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Improving Basketball Defense with the Shell Drill

Now entering his 14th year as boys' head basketball coach, Steven Welch has led Malone High School to a Florida state championship in 2014, two regional championships and six district championships. Defense has plenty to do with racking up that hardware.

The Tigers, based in Malone, Florida, hone their defense prowess with exercises like the Shell Drill. This 30-minute drill focuses on positioning and defensive techniques while also allowing the offense to work on basic movements and actions.

The Shell Drill has many variations. It can be performed full court or half court with any combination of players. Malone typically starts out in a 3-on-3 scenario before working into 4-on-4 and 5-on-5.

To begin, the offensive players are spread out. In 3-on-3, the offensive players each take a position around the 3-point line. Then, each defensive player matches up against one of the offensive players.

From there, the offense must pass the ball around five times. The key is that the offensive players have to pass the ball while standing still. This helps teach good passing skills for the offensive players while the defense learns the importance of good positioning.

After the offense makes five passes, the drill goes “live.” This means the offense can now try to score, while the defense attempts to get a stop by securing the ball after a steal or a missed shot.  

While the focus is on defense, players on both sides are improving. Offensively, the focus of the drill lies in moving with or without the ball, passing, rebounding and spacing.

Defensively, players can work on on-ball defense and forcing the offensive player to the sideline or baseline. The drill also helps players practice denying the ball if the player they are guarding does not have the ball.

Overall, this drill can help teammates learn better communication. It’s something the players will need when it comes to actual games.

“It places kids in situations that they will face in every game,” Welch said. “It helps us simulate the things we do a lot.”

It’s important to build strong defensive habits in practice to ensure those habits carry over into games. Welch is a firm believer in strong defense carrying a team over a good offense.

“The thing about basketball is that sometimes it is just not your night offensively,” Welch said. “Defense, if properly focused on, gives you a chance to win every night. Even on the nights that the shots just don’t seem to want to fall. It is vital for a successful team to focus on a defensive identity.

“Defense is more about communication, intelligence, and teamwork than just raw athleticism.”

From GameChanger and Rolando Rosa

Also check out Developing Guards Who Are Strong With the Ball

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