Basketball Playbook-2. Defensive Fundamentals

by Tom Kelsey
Basketball Playbook-2. Defensive Fundamentals


Do you get frustrated coaching defense or not know how to get the most out of your players on the defensively?

It took a reality check for me to help my players get better in not only their ability but their approach.

I found I was not spending time on the necessary skills and techniques of defense.

We were doing a lot of defensive of drills and spending time in practice on defense, but we were still getting the same results.

Teams would drive too easy, get too many open shots, and our ability to sustain effort was lacking.

I went back and broke everything down. From hand placement, footwork, vision, and communication. We did this for every part of our defense.

Man to Man, Zone, Full Court Presses, everything.

We went back and spent time emphasizing our defensive skills.

Yes, defensive skills. I believe it takes skill to play defense.

The effort is vital, and energy is critical, but to be a good defender or good defensive team you have to have the right skills.

We broke it down into the smallest parts of the techniques.

Instead of hoping another team would have an off night shooting the ball, we could control the shots they got and where they got them.

Instead of hoping their star player would get into foul trouble, we had ways to slow that player down.

Instead of hoping they would turn the ball over we had ways to force more turnovers.

We started by changing our mindset.

We took more time at the beginning of practice to work on defensive skills.

Doing so did two things:
1. Got our players thinking defense at the outset of practice. Instead of doing offensive skill work we flipped the script and invested the time on defense.
2. Brought instant energy to the start of practice. Now we didn't have to wait for the intensity as we went along. The drills forced the players to go all out.

The most common mistakes I see coaches make is not placing enough emphasis on the defensive skills. Believing you just have to have great effort and play hard then you can be a good defender. Or thinking the best athletes are the best defenders.

Not so. You have to have the right skills.

Ask yourself these questions when looking at your defensive drills:
1. Is this Game like? Will this action occur in a game?
2. Is the drill competitive?
3. Does the drill keep the players engaged? If there is any chance where a player can coast or not go full speed, then I want to eliminate the drill or find ways to make sure a player keeps up the intensity.
For example, on Wing Deny Drill or any drill that requires sliding to a spot. Put cones out, so players have to touch a cone. Instead of arbitrary spots give players exact spots where they need to touch. Then keep them accountable.
One of my pet peeves is not touching lines in a drill. So if you have a Zig-Zag Drill make players get to the line on slides and touch a cone or a coaches hand.

Using this playbook will help your players understand the proper stance, how to guard the ball, to keep their opponent from catching the ball, and how to be in the right position to help a teammate.


The Coach


Tom Kelsey

Helping players, teams and coaches improve how they play and how they teach


Tom Kelsey's career has spanned from coaching Professional teams to players just learning the game.

Working with the NBA, Women's Professional Basketball, High Major College Basketball, Small College Basketball. High School, Middle School, and Elementary School Kelsey knows how to communicate his message, ensures his teaching is understood, and how to measure improvement.

Kelsey has traveled all over the world teaching and coaching the game of basketball. Playing legendary coaches Don Meyer (college coach) and Rick Torbett of Better Basketball (high school coach) gave Kelsey a solid base in teaching the game.

As a player at Lipscomb University, the team averaged 30 wins per year his last three seasons.

Kelsey was the senior captain of the Lipscomb team, which won the NAIA National Championship.

At 26 Kelsey was the youngest Athletic Director and Head Basketball Coaches in the country. Before the age of 30, Kelsey's team at Faulkner University made college basketball history by going from 4 wins to 23 wins the following season. By his third year, Kelsey was named Coach of the Year and taking the school to their first trip to the National Tournament and team set a record for wins in a season.

At Murray State, Kelsey helped recruit the #11 Ranked recruiting class, set a conference record for wins and team received the highest seed in the NCAA National Tournament ever for the Ohio Valley Conference.

At Belhaven University, Kelsey took his teams to two national tournaments in three seasons after the school had not been to the tournament in 37 years. Kelsey was named Coach of the Year and team set a school record for wins.

As an assistant coach at Alabama and LSU, he was part of recruiting and signing three #1 players in the country:
Schea Cotton
Gerald Wallace
Ben Simmons

While at both (Alabama, and LSU)  they were able to sign top 5 recruiting classes. And Kelsey was named one of the top 20 recruiting coaches by HoopScoop Magazine.

Kelsey has worked, organized, and directed basketball camps in Bolivia, Brazil, Peru, Poland, Greece, Belgium, Singapore, and China.

At Ensworth High School team state finalist each year on staff.

NBA (National Basketball Association) China
Camp Director/Lead Trainer 
Camp Director for Junior NBA all-star camp in Beijing.
Lead Instructor for Train the Trainer program for teachers and coaches across China in the cities of Beijing, Guiyang, Lanzhou, Nanjing, Shanghai, Suzhou, and Wuxi.
NBA Cares guest clinician.

Served as Head Coach for the Music City Icons, Women's Professional Basketball Team in 2017
Directed the process of selecting team members, practice plans, and game plan organization. 

NBA Asia
Camp Director/Lead Instructor 
Conducted 7-week camp for 1800 athletes. In charge of training coaches, camp staff and developing daily plans.
At the conclusion of program directed and developed curriculum or National Training Camp which selected the top 30 boys and girls for the national team.

Sport Singapore-Active SG
Ran weekly clinics for basketball coaches and developed drill and play notebook.
Developed and taught a course on how to implement values into each practice session and game for the national soccer team coaches.
Helped rewrite curriculum and manual for coaches certifications.
Worked with secondary and primary school physical education teachers on how to use Game For Life curriculum.
Spoke to students groups and conducted practices for area schools.

Coaching Career

Coach Tube-Basketball Ambassador
NBA China-Lead Instructor/Camp Director
Music City Icons (Women's Professional Basketball Team)-Head Coach
NBA Asia-Lead Instructor/Camp Director
Ensworth School-Assistant Coach
Louisiana State University (LSU)-Director of Basketball Operations
Belhaven University-Head Coach
Greater Atlanta Christian School-Head Coach
University of Alabama-Assistant Coach
Murray State University-Assistant Coach
Athletes in Action-Assistant Coach
Lipscomb University-Assistant Coach
Faulkner University-Head Coach
Franklin Road Academy-Head Coach
Brentwood Academy-Assistant Coach



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Caterory: Basketball/Defense
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