Shell Drill Fab 5

Shell Drill Fab 5
Shell Drill Diagram 5


To kick off the first of our Fab 5 drills series the team at Functional Basketball Coaching have selected the Shell Drill. The Shell Drill has been a staple for many basketball coaches around the world. It is one of the fundamental drills for tactical instruction in man to man half court defensive principles.


As will all multiple personnel drill focus from the individual technical skills up. Break your observations down and back up repeatedly. Provide ongoing feedback about the individuals (technical), pairs and the group (tactical) as a whole to get the best effect from group drills.

  Diagram 1

Shell Drill Diagram 1

This Shell Drill highlights the correct rotation off and on the ball during half court man to man defensive play.


The drill starts with the coach passing to any offensive player around the three point line, positioned on the perimeter.


Defensive players start in front of each offensive player.


Defensive players then respond to where the ball is on court and in relation to their player. If your player is one pass away to the ball you are to position yourself to be standing in the passing lane, two passes away and you have one foot in and out of the key, three passes away and you are on the split-line in front of the basket.


The passing lane is the line the ball has to travel from the ball handler to a team mate.


In the Diagram 1 the pass is to offensive One (1), defence focuses on pushing offense to sideline, Two (2) and Three (3) move into passing lanes and four (4) has one foot in and out of key.

 Diagram 2

Shell Drill Diagram 2

Offensive One (1) passes to Three (3).


Defensive ball pressure works to force offensive player to baseline, One (1) moves into passing lane, Two (2) moves to free-throw line with one foot in and out of key, Four (4) moves across court to split-line in front of basket.


Players must be aware when they are three passes away that they must have a flat triangle (Refer to Diagram 5). Where they can see the ball and their player.

Diagram 3

Shell Drill Diagram 3

If a player does beat the defence heading towards the baseline Four (4) steps into the offensive players path meeting the player at the edge of the key.


Two (2) takes the position of split-line in front of basket, One (1) moves to fill pass close to basket and Three (3) even if beaten never leaves the offensive player initiating a trap at the short corner.


This trap option can be varied but initially start with the trapping option.


A basic fundamental in the Shell Drill is there are no excesses, players must rotate as a unit (everyone, all the time, and every time) or the defence will not succeed in its task.


Another defensive principle is communication from all players. Defensive players should call ball, help and split-line.


More advanced calls are to communicate movement of offensive players such as cut, screen and shot.


Drill can be performed with five players for the offensive and defence.

Diagram 4

 Shell Drill Diagram 4

Full Court Shell Drill Variation:


The shell drill can be extended into the full court.


The positioning would entail the guards playing defense from the backcourt foul-line and the forwards being in the passing lane one-third up the lane towards the ball.


This is a great variation for helping your defensive players with vision, footwork and of course verbal communication.


Defensive players off the ball should be moving into the passing lane.


If help is needed with defending the ball handler the primary option is to hedge and recover. In this drill containment is the primary goal.


Other defensive rotations can be practiced leading to run and jump, trapping and specialized rotations by defensive players.

Diagrams 5

Shell Drill Diagram 5

A flat triangle is where a player can see his defensive assignment and the offensive player with the ball.


Observe the flat-triangle between defensive Four (triangle), offensive Four (circle) and defensive Three.


Observe flat-triangle between defensive One, offensive One and defensive Three.


Observe the flat-triangle between defensive Two, offensive Two and defensive Three.


A basic skill for a flat triangle is for players to point with one hand to their player and the other hand to the offensive player with the ball.


Variation includes;


Wing offensive players are allowed to dribble; Defensive players touch the three point line when guarding wing offensive players before taking active role in defence


Want more? Follow or series development as well look at drills developing individual (technical) and team (tactical) drills for teaching and instructing in defensive principles.


The Fab 5 Drills Series is a grouping of drills selected to underpin basic skill instruction for the use by coaches at all levels featuring technical and tactical elements from both offensive and defensive situations.

Coach Riches has been working within the sport, business and education industries for many years. During this time he has built an extensive number of formal and informal qualifications. A firm believer in training and development designed to help people reach their full potential, relevant o their needs and functional to their industry environment.

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