Matt Woodley Basketball Defense Drills

One of the best defensive coaches in basketball, Matt Woodley provides teaching points and video examples of basketball defense drills he uses to teach the pack line basketball defense.

Defensive Mindset:

  • Must have growth mindset.
  • No direct drives/no straight line drives.

How do you get complete buy in?

  1. Care (both players caring for coaches; coaches caring for players.
  2. Competence (know what you are).
  3. Connection (no buy in or trying to do too much).

Drake Men’s Basketball Defensive Basketball Practice Drills

Thanks to Matt Woodley and the Drake men’s basketball team for sharing these practice footage drills.

Must have a system:

  • Help players to get better everyday.
  • Hold players accountable every possession (or consequences).

Defensive Concepts:

  1. Crowd the paint and shrink the floor.
  2. Be a multiple effort team.
  3. Communicate and trust.
  4. Dominate your individual matchup (almost a football like mentality).

Most games are lost, not won. Understand what gets your team beat:

  • Poor transition defense.
  • Poor closeouts; uncontested shots.
  • Needless fouls.
  • Second shots and offensive rebounds.

Defensive Transition System Ideas:

  • Believes defensive transition is more important than offensive rebounding in order of importance.
  • First big defender takes the rim-runner.
  • Second big defender loads to the level of ball.
  • The three guards build a shell (fill the gaps). Believes a key is that the defense must load to the ball in the gaps.
  • He doesn’t believe in picking up the ball at half court. He instead wants to pick up the ball a step in front of the 3pt line to be more compact.
  • Sprint below the ball to build the wall in shell positions.
  • Emphasis on no uncontested shots in first two passes of opponents offense.
  • He believes, “Uncontested shots will get you beat. Mismatches will not.”
  • Need to a defensive game plan vs. live ball turnovers. In their system, the closest player to half court gets back to the block/charge circle which they call the “smile.”

Pick and Roll Defensive Coverage Options and Ideas:

  • Are you a Blitz/Show/Hedge Team or a Contain Team?
  • Can’t be good at both. All side and middle pick and roll need a plan.

Ice = “Blue”

  • Hand placement on inside hip. The inside hand of a defender should be on the ball handler when “icing” the pick and roll.
  • Slide feet and sternum to ball handler’s shoulder.
  • Crowd the pick and roll so there are no splits or dribble arounds.
  • Big is outside the lane.
  • Don’t leave the ball until the ball is shot, or passed.
  • “Load” call = The furthest guard becomes rim line protector.
  • “Nail” = The one pass away guard help that takes away the pocket pass and pushes the roll man into the screen as we need to shrink the floor.

Blitz = “Red”

  • The players trapping should never break stride and make the trap aggressive.
  • The outside hand of a defender should be on ball handler when trapping, hard showing or hedging the pick and roll.
  • The trap can never be too early.
  • Both players should crowd the ball.
  • Don’t leave the ball until the ball is shot or passed.

Who is Matt Woodley?

Drake assistant men’s basketball coach Matt Woodley boasts extensive and diverse experience at the professional, collegiate and high school levels. He has coached 21 future NBA players including Klay Thompson and Hassan Whiteside in addition to serving as the head coach of the Memphis Grizzlies D-League and an assistant for the franchise’s summer league teams.

Prior to Drake Woodley was a head coach for three years at Truman State. He has also been a highly respected assistant coach at Washington State University for head coach Tony Bennett, at Middle Tennessee State for head coach Kermit Davis, and at Pittsburgh for head coach Kevin Stallings. 

Follow Matt Woodley on Twitter:


Did you miss The Basketball Podcast with Matt Woodley? If so, listen here:

The Basketball Podcast: EP30 Matt Woodley

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