Home Forums Topics Systems & Strategies #LockLeft

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    @Nelson Handel Thanks Nelson for your input as well. I am excited to get back to practice tomorrow after hearing the feedback here! Thanks so much and good luck the rest of your seasons!




    We implemented #LockLeft at the beginning of this year with zero previous experience. I coach 8th boys and have always used the PackLine as it makes so much sense with middle school – you dictate outside shots and are constantly in driving lanes. This worked great for us last year and in years’ past, but this group was really athletic, so I wanted something to fit their levels, and Lock Left was it. 

    They really latched onto the roles of Controller, Sniper, MuH/L, and Safety. We had guys buy into their roles in transition and it became like second nature, with our mantra NO SHOT, NO RIGHT!

    We averaged 12.6 steals a game, and our opponents’ shot distribution improved every week to be further from the basket and right side. As the season went on, we evolved as Tyler did his updating of language and whatnot in his webinars. By the end of the season, we had it down really well and outscored opponents on an average of 52.8 to 31.2 PPG.

    We were also effective out of timeouts when we switched into a 122 or 23 with LL principles.

    We were really good in transition with the controller hunting for the ball every change of possession. We also sometimes tweaked the Sniper’s job and let him run and jump to trap with the controller at his discretion. 

    Overall, great experience with it and looking forward to doing it in more detail next year!


    Appreciate coaches sharing some of their analytics. Quick rundown for us. We are a senior heavy team (start 4 seniors and 1 junior) and many of them were very hesitant to buy into Lock Left. We started putting it in at a very basic level (cross half and gap and deny) this summer and of course the first team we played had 2 lefties that were there best players. Not only did it not work, we were terrible at executing it! That was a shot to the confidence for sure. However, I was committed to sticking with it. 

    We showed data (similar to what you see attached) to our kids to try to persuade them to be all in on the defensive system. They were not completely bought in until we played our rival conference school that will contend for the conference title with us and we held them to 7 points in the first half. They were in the locker room talking about how effective it was and how they needed to continue forcing the action that was giving us so much success! It was a turning point for us as far as buy in goes. 

    We still have games that we struggle to effectively get teams left and stay left but when we do, it has been huge for us. The shot chart and data below is through 11 varsity games. Probably a 1/4 of those right handed layups have come off of offensive rebounds (clearly an area we need to shore up!) Not only have teams shot consistently worse from the left side of the floor, they are taking more shots from there.

    Truthfully, I would like even more of those shots coming from the left and that has been a focus for us over the past week. Get it left, keep it left!

    Hope others are finding success with this defense!

    Screen Shot 2020-02-04 at 12.12.46 PM.png



    Thanks everyone for you input. Since the original post we have had a little more success with our lock left defense and buy in. What I ended up doing in the next practice was having each kid individually have to play perfect defense for 20 seconds. They were the only one on defense and we had 3 offensive players passing the ball around. Their extra teammates on the baseline were the ones who had to watch and determine if they were “perfect”.   It put them in the spotlight and they had to get to all the various positions as well has closeout with hands high, always be in a defensive stance and move on the flight of the ball. Once their 20 sec was up we came in as a group and their teammates told them what they did right, wrong and if they passed or not. All  but one of the girls failed on their 1st attempt and had to go again. It took one of our girls 4 times to pass the test. I don’t know what it was about this drill we did but the next game was an obvious difference in our overall energy and lock left defense. We still have a way to go but we are getting it!!! Thanks again everyone!


    @Tonya Schissler love the breakdown to emphasize individuals doing their job. While #LockLeft is definitely a team defense, if each person understands their role and responsibility it allows others to do theirs more confidently (for example on ball pressure is key but must have gap and midline for on ball defender to completely buy into pressuring!)

    Thanks for sharing and keep at it! 


    Is anyone running the Lock Left out of a 1-3-1?  If so how are things going?  I have been running lock left all year and would like to change it up before going in our state tournament.


    @Kevin Carr, we used it sparingly down the stretch. Our school colors are blue and red, so PackLine is Blue and #LockLeft is Red. “Dark” is run and jump, “Light” is skirmish and snipe. 

    So we called our 131 “Dark/Light Red Plus” (I liked the idea of shapes Tyler was talking about, our usual call was just Orange for 131).

    It had good results when we had the following positions:

    • Controller at the top, forcing left, getting top, wing, and elbow
    • Sniper to Controller’s Left, sniping and skirmishing, getting corner, wing, and mid post
    • Matchup High denies Right and gets top and high posts
    • Matchup Low and Safety can be in either middle or bottom, depending on your personnel. We had Safety in the middle when we went Dark so MuL could run and jump to the corners and Safety be rim protector. 

    Hope that makes sense. As with anything, tweak to your personnel! 


    @Kevin Carr Hi Kevin. We have not tried our lock left with a 1-3-1. However, we have gone to switching between our lock left and our 1-3-1. This has gone really well for us and seems easy for the athletes to switch between the 2 defenses. We have our sniper call out which defense we are in each time down the court. We have lock left be the default defense so that if something doesn’t get called then they know they are always in that. The controller picks up the ball 3/4 court like they always do so for that reason it looks the same all the time to begin with. Our sniper becomes the baseline person on the 1-3-1. When the sniper calls our 1-3-1 everyone has to echo it so that everyone hears it (especially the controller as she gets down there later than everyone). The safety is the middle on the 1-3-1 and the match up people become the 2 wings.  We don’t force one way but we do trap when the ball gets to the baseline. 

    Hope that helps some. 


    @Tyler Coston

    Can anyone help with getting even a short clip of Debbie Black playing defense? I was telling our team about her and how we want to play like her and discussing how she plays defense. Well – this turned into our bench chanting “Debbie” all the time when we are on defense now. It’s pretty funny because now some of our crowd chants “Debbie” even though they have no clue why they are chanting “Debbie”. I really want to show my girls clips of her so they can actually see how she plays but can’t find anything online. I promise not to post the clips anywhere but would love to show our team. Can anyone help?




    Hello Lock Left coaches! I’ve enjoyed following the discussion the last few months and thought I would share our experience so far with Lock Left. We’re in year 2 of our Lock Left journey. Year 1 we mainly focused on controlling half and getting into gap and deny positions. We weren’t very good at pressuring the ball and we usually alternated Lock Left with a trapping 1-3-1.  

    Year 2 we’ve been all Lock Left! We emphasized closing out and ball pressure, then then added the skirmish/scram read, followed by weaking/downing ball screens. Starting around mid-season we began implementing the matchup zone concepts Tyler presented in the past live learning. We’ve had success with that against teams that run basic continuity and general dribble drive motion. Several teams never figured out if we were playing man or zone. It also really helped our transition defense, now that our guys are sprinting back to spots instead of back to a person. One interesting trend I noticed is teams’ offenses seem to get worn down by the end of each half. You see that in our opponents FG and eFG% over 4 quarters. I think its also interesting how our opponent’s DREB% drops in the second half.  

    Opponent eFG% and FG% 2019-2020


    We need to continue working on the skirmish/scram read, keeping the ball left, and staying strong at the midline. We’ve also had challenges covering teams that overload the left side with 2 shooters, as well as offenses that space, cut and screen a lot, like a 5-out Read and React team. Both situations have pulled our safety away from the rim to cover perimeter shooters. The in-game adjustment has been going back to straight Lock Left man-to-man. We’re working on covering an overload situation by sliding the Sniper, Controller, and MuH positions over one spot towards the left corner. This puts the sniper on the corner perimeter shooter instead of our safety. This has been a difficult adjustment for the guys to make in the flow of the possession. It requires a high level of communication which our first six players can pull off, but it diminishes as we get deeper into our bench rotations. 

    I’m wondering – what experiences have others had been playing lock left as a matchup? Have people seen similar trends in FG% data? 



    Hey guys (especially @Tyler Coston )

    This post may get lengthy but I’m in need of some help here.

    I’m taking over a varsity team this year that, in the state of Michigan, plays Class A ball (biggest schools) but is one of the smallest schools in said class.

    So–here’s what I’m working with—-my guys are not SLOW (but def not as fast as much of the competition)–we’re SMALL (biggest guy is 6’2)– I have no true post/post defender. Our basketball IQ is above average, but our skill level (in terms of getting buckets) isn’t what you would expect. We need to control things and take only 7s/8s/9s (pgc shot selection lingo there) to make sure the opposition doesn’t get a lot of shot attempts.  My initial thoughts with this team (it looks the same down the road until we get our 5th and 6th grade classes up) — defensively we would pack it in and make teams beat us by hitting 3s. We’d limit/eliminate as much transition basketball for the opposition as possible, and offensively we would preach shot selection/selflessness and run a true motion offense (R&R with variations and quick hitters) to make sure each time down the floor we were getting that 7/8/9 based on personnel. 

    So you’ve got the basics of my team–> so here’s my questions:

    1. Based on everyone’s experience here — is there a way to run #LockLeft with this style of team? 

        –I want my team to play smart and be tough to score on. I know my squad will be able to mentally grasp the concept of what we’re doing, but I’m worried that when it comes to playing teams that are mostly all bigger/faster/stronger than us we will buckle if this is an aggressive defense that will speed up the game more. 


    2. If the above answer is yes–can you play lock left without a crazy amount of ball pressure initially? Of the 20 games we play I can only think of 4 teams where I would have a controller that would match up well with the other PG. 


    Also, if that’s a challenge you’d like to explore @Tyler Coston I’d be willing to let you experiment with my team ?



    Any/All feedback and ideas is greatly appreciated. THANK YOU!


    On 3/2/2020 at 9:58 AM, Jim Rolince said:




    hi @Nate Wade and congrats on the new gig!

    Let me ask: is this the first year this team would be running either of these systems?

    If so, the first thing I would ask myself is, “how much can these guys learn all at once?” Both the R&R and the LL are systems-based approaches that require players unfamiliar with them to change a lot of the habits they’ve spent their lives learning. Asking guys to change too much too quickly risks losing their buy-in. Its your first year, so they will already have a lot to get used to as you establish your culture and teaching modalities.

    If this is a concern, I suggest you put in the R&R first, and let them have some success with it. You’re going to give up a lot of turnovers early, which can be demoralizing, but once the habits and execution gets better, they will have fun running the half-court offense, and you can build on that success. I’d run whatever defense they already know until the new O took root, then begin to install the LL.

    Putting the install question aside, I would say the LL is a gambling, high-pressure scheme that thwarts opponents rhythms and creates turnovers. It pays off when you convert those TOs to easy buckets. You MUST pressure the ball, but don’t need to rely on a single defender to stop it. You will give up more straight-line drives then you want, but they will be covered by help and be into spots on the floor that result in lower % attempts by your opponents. Like all Ds, it’s a trade off. We regularly beat bigger, faster teams this year.

    As to tempo (PPG), that’s more a function of your transition philosophy than your defense. Since you’re small, you probably want to sacrifice ORs in favor of getting back early in transition, to force opponents into playing in the half-court. In OTrans, you can certainly choose to walk the ball up and execute deliberately in the half court, thus keeping tempo slow. I don’t feel there’s anything about the LL that “speeds you up” (either in tempo or rhythm).

    Curious about what others say. This might be its own thread.


    12 hours ago, Nelson Handel said:

    hi @Nate Wade and congrats on the new gig!

    Let me ask: is this the first year this team would be running either of these systems?

    @Nelson Handel This may require a lengthy response. Thank you for the discourse in advance.

    I was the JV coach with this program last year. So here is the layout of that group:

    OFFENSE: I installed R&R with that Sophomore group. They are a smart and selfless bunch of kids. Amazing teammates with palpable energy. When you walk into a gym with our group you felt it–it was amazing (win or lose).  They learned a lot about how to play the game on O. I did get a little nervous and go into a 3 out/4 out when I really shouldn’t have, but about 3/4 through they really understood how to play to each others strengths… and we started playing the game like we needed to and they were FUN to watch.   

    DEFENSE: We started the year out in a high pressure–deny everything 1 pass away–force baseline defense. After 1/3 of the season it was evident that wasn’t working for this group. They’re not that fast and had a hard time from top to bottom were unable to contain the drive from the top. SOO–I got the clearance to change over and we packed it in–pack line defense forcing middle and helping from one pass away. By the end of the year they had some pretty good habits with it, but it still wasn’t where it needed to be (my opinion).

    Now this is where it gets tricky–the JR class from last year on varsity.  Offensively the have run the PnR Continuity that everyone is in love with recently, a rag-tag version of 5 out R&R, and lots of sets. Defensively they did the same high-pressure deny everything D as above, the dabbled in pack line for a few weeks, and by the end of the season played a mixture of  a packed in 1-3-1, 2-3, and then would go back to the pressure/deny passes defensively.


    Outlook: My incoming JR class (the SOPHs I coached last year) will be the bulk of the playing time. There will be 3-4 SRs (last years JR class) getting significant PT. Of them, I’m confident  3 are running R&R for their travel teams, and are doing well in it. The other one is a very intelligent player that is selfless and learns extremely fast. 

    ….and there you have it. 


    well, never to diss your predecessor, but it seems clear why you got the gig ?

    It sounds like you have an installed R&R base you can work with, so introducing a new defensive system seems feasible without player overload.

    It’s hard for me to say how the LL would work for the team you describe. My team this year was extraordinarily quick. But I don’t think our quickness explained our defensive success with the LL.

    If you were committing to full deny 1 pass away, it sounds like you created a lot of perimeter space for drivers to beat you 1v1. LL 1 pass away is more like packline spacing, with players filling gaps (HOW they fill gaps depends on which side of the ball they are on, which is a tricky learning point) . Done right, this should mean less chasing and more vectoring. The LL also contracts the amount of space you have to defend–both by controlling bias and walling help 2 passes away on the midline– so positioning and discipline seem more important than 1v1 ball defense.

    As I’ve said before, most of my doubts about the LL disappeared when I realized its “secret sauce”: by forcing players to play out of their comfort zone (weak hand, weak side) they get so out of rhythm and in their own heads that, even when they beat us, they miss their shots at a remarkably higher rate. The LL puts an imprint on the game larger than its parts.

    It is not, however, something you can “experiment with.” I think you have to commit to it, focusing on the weaknesses it reveals and training through them over time.

    I will add that other coaches here have reported it quite easy to add a 2-3 or 1-3-1 zone later in this season, playing the same LL principles. I did this in practice one day, and found it to be true, but never felt it necessary in a game.



    3 hours ago, Nelson Handel said:

    most of my doubts about the LL disappeared when I realized its “secret sauce”: by forcing players to play out of their comfort zone (weak hand, weak side) they get so out of rhythm and in their own heads that, even when they beat us, they miss their shots at a remarkably higher rate. The LL puts an imprint on the game larger than its parts.

    @Nelson Handel Thanks for the share and the input. 

    This is why I am really considering this to be a viable option. I think with our teams lack of size (now and in the future) this may create some disadvantages that even solid players will be uncomfortable with.

    I’m thinking the trade offs for doing it will be far more positive.


    Nelson–thank you again for the insight.

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