2 unless you instruct them to do so. They do shade to that side in case the player not being guarded wants to drive. That way they don't have to rotate, don't have to shift, just sit. On a middle drive the top takes it. On a baseline drive the bottom steps up and the top drops down - fairly easy rotation.

As a change up you could have one of your stick players trap the ball if a star gets a hold of it.

Downfalls of the Defense

Some of the downfalls when playing this defense are:
1. Can't play it if they have a fourth shooter.
      *If they have another guy who comes in and can pull you'll have to make a decision to either  
        switch off  of a post player and let the two in the middle take him, or get out of the defense.
        Because of the nature of leaving the other guys WIDE open a shooter will kill you.

2. Easy passes are always available to the guys you don't guard are always open for a pass out. If you play this defense you are not trying to force the tempo. It does give the offense time to work.

3. Rebounding can be hard at first. We struggled a little bit because we fronted the bigs and they just turned and had easy layups on the offensive rebound. The key is to make your two find a big and box them out.

In Conclusion

 This defense isn't something that should be your base, but I do think it's a great one to have in special occasions where it fits. It is something not a lot of teams see, or are ready for. It's more of a defense that you use to surprise your opponent and keep them out of their flow as we did. I was also blessed with guys who worked really hard and made the defense look good. Our undersized players battled to front their bigs and deny their point guard - without players who are willing to work the defense will be terrible because the studs will get their catches. Anyway, hopefully it's something you can put in your back pocket to help you win a game or two down the road.


Kyle Ohman said...

Your article hits very close to home. I played at Liberty University and during my Junior season (2009) I played with 2 other very good scorers Seth Curry (now at Duke) and Anthony Smith (now a professional player in Germany). We were having a really good season and beginning to run through the conference when teams started using this defense against us. The other teams were basically daring our other 2 players to shoot wide open shots. It was very hard to score on for us but a couple ways that we had success against it was by our bigs setting ball screens or hand offs towards the baseline where there wasn't a defender waiting. This defense is very nontraditional but effective at least for short periods. Thanks again for the article.

-Kyle Ohman

Conry Lavis said...

Thanks john for shearing your knowledge.

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