A close out refers to when an offensive player receives the basketball and a defensive player closes space between themselves and the player they are guarding to get into a better defensive position.
Often times coaches tell their players they need to "close out!" without clearly defining what that means. It's not always the easiest thing to do. The best way we have found to describe it is when closing out you are attempting to neutralize the offense's triple threat. This means taking away their ability to shoot, passing effectiveness, and dribble penetration.
In order to take away their ability to shoot, you must be close enough where you can have the ball-side hand ready to contest. This means getting there quickly but you must strike a balance between closing out quickly and closing out under control. If you simply sprint at a offensive player they will put the dribble down and go right past you. The goal is to close out balanced and under control as quickly as possible. In the last 5 feet before getting to an offensive player defenders will want to take short, choppy steps so they are able to stay explosive in their footwork and stay in front if the player tries to drive past them.
Keys to a Good Close Out
- Ball Awareness - Where is the basketball?
- Man Awareness - Where is the person your guarding?
- Quick Steps in final 5 ft - Quick, short, choppy steps will allow you to keep your feet moving quickly to help explosiveness if a player attempts to drive past.
- Hands up - Close out with hands ready and active above the waist.
- Balance/Quickness combo - Fast and balanced without sacrificing either.
- Stay Grounded - Unless you are intending to be running a shooter off the three point line, don't go for the pump fake!
- Finish Low & Wide - Get down in a quality defensive stance where your wing span becomes a factor in keeping the offensive player in front.
- Play with your feet - Don't use your arms/hands to stop the drive. Keep the player in front and square by sliding your feet.
Often closeouts are attributed to half-court defense which in most cases is where players are forced to rotate and close out on a ball handler. Just as important is the angle that players are taking to close out when their assignment catches the ball in transition. The most common error is when a player closing to their man takes a direct angle to "chase" the player instead of closing to the spot where that player is headed. This is shown in the right thumbnail diagram.
This results in the player with the basketball getting past the defense and someone else will have to rotate to stop the ball leaving their assignment open in turn. We coach players on sprinting back, getting to the paint, and then finding their assignment in order to protect the basket first. Sometimes we have neglected addressing the situational spot where the players finds themselves lateral to the ball handler in transition.
Defenders in transition should be taking an angle to cut off the driving lane where the offensive player will be, not where they currently are. They also need to learn the technique of opening up into a defensive stance while sprinting to a spot. As they get to the spot players need to start opening up with their shoulder closest to the defender. This prevents the player having to spin around and losing sight of the offensive player. Once they get to the ball handler the top priority in transition defense is always to stop the basketball first. If they are in a disadvantage situation such as a 2v1 break or 3v2 break they will need to make sure to protect the basket first, stop the ball, and rotate through communication.