This is a guest blog I wrote for a basketball blog about the mindset of a defender.
The thing that makes defense different from any other aspect of basketball is that you don’t have to be the most skillful player on the court to be a great defender. That was a lesson I learned early in my career at Michigan State. Coach Izzo had an old coaching friend in town watching us practice and he pulled me aside and told me that all I had to do is play as hard as I could every minute I was on the court and attack the offensive player while I was playing defense.
Playing defense on any level is a matter of laying it all on the line every possession. You are sitting there almost at the mercy of the offensive player, who knows where the ball is going and all you have is your effort. You have to chase, bump, grab and run through every screen to ensure that you get the job done. Prior to a season/game you have to make your mind up that regardless of what happens during the course of the game you will never take one play off on the defensive end.
I think you’ve seen it throughout Michigan State basketball history; guys have been able to completely change the outcome of a game on the defensive end of the court. The list of players is unbelievable; guys like Eric Snow, Charlie Bell and Travis Walton would take more pride in shutting down an opponent than they would in scoring a bunch of points. Charlie Bell would set a goal for the number of points he was going to allow someone on the other team to score and most of the time he achieved his goal.
There are different drills you can do to improve your foot speed or reaction time that will help you with your defensive slide. But real lock down defense comes from your heart and deep in your gut. Defense is a game within the game, you are engaged in several one on one battles and someone is going to win and someone is going to lose on every possession.
I always remember being at the top of the key and the feeling of looking at an offensive player dribbling down the court. You always end up locking eyes with your opponent and the arena seems quiet. It’s a very pure moment where you know that you are willing to give everything you have to stop your opponent from scoring.
Start practicing shutting the opponent down right now, it doesn’t matter if you are playing in a game, pick up ball, or one on one with your friends. Give everything you have on the defensive end and develop the mindset that no one is going to score on you. EVER!
Thanks to Jerry Rhead and the rheadmore blog for asking me to write this blog! Go Green!!