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Mike Krzyzewski: 5 Essential Principles for Attacking the Zone

By adam.warner - Last updated: Wednesday, March 7, 2012

In this week’s team concepts feature, we’ll highlight key offensive principles when attacking the zone. With his Duke team on hand to simulate key coaching points, legendary basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski provides simple solutions to running a highly effective zone offense. Follow along with Coach K as he explains the five major components of his offense before letting his players demonstrate on the floor.

Zone Offense Principles: An Overview

When it comes to attacking regular half-court zone defenses, Coach K prefers to attack in a simple manor. Many people feel like they must run a different offense based on the zone defense. At Duke, however, the team runs just one offense against all zone defenses.

A familiar offense against multiple defenses keeps your players more instinctive. If you keep changing things back and forth, the team gets out of rhythm and that’s exactly what a zone defense is looking to do against you.


On the Court: The First Three Principles

Against a two-man front, the first thing we want to do is have intelligent use of the dribble (i.e. gap penetration, step back dribbles, and getting 2 on 1 scenarios). Look for gap penetration to force two defenders to play one. Also, we can have angle penetration. By getting angle penetration, this creates movement and forces the zone to move.

Second, ball reversal is also important. When you have the ball, look to create 2 on 1 matchups you can exploit. You can then use ball reversal and a chance to hit an easy shot.

Next, another key principle is flashing to the middle in the middle of the zone. This can be done in a number of ways. When you flash into the middle, it doesn’t have to be for a shot. As you get the ball in the middle, the easiest thing to do is a hit a guy up top and he’s got a shot. You can also turn and reverse to the other side for a shot. But if you got a shot, take it.

Players can also flash to the middle of the zone from the wing, not just with the big men down low.


On the Court: The Final Two Principles

Next, it’s key to keep the big guys behind the zone. If a shooter takes a shot, who has inside positioning for a rebound? The bigs do. Also, you can look at posting the zone.

By being behind the zone, your players can see everything. If you can tell that a defensive player isn’t looking at me, you can come up and post the zone and you’re ready for a good shot opportunity. If you stand right next to the defense, they know you are right there. Also, if they come down to meet me, it creates a bigger gap on the floor.

Also, bigs should post up the middle of the zone if the bottom defender comes out to play the wing player. The big men must be able to make the read, but be sure that you make the play before the wing guy even receives the ball. Don’t wait until it’s too late.

KEY: Staying behind the zone allows you to post, flash, and rebound.

The next principle is screening the zone. An easy way is to screen (whether picking the top man or bottom man) when using angle penetration.

Attacking the 2-1-2 Zone Full-Speed

Any time we get the ball inside, perimeter players must be ready to shoot. Don’t toe the line. Get behind the line so if a player gets the ball, he can step into it and have momentum. The zone gives you an opportunity to get your feet set and ready to shoot it. Make sure you are reacting at all time and creating your passing lane if a teammate needs to kick it out, he can.

Tip: The jump stop is a great move when penetrating the middle.


The previous clips can be seen on Championship Productions’ DVD “Mike Krzyzewski: Duke Basketball – Attacking the Zone.” To check out more videos featuring zone principles, click here.

3 Proven Offensive Plays to Beat the Zone

By adam.warner - Last updated: Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Check out these three effective offensive plays designed to attack zone defenses. You’ll receive an overview of each play and a full diagram before seeing the play being simulated live in action on the court. The following plays offer a variety of options for teams, from three-pointers to lob plays, and mid-range jumpers.

Zone Offense vs. 2-Man Front

Submitted by Keith Siefkes, Beth Eden Baptist School, Denver, CO

The Set-Up: 4 should be your best shooter and is set up in the post (left side). 1 is up top with the ball. 3 is on the left wing and 2 is on the right wing and both are behind the three-point line. 5 is at the free throw line stationed in the middle.

The Action: 1 dribbles to the right wing area to initiate action. As 1 dribbles toward 2, 2 sets a baseline screen for 4. After setting the screen, 2 releases to the top of the key for the ball reversal. 5 rolls down to the mid-post area and 3 drops to the weakside low post area for rebounding. 1 can pass to 4 off the screen or hit 2 after the screen in the low post or 5 at the mid post.

For ball reversal: 1 passes to 2 up top and 2 dribbles to the opposite wing as 3 moves to screen for 4 on the low block/baseline area. 4 cuts across baseline to the opposite corner. 5 follows the ball reversal and set up at the opposite mid-post area and 1 drops for weakside rebounding. After screening, 3 releases to the top for ball reversal.

Also, use this pattern for quicker ball reversal: The play begins the same with 1 dribbling to the wing. After 2 sets a baseline screen for 4 (coming across to the near corner), 2 releases to the opposite wing. 5 then steps out and up top for ball reversal. The reversal goes from 1 to 5 to 2 around the horn.


Lob Play vs 2-3 Zone Defense

Submitted by Jim Rosborough, University of Arizona, Tucson, Arizona

The Set-Up: 1 starts with the ball up top. 3 is on the right wing and above the three-point arc. 2 is on the opposite wing and also beyond the arc. 5 is on the left side low block area and 4 is at the free throw line area.

The Action: 1 passes to 3 and then takes a few dribbles toward the baseline/corner. 3 then passes back up to 1. As this is happening, 4 cuts below 5 and to the left corner. 2 then cuts across the lane and close to 5 and heads to the opposite baseline area/low post.

The Finish: 1 takes a few dribbles and then puts a pass up in the air for 5 right at the rim.


Crunch Play vs. Zone Defense

Submitted by Eddie Sutton, Oklahoma State, Stillwater, Oklahoma

The Set-Up: This play is set up in a 2-3 high alignment. 1 brings up the ball on either side of the floor. The other guard stays up high and opposite the guard with the ball. The center lines up on the foul line and the forwards stay wide on each wing.

The Action: The point guard passes to the center at the foul line. As this is happening, both forwards break hard from their wing area and to the basket on slants. The center takes the pass and looks to hit either forward streaking to the hoop. Once the forwards get to the low post, both guards become headhunters and quickly break to set screens on the forward’s defenders. The forwards curl around the screens and pop out beyond the arc on each side respectively.

The Finish: After setting the screens, both guards seal and curl into the lane and the center feeds the teammate with the best shot opportunity.


The previous clips can be seen on Championship Productions’ DVD “Over 50 Set Plays to Attack Zone Defenses” produced by Winning Hoops. To check out more set plays for your coaching playbook, head over to our basketball library.

Key Teaching Points and Drills for Transition Offense

By adam.warner - Last updated: Wednesday, February 8, 2012

A team that controls the transition game will keep opponents on their toes and have a major edge in coming away with victories. In this week’s team development feature, learn different ways to improve your transition game and take your offense to a new level.

Sinclair (OH) head men’s basketball coach Jeff Price breaks down his transition offense for you before showcasing a few drills that emphasize key areas. With an emphasis placed on playing fast-paced basketball, this offense should go a long way towards improving your team’s scoring ability. This versatile system can also be used to transition into any half-court offense.

Overview of the Transition Offense

Here’s how we start out. The point guard gets the ball and pushes it up the floor as hard as he can go. We also have a 2 or 3 in the strongside corner (so we can advance the ball as fast as we can with the pass). Meanwhile, our other 2 or 3 player is in the weakside corner looking to balance the floor. The 1, 2, and 3 players are all interchangeable.

Also, 4 and 5 are interchangeable, but have much different roles. The first person down without the ball is going rim-to-rim (also known as a “rim runner”), looking to go to the strongside and post up. The “trailer” will trail and stay even with the ball as it gets advanced up the floor. Once the point guard passes to the corner, our first look is a shot in the corner and to get a shot as fast as possible. This puts a lot of pressure on the defense.

Our second look is a good post-up above the block and trying to get a 1-on-1 isolation in transition. If we don’t get this, we can reverse the ball back to the point guard. Our trailer is now into the play and the ball goes to him.  Next, the big comes to the middle of the floor at the free throw line, our opposite wing player now moves to the weakside block, and the strongside off-guard does a V-cut to get open and pops out. The ball goes to him.

The big man follows the ball and slides to the low block. Once this happens, the weakside guard now moves up and makes a backscreen for the trailer/forward for a lob going right to the rim. If we don’t get that, the screener pops out, we got bigs on both blocks, the ball gets reversed to our point guard, and then we go right into our man-to-man offense.

Note: We’ve only spent seven seconds getting into our offense running transition.


Wing Jumpers

The goal with this offense is that we want to get our guys down the floor as fast as possible and get into scoring position. Here in this drill, we want to use a coach as a passer and simulate the 2 or 3 running the floor and catching the ball and making a shot or making a move.

First, start with jumpers right off the pass. Players will start at mid-court, pass to the coach at the top of the key, get the ball back in the corner, and immediately turn and shoot (right off the pass). This is a great drill to get loose and mimics game situations. Remember to always have shot-ready hands. This drill also simulates staying wide and outside the three-point line. Don’t forget that once you make the pass, you should be sprinting. It shouldn’t be a 3/4 sprint.


Next, to simulate game-type shots even further, let’s have players move into sweep through jump shots to the short corner. Be sure to square up when you shoot.

Free Throw Transition

Finally, set up in a free throw situation. Look to run off a make or miss. If it’s a make, have the 4 or 5 get the ball out of bounds. Take the ball out below the backboard and get the ball out quick. The point guard must make himself available and call for the ball. Meanwhile, 2 and 3 will release to space the floor.

Breakdown: Release the ball to a wing jumper. Be sure to crash the boards. We want either a solid three-point shot or a 15-foot jumper. Then switch to sweep through jumpers with one dribble to the baseline to close out the drill.

Goal: Touch 60 percent of all missed shots. Always look to get to your rebounding spots.


The previous clips can be seen on Championship Productions’ DVD “Comprehensive Guide to Transition Offense” featuring Jeff Price. To check out  more transition offense and fast break videos, simply visit our basketball library.

Two Useful Sideline Inbounds Plays that Yield Results

By adam.warner - Last updated: Wednesday, October 19, 2011

In this week’s Playbook Series, we break down two sideline inbounds plays that have paid major dividends for a pair of college basketball programs. For each play, be sure to first follow the overview before seeing them carried out live on the basketball floor.

Sideline Three-Point Play

Submitted by Tom Reiter, Washington & Jefferson College, Washington, PA

This is a special situation play that will enable you to get the ball to your best perimeter shooter or to an interior player for the score inside. It’s best to have the ball positioned within 10 feet of the top of the circle along the sideline. This gives way to the best angles for passing and screening.

The Set-Up: 3 starts out on the sideline with the ball. 1 starts at the near elbow. 5 is at the far elbow. 4 starts at the near low block and 2 is at the opposite low block.

The Action: 1 fakes toward the midcourt, reverse pivots quickly, cuts underneath 4 on the ball-side block, and then heads to the near corner. If 1 gets the pass, he/she can either shoot or make a post feed to 4. At the same time, 5 fakes toward the middle of the court to create space, as 2 moves up and makes a back screen on 5’s defender near the foul line.

The Finish: 5 spins and cuts hard to the basket. If 2’s defender switches, it creates a mismatch and allows for a potential lob pass. After the screen, 2 can step out to the top of the key and shoot a jumper. Depending on how the defense plays 3, they can be a dangerous threat to score. 3 can step inbounds and receive a quick pass from 2 for an open three-pointer on the wing.


Sideline Play with Four Options

Submitted by Will Rey, Loyola University, Chicago, IL

The Set-Up: 3 inbounds the ball. 1 starts out at the near elbow, 4 is at the far elbow, 5 is at the top of the key, and 2 sets up in the middle of the lane just below the circle.

The Action: 1 moves up and makes a back screen for 5, who makes a V-Cut and curls below 1 and to the near corner/wing. 1 then turns to receive the ball from 3 at the top of the key. After the ball is in 1’s hands, 4 down screens for 2. This should be your best inside/outside combo.

The Finish: 4 looks to post up after the screen for 2. 5 holds for a bit, and then screens up for 3 near the sideline. Timing is key on this play. 1 must scan his/her options from left to right.


The previous clips can be seen on Championship Productions’ DVD “Over 50 Sensational Sideline Inbounds Plays” produced by Winning Hoops. To check out more team plays, visit our extensive basketball library.

Q&A with Renowned Basketball Instructor Ganon Baker

By adam.warner - Last updated: Wednesday, September 21, 2011

In this week’s edition of Coaches Corner, Championship Productions’ editor Adam Warner sits down with renowned basketball instructor Ganon Baker. As the owner of Ganon Baker Basketball, the Hampton, Virginia native dishes out basketball training, instruction, drills, camps and clinics from the youth level all the way up to the NBA. Baker reveals some of his unique coaching techniques, how he trains NBA superstars, and describes some effective drills for shooting and ball handling.

Talk about your background a bit, where you grew up, how you got involved with the game.

“I grew up in Hampton, Virginia. My Dad was a high school coach and played basketball in college at Randolph-Macon College. He was my role model and I picked up the game from him. My grandpa Bill was also influential. He made a homemade basket on the porch of his house and lived across the street from us.

I played college basketball at Duquesne University and then later UNC Wilmington. I played pro basketball in Iceland. At the age of 30, I had a tryout with the Denver Nuggets for their summer league team. From the age of 18, I worked at Five-Star Basketball Camp every summer as a counselor. Howard Garfinkel was a major influence on me and really gave me the confidence to succeed.

I also served as an assistant college coach for five years, first at Hampton University, then Belmont Abbey College, and then Coastal Carolina University with Pete Strickland. He is one of the best teachers around. He turned simple concepts into dynamic teaching points.

The person now that I still learn from and continues to inspire me is Kevin Eastman, now an assistant coach with the Boston Celtics. I played for him at UNC Wilmington for a year and then we hooked up in 1997. He was running a skills clinic at Randolph Macon for 20 high school players in a gym that had no air conditioning. It was late at night and he was teaching us about the game. I remember him being so passionate. He ran this clinic long before it was even popular. Eastman was a pioneer.

Eventually, I took over some of these concepts of skilled workouts and built on those. There was a big need for it. I started my business at the age of 29 and I’ve been a skills coach for 10 years now.”

What’s your philosophy when it comes to the game of basketball?

“I’ve always thought that basketball is a platform to help kids succeed in life. My parents preached this, too. Jerry Wainwright came to UNC Wilmington after Eastman left and talked about life through basketball. I want to teach kids how good they can be in life. Basketball is only a short part of it.

I want to help them stretch their mind and body. I want to make them uncomfortable. I’m a confrontational teacher. I’m in your face and always going from good to great. I want to take an average player and make him good and make a great player into a superior player. I am never satisfied with what the players are doing. I encourage right and correct wrong. I deal in truth and reality.

I want to teach players about solutions. For example, when the defense does this, then you do this, this, or this. When I’m watching them, I have polaroid eyes. They can’t see themselves. I like to be efficient with my workouts. Kids must learn quickly these days. They must be stimulated or they quit easier than in previous years. The key is to get to success quickly. Therefore, I also must be a good teacher. After a week or two, or maybe after a few days, they start to see the light and say, “Yeah, I’ve got it.” It then becomes a light bulb moment.

I try to teach players how to have every skill on offense. I teach guards the same thing I teach the big guys. I don’t put numbers on players. So after awhile, they can all pass, shoot, finish, and play balanced. I’m looking to create a player who doesn’t have any offensive weakness.

I was around Kobe Bryant for five days at a skills academy. One day a kid asked him, “What are your weaknesses?” He responded, “I don’t have any weaknesses.” And he was dead serious. My goal is to create the ultimate basketball player.”

You now head up Ganon Baker Basketball. What drove you to wanting to become a basketball instructor? Why is it important?

“I love getting on the court and sweating with the players. I love the skill development aspect of it and making players better so they can make the team better. I have a passion for it and I love it.

I’m also a Christian. I thought that this was my calling and what God wanted me to do. I had no clue if I was able to do this or not. I’d say three or four guys around 2001 were doing what I was doing at the time. But I started out with one kid and $200 bucks in the business bank. And now we’ve been to 19 countries and have eight “Level 3” trainers and 11 “Level 2” trainers. I’m currently training Amare Stoudemire down here in Miami.

As a human being, if you have a purpose and a passion, you can be unstoppable. With God, all things are possible. He gave me a vision. And still to this day, I don’t have fear. A small business can be stressful. But I have no fear – this is what I am supposed to do. I want to leave a legacy of how to run a great program, help kids improve their skills and have a platform and the intangibles to be successful in life.”

Your clinics and camps take you all over the world. Can you name some of the most interesting places you have visited?

“Lithuania. I loved it because of the skill level of the kids and the overall passion. Scotland. I admired the grittiness and toughness of the kids. Qatar in the Middle East was memorable for the culture. For instance, the girls wore clothing so you couldn’t see their skin. They were starving for basketball knowledge. Also, Australia, the Bahamas, Germany, Italy, and Greece have been memorable stops in the past.”

You also work as an NBA Skill Development Coach. Talk about some of the pro players you have worked with over the years. How often do you still work with them and in what capacity?

“Their agents will call or they will call me directly. They’ll say, ‘I want to work on X, Y, and Z.’ They are very specific and detailed and how what exactly they have to work on. A lot of it comes from the coaches. They tell the players what they need to work on specifically. They are more mature than other players at lower levels. I don’t have to be as tough on them and I don’t influence them as much. I say, ‘Let’s Go.’ It’s more about keeping them not bored and having a good workout. The players will say to me, ‘I need to work on this, what do you have?'”

Can you recommend an effective shooting drill that you’ve taught over the years?

“For beginners, I recommend form shooting, one-hand shooting, chair shooting, and taking shots around the lane. For intermediate players, there are some great toss drills. For instance, you can toss the ball, let it bounce, and get it, and then see how many shots you can make in 10. For elite players, we do that same drill from 3, and then add a dribble move off of it or a triple-threat or jab move.”

Do you have a favorite ball handling drill?

“I love two-ball drills. So instead of doing everything with one ball, you do it with two. On my DVD’s, we throw the ball against the wall and then shoot with the other. There’s a lot of work on moving off the dribble, too. Players should really work on their ability to be equal with the right and left hand. It’s also key to have good hand-eye coordination, being able to pass, finish shots, and drive with both hands.”

You can certainly teach a player how to shoot or dribble. But how do you teach a player about motivation, desire, and drive?

“There is no drill for that. Players are in control of their own emotions and thoughts. All you can do as a coach is to create an environment that stimulates them. Speak powerfully and have works of affirmation. Drop “Bombs” and give them a word that penetrates them and gets them fired up. As a player, it’s up to you to be motivated.”

To check out more information about Ganon Baker Basketball, click here. To view our exclusive Ganon Baker DVD collection, click here.


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