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  • Jack Fleming

Ettore Messina — Top Basketball Drills

Ettore Messina, assistant coach of the San Antonio Spurs and 4 time EuroLeague Champion as a Head Coach delivers a clinic on his favourite drills. Notes are as below video link, please enjoy. Messina has a unique view of the game, and his opinions will always challenge your thinking. Some great take aways and nuances I have already stolen from this clinic, including an awesome way to scrimmage shown in the last 10 minutes of the video.

4v4 Defence

  • Drill: 4 out, offence will move the ball, pass and cut.

  • You can’t watch everybody, choose 2 priorities that provide you with vision of the whole picture.

  • You must watch the whole painting first, cannot zoom in on the details yet or else you miss the whole picture.

  1. Always see one defender in the paint.

  2. When the ball arrives to the offence, our close out is arriving simultaneously. If it is a second late, I know something bad is going to happen.

Defensive Fundamentals Warm Up

Drill: 4 parts, 3–4 minutes each.

(a) 1v1 Zig Zag Half Court

  • Medium speed, working drop steps,

  • Drop steps, must bring feet closer together and PUSH in the new direction.

  • Be careful with the words you use, must be the truth.

  • Never bring your feet together = lie.

We must teach our players to listen, not just hear — or else we waste time and energy. Concept taken from Bob Knight.

(b) Full Court Recover

  • D starts side by side with offence on baseline.

  • Offence takes off on the dribble,

  • Defence must sprint to get back in front, then slide.

© Perimeter Recovery and Defend Crossover

  • Side by side on the wing facing the elbow.

  • Defend two dribbles to the elbow, recover to get back front. Stay down with high hands and defend shot fake.

  • Crossover step, play 1v1 towards the basket.

  • Adjust space on the crossover step.

  • “First part is learning, second part is live.”

(D) Recover and close out

  • Coach on elbow with a ball, defence on lane line and offence in the corner.

  • On time of pass arrive to close out.

  • No middle, nose on high shoulder. Play 1v1 live.

2v2 Defending Ball Screens

(a) Transition Drag Screens

  • Must stop the ball as early as possible to allow space to go under.

  • We do not want to get caught up in coverages early in the shot clock.

  • If it is too late there is no space to go under.

  • “They must understand why we are correcting them.”

(b) Side Ball Screens

  • Coach on wing, offence and defence top and other wing.

  • Pass to coach, point cut through and wing replace at top.

  • Reverse ball, side pick and roll.

  • Practice switching in the last 10 seconds of the clock.

Box Out to 3v2

(a) Pin down, elbow curl, pitch 3.

  • Box out, play 3v2 full court the other way. Unguarded offence will play offence again the other way.

(b) Back Screen

  • Must teach your players how to get out of being stuck underneath the rim.

  • Box him out of bounds, allows your guard to get the rebound and puts big first in transition.

“Biggest risk is your team playing the drill instead of the playing the game.”

Line of the Ball Defensive Concepts

(a) 2v2 Post Duck Ins

  • Footwork, Stay in line of the ball.

(b) 3v3 Pass and Cut

  • MOVE to the line of the ball, don’t play your man.

  • Make passes longer and slower.

  • Understand position of the ball tells us what they’re going to to do.

  • Helps us anticipate actions, where is he looking? Take advantage.

4v4 Shell Reaction

  • 4v4 move the ball around the perimeter.

  • Enter the ball into the Coach in the post, everybody must touch the ball.

  • Close out on the release pass, play full court and back.

  • Learn when to be aggressive and when to contain.

  • Younger teams will try and be too aggressive, then it’s 2 passes and a lay up.

  • Older teams will know when to contain, but sometimes never be aggressive.

5v5 Fast Break

  • To get on offence you must 2 stops and one fast break.

  • Not a shot, but you must get a fast break.

  • Play to 15 pts.

  • Why? Point out the value of the ball, how important connecting a defensive stop to quick score is.

  • Nothing worse than a team who plays great defence but has too much anxiety to shoot the ball when they’re open.

5v5 Score-STOP

  • Must get a stop following a score for it to count, same concept.

  • Use whistle as a teacher in situations.

  • Example: Messina “whistle”, BOB 8 seconds, defend it.

  • Play to 5pts.

Want to Connect?

If you would like to continue the basketball conversation, provide your thoughts or ideas please message me on Twitter @jackfleming1, write a comment or e-mail me at

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