classic situation is the moment when two players—one with the ball, the other
wanting it—are poised against each other in a pure test of individual ability.
Coaches call this a "man-for-man" or "one-on-one" play. They
know that a team whose players fail to win man-for-man duels will also fail to
win games. Forddy Anderson, who this winter begins his ninth year as head coach
at Michigan State University and whose teams are recognized for their offensive
skills, is a master at teaching players to win such duels. On these pages
Anderson demonstrates the fundamental techniques used by an offensive player to
get around his man. "An average player can become outstanding," says
Anderson, "by simply learning ways to get a defender out of position or
off-balance." These are the basic moves that will do it.
The fastest way to
get the ball past a defensive man is, of course, with a pass. Here the
offensive player has drawn his man close by faking a shot. Keeping his eyes on
the basket to sustain the fake, he can now pass past four vulnerable areas
(arrows): the shoulder, head, hip or foot. The defensive man cannot move his
hands quickly enough to block these passes.
The fake shot and
drive—a fine blend of quickness, deception and restraint
The initial object of this maneuver is to get the defensive man close and
off-balance, where his speed will do him no good. The dribbler begins his fake
while holding the ball in shooting position, but he must maintain firm,
two-hand control. Stepping toward the defensive man with his right foot and
faking a shot, he simultaneously shifts his gaze from the floor to the basket.
The purpose is to get the guard to commit himself by raising his arms,
straightening up his body and exposing his left foot (top left), thus weakening
his balance. The dribbler ends his fake, leans forward and takes a long, quick
step past the defender's left leg (top middle). Only then does he make the
first bounce, taking care to dribble ahead of his step, keeping his body low,
head—and especially his eyes—up and getting his left shoulder past his man. If
a defender docs manage to recover quickly, the dribbler stops suddenly and
fakes another shot (lower left) by making a decisive upward lunge with the ball
and body, while keeping his feet planted. The defender, slightly out of
position, leaves his feet to block the threatened shot. The ball handler waits
for him to come down, then goes up himself to take the wide-open jump shot.
The fake drive and
shot—a remarkably successful piece of reverse psychology
Having been fooled by the fake shot and drive, the defensive man is not about
to be drawn up too close again (top left). So this time the dribbler will try a
different approach. He begins by seeming to start a drive toward the basket,
dropping his eyes, going into a low crouch and faking a dribble. The defender
reacts, as expected, by stepping back and dropping his left hand to interfere
with the dribble. Instead of dribbling, the ball handler (top right) stops
suddenly (lower left) and immediately goes up for a quick jump shot. The
defender is caught in the crouching position with his arms down and can't
recover in time to block the shot. The ball handler aims his shot over the
defender's left shoulder since he sees that this is the defender's low hand.
Note the shooter's form (lower left): he bends his knees as he cocks his
wrists, keeping the ball high all the time. As he releases his shot (lower
right) his knees have sprung straight, his left hand has moved well under the
ball, fingertips controlling it, while his right hand is behind the ball, with
the fingers spread apart. The thumb is used to help guide the shot. The wrist
is kept firm and the eyes are kept constantly on the front rim of the
The rocker step—a
rhythmic move to confound the overanxious guard
The purpose of the rocker step is to draw a close defender into an inattentive
sway, like a rocking chair in motion. The key to its success is close
observation of the front foot of the defender. The dribbler controls the ball
firmly with both hands and elbows, holding it out far enough to work quickly
with it instead of keeping it protectively near his hip. With his guard in a
good defensive stance (below left) the dribbler, keeping his left foot firmly
planted as the pivot foot, steps back with his right foot. This draws the
defender's left foot forward, which is the essence of the dribbler's plan. The
dribbler quickly rocks forward with a long stride on his right foot (second
drawing), faking a drive toward the basket as he does. This causes the defender
to retreat instinctively with his left foot. The dribbler repeats the action of
the first two drawings as many times as needed, going back and forth to lure
his guard into the desired rocking rhythm. He watches his guard's front foot
come forward, making sure the guard's weight is shifting to it. Suddenly (third
drawing) the dribbler throws back his head and shoulders as if about to draw
back his right foot once more. Instead, he merely settles back on his heels. As
the guard's left foot starts forward in reaction to the expected repetition of
the rocker, the dribbler lifts his right foot and takes off around the guard's
descending left foot.
step—a tricky lateral fake that can fool the fastest guard
This move, requiring the quickest motion of any in the series, is especially
effective when the defensive man is overplaying his position in order to block
the dribbler's path. For the crossover to succeed, the ball handler must be
sure that he a) keeps his pivot foot (in this case the left foot) firmly
anchored, b) executes a quick lateral fake and c) gets a fast push-off from his
driving foot (the right). The dribbler does not face the basket when he uses
this maneuver; instead, the basket is to one side, in this case, the left.
Watching his guard's feet, the dribbler keeps the ball low and, beginning the
move with his right foot behind him, fakes a drive to his right (below left).
The fake continues (second drawing) as he swings his right foot around and
exposes the ball in order to get his man to go after it. The instant the
dribbler's right foot touches the floor he shifts his weight to the balls of
his feet, executes a quick pivot on both feet and springs forward off his right
foot in the opposite direction of the fake, keeping his body low (third
drawing). He sweeps the ball under his opponent's outstretched hand, takes a
long step off and drops the ball for his first dribble as far as possible ahead
of the step. Note that the dribbler must always take his crossing step with the
same foot used to fake the drive (in this case, the right foot); otherwise he
will be called for traveling.
advice—when it looks like trouble just ahead, why not stop?
The dribbler above has just gotten past his guard after using one of the
maneuvers shown on the previous pages. But instead of driving blindly for the
basket he has kept his head high so that he can observe the reaction of his
opponent. He sees that his guard has made a good recovery, has circled back
quickly and is racing at top speed to block the path to the basket. It would be
foolish for the dribbler to fight through his man—and others who will then have
time to jam the route to the basket. That would only mean taking on the extra
job of fending off opponents when all he wanted in the first place was a nice,
clean shot. So he takes advantage of the fact that his opponent is moving fast.
The dribbler stops so quickly (above middle) that his guard cannot stop, too.
The dribbler then jumps up and takes an easy, unhindered shot.
Tip for the
pressed—when it feels like trouble behind, swivel your way clear
Once a man has the ball, no one should ever take it away from him. By holding
it firmly in the area between the waist and the chest, the offensive player can
protect the ball with his body and the spread of his elbows. Further, by
turning his body like a swivel chair, using one foot as the pivot foot, he can
keep his opponent in back of him at all times (above left). If the defensive
man thrusts his hand under the ball handler's arm (above middle), the ball
handler's elbow spread helps keep the ball out of reach. And if the opponent
comes over the shoulder (above right) the ball handler merely lowers his arms
and the ball. The above moves need not go on indefinitely. Their sole purpose
is to provide the ball handler with a way to protect the ball while keeping it
in a position from which he can dribble, pass or shoot.