Defensive Basketball Terminology
By Steve Witty, Head Coach Boys Basketball, Ben Davis High School

The following information provides defensive concepts and terminology utilized when teaching man-to-man team defense.  This information is an excerpt from one of the eight books of the Giant Championship Coaching Series developed by Steve Witty of Ben Davis High School in Indianapolis, Indiana.  To learn more about the Giant Championship Coaching Series, please contact Coach Witty at

1. Make it happen / attack
The defensive player on the ball applies pressure on the handler and makes him do what he wants him to do instead of allowing the ball handler to do something and then trying to stop him.

2. Make him predictable / over play half a man
By performing this technique the defensive player on the ball over plays half a man.  He now has a pretty good idea which direction the ball handler is going to go.

3. Give it to him and take it away
When over playing half man, we have now made the ball handler predictable because our defensive pressure has given him a logical direction to go.  When the ball is advanced in that direction the defensive player slides to turn the ball and take that direction away.

4. Front foot leads / push off back foot
The proper defensive stance and footwork is to always maintain a wide base and during defensive slides the front foot is always the first foot to move, with push off help from the back foot.

5. Force the ball to the sideline
We want to always keep the ball out of the middle of the floor.  We accomplish this by forcing the ball to the sidelines where we can use the sidelines and the baseline as defensive teammates.  This also helps our defensive teammates to establish their ball side and help side responsibilities.

6. Jump to the ball
The defensive player guarding the offensive player with the ball should move in the direction the ball is passed.  It is important that the defensive player makes this move while the ball is in the air and assumes position two-steps to the ball and one step off the passing lane.

7. Front the cutter
An offensive player without the ball should never be allowed to make a cut between two defensive players.

8. Screens
This situation takes place away from the ball, when the offensive player gets in a position to allow his teammate to get open by rubbing his man off.

9. Wing denial-Deny-Contest
Method of being in a passing lane to prevent the ball from being thrown to a wing offensive player.  For maximum pressure, the head of the defender is in the passing lane.

10. Chest to chest
Position taken by the defensive player who is guarding or contesting a pass to the wing area.  The defensive players' chest should be facing the chest of the offensive player.

11. Snap the head
This technique is used in a denial situation if the offensive player breaks to the wing and decides to go to the backdoor to receive a pass.  The defensive denial player must snap his head to get in the passing lane to deny the backdoor cut.

12. Hand and foot in front high side / Hand and foot in front low side
This is the phrase we use to describe our low post defensive techniques.  If the ball is located above the free throw line extended, we play high side.  If the ball is below the free throw line extended, we play on the low side.

13. Front the low post
Play directly in front and force the lob.  We should have help from behind.

14. Show and Go
(Fake switch) This is the technique we use vs. any picks on the ball.  The defensive player on the ball must get over the top of the pick.  The defensive player guarding the picker must show himself early to help force the ball away from the picker.  When the picker rolls to the basket, the defensive player who showed himself goes with him.

15. Drop step
When guarding the ball handler who changes direction on the dribble, the defensive player must drop step one or two steps in the direction of the dribbler in order to reestablish a pressure defensive position.

16. Support line
An imaginary line straight down the middle of the floor running from basket to basket.  This is the dividing line between help side and ball side.

17. Help
Verbal to be yelled by the defender guarding the ball that has been beaten, to indicate he needs the closest defensive teammate to pick up the ball to stop penetration.

18. Ball-You-Man
When defending a player away from the ball, the defender must always maintain a position between the ball and his man.  If it becomes ball-man-you, the defense is playing follow the leader and is not in a position to prevent his defensive assignment from receiving a pass.

19. Flat triangle
The help side defensive player always assumes a position on the support line a step off the passing lane and in a position to see the ball and his man.  If you drew a line from the ball to a weak side offensive player to the help side defensive player on the support line and back to the ball, this would form a flat triangle.  The help side defensive player is the apex of this triangle.

20. Help & Recover
A situation that arises when the closest defender must get in a position to help a teammate slow down the ball in order to stop ball penetration.  When this is accomplished, the help defender must recover back to his own man.  KEY POINTS:  It does no good to help if you don't recover.  The defensive player on the ball will always have help but don't expect it.  Help side player should use defensive fake techniques, and always keep back hand in the passing lane when recovering for possible deflections.

21. Deny the flash cut
When the offensive player makes a cut from the weak side of the floor to the ball side, the help side defensive player moves up the support line and beats him to the spot and denies any pass.