With school in session and most of y'all coaches preparing for the upcoming season, some more philosophical thoughts to ponder as you imagine what kind of team you will be. I am very much a believer of having an identity. With the talent and skill of the players you have, you will need to choose an offensive and defensive identity, which will give your players purpose for what they are doing. I went through more notes again the other day and pulled out these from Darrin Horn of South Carolina. He also believes you have to define yourself on defense and in doing so you must be ready to make some sacrifices:

Two Defensive Keys:

1. What is our identity?
It doesn’t matter what it is necessarily, it just matters that you have one that
you and your players firmly believe in. "What do we want to be about?" you
have to ask yourself and it needs to be something that you and your players
say: "This is who we are. This is what we hang our hats on."

2. What are we willing to live with?
Every defense has a fallback. We want to pressure you the length of the court
and because of this, we will give up some easy layups. So, you must ask
yourself: "What are you willing to give up?"

Two non-negotiables we have in our program:

1. Don’t give up middle
2. Pressure (length and versatility are a must for us)

Coach Horn doesn't get very technical with his players on defense, it’s more of a matter of "Just get it done." Because of this, as much of the drills he uses is about creating a mentality than anything else.

How do you measure yourself defensively?

Deflections, anytime you get a hand on the ball in any way. We need 40 a game to be successful. That’s our number 1 goal defensively every game.

What we believe: play hard and play with trust that your teammate will be there to help you.

Other Defensive Thoughts:

- Teaches an open denial stance learned from his college coach, Ralph Willard. In the open denial stance, the defensive player is up in the offensive player’s chest and the arm closest to the defender is extended (rather than the traditional denial stance with the arm closest to the ball extended) with the defensive player’s body open to the ball handler. Player is one step off the passing lane and they will do this out to the NBA three point line. Players find it awkward at first, but they learn to really like it as it gives them a better chance at help and prevents the backdoor more effectively.

- Believes that there isn’t an original idea left in basketball. Every scheme or thought is stolen or modified.

- In order to avoid confusion with his kids he calls the two transition periods, "Transition Offense" and "Conversion Defense."

- The method we take in instilling our defensive philosophy is whole-part-whole. We’ll show them everything, break it down and then build it back up.

- We do work early to keep the ball out of the middle by our point guard pressuring the ball handler in the backcourt. We teach him to retreat back to the halfcourt circle until another guard passes then attack handler to force him sideline.

- The man covering the inbounder (or the man who jammed the man on the rebound)
getting to the level of the ball and discouraging the middle drive.

- Another thing we want to take away is the quick advance pass up the sideline.

- Every drill, everything we do defensively has to be loud. There needs to be a talking aspect to everything we do.

- The most important steps in conversion defense are the first 3.You must sprint these out.

- We want you to be aggressive defensively. That doesn’t mean reach and gamble, but you have the freedom to try to make plays in our system.

- Best way to slow offensive movement (besides having 6’8” athletes): have active hands.

- If you’re going to pressure and trap, you CANNOT give up straight line passes. The lofted or tipped pass gives your defense time to recover.

- When trapping, don’t reach, but be physical with your lower body. We can’t afford to be split in our traps and we MUST sprint out of our traps. The best trap does us no good if we’re walking out of it and the offense can do whatever they want after.

- Love 1-on-1 drills because it instills toughness and it forces you to find a way to stop the other guy, there’s no hiding in a 1-on-1 situation.

For more on the South Carolina way, check out Darrin Horn's DVD on Zone Offense and Shooting Drills.