Here are some ideas and drills that I have picked up from various sources and used to build our conversion defense.
I have always referred to going from offense to defense as conversion, and going from defense to offense as transition for the sake of clarity in communicating with our players.
Del Harris taught that half court defense begins full court. We have not been a pressing program, but we do place a major emphasis on full court defensive conversion each practice. Our goal is to force the opponent to play against our set pack line style defense each possession by executing our half court offense and full court conversion defense every possession of every practice and every game.
Depending on the level you coach, you will be converting to defense 40 – 60 times per game on average, so it is essential to practice it regularly.
We practice converting off of made and missed shots, off turnovers, and off of made and missed free throws. We use the “change” drill to simulate a turnover. (Coach yells change, offense drops balls and converts to defense, team on defense picks up the ball as if transitioning after a steal.)
Conversion defense begins when we shoot the ball. We send our three best rebounders to the block, block, and front of the rim when we shoot. The remaining two players go to the half court line (we call him our fullback) and to the top of the key (we call him our halfback). Those are Don Meyer terms I borrowed. The fullback is responsible for sprinting to the lane to guard the basket. The halfback is responsible for slowing the ball if it is being dribbled. I use the term slow the ball because if he attempts to make a stand and stop the ball out on the floor, he is likely to get beat and then we have only the fullback to stop their break. If the halfback slows the dribble, that gives our three offensive rebounders time to sprint back and become a part of our conversion defense. The rule for those 3 rebounders (Coach Don Meyer called them “tailbacks”) is that they must be past mid court in two and a half seconds after the shot hits the rim.
If the pass is made to the wing, the hoop defender must read the situation: is there another offensive player coming from the weak side (if so you will have to delay a count until the ball defender can replace you) or is it a 2-on-2 situation (in this case the hoop defender will begin his/her closeout to the wing as the ball defender now replaces the hoop defender).
When we substitute we make sure to communicate our halfback, fullback, and offensive rebounder roles as well as the man we are guarding between the player going in the game and the player coming out of the game.
One of my points of emphasis for our offense is that we must be able to defend the shots we take and the turnovers we make. That means to me that we need to take shots that our teammates are expecting us to take so they will be ready to rebound. Jay Bilas says that a bad shot is the first pass in your opponent’s fast break. I think that is a great teaching phrase on the value of shot selection.
It is also a major point of emphasis for us to not make risky passes that have a 50/50 chance of being caught by us. We never want to throw the ball away when we are making a pass going away from our basket and toward the opponents. That just gives them a head start on their break and puts us in a position of chasing from behind which is no defense.r
Here are some of the special rules we use from time to time if our second team has a hard time pushing our first team in practice:
When we are scrimmaging, the second team does not have to take the ball out of bounds after a basket, they just take it out of the net and play it to force our first team to convert quickly. We also run a play until the whistle practice, so if the JV travels, throws the ball out of bounds, etc.. we don’t blow the whistle, we just keep playing to work on our conversion.
When preparing for an upcoming opponent with a very good fast break, we place two JV players at half court–one of them on each sideline as we are running our half court offense. When the varsity turns the ball over or the defense gets a rebound, those players at half court take off toward the opposite end (the basket we are defending) in order to force our conversion defense to play at a quicker pace. If that is not enough to push our first team, we move the half court players to the free throw line extended at the opposite end or even to the baseline corners at the opposite end.
One drill that I really like is to play at a 4 on 5 disadvantage in a transition drill. We have always played 4 on 5 in the half court, but playing it in conversion is a great way to improve your conversion through the disadvantage principle as well. Put 5 second team players on the baseline, put 15 seconds on the clock, and have the first team run your offense 5/0. When the shot is taken, the offense should go to the rebound/conversion defense spots described above. Have the offensive rebounders put back any missed shot.
When the ball goes through the basket, the 15 seconds starts on the clock and the second team (who are on the baseline) take the ball out of the net. The coach calls the name of one of the first team players. That player steps off the court and is no longer in the drill. The 5 offensive players then push the ball up against the 4 defenders as the clock counts down from 15 seconds. Having a numbers disadvantage forces better communication among the conversion defenders. The defense wins the possession if they can force a turnover or keep the second team from taking a shot that hits the rim before the 15 seconds run out. If the offense does shoot an airball, the defense must get the rebound to win the possession. Even if the rebound takes place after the horn goes off at the end of the 15 seconds–we always play until the whistle, not the horn. The offense wins the possession if they can hit the rim with a shot in the 15 seconds. You can play to 3 or 5 or however many possession wins to win the drill. The losers run at the end of the drill.
Click the image or here: Defensive Conversion Drill for a video of a very simple, but very good conversion drill. You will be able to see a video on the Championship Productions website. You do not have to purchase anything to see the video.