The Dominguez Defense at WSU

MAX YON KNOWS exactly what Washington State basketball players are in store for on defense this coming season with assistant coach Silvey Dominguez spearheading that side of the game plan for head man Ernie Kent. Yon, a rising senior guard at Air Force, spent the last three seasons under Dominguez' tutelage.

He recently offered an inside look at what WSU fans and players can expect on defense in 2014-15.

Dominguez, well known in coaching circles for his match-up zone defense, relies on a 1-2-2 set that focuses on preventing the ball from entering the paint, Yon said. Forcing the ball to the perimeter is critical.

In order for this defensive approach to be successful, each player is responsible for locking down a certain area on the court and helping out one another.

Excellent verbal communication is a requirement.

"If you're on the wing, that's where you're trying to stay," Yon said. "If he (your man) cuts in front or cuts behind you just let him go and then the next guy will hopefully come into your area."

If a player on the opposing team tries to drive inside, there will be a defender on the left and another on the right side in order to prevent the opponent from driving either way, said Yon, who arrived at Air Force the same season, 2011-12, that Dominguez joined the Falcons' staff.

"It was hard for players to pick that up because you are usually so used to following guys around, but it worked out because of the help defense," Yon said. "There was always another guy coming into your area and so we just had to rely on each other a lot and communicate and that's something he preached about."

A DRILL Dominguez used in a practice at Air Force that helped players learn the defense was the four-on-four shell. Four offensive players position themselves around the arc and can only pass the ball, while the four defenders cannot steal the ball and instead focus on getting to the correct area on the court.

"Moving the ball around the perimeter and sprinting to our spots," Yon said. "He (Dominguez) emphasized we need to sprint to our spots and not jog …."

DOMINGUEZ'S FAVORITE practice drill was "circle the wagon," according to Yon. It features five players in the paint and five guys on the perimeter. One player shoots the ball from the perimeter and each player positioned in the paint must choose a player from the perimeter to box out.

"Those kinds of drills we would do in practice, he (Dominguez) would almost make it fun, just circling the wagon, beating guys up in practice, it was a competition," Yon said. "He always made that part of it fun, and a competition for defensive side."

YON DESCRIBED DOMINGUEZ as aggressive and intense on the court, but a father figure off the court. He said he was shocked and a bit sad when he heard Dominguez was headed to Washington State.

"Probably one of the most approachable coaches we had -- you needed help with anything or just relive some stress from the academy life style, he was just a good guy to talk to, get your mind off things," Yon said. "He was one of those guys where when he developed his relationship with you, you respected him so much that you wanted to give it your all for him."

Air Force was Dominguez' 12th coaching stop in a career that began at Western New Mexico in 1979 and included five seasons under Kent at St. Mary's in the 1990s. He also coached with Rick Majerus at Utah, Henry, Bibby at USC, Boyd Grant at Colorado State and Steve Alford at New Mexico, among others.

"If I were to go talk to him or get film session with him, he's one of those guys that I have to respect what he has to say because he's seen this game," said Yon, who led Air Force in assists last season and was second in scoring and steals. "That's the way it was in practice, nobody talked back to him, everybody really respected him."


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