Going through clinic notes and instructional video and one big coaching area for 1-on-1 defense is closing out properly. It is something that needs to be coached because players develop all kinds of bad habits naturally which become impossible to correct as they get older.

(MJ vs a young Iverson)

There are of course a bunch of points you can make about the closeout and I've compiled my key points here based on a Lawrence Frank video, but I believe that the more you overload a player, the more they have to think, the less time they have to react and make proper decisions. I like to keep my coaching points to 3-4 so that they actually stick, so here are my 3:

1. Sprint past the lane, then break down. This is a hard one to coach because for each player it will be different. Someone who has great foot quickness can probably break down a couple of feet before the defender, while a bigger player may need 6 feet. I don't think you'll ever be wrong if you sprint to clear the paint area then break down on the ball.

2. Catch the first move, contain the second. The defender must react to the first move of the offensive player. It is a fact of life that at some point during the game as a defender, you will arrive late on a closeout (either you are slow, or the offensive player is quicker). But you must attempt to make a play on the offensive player's first move, which will put you slightly out of position for a fake, in which case you must then work to contain the second move. For example, the offensive player brings the ball up to shoot, you must get your hands up to challenge the shot as nobody else can help on the open shot but you. If it is a shot fake, and the player puts the ball down to penetrate, you will temporarily be compromised defensively, which means you must work to lose some ground to gain back leverage on the penetration, often this also requires help defense from your teammates. Communication is key as always for all team defense.

3. Hands always level with the ball. If the player moves the ball to the shot plateau, you must get your hands up to challenge the shot. You must make the offensive player throw high lob passes to give your teammates a chance at the deflection or at least to recover.

A couple of bad habits I always see:

1. Jumping to block a shot. Players see this on TV all the time and so they want to imitate their favorite players. If you are a big leak out in transition team, maybe this works for you. But another big reason why I don't like it is that players will also jump to block corner 3-pointers, and you get no leak out from those. Now, you've just lost a rebounder and a player on the fast break too. I don't like telling players to "stay down" either, instead I think you just teach them proper close out fundamentals and it should take care of itself.

2. Banana closeout. Players who don't go in a straight line but instead take an arc path to the closeout. Allows the offensive player to simply attack the open side and the defender is never in position to defend. Players must closeout in a straight line to their defender.

Lastly, as I mentioned before, communication is key. Sometimes you'll see 2 players closing out hard on the ball. It will happen in the chaos of ball rotation, players will get crossed up. But the key is that your defenders are in constant communication so that 1 can call the other off and they can recover in time.

For some more great 1-on-1 defensive wisdom, check out Steve Alford's All Access 4-DVD Set. Coach Alford is the head coach at the University of New Mexico. If you have watched any of Alford's stuff, you'll know that he's very passionate about teaching proper 1-on-1 defensive play. Anyways, hope all of your coaches are enjoying their time off, but keep your eyes on the prize.