Helpside defense is the key to great team defense. Teams need to work together to be effective and dominate the court, and in order to do so, each player must pay attention to the person who they’re guarding, as well as the rest of the court. If you’re not guarding the person with the basketball, you’re expected to help your teammates.
Generally, the farther away you are from the ball, the more you should be available to help. If you’re just one pass away, you will often be asked step up and deny the passing lane (I’ll cover deny defense in another blog), but depending on which level you’re playing and your coach’s specific rules, sometimes, even one pass away, you may play helpside defense. If you’re not guarding the ball (or asked by your coach to faceguard a player), these tips will help you become a better defender and ultimately help your team.
4 things that you must do to become a better helpside defender.
1. SEE BALL / SEE PLAYER
If you’ve played any basketball you should have heard this term. It may have been in the form of point ball/point player, point your pistols, see ball/see man or something of the sort, but what it means is that when you’re playing defense away from the ball you must guard your player and also know where the basketball is on the court at all times. There may be occasions when your coach has you faceguard a player, stick on them like glue, but the rest of the time when you’re on defense, you must be aware of the rest of the court. And you should always be in good defensive position, knees bent, back straight and arms out wide with your back toward the hoop. One hand should be pointing in the direction of the person who you’re guarding and the other hand should be pointing to wherever the ball is on the court.
2. HEAD ON A SWIVEL
Now that you’re in a good position to defend your player and you see where the ball is on the court, you have to keep this position while your player and the basketball are moving. One way to do this is to keep your head on a swivel. By this I mean move your head from side to side so that you can always keep sight of your player and wherever the basketball is moving to on the court. Quite often new players, concentrate on the person who they are defending and loose sight of the basketball. It takes a lot of practice, but if you stay low, point at the person who you’re guarding and glance to see where the ball is and point there with your other hand, you can do it. Then continue to swivel your head from side to side to keep sight of the basketball and your player.
3. JUMP TO THE BALL
So now you’re playing tough defense, you’ve got your eye (and at times a hand) on your player and you see where the ball is on the court. The next step is to jump to the ball each time the ball is passed. This is not easy when you first learn it. But it will get you in the correct position to help your teammates. Just stay in a defensive position with your back to the basket, but move in the direction of the pass, all the while making sure you keep sight of the basketball and the person who you’re guarding. For example, if the player you’re guarding is out at the wing position and they make a cross court pass you will jump in the direction of the pass and be in defensive position with at least one foot in the key. In this position you can help your teammates if they get beat, and you’re in good position to reach your player and defend him or her if a pass comes back cross-court. You may even be able to steal the ball.
4. TALK TO YOUR TEAMMATES
Talking on defense is another blog in and of itself, but I will emphasis it here, because I believe talking to your teammates is one of the most important parts of defense. When you are in a help position, away from the ball, you must tell your teammates. Holler out, and continue hollering out, “help” as you adjust and move and jump to the ball. This lets your teammates know where you are and know that you’re there to help them if their player gets around them.
Work on these four important parts of helpside defense and you will become a better defender. And when your defense improves, your team’s defense improves.
Have fun and play hard!