Drill: Closeout & Cut Off (George Karl)

George Karl is back – and this time, with some defense!

Offense wins games but defense wins championships. This is why we love defensive drills, because they worry less about winning tomorrow and more about creating a great product down the line. Defense is the same way; focusing on developing a player’s defensive skills might not pay dividends immediately, but helps them become a better athlete as they develop.

The closeout is one of the on-ball defensive principles we want to introduce to young athletes. It can be extremely effective in directing an offensive player the way we want them to go, namely by forcing them left or right.

The closeout becomes much more complex in later stages of basketball, but early on all we want our athletes to understand is that when the player they’re guarding has the ball, they should sprint to closeout, chop their feet to stay under control, and keep one hand high (mirroring the ball, blocking vision, etc.) and the other one low (in the way of passing lanes).

Forcing a player one way or the other can be too much to comprehend for some younger players. Because of this, have the offensive player play “Fake Offense” where they react predictably, as a “normal” offensive player would. Have a look at the video below on George Karl explaining the Closeout & Cut Off.

Closeout & Cut Off

DESCRIPTION Divide players into partners, with one ball per pair. Stand players about 5m apart. The player with the ball rolls the ball to their partner and sprints to closeout. As they get to about 2m, the player should chop their feet to slow their speed and stay in control. Closeout with hands high.

To cut off right, close out with the left foot higher than the right foot, encouraging the ball handler to go left.

To cut off left, close out with the right foot higher than the left foot, encouraging the ball handler to go right.

To stay on focus, ensure the offensive player is “guided” and has a limited number of dribbles.

SKILL FOCUS Footwork, Defense, Closeouts
AGE (STAGE) 8+ (Learn-to-Train Stage)
PLAYERS 2+
EQUIPMENT 1 basketball per pair of players
VARIATION:
1-ON-1 COMPETITION
Make the drill live, where the offensive player attacks the defender closing out and they play 1-on-1 at a hoop.

Our favorite defensive drills help players develop 1-on-1 skills. Share your favorite defense drills in the comments below!

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