top of page

Is the Box Out dead?? A principled approach to defensive rebounding.

Updated: May 16, 2023

Defensive rebounding is high on the priority list for any basketball team. Gaining possession of the ball again effectively prevents high percentage scoring opportunities in the paint (or kick out’s that lead to 3’s or big advantage long close-outs), negates those costly put-back fouls (that we all hate so much as coaches) and can ignite a teams transition offence.

Words of Warning

Tse principles and this approach to rebounding is far from bullet proof. This is a framework that can help to build a shared mental model and help in the review process. The bounce of the ball, the athleticism of individuals/team and how we match up with the opposition, the type of defensive coverage we are in (man vs zone), creates a lot of variables. However, by using these principles, we have the ability to review our defensive rebounding with some specific points of emphasis. In an ideal world, we would have found ways to really put this method to the test with hard data to truly see how this could impact on performance.

The sub principals of rebounding we used are:



Position is broken down into 2 parts:

1. The position of the defence in relation to their offensive match-up. We want to be in an ‘advantage position’. Meaning we want to be in a position to increase our odds of gaining possession of the ball. This could be making sure we are on the inside of our match-up in an open stance so we could see the flight of the ball. It could also be on the high side of our player when they are closer to the line of the backboard.

2. Filling the rebounding ‘hot spots’. The hot spots are the weak side outside of the paint and the nail.

This ‘advantage position’ we are seeking out will look different in every scenario and opens up dialog amongst the athletes. In our case this past season (pro women’s in team in Sweden) the advantage position was both assessed based on the individual constraints of the athlete (height & strength vs their match-up) and the location on the floor. For example, if the offensive match-up immediately starts running back on defence from the top of the key, then we could easily have this player sweep into the nail hotspot to pick-up a long rebound. In contrast, if the offensive player is looking to pursue the offensive rebound, inside position while maintaining vision of the ball flight would be preferred.

When looking at positioning in the review process, we can pause video at the flight of the ball and ask the question ‘are we in an advantage position?’. This opened up the dialog amongst our team and created some interesting reflections from our players to help them find their ‘advantage position’ given their individual constraints.


This is something that I think is over coached (yes, I am going to upset a lot of coaches here. But hear me out!). I would love to see a case study of the number of box out’s leading to defensive rebounds. Or the number of box’s out’s in defensive possession’s leading to gained possession vs lost possession. I have seen plenty of possessions where no box out’s have occurred and the defensive team has gained possession. Likewise, I’ve seen plenty of possessions where the defence has had 5 box out’s and the offensive team has gain possession. Do all 5 players need to box out? I don’t have the answers here but I certainly think this is an area to be explored.

When talking about contact with our players we often asked the question ‘is contact necessary?’. If we were in an advantage position and the offensive player was not in pursuit of the ball, this free’s up our defensive player to anticipate the ball flight and hit those hot spots. If contact was needed we emphasised the ability to make contact while also ’seeing the ball flight’. This typically would be an open stance with an arm bar to the chest of the offence ‘Brace & Board’. Another cue we used when it came to contact was ‘feel yours, see the ball’.

HOWEVER in some situations we needed to up the anti when it came to the contact piece. Against a prolific offensive rebounder or in a disadvantage match-up situation our ability to win the physical battle could make or break the possession. Getting it done in ways that work based on the individual constraints and the task. Pushing underneath the backboard, wrap-ups while face guarding and being first to hit were some of the discussion points we had with our team and individuals in review.


This is definitely the single most important part of rebounding without question and most certainly a behaviourally driven component. There has to be a burning desire to pursue the ball and keep the other team to one shot possessions. Without this desire to pursue the ball, the other technical and tactical pieces will not be enough in most cases. If in disadvantage positions, and we haven’t created brace and board contacts then the desire to pursue the ball and shear physical attributes/talent can cancel out the poor position and contact.

However desire is not enough. We must understand as coaches that the perceptual skills needed are just as important. Anticipating when the shot goes up, tracking the ball flight will inform our players action possibilities. As coaches we have to create representative practice environments so that rebounding is an area of focus within the game environment. Below I have listed some ways in which you can manipulate constraints in practice to draw the players attention to defensive rebounding, without isolating the rebounding to a specific drill.

Task Constraints

-Less players for the defensive team

-Points awarded for defensive rebounds

-Offensive rebound extra points

-Offensive rebound - Resets score for opposition.

-Defensive team needs 3 rebounds in a row before they can play up and down.

-Defensive rebounding leading to a transition score = extra point.

These and many more manipulations of the task constraints could be used in full 5v5 or small sided games in the half court or full court to emphasis the importance of defensive rebounding and help it transfer to the game.

Would love to know what coaches think. What is your defensive rebounding philosophy? What do you think of the PCP framework? Feel free to get in touch through social media @coachcookson or @basketball.nomad.

24 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page