No matter your defensive style, a key concept in any sound defensive philosophy is to stop dribble penetration. Depending on your preference, one of the ways to stop penetration from the wing position is to force the dribbler to the baseline where help is waiting.

I watched the first half of the Fresno St. game against Louisiana Tech. Both teams aren't what you would call upper echelon teams, but I really liked how Fresno St. was playing defense. They were in M2M the whole half and they did a fantastic job keeping the offense out of the middle, forcing them to the baseline and rotating to help. Here are a couple of sequences from the first half,

Force Baseline:

In order to force the dribbler to the baseline, your players must have the proper footwork. If on the offenses right wing, your defender needs to have his/her right foot forward, left foot back facing their check, like so,

When not being screened, the defender must not allow the dribbler to come over the top into the middle of the lane. Force the defender to dribble to the baseline and compress the area in which they have to work with.

Help-side defense:

Your forwards playing the middle need to be in an open stance playing both their man and the ball. When the penetration comes, they need to step up and seal the area between the baseline and the basket. Forcing the dribbler to pick up their dribble.

Your help-side must not allow the dribbler to cut back inside. That is why the help-side must come as soon as the dribbler makes his move to the basket. Force the dribbler to either:

1. Take a tough turnaround shot from the baseline.
2. Pick up of the dribble where both X1 and X5 can trap in the short corner.
3. Kick the ball out.

Now, since help-side has come from the middle defender, your other players must rotate such that no pass can be made across the lane for the easy dump in. Only allow the long pass back to the wing where your defense can than rotate back to their respective positions.


This is one of the more debatable defensive topics out there, whether you should force middle or force baseline. My personal opinion is that it depends on the age level. I think that anything Varsity or higher, you want to force baseline because at the higher levels, too many bad things can happen when you allow middle penetration.

At the lower levels though, I think forcing middle is better because teaching young kids proper help-side fundamentals and sliding to the baseline are kind of tough to grasp. By forcing middle, the help-side defender should already be in good position.

The new DVD from coach Geno Auriemma on the Four Cornerstones of Half-court Defense is really a must see, regardless of what level you are coaching. As usual, check out the X's and O's Basketball forum to talk hoops and exchange notes.