I was very lucky to be a part of the staff for the USA Pan American Team playing in the Pan Am Games in Lima, Peru last summer. It was great to be involved with international competition in the summer, but maybe the best part of it was being in a basketball lab every day with Ed Cooley, Mike Martin and Kevin Willard.

One concept I loved from Kevin Willard was the aggressive way he defends the ball screens. He teaches his guys to put their “low hand to the ball” when hedging the screen. As you show or even switch out onto the screen, your job is to swipe at the basketball with your low (outside) hand.

Normally I don’t like teaching to reach or playing with your hands, especially with a guard trying to turn the corner on a ball screen. But what happens is the guard with the ball has to take a split second to read the ball screen coverage – is it going to be a trap, a switch, a soft hedge, etc. With an aggressive swipe at the ball, you almost always catch the ball-handler a little off guard and force him to take a step away from the hoop. He gets a little startled and backs up instinctively, giving your defense a little bit more time to adjust and slowing the ball down.

Your defender doesn’t have to get a piece of the ball or aggressively go for a steal. It’s just a simple swipe with his outside hand, forcing the ball-handler to protect it for a half-second. That small amount of time gives you defense a better chance at staying connected and keeping the ball out of the paint.

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