In the article, Factors to Successful Pack Line Defense, I briefly wrote about three characteristics that make our Pack Line defense successful for our program at Bob Jones University. I would like to take each of those factors and go more in depth with them.
Our transition defense always begins when we take a shot or turn the ball over on offense. On the shot, it is our practice to aggressively send THREE offensive players to the glass, while our 1 & 2 guards GET BACK. Obviously, if we get the offensive rebound we will continue to execute our offense. However, if we do not secure the ball we will need to immediately get back in transition and stop the ball. In a turnover scenario, everyone will just immediately get back. In order to successfully accomplish this, we will need each one of our players to perform their role at a high level. Note: each of these role descriptions should be performed with the three MUST-DO'S at the end of this article.
It is the duty of the point guard to initially STOP THE BALL! He is the first line of defense and his role is crucial in eliminating easy baskets in transition. His job is to engage the ball handler by the time he reaches half court. He needs to slow down the ball handler, eliminating any passes up the sideline. He will do this by attempting to turn the opposing player 2-3 times. By doing this, our point guard is limiting the ball handlers options to either retreating or making an ill-advised cross court pass.
Our 2 guard is SPRINTING immediately to the paint. His primary responsibility is to eliminate anything that comes near the rim. Whether it is by dribble penetration, a pass ahead, or a post feed, it is this players responsibility to take away any baskets in the paint. He will perform this role until his teammates get back in position at which point he will closeout to the perimeter player.
The other three players need to GET BACK as quickly as possible by SPRINTING. A tendency of many inexperienced players is to be content in "buddy running," which basically means they run even with the player they are guarding. To be successful in transition, this can't happen! We need our post players to recover to the paint to relieve our 2 guard of his duties. They will then need to fulfill the responsibility of protecting the rim. The last guy back will need to sprint to the weak side of the floor and eliminate any ball reversal that takes place.
After successfully eliminating the primary break many teams will ease up. Great teams understand that their job, however, is never done and the real fun now begins! Players will now need to instinctively go from a "transition" mindset to a "half court" mindset. This is the time that our defense can now make a statement.
Championship Habits in Transition
Realistically, many teams perform their roles that are listed above, but still find ways to give up easy baskets in transition. Why? Because they do not perform the minor details that great teams demonstrate. These following habits are MUST-DO'S for any team that wants to become great in defensive transition:
- Proper Floor Balance - When each player performs their role correctly, proper floor balance comes naturally. However, there are still times when one or two players will run to the wrong area, leaving an opposing player wide open. Great teams make it second nature to be in the correct place to keep the defense balanced.
- Exceptional Effort - Effort is 100% controllable by each member of your team. If anyone lacks desire to sprint or communicate properly, one would have to question why that player is in the game. Players will NEVER (yes, that's an absolute) be able to to perform their roles to the best of their ability without exceptional effort. Transition defense is something to take pride in at all times.
- Clear and Precise Communication - Verbal and non-verbal communication is crucial to successful transition defense. Not only should each player be verbally talking through what their role is, but they should also be non-verbally giving their teammates cues about where to go and who to pick up.
All three of those MUST-DO'S go hand in hand and will only be successful if they are habitually ingrained in your player's minds.