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Three Methods - Transition Defense

In this installment of the Three Methods Series, we're looking at how to incorporate transition defense into your practice plans.

In this week's installment of the Three Methods Series, I looked at how to incorporate transition defense into your practice plans. Having a solid Transition Defense plan is critical in making sure that your opponents are not getting easy baskets. This plan is typically going to lay out our philosophy of how we attack the offensive glass, who gets back, and what our major priorities are in the half-court. Given how often we will have to execute this element of our defense I typically try to incorporate transition defense into almost every practice plan.

From a practice planning perspective, I want to try and organize both neutral and disadvantaged situations to put players into. In this post, I tried to show both of these concepts. We get to work on "small number" disadvantages in our 2/1, 3/2 Chaser concepts, then "big number" disadvantages in our 5/3 Touch concept. Our neutral opportunities will come in the "run it back" portion of our 5/3 Touch and the 4/4 Change concept. As always we want to have a few simple teaching points that we stress in all of these practice concepts.

Teaching Points -

As a general rule of thumb, I want to make my teaching points simple. Let's have a few things that are easy to understand and can be communicated to each other with ease. From day to day, we might change the concepts we are using in practice, but these teaching points should stay relatively consistent. We don't want there to be much gray area, we want our players to recognize a situation and react with the teaching point in mind.

Here are the three I want to focus on:

1. Three on the Glass Philosophy - We want to place a premium on getting offensive rebounds off of missed shots. On any shot attempt, we want to stress three players getting to the offensive glass. (preferably to the blocks & FT Line)

2. Emphasis on First Three Steps - Just like we would teach in transition offense, our first three steps (either to the rim or half-court) will put us in a better position to do our job. If we hesitate or watch the flight of the ball we lose our edge.

3. Ball First, Rally to the Rim - at the high school level our priority still needs to be on taking away shots at the rim. We need to give up as few layups as possible, and that is especially true in transition. So we're emphasizing finding the ball first and then rallying from the rim out.

Method #1 -

The first concept we are getting into is called 2/1, 3/2 Chaser. In this concept we are putting the defense in a disadvantaged situation, forcing them to communicate while attempting to stop the ball from getting to the rim. We typically split the team in half and have them stand on opposite sideline. Players organize themselves into partner groups and we give each team 5-6 reps before we switch roles. Once we finish the 2/1 segements we switch back as play it again 3/2.

2/1, 3/2 Chaser -

One of the teaching points we mentioed above was the concept of stopping the ball and rallying to the rim. That is the concept we are trying to enforce in this drill.


The possession starts once the man in the middle passes to the offense. I typically make them conduct a good chest pass to begin. Once that pass is made we have a live possession with 1 defender trailing the play.

2/1 Version:

The 2/1 version presents a much better chance for the offense to score initially, so we are emphasizing the need for the defense to not allow the basketball to get to the rim. They must stall the ball so that our help defenders can get into the play. If the offense scores on the way down we skip the inbounds pass and simply run it straight back down the court 2/2.

3/2 Version:

The 3/2 version gives the defense a better opportunity to prevent the layup, but we must stilll drvie home the point that they are not to get locked into a single man. We are stressing this idea of "rallying to the rim" so that the offense is not getting a lay up, that is the responsibility of the two men in the middle at first, and then lastly the trailer. Make or miss the same no inbounds pass rule applies as they play it back.

Method #2 -

The second concept that we'll get into is called 5/3 Touch. This starts as a 5/5 drill and then morphs into a disadvantaged situation for the defense. With this type of concept we are again asking the defense to focus on getting the ball stoped and preventing any type of shot in the paint. The two players trailing the play should be looking to attach to players on the perimeter. Once of the biggest challenges I find here is making sure the defense is not getting locked into matchups, and is focused on getting the ball stopped and prevent any advantage from being created.

5/3 Touch -

We start this concept by getting five defensive players lined up acriss the three point line, and five offensive players lined up across the baseline. Any sub players should be positioned on the sidelines.


You can have the coach make the entry pass or have one of the players do it. I typicaly reserve the "number calling" for myself. I call out two numbers (1-5) and those two players must sprint to the baseline when the ball is passed.

5/3 Possession:

On the 5/3 possession down the court I am looking for those three remaining players to rally to the paint. Somebody needs to be calling "Ball" and the other two are preparing to guard the players closest to the ball. The ultimate goal is to neutralize the basketball and prevent a layup. Once we do prevent the paint touch we are depending on our two trailing players to guard any open perimeter players.

Run it Back:

On the way back we are getting a 5/5 possession. This is a good opportunity for coaches to make sure that someone on the offensive end was getting themselves into balance on the shot. At the end of that possession I allow the teams to make 1 sub and we play it again. After about 4-5 possession we switch roles and continue.

Method #3 -

The third method that we are going to get into is a 4/4 Change concept. With this we are meshing some half court principles into a transition possesion. We start by asking the offense to move the basketball with the pass until a coach yells, "Change!" From that point of both teams switch sides of the ball and play 4/4 in the half court. As soon as that possession ends we are immediately getting into a transition possession to the other end. By the end of the session we have played a half court possession and two transition possessions.

4/4 Change -

We are using 4/4 to make it tougher on the defense to cover ground. From an organzational standpoint we can create two teams or add a third squad to compete against.

Half Court Possession:

In the half court possession we are looking to enforce our principles of guarding the ball, helping, and rebounding.

Transition Possesion:

Once the possession gets into transition we are looking to drive home the need to stop the ball and rally to the rim. In this drill I am typiclaly trying to coach up the defense on both ends. Like usual, I like the idea of socring this drill and getting a winning team.

Bonus, "Balance Talk" -

Coaches may have different ways to determine which of their players is responsible for getting back. Over the years I have had some excellent rebounding point guards and have found that rather than designating them as the automatic "get back" guys, it made more sense to simply ask the player closest to half court to get into balance.

Crashing from the Point:

One thing players need to caution themselves with is crashing the glass from the point (beyond the three point line). This type of crash is the most dangerous kind to our transition defense. All it take is a defensive rebound and outlet pass and a transition opportunity is created. Although we want the FT Line ocvered by our offensive rebounders we do not want it coming from perimeter crashes from the point.

Rising From the Wing:

On occasion we will have scenarios where there is no player at the point, and in those occasions players who might be positioned on the wing need to become the balance player. In most cases, if you find yourself at the point or on either wing you will most likely be the man responsible for getting into balance.

Concluding Thoughts -

There can be a tendency from coaches to take excessive amount of time out of your practice plans to work on half court offensive actions. Conversely, they tend to ignore the transition element of the game. I fall into this trap myself from time to time. But, if we are going to be a good defensive team then hashing out a Transition Defense philosophy, and finding ways to work on the principles of that philosophy daily are a must. Deciding what teaching points you want to emphasize is really important as well. Let's pick a few that are really impactful and focus in on those points in these drills.

Three Methods - Transition Defense
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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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