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Three Methods - Closeouts

In this installment of the Three Methods Series, we'll look at how to incorporate closeouts into your practice plans.

In this installment of the Three Methods Series, we will look at how to work on closeouts in your practice plans. Closeouts are one of the defensive principles that occur multiple times on every possession. These closeouts can take on different forms. They may be a short closeout to a player in a single gap or a long closeout to a shooter on the perimeter. In our practices, we need to be clear about how we want to teach the technique of the closeout and also how to recover from the initial closeout.

In this post, we are going to get into three practice concepts that you can incorporate into your own practices. We are not going to get too deep into the "technique" of teaching closeout, mostly focusing on the ways in which you could work on it in your practices. I chose a 1/1 concept that lets us work on both short and long closeouts, a 3 Line concept that lets the coaches teach a bit of technique, and then a 3/3 SSG option to get more live-play action. If you haven't read any of the other Three Methods posts check out the links below discussing other elements of the game.

Key Teaching Points -

One thing coaches must take into consideration is how they plan to teach the closeout is how we are going to view the three-point line. Whether you like it or not the three-point shot has become a central part of the game, even at the high school level. Given that fact, we are going to have to figure out how much emphasis to place on eliminating those shots. As more and more teams gravitate to four-out and five-out offenses the "long closeout" has become a larger piece of the puzzle. As your coaching staff decides which teaching points to emphasize this needs to be taken into account.

1. No Rhythmn Threes - Our goal on long closeouts is to not give up rhythm threes. There are threes where the offensive player comfortably catches a kick-out pass and gets right into his shot.

2. Break Down Late - As a player, I was always taught to break down my feet about halfway to my opponent. As a coach, I have grown to prefer a late breakdown. If we are going to take away those three-point shots then we are going to have to "break the space" of the offensive player.

3. Arm's Length Distance - A good rule of thumb is that we want to be within arm's length of the offensive player to get him to take his eyes off the rim. I like the idea of "breaking the space" of the offensive player and then "popping back" to that arm's length distance.

Method #1 -

Our first method is one that could be good early in the season for teaching technique and also for later in the season when we are trying maximize reps. I like the idea of getting this going at multiple hoops and making sure that players are rotating in and out as quickly as possible. On a side note I like resitricting the offensive player sto the options of either shooting it on the catch or driving it to the rim.

1/1 Pitch -

We will start the concept with either short or long closeouts from the defense, We will typically flip the ball to the offense on short closeouts, and roll the ball to the offense on long closeouts.

Once the offense gets possession they are looking to either shoot or drive the ball. We will then play the possession out 1/1.


We are going to establish a defense to offense, offense to out, out rotate in type of rotation.

Teaching Points:

As we mentioned in the section above we are going to harp on players not giving up rthym threes, getting themselves within arm's distance of the offensive player, and then breaking down their feet late in their closeout. I want to maintain our rotation, but If a player performs the rep poorly we need to force him to do it again to build the correct habit.

Method #2 -

The next concept is one that I like to use early in that first month of the season. We will get into three lines to maximize the amount of reps we are going to get. I prefer to get my best three defensive players/leaders at the front of these lines. I want to encourage talking and high energy closeouts to really set the tone for the other players. We we progress through the season we can add the other elements to the concept, such as; defending the drive, defending pivots, backing down our man, etc.

3 Line Closeouts -

intro We are going to organize the concepts by getting into three lines on the lane lines and under the basket. Three offensive players will align themselves at the point and wings.


Each of the lines will start with a ball in hand and on the whistle will roll it out to the offense. Each of the defensive players then sprints into their closeout and breakdown.

We want to encourage the offensive players to make pivots and move the basketball from triple threat to over their heads. As they are doing this the defensive players should be mirroring the ball and adjusting their stances.


Once the coach blows the possession dead the defense takes the offensive players' role and the offensive players duck out of the drill. The next three defenders are up and ready to conduct their closeouts. I also like to encourage players to rotate lines from one lane line to the middle and so on.


Ultimately we want to move into other segments of the drill. For example, I will call out "drive it' and each offensive players attacks in a certain direction. I'm looking for our defenders to slide hard and cut off the drive. I also might instruct the offense to "barkley" forcing our defense to hold their ground and defend the dribble post up.

Method #3 -

I do like the idea of using the concept above as a controlled teaching moment, and then allowing the to test it out in free play with this 3/3 concept. In this practice concept I want to take our 3/3 component and just make it less controlled. I am looking to create an immediate closeout for the defense to conduct, followed by a 3/3 possession. We will naturally get all sorts of problems for the defense to solve; like closeouts, ball side help, scrambling out to a new man, etc.

3/3 Drive & Kick -

intro Much like our 3 Line Closeouts we are going to set this up with three defensive players in the lane, and 3 offensive players on the perimeter. I try to create more of a point, corner, corner offensive alignment in this concept.


We are going to start with a rollout to the point and a closeout from the defense. The offensive player who recieves the pass has to drive in either direction.

From here we are going to force the defense to recover off the closeout and also force the off-ball defenders to get into ball side help position. This will be a good way to incorporate not only closeouts but other defensive elements like stunting, helping, and switching.


We can either make this a simple rotation drill (defense to offense, offense to out, next defense in). Or we can get this a 4/4 Cut Throat format and make it a bit more compeittive. Either way we do it I want to make sure we are really harping on the teaching points we laid out earlier.

Concluding Thoughts -

Closing out is going to happen on nearly every single defensive possession so we need to have a clear philosophy on how we will teach it and then a few core practice concepts we can use thorughout the season. I think maybe one lesson I have learned over the years is to make sure we are progressing to the secondary elements of closing out. For example, closing out then defending a drive, or closing out and popping back to defend a jab step, or closing out then defnding a dribble post up. Spending an excessive amount of time on the initial closout without incorporating those other elements is probably not making the best use of our practice time.

If you liked the ideas in this post I would urge you to subscribe to my website and YouTube Channel for future content. If you have any drills that you really like on this topic feel free to leave them in the comments or get in touch with me.

Coach Lynch Contact Info:

Twitter - @CoachLynch_21

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