Defensive Rebounding in the "FIVE/ONE"

You can shoot too much,
You can pass too much,
You can dribble too much,

We consider defensive rebounding to be a part of defense and offensive rebounding to be a part of offense. However, if we were to take rebounding as a phase of the game on the same scale as offense and defense. We would have to say that rebounding is the most important phase of basketball when it is considered in comparison to defense and offense.

For instance, we may not be a good shooting team, but we would not have to be if we rebounded well enough to get second and third shot opportunities every offensive possession. On the other hand, if we limit our opponent to one shot, as long as it is a contested shot and not a lay-up, we would have a chance to win as well, regardless of our defense. The importance of rebounding, and especially defensive rebounding, cannot be over-emphasized, as it does bring about winning basketball. Rebounders win basketball games!

Former Boston Celtic great Larry Bird said, "I'll take 20 rebounds over 35 points anytime. Hustle wins games and 20 rebounds proves you hustled."

Rebounding is not just a function of size and it is not just a knack. Some are born rebounders, but most are made. When a player doesn't fit the physically powerful stereotype of a rebounder but is nonetheless successful, his skills are often called 'uncanny.' They are in fact, very canny. Rebounding is in large a thinking player's game, it is as much a science as it is an art. And, like any science, rebounding has its principles.

What most people do not understand is that rebounding has very little to do with straight-up jumping ability or strength and size. If you have these, that is great. But it is not a requirement. And you must still learn the techniques. First, you've got to want it!! The majority of rebounding is just desire. This desire leads to the proper use of good rebounding techniques. Nice guys don't get rebounds. Nice guys can shoot, they can pass, they can dribble, they can even set screens. But you have to be selfish and singleminded about rebounding. It has to be a state of mind.

There is a distinction between a player who can make a great rebound and a great rebounder. You'll see some guys go way up, snatch the ball with one hand, and everyone will go "AHHH!" Then after the game you check the stats and you'll see that guy had a grand total of one rebound.

Jump doesn't mean high. Getting off the floor at the right time, in the right direction is more important than how high a player gets off the floor. The time spent on positioning and movement will yield bigger returns than the time spent on jumping drills.


One area of basketball that causes great frustration for a coach is a team that plays great defense, forces a poor shot and then gives up an easy shot when they allow the offense to score off of an offensive rebound. Blocking out your opponent on every shot is a vital part of our defensive philosophy. Without the skill of 'blocking-out', a great defensive team will barely look average.

We feel we cannot place enough importance upon the defensive boards. When our opponents are able to get an offensive rebound(s), it usually results in the second shot being a high percentage shot because the defense is out of position and disorganized. There is also a greater tendency for the defense to foul the second and third offensive shot attempts. Offensive rebounding proves demoralizing to the defense and psychologically boost the offense. Many times changing the momentum of the game.

Good rebounding begins with the proper attitude in three areas:
1. an attitude for the importance that rebounding has on the outcome of games,
2. an attitude of aggressiveness in going after the ball, and
3. an attitude to discipline yourself to block out on every shot.

We try to do a defensive rebounding drill within the first fifteen minutes of practice each day. Often we will start practice with a defensive rebounding drill. On many days we will have three or four defensive rebounding drills interspersed throughout practice. All drills are live and continue until the defense rebounds the ball and makes the outlet pass. And in all of our defensive break-down drills, we emphasize blocking out. Many times we will conclude practice with a defensive rebounding drill.

It is refreshing to know that a team sport dominated so much by individual creativity and innate physical ability, has room for athletes who are willing to work hard on the fundamentals.


Perhaps the most important principle of defensive rebounding is to block out your opponent before concentrating on the rebound. The player must not turn his head to follow the ball when it is shot. He must watch his man. He must read his man's intentions. If his man indicates a move to the boards, he must cut him off before he starts to look for the ball. Five players doing this on every shot have taken a giant step toward control of the defensive boards.

The sole objective is not in any one particualr player on the defense getting the rebound, but making sure that the offense does not get any rebounds!

DEAD TIME is an important principle that all players must understand. Stated in its simplest form, 'dead time' is the time from when the ball leaves the shooter's hand, rebounds off the board or rim and it then grabbed. During 'dead time', which can last forever, players must be constantly drilled to never watch the flight of the ball, but to move defensively. While the opposition, the fans and for the most part the officials are watching the flight of the ball, defensive players must be moving to block out their assigned man.


Defensively, three steps are involved in the proper execution of the rebound: locate, rotate and motate. Players should actively locate their assigned man. Rotate in the direction he chooses to go (the block out). Motate, at which time the defensive player must stay between his assigned man and the ball.

During location it is important to remember that the race is always to the basket. Stay low, maintain your balance and determine which direction your opponent chooses to attempt to rebound.

The defensive player should read his opponent based on his initial jab to the basket. Once the offensive player has chosen his path, execute a pivot in that direction (rotate) and block him out.

Most fouls will occure in the motate phase of rebounding. Either your opponent will commit a pushing foul, an over-the-back foul or the defensive player will make the mechanical mistake of sinking his rear end into the offensive player that he is blocking out. It is very important that during motation, the back remains straight, legs low and in a power position and arms up and bent. The defensive player blocking out should not back into his opponent. He must make his opponent give up or climb over his back.

Three verbal commands are always automatic: "shot", "block" and "ball". As soon as the ball is released from the shooter's hand, the defensive player guarding the shooter yells, "SHOT!" His four teammates now yell, "BLOCK!" You must now picture a swarm of bees attacking an intruder because that is exactly what it looks like during the location phase of rebounding. As long as the defensive player's assigned man is within twenty feet of the basket (one step outside of the three point line) he must go out, find his man and keep him from getting the ball. Once the ball is rebounded by a defensive player, the player that rebounds the ball yells, "BALL!" This is a signal for our fast break to begin.

One phase of defensive rebounding that is often over-looked, and one that must be worked on every day is defensive rebounding from a free throw situation.

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