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Sudden Change in Basketball – Defending Live Ball Turnovers

live ball turnover

When you listen to our football coaching brothers talking about “sudden change”, some of them make it sound like some revolutionary thing happens on the football field, when in reality all that occurs is a turnover and a change of possession.  Basketball coaches usually don’t use the term sudden change because we change possessions so often in the first place and secondly we usually have at least 20 or turnovers in a game between the two teams and on upwards to 50 turnovers.

For most coaches, transition is a priority and preventing our opponents from getting a good shot after we miss a field goal attempt is not a simple task and requires planning, execution and hard work.  Even preventing a good opportunity by the opponent after our missed free throws and made field goals or foul shots can be very challenging against some teams.  (For our thoughts on conventional transition defense, please read an earlier Hoop Coach article in the Defensive Fundamentals series.)

Today’s article will focus on the worst of hoop coaches’ nightmares- the live ball turnover.  While the live ball TO is really the epitome of sudden change and is by far the most difficult to contend with in transition, there are things that we can do to better prepare our teams for those occasions.

The first drill is “Sudden Change Half Court”.  This exercise will help get our players ready for the full court version.  When we have our offense run a play or set of any kind, we randomly blow the whistle and have the offensive man with the ball put the ball on the floor. Then, the defense goes to offense and offense to defense at the same basket but to make the transition more difficult, no defender can guard the player who was guarding him.  Obviously, the possession lasts until a basket is scored or there is a stop. Giving each team 3-5 possessions and having a winner and loser can add urgency and competitiveness to the drill.

Communication is paramount and at the beginning there will be some confusion and frustration but eventually a sense of order will prevail and better yet, a sense of pride will develop when the defense matches up effectively and prevents a good shot.  One note-the more that Ball-You-Man principles are in force, the better.  Giving the defense great verbal credit for a stop is highly encouraged because of the degree of difficulty.

After practicing “Sudden Change Half-Court”, we’re ready to move on to “Sudden Change Full-Court”.  In this version- on the whistle, the offensive player can set the ball down as before.  Or, he can pass it to any defender.  In either case the defense-turned offense is off to races and the offense-turned defense has to get back to prevent any good shot but particularly the uncontested layup.  Applying the same 3-5 possession format to the full court version is recommended.

Since the full court sudden change is far more complicated than the half court version and far more realistic, the following principles/thoughts should be covered before-hand and stressed throughout:

The “leader of the pack” has to first try to angle and cut off the ball-handler as best a he can to first prevent the breakaway.

While sudden change defense on live ball turnovers is extremely challenging, if our players are given a sound plan to contend with the issue, and then have follow-up practices to simulate these situations, they’ll be more confident and able to contend with them when they’re real.

How do you prepare to defend live ball turnovers? Let us know in the comments below.

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