Xavier Defensive Drills

These are some notes from Chris Mack, Head Men’s Coach, Xavier University

You can see the archives of their basketball coaching newsletter at this link: Xavier Newsletter

Regardless of what you run on offense or defense, you must have a defined system you believe in
– Your team must have an identity
– Everyone in your league should know what you’re about
– When you have a system, it gives your players answers and accountability to what they’re doing. For example, we don’t give up baseline – if you give up baseline you understand you’re coming out of the game
– It simplifies scouting. Identify the common offensive actions you face and teach a standard way to defend. Start at the beginning of the season practicing these actions in your shell drill. This allows you to focus on your opponent’s offensive concepts (rather than detailed set plays) when going over the scouting report.
– Your system should create “Regenerative Learning” (Tony Dungy), where upperclassmen can teach underclassmen.

Why play the Pack Line?:
– On offense, kids are way better ball handlers and way worse without the ball in their hands compared to 20 years ago.


There is nothing “soft” about Xavier’s Pack Line:
– Aggressive
– Ball pressure
– Smart positioning off the ball

What is the Pack Line?
– 16-17’ from the basket, mirrors the 3 pt line
– Tape it down every day before practice

– GOLDEN RULE: You must have two fee inside the PL when your man does not have the ball. Only two exceptions:
Your man becomes a cutter or Your man becomes a ball screener
– On-ball defender must play with extreme ball pressure
– On-ball defender CANNOT get beat baseline under any circumstances, nor can he get beat in a straight line (from a poor close out). It’s all about what you emphasize: A Xavier basketball player WILL NEVER get beat baseline – this  is nonnegotiable!

Close Out
– One of the most important fundamentals to this defense! You must work on this every single day (including pre-game warm-ups)
– Xavier Way: “Close out with two high hands”  Why “two high hands” instead of one?  Discourages rhythm shots and quick passes over the top Creates a mentality to “take away vision”

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– We do this drill every single day (practice, shoot around, pre-game warm-ups, etc.)
– Each defender tosses the ball to offensive player
– Xavier Way to close out: 2 High hands, Elbows bent, Low stance, Short/choppy steps, Stay square, Yell “SHOT” early
– The offense will catch, triple-threat, jab step and rip the ball through a couple of times







– Great drill that incorporates closing out, ball pressure, jumping to help position, fronting cutters, and closing out from help position.
– ***Closing out from a help position is one of the toughest fundamental to master defensively***

    • x1 throws ball to first offensive player (1) inline and close out
    • 1 can pass to either wing, x1must “jump and swipe” to get to appropriate help position, 1 basket cuts, x1 must use arm bar and “bump cutter” to the logo (below the FT line)
    • Wing will pass to next offensive player in line (2), x1 must close out again – this time from a help position
    • After two or three passes from wing to top to wing back to top, the Coach will yell “LIVE”
    • Two players play 1-on-1 off the close out
    • Offense has 2-3 dribble max to score
    • x1 must get a stop to complete the drill – if offense scores, x1 restarts drill
    • Coaching Points Make sure x1 keeps proper fundamentals during the dummy period of the drill

This is a video of the Blackhawk Defensive Drill

Click the play arrow to see the drill and make sure your sound is on.

There is nothing to purchase to see the drill, however if you are interested in see more about the DVD that it came from, you can use this link:

Chris Mack Drills to Build the Packline Defense

Drill: “2-on-1 Position”

– Coach starts with the ball, x1 is matched up with 1
– Coach can pass to 1, dribble him out, cut him through, etc. forcing x1 to play on and off the ball
– Drill lasts for a prescribed amount of time, no one looks to score – just focus on constant offensive movement
– Coaching Points:
o Make sure x1 plays with proper fundamentals throughout the drill:
? Close outs from ball to help & help to ball
? Jump & Swipe
? Bump Cutter
? Protect against baseline & straight line drives
– Intense ball pressure

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