1 on 1 Handling Pressure Drills


Set 2 – One on One Full Court Pressing Drills

Besides the 1 on 0 Dribble Drills outlined in a previous article, “Dribbling Basics for All Players,” I liked to expose my perimeter players (and in some cases, all players) to a series of 1 on 1, 2 on 2, and 3 on 3 drills for handling pressure defenses.  One or more were often worked on daily in early season practices, but at least every other day in season.  The drills presented in this article and the ones to follow are in order from “simple to advanced,” eventually leading to the attack for the more difficult “Run & Jump” type defenses.  I recommend spending a couple of sessions on one or two drills at a time until the basics have been learned before advancing to more advanced ones.  Then, as the season approaches, rotate through the drills each week using one or two each practice.

As I have stated before, I don’t believe in dribbling around cones or trash cans.  I don’t use stunts like sending a defender up into the bleachers and expecting him to run back down and chase a teammate dribbling to a basket.  I just want “game-like” 1 on 1 work.  Here are two basic “1 on 1 Drills” I have used for teaching players how to beat a full court defender.

Drill #1 – 1 on 1 – Zig Zag Warmup

This drill breaks the team into pairs, each with a ball.  The court is divided into thirds length-wise: sideline to lane line, lane line to lane line (middle), and other lane line to other sideline.  The groups line up in the three areas along the baseline with one player having the ball and the other defending him.  This is basically a warmup drill for defending and for dribbling, but a softer warmup should proceed it like the 1 on 0 Dribbling Drills from a previous article.  

When ready, the three dribblers head for one side of their lane or the other, protecting the ball from the defender with their opposite arm up and slightly bent.  The defender is working on keeping his chest in front of the ball, with quick choppy steps, butt low.  The dribbler goes from one lane line to another at a slow enough pace that the defender can keep up.  When each pair reaches mid court, they switch roles and continue to the other end of the court. (Diagram 1)  When all players have made it to the other end, the drill repeats, but this time at a slightly quicker pace.  The dribbler never goes by the defender, but works him and encourages his movement on the defensive side.  This drill encourages left and right handed dribbling, dribbling under control, use of the protective arm, as well as working on the defenders’ “on-ball” defense.

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Drill #2 – 1 on 1 Live Full Court

Generally, this drill is done with the perimeter players in Group Work while the Bigs are working on inside moves at the other end of the court.  It can be run on the main court, stopping after crossing mid court, or on a sideways court if you want players to go all the way to the basket.  The first concept to teach is “receiving a pass in the middle of the court.”  Avoiding corners verses pressure defenses is a key that must be ingrained in all guards’ heads so they don’t get easily trapped.  To start the  “1 on 1 Live Drill,” a coach or third player takes the ball out and looks to pass into the offensive player.  His defender pressures him, contesting the pass, and tries to push the intended pass receiver to the corner area. (Diagram 2 below)

The offensive player (1) starts near or in the key, halfway up to the free throw line.  He is told to “Post” his defender (X1), getting body to body, not avoiding contact, so he controls his defender better.  When the offensive player has eye contact with the man out of bounds, he shows a hand, then pops out a step or two to free himself for a direct pass (no bounce passes).  Hoping to get the ball near the middle of the court, the offensive player catches, pivots to face up court, then makes a move to get by his defender.  The defender first tries to steal or deflect the inbound pass, but if unable to do so, he then is asked to push the ball handler to the nearest sideline.  If the ball is received in the middle of the court, then the defender takes away the stronger dribbling hand and pushes the dribbler to his weaker side.

The offensive player has a goal of beating the defender and getting to the middle of the court with his dribble attack.  The defender battles to keep him on a side, thus controlling the attack.  When going full court, a layup is a win for the offense.  A turnover, dead dribble, or missed shot is a win for the defender.  If the whole court is not available due to other activity at the far end, the dribbler wins if he gets to the center circle at mid court.  After each pair has a turn, they step off the court to the baseline as the next pair has their turn at 1 on 1.  When all pairs have finished, the two players reverse roles and the defender becomes the offensive player as they repeat the drill heading back to the original end.

This drill teaches the offense to be physical on the inbounds pass by “posting the defender,” helps players learn to avoid corners and sidelines, provides opportunities to go “body to body” when going by a defender, challenges their ball handling skills, and makes them aware of attacking the middle of the court without getting pushed to the side.  Defenders get to work on influencing a dribble in the direction they want and to condition for full court pressing.

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These two drills begin the process of handling full court pressure.  They are very good for preparing players to handle straight up Man to Man Full Court Presses where teammates “clear out” the backcourt and allow a good ball handler to bring the ball up court.  The next Set for training will include passing options along with the “clear out” and dribble up options.

Key Teaching Points:

  1. Avoid corners.  Receive passes in the middle of the court on Dead Ball situations.

2. When pressured, catch the ball and face up immediately so you can see the whole court for a clearer picture.

3. Use a ball fake and attack the defender body to body.  Don’t start dribbling until you see the situation; then attack your defender hoping to draw a foul from his contact.

4. Dribbler must keep his eyes up, searching the court for potential passes.

5. Dribbler should avoid the sideline and get to the middle of the court for a successful offensive attack or to set up the half court offense.


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