One-on-One Basketball Defensive Drills

Become a stronger one-on-one defender by trying out these defense drills from STACK expert Mike Meister.

Basketball Defense

What athlete didn't enjoy playing a little one-on-one basketball as a kid? This schoolyard favorite is actually a great way to improve your defense. That's because playing one-on-one forces you to learn to stop an opponent without relying on help from your teammates.

Below are two great defensive drills that will make you more efficient and improve your defense by not spreading the game all over the floor. To improve your play, do them three or four times a week. (First, how strong is your stance?)

One-on-One Full Court

This drill has three stages. The boundaries are the width of the key, all the way down the court. Players start on the baseline with the offensive player out-of-bounds. Players switch roles coming back.

Stage One: No Hands

The defensive player keeps his hands together behind his back. The offensive player dribbles to the side of the key, then crosses over and moves to the opposite side of the key. The players continue this zigzag pattern down the court, without stepping outside the width of the key. The defensive player slides until he gets one step outside of the key each time, cutting off the offensive player. Stay low and always keep your feet outside your hips. This drill can start slow, but should speed up as the defense improves.

Stage Two: One Hand In

This works like Stage One, but the defensive player can place one hand in by the ball. Keep the back of your hand by the offensive player's opposite hip. In other words, if the offensive player is dribbling right-handed, your right hand will be by his right hip. Keep your arm extended and stay an arm's length away. Hold your other hand up and out wide. The offensive player may use moves like a front crossover, but he or she is not allowed to spin or back down. The offensive player must learn to handle the ball facing up.

Stage Three: Live Action

This is live play, but with the same boundaries. The offensive player tries to score as soon as possible. The drill continues until the offensive player makes it all the way down the court. On a steal or a turnover, the ball goes right back to the offensive player on the spot.

Penalties are assessed for each violation in the drill.

Defensive Penalties

  • Fouls
  • Getting beat
  • Getting scored on
  • Poor defensive sliding (for advanced players)

Offensive Penalties

  • Going out-of-bounds
  • Losing the ball or getting it stolen
  • Missing a shot or shooting outside of three feet
  • Spinning or backing down

One-on-One From the Top of the Key

Again, going outside the key is out-of-bounds—except, if you allow it, landing outside the key on a step-back jump shot. The offensive player starts with the ball in triple-threat position at the top of the key. He or she is allowed only three dribbles to score. Play is live, but ends with the shot. Play to three or five points.

Ways to rotate through this drill include:

  • Guard everybody before switching defenders
  • Offense stays on a score and defenders switch
  • Defense stays until they get a stop
  • Defense stays until they get beat, trying to get as many stops as possible


Photo Credit: Getty Images // Thinkstock

Topics: BASKETBALL TRAINING | BASKETBALL DRILLS | DRILL