I spoke with Heather Stec via teleconference recently. Coach Stec is an assistant on the staff at Army West Point and prior to that she was an assistant with Merrimack College where I first met her. Coach Stec was gracious to give up her time to talk to me about defending BLOBs (baseline out of bounds) and SLOBs (sideline out of bounds) situations as well as Army’s motion offense.
Techniques & Teaching Points in BLOBs
The point that Coach Stec kept coming back to was for defenders to have an arm bar. The arm bar to Coach Stec is not only a tactic to make the offense work, but a signal to be alert. She confirmed something that I have seen too many times. Referees holding the ball and players taking a mental reprieve from the game. I was relieved in some ways to hear that players at all levels struggle to stay aware in BLOBs.
Beyond being a cue to get ready, the arm bar is used to prevent quick cuts. Every player with the exception of the player covering the inbounder needs to be physical, but smart. Coach Stec told me that the Black Knights stress that they want defenders to keep contact, but not push the offensive players off their path. It is a strict balance, but by getting the contact before the ball is out of the ref’s hands, defenders will have an easier go.
The Inbound Defender
Coach Stec told me that the primary job of the inbound defender is to be the first to help on a cutter that gets beat. In the drawing above, x3 should have her feet in position to see both the inbounder and the cut from 2.
I used to use the same system and this year we went to putting pressure on the inbound passer and angling the passer to throw away from the basket. We felt like so many teams were utilizing plays to get the inbouder a three-point shot in the corner that it made more sense to close the gap. We also did not think that teams made a strong effort to get the ball inside against us in game’s past on BLOBs. If teams exploit us with hard screens or have quickness to beat players cutting, I could see going to the strategy that Coach Stec explained.
One other key role for the inbound defender is to communicate. Since she can see ball, and the other players are tasked with an arm bar they might not see ball. Once it is in play it is her role to make the other four defenders aware. From there, Army will just play their normal defense. In addition to the inbounder communicating the ball in play, every player on the bench can yell as well.
Preparation and Scouting
Coach Stec estimated that defending BLOBs was worth about 2 to 6 points per game. The margin for error could be those 2 to 6 points, but their base defense and transition defense were worth well over 2 to 6 points per game. Thus, they typically spent the bulk of their preparation on transition and base defense. Review of BLOBs and SLOBs usually happened exclusively on scout days.
Part of her role on the staff is to see what other teams ran on baseline out of bounds plays. Every team they face is different in some capacity. Some schools run a ton of BLOBs and others only have a couple. As a case point, the Black Knights ran only two BLOBs and one SLOB this past season. Granted they were young, but that is the situation in many schools. For the schools that feature many BLOBs, she tries to narrow her focus in delivering a scouting report. She always asks, “What does the opponent run most and how do they give opponents trouble?”
Teams that run different plays out of the same set up are more problematic to scout. There are some teams that will run one specific action out of the same set up. If that is the case, it is something worth showing the players.