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Sinking man-for-man defense was made famous by Coach Hank Iba from Oklahoma State. Used properly, it becomes a strenuous, hardworking, multi-purpose defense. Used improperly, as is so often the case, sagging defense practices result in little more than a rest period for four men while one man gives token effort and attention to the ball handler.

The first task is to sell team members on the idea that when they sink or sag it is not a rest period. It is to be considered a strenuous, arm-waving, coordinated, cooperative effort by all five members. This effort should produce numerous deflections and a terrific psychological barrier to the offense. At its best the sinking man-for-man appears to be almost impenetrable. It appears to be a solid knot of arm-waving maniacs who will not allow a decent shot to be taken in the critical shooting area.

The sinking man-for-man is sometimes employed so effectively that the offense cannot determine the precise nature of the defense. Because of the sag and because of the arm-waving, the offense might well be led into thinking they are attacking a zone defense or a combination defense of some sort. This is especially true if the sinking man-for-man team uses switching tactics and does not call the switches so that the offense can hear them.

Sinking man-for-man is related to zone in other ways. It virtually eliminates pivot play. The offensive post man finds himself surrounded by four men while one of the defensive players harasses the ball handler. He finds it difficult to receive and even more difficult to do anything with the ball. Middle lane drives are eliminated. As a matter of fact, there is little ball movement as a result of passing or dribbling other than around the periphery or outside edges of the defense.

Sinking man-for-man defense creates ideal rebounding conditions. The defensive men are already nearer the goal than the offensive men. In this case, the sinking players are almost shoulder to shoulder and foot to foot when the ball hits the backboards. They present a solid human wall blocking out offensive players from the boards. The only real rebounding danger is that the block off will be executed too close to the goal so that wide rebounds are received by the offense.

Arm movement is of utmost importance to a good sinking man-for-man. Without arm movement by all five men, cross-court passes may be made that would take advantage of the off-side sag. Some offenses treat an attack of sinking man-for-man as though it were a zone. This means they move the ball around the periphery for a jump shot on the weak side. The sag could be hurt in this manner without good arm movement.

The most important single facet of sinking man-for-man defense is good harassment of the ball handler. Many coaches call this pointing the ball. The basic idea is to have all players cue their position by the position of the ball and its relationship with the goal. The player guarding the man who has possession will move in close to prevent the shot.

Basically, there are only two ways to defend against the ball handler in the front court. You can defend against the drive or defend against the shot. Some players are great drivers and poor shots. In this event it might be appropriate to defend primarily against the dribble threat. This would require the defensive player to back off. It is our belief that many high school and college players can shoot the jump shot so quickly and accurately that we must give our primary attention to the shot.

Therefore it is necessary for the man guarding the ball to move in close enough for arm movement to block the vision of the shooter. He should take his position in such a manner that the most dangerous driving route is cut off or overplayed. He is close enough to prevent a shot. The only real good alternative for the ball handler is a pass or dribble in the direction that is shown him.

Master this aspect of defense, and you have a good chance of winning the game!

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