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How To Defend 1 on 1 in basketball

There is almost nothing more demoralizing and embarrassing than getting cooked on the defensive side of the floor and having your opponent score every time they dribble up the floor.

This can not only decrease a player's confidence and drive but also lead to less playing time and just a worse overall basketball experience.

In this article, I will be going over tips and answering questions you might be having so you can be the best defender you can be and lock up any opponent in a 1 on 1 situation.

1. Reading Your Opponent

Reading your opponent does not mean you have to study hours and hours of film or even you have to recognize any of their tendencies at all.

This is by far the most important tip when it comes to defending 1 on1 in basketball. By doing this you take away the power an offensive player has and put it into your hands by being less reactive and more aggressive as your guard the ball.

Reading your opponent simply means understanding what strengths they have and what strengths you might have.

What to look out for when reading your opponent.

-Their physicality and athleticism

This is one of the main things to look for when guarding a player 1 on 1. The reason for this is because this will determine not only how you should defend them but this can also be a tell-tailed sign of how your opponent will try and attack you.

Below I will be going over two examples and situations you might have to face if an opponent is either bigger or faster than you.

How To Guard Someone Faster Than You?

When guarding someone faster than you the most important thing to do is to make sure you give yourself enough space between you and the ball handler in order to cut off their drive.

The second technique you need to do is to make sure you take wide angles and cut them off from getting to the basket. While this does expose you to the pull-up jumper it is better than giving up a wide-open uncontested layup.

How to angle off on defense?

Angling off simply means to go to where the ball handler is going instead of where they are right now. For example, if you know your opponent is driving to the basket and trying to get a layup and you and they are at the three-point line, a logical cut-off would be a few feet from the basket.

How To Guard Someone Bigger Than You?

When guarding someone bigger than you the most important thing by far is keeping them out of the paint. Simple ways to do this would be things like fronting the post, pressuring the ball handler, denying the ball, and even going for steals and simply being more aggressive than your opponent.

For more information on guarding taller defenders check out the link here.

Read What They Like To Do

What you will find in basketball is most players like to do certain things on the court. Whether that's shooting 3 pointers, driving to the basket, or passing and cutting away.

The key with this is you have to keep a watchful eye out for this and see the patterns develop as the game unfolds.

An example of this would be forcing your opponent to go to his weak hand if you can tell they only like to drive or dribble with their dominant hand.

2. Discipline

What I mean by discipline is not overreacting to what the ball handler is doing. A major cause for a lot of blow-bys and failed defense attempts is when the defender gets undisciplined and overreacts to what the defender is doing.

A great example of this would be players reacting to pump fakes and having their defender either draw a foul on you or simply get past you.

Simple Tip To Stay Disciplined On Defense

One tip and technique I have used in the past is instead of looking at the ball and the opponent's head try looking at the opponent's stomach.

The reason for this is by looking at the opponent's stomach and body you get less distracted by the opponent's head and dribbling which moves around a lot more than the body itself.

3. Aggression

One thing that gets defenders beat is laying back and letting their opponent do whatever they want against them.

Remember just because your on defense doesnt mean your not in attack

You don't have to full-court press your opponent to be aggressive that is not what I am saying but you need to dictate what your opponent does and where they want to go.

Pro Tip: One thing I have always used and done to opponents on defense is mixing up my coverages and how I defend them. This could mean playing up on one play or sagging off the next. This keeps your opponent guessing while putting you in a more aggressive position.

Examples of playing aggressive on defense

  • Playing up on defenders

  • Forcing them to one side of the court

  • playing physical

  • mixing up coverages

  • hard contests on all shots

4. Mentality

I know this is gonna sound like coaches talk but to be frank one of the biggest reasons players get beat so often on defense is simply because they do not care much about defense.

This is understandable I don't think anyone starts playing basketball dreaming about staying in a low defensive stance and not touching the ball.

But at the end of the day basketball is about competition and there is no better way to beat your opponent than doing it on the defensive end of the floor especially when talking about 1 on 1 individual defense.

How To Stop A Dominant Star Player In Basketball?

When guarding a star player the one thing you must do is make sure everything is hard for them. This means catching the ball, dribbling to their favorite spot, and even moving off-ball. To really slow down and frustrated a star player with virtually no flaws you must make their life frustrating and aggravating on the basketball court.


Locking up and shutting down an opponent 1 on 1 can be one of the most exciting and rewarding events in the game of basketball.

It can not only hype you up but also your team and even coaching staff. Not to mention the added playing time you can get being your team's lockdown defender.

Thank you for reading and as always keep hooping my friends.

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