Challenging your team to get more deflections By Tory Mansfield, Castle Rock, Colorado

Photo: Thomas Sorenes

Every coach wonders how they can improve their defense or score more points. Getting more deflections is one way to limit your opponent, leading to easy baskets for your club. Our coaches strongly believe that as athlete fundamentals decline, deflections are much easier to get.

There can be no greater testament to the value of deflections than the University of Louisville’s national championship team in 2013. Head coach Rick Pitino said, “If you get 35 deflections, you’re going to win 95 percent of the time.” Former Indiana University coach Tom Crean and NBA legend Hubie Brown are two other greats that consider deflections a critical part of the game.

Here are some attitudes and drills that we use:

  • Create team pride by charting deflections. Deflections are one of only three stats we keep during practice, with the other two being turnovers and contested layups. When you ask every kid after practice to chart their deflections, and that number ends up being zero or one, you send a message to that kid that he or she needs to play harder.

By charting deflections, and not just talking about them, you are letting your kids know this is crucial.

DIAGRAM 1: Three-man closeout drill. Line up your team in multiple groups of three. X2 (and X5 in the second group) closes out on the ball handler. X1 has just one dribble and must get the pass to X3 while X2 tries to get the tip. After the pass is made, X1 sprints and closes out on X3, attempting to get the top on the pass back to X2. X3 then sprints to close out X2 and so on. This drill is done for one minute.

  • Change your stance. When we practice defensive stances, we have our left hand in the shooting pocket and our right hand serves as our deflector. This focuses the player on two things: contest and deflect.
  • One deflection per defensive possession. You must demand this and make a big deal when it does or does not happen. As with anything you are trying to teach, you won’t get very far without buy in from your kids. It’s all about the attitude.

DIAGRAM 2: Two-tips-and-a-stop drill (A). X2 closes out the offensive player (X1) and gets him or her to pick up the dribble. The defender then tries to deflect the pass to the coach at the high post.


DIAGRAM 3: Two-tips-and-a-stop drill (B). After tipping (or not tipping) X1’s pass, X2 must sprint to the high post and get behind the ball. They then try to deflect the coach’s pass to X3. This is simulating a high post entry versus your zone.


DIAGRAM 4: Two-tips-and-a-stop drill (C). Finally, after tipping (or not) the coach’s pass, X2 closes out on X3 and the play goes live. Coaches should make a big deal out of a player who gets two deflections and a stop. It’ll encourage them to give a greater effort in the future.





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