Being a successful defender in basketball can come down to a couple of inches. When an offensive player takes a pass and tries to get to open court or hit a jump shot, defenders need to be there to make sure they’re not successful.
This is what makes defensive closeouts so important.
“We use the word ‘closeout’ to describe the defensive action we must take when an offensive player catches the basketball,” college basketball player Jason Ronai says. “The proper closeout does not allow that offensive player to take a comfortable jump shot or make an easy straight-line drive to the basket.”
When you close out an offensive player as they receive the ball, you should start with big, quick steps to gain ground. As you approach your opponent, you need to take small, choppy steps to regain your balance and get into an athletic defensive stance.
“Secondly, we want to make sure that we present with our hands high, slightly above our shoulders,” Ronai says. “Not too high to lose our balance but enough to disrupt [the offensive player’s] process.”
With your footwork and hand action, the key is to get into a balanced defensive position quickly so that you can defend without fouling against a shot attempt.
“When you have a team in which all five individuals on the court are consistently closing out [and] they’re taking away comfortable drives and comfortable shots throughout the entirety of the game, you’re going to have a very consistent, quality defensive team,” Ronai says.
Finding success on defense can come down to mastering the fundamentals. Two of the most important defensive fundamentals to work on are the stance and the slide.