The importance of the right defensive tactics while playing basketball should never be underestimated, since winning the ball back is just as important as what the team does with it. After all, all offensive strategies can only be applied effectively if the team actually has the ball in their possession, and this is something that needs to be concentrated upon intensely. One of the best ways to regain possession in a basketball game is to employ man-to-man defensive tactics, and this is vastly different from the zonal marking system.
In zonal marking, each player on the team defends a certain area on the court, and when an opponent enters that area they are expected to jostle with them for possession, and attempt to win the ball back. Man-to-man marking is very different from this strategy, and it often results in a haphazard formation on the court, but it is far more effective, according to some people. According to this tactic, every player on the team is assigned one member of the opposing team to mark, and he needs to follow him wherever he goes when that team has the possession. As a result of this, the opponent will have very less time to control a pass, and this will inadvertently result in some unforced errors.
Man-to-man marking requires the marking player to be very aware of the movement of the player he is marking, and he is also required to press energetically. Hence his stamina must also be top-notch, so that he can follow the marked player no matter where he goes. Teams that employ man-to-man defensive strategies need to be very fit, and should also have a good understanding with each other. Members who are marking other players should have enough faith in one of their teammates to mark an opponent who nears the ring, and this is something that takes immense discipline and long hours of training together.
Simple Man-to-man Defense Drills
This technique can only be mastered after it has been practiced intensely by the team, and there are many drills that can help instill this mentality. The very first thing that the team should do is focus on their fitness, endurance and stamina, and this is a whole different ball game altogether. Stamina building is one of the primary concerns of every training drill, and it should always be there at the back of the coach's mind.
Follow the Leader
This is a basic man marking drill that is popularly utilized in other sports as well. It involves two people, and one of them is the designated leader. The other player assigned to him has to simply run with him and copy all of his movements. The leader should be instructed to accelerate and slow down as often as possible, and also change direction frequently. After a while, the roles can then be reversed.
Screen Avoidance Drill
This drill is useful to help man marking players avoid defensive screens from the opposing team. The drill requires 3 players. One of them is marking another one's movement at all times, and the third player is supposed to provide a defensive screen to the player being marked. This will help the marking player learn how to avoid these screens and find his way around them in a proper game.
Pass Denial Drill
Learning defense is something that requires patience and lots of training. This particular drill should be designed to teach the marker to intercept a pass made to the player he is marking. The marked player will be moving at high speed and will receive a pass into space, so the marking player needs to anticipate this pass and intercept this pass and touch the ball back into the direction from where it came. The setup for this drill is simple, and it requires 2 players along with a third player who is making a pass to the marked player.
Rebound Collection Drill
Collecting rebounds is an important part of the game, and most defense tips stress on this aspect extensively. This drill does not necessarily have to be a part of the man marking strategy, but it is a vital aspect. Many players whose teams are attacking, make runs towards the ring when their teammate takes a shot and then collects the rebound, and it is the responsibility of the marker to block these runs and collect the rebound at the same time. This is not possible each and every time, but only sufficient drills can improve this aspect of a players game.
Force Movement Drill
One of the main functions of man marking is to put pressure on an attacking player and cause him to move away from the hoop and away from central areas on the court towards the sideline or the baseline. This is something that needs to be paid special focus to in defense drills, and it requires two people. One player dribbles the ball and tries to approach the hoop and central areas, while the marking player is supposed to try to push him away without fouling him.
Man-to-man drill require a lot of work with the ball, and without it as well. The marking player should understand his responsibility and should track every movement of the marked player diligently, or else this pressing strategy will fail. Only after immense training and well worked drills can a player successfully master the art of man marking.