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by Coach Dave Stricklin Coaches, players, and especially fans all love to see rim rattling dunks and ankle breaking crossovers but sometimes forget that the objective of the game is putting the ball through the basket. There are literally thousands of different offenses and set plays but each and every one of them is practically useless unless it’s built around a great shooter. Great shooters are an opposing team’s nightmare because they stretch the defense, can score points in a hurry, and get the fans all fired up. With a great shooter on the floor every offense and every set play is much more effective and therefore great shooters must be defended every second they are on the court. If you can do this as a team you will win many more games; if you can do this an individual your worth to your team will skyrocket! Here are 4 things to consider the next time you have to lock down a lights out shooter: 1. Don’t let him touch the ball I realize this is much easier said than done but it is the “easiest” way to lock down a shooter since he can’t shoot it if he doesn’t touch it. Fortunately for you, most middle school and even high school shooters are “catch and shoot” types of players and most offenses are played at a pace that actually helps the defense. (Watch how much the average high school shooter moves without the ball and compare him to game clips of Stephen Curry, Ray Allen, Rip Hamilton or other big time shooters.) I know a lot of teams are now using a drive and kick type offense to get the ball to their best shooters but here’s something to think about: Would you rather have a great shooter get off a wide open, uncontested 3 point attempt or a penetrator shoot a contested shot while driving to the rim? In many offenses the penetrator’s main objective is to force the shooter’s defender to help so he can kick it out for the 3. What would happen if you refuse to drop off and force the penetrator to shoot it himself? Some coaches and players would say that’s not “good” defense but “good” defense is not always effective defense! 2. Get him out of rhythm The best shooters are all rhythm shooters which is why they can stand there and make dozens of uncontested shots in a row. If you can’t keep him from touching the ball then the next strategy is to get him out of his normal shooting rhythm and routine. This can be done in several ways – 1) run him off the 3 point line and make him shoot it off the dribble 2) rotate defenders so he is constantly getting a different defensive look in terms of length, quickness, and physicality 3) force the ball away from him so he is not getting the ball in the same spot every single time and 4) run a second defender at him every time he touches the ball forcing him to either speed up or be trapped. 3. Hands in then up Most shooters, especially rhythm shooters, bring the ball “up” before shooting it. Therefore, as a defender you should get your hand “in” and placed about waist high which will prevent him from bringing the ball up into his shot pocket. Once the shot sequence has started get a hand up but make sure it’s the correct hand. Too many times I see the right hand go up on a shooter’s left shoulder which does absolutely no good in terms of contesting the shot. 4. Make him defend Many great shooters have a tendency to rest on defense for two reasons. First, they are trying to conserve some energy and secondly, they can’t shoot the ball if they are on the bench in foul trouble. Therefore, if you can make him defend on every possession you have an outstanding chance of lowering his shooting effectiveness. Get him into pick and roll situations, run him around several picks, and post him up. Be creative and don’t let him hide out on the weak side where he is always away from the action. Even if the great shooter is not defending one of your team’s best scorers you can still make him work by running him into three or four good, hard screens before getting into your “real” offense. Not only will this force him to defend and make him fight through contact but in order to do this you have to play at a little faster pace. Unless the shooter is in exceptional shape the faster pace may help tire him out quicker than usual. Sometimes the best defense is a good offense! I don’t want to oversimplify this but if you stop the shooter you usually stop the offense and if you can stop the offense you can usually win the game! If you're ready to get on board and receive FREE basketball training & coaching tips on a regular basis visit www.hoopskills.com.