2 Vital Basketball Closeout Drills to Sharpen Team Defense

Have you ever heard of the phrase “offense wins games, but defense wins championships?”

When it comes to the game of basketball, that saying is the absolute truth. Playing tough defense may not be as sexy or as fun as playing offense, but it’s a major key to building a basketball dynasty.

Getting a key defensive stop in the closing minutes of a tight game can be the difference between a win and a loss. If your team needs help building a championship defense, this article is for you. Use these two basketball defensive drills to train your players to defend like a pro.

We’ve also included a video demonstration of each drill to further help you better run them with your team.

What is a Closeout?

what is a closeout drill in basketball

A closeout is a popular defensive maneuver that is used to shut down a good offensive player. It’s called a closeout because the goal of the defender is to “close the gap” of space between himself and the offensive player. The two main purposes of a closeout are to prevent a wide-open jump shot and eliminate the ability to drive toward the basket.

A fundamentally sound closeout technique is executed when a defensive player gets as close as possible to the offensive player. The defensive player will want to keep his steps short and choppy and keep his hands held high at all times. The choppy steps make it difficult for the ball handler to drive the lanes and the high hands prevent open looks at the hoop.

2 Essential Closeout Drills to Help Your Team Improve Their Defense

1. Sean Miller’s “Vegas Closeout” Drill

This great drill was made famous by former University of Arizona head coach Sean Miller. Miller was named PAC-12 Coach of the Year three times and a big believer in playing good closeout defense. 

The goal of the drill is for the defensive players to practice taking away open jump shots and inhibiting the vision of the offensive players. Here’s how the drill works:

  • Take 6 players and divide them up into 3 groups of 2
  • Have 1 group line up on the left-wing, 1 on the right-wing, and 1 at the top of the key
  • Each defensive player will stand close to the basket while each offensive player will be beyond the three-point line
  • When the coach blows the whistle, each defender will roll the ball to each offensive player
  • Each defender then sprints as fast as possible to close the gap between himself and the offensive player
  • Once the defender gets close enough to touch (roughly an arm’s length away) the ball handler, he is to get into the ultimate closeout position which is a low stance with the butt down and both hands up
  • Both hands are up but both elbows remain bent, not straight up. This is so the defender can still prevent a drive but also obstruct the vision of the passing lane.
  • With limited vision, the ball handler won’t be able to pass the ball down to the low post players
  • Once the drill is run, the coach blows the whistle again and the next 3 groups come onto the floor to run the drill

2. 2-on-2 Closeout Drill

The 2-on-2 closeout drill from Championship Productions is another fantastic way for players to practice closeouts. It’s also a solid way for players to work on their man defense as well. This drill will also help improve your players’ offensive skills by teaching them how to pass against a closeout.

The main goal of the 2-on-2 closeout drill is to allow each player to work on their closeout technique. It will also allow your players to practice guarding passing lanes. Here’s a breakdown of the drill:

  • Put 4 players on the floor
  • Have 2 players line up at the top of the key
  • Have 2 players line up on the left-wing near the baseline
  • At the sound of the whistle, one defender sprints to closeout the ball handler
  • At the same time, the other defender works on guarding the passing lane
  • The ball handler then passes the ball to the other offensive player on the wing
  • The defender guarding the passing lane must hurriedly try to close out the new ball-handler on the wing while the other defender rushes to guard the new passing lane
  • Once each defender has successfully closed out their opponent, allow the offensive players to add in a dribble to mix things up
  • This will make the defensive players have even more discipline with their footwork and momentum
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Mike Noblin

Mike has been involved with basketball for over 30 years as a player, coach, and bettor. He has a degree in Sports Psychology and enjoys following both the NBA and College Basketball on a nightly basis.