With Rutgers University head men’s basketball coach Mike Rice as your guide, learn how to maximize your zone offense efficiency and train your players how to become instinctive to attacking zone defenses. The goal here is that after mastering these drills, your players should become better players against zone. Plus, they’ll be able to read defenses better and react to them, making them complete players for any system.
Efficient passing is a necessity when it comes to attacking the zone. As a team, you want to attack the paint, collapse the defense, and then finish the play from there. While this is a great passing drill for anything really, it is especially helpful for reading the defense. For coach Rice, if Rutgers is about to play a zone team, this is the drill that the squad starts out practice with. It gets players to keep their heads up, make ball fakes, play low, and understand who is open.
Four players start out on the blocks and elbows and three other players begin in the middle of the paint. One defender is closing out to the ball, and the other two players play how they want but must get in the passing lanes. The only rule is that the defense has to play the ball and be active. Coach Rice often implements the rule that after eight passes, if the defense deflects the ball, they put a point on the board.
Start with three lines of players around the arc. The drill begins with a pass to an adjacent player, he makes a shot fake or ball fake, and then immediately gets into a gap. Coach Rice will often use coaches or even chairs so that players can effectively get into the gaps.
Next, players will kick out the ball to an adjacent player. From there, players can either fade and pivot or go behind their teammate from there. Once the ball gets to that third player, he/she will shoot it. A coach will also have a ball on the side and will pass to the middle player for a shot. The only person that doesn’t get a shot here is the player who started the drill.
Tips for Zone Offense: Don’t be lined up exactly where the defense lines up. Remember, a possession in basketball comes down to whether your guys can make better decisions than the opposing players. You do this through drills so it eventually becomes instinctive.
The drill eventually moves into “Next Pass Shooting.” Any of the three offensive players can start out the drill this time. But this time, there’s only one penetration, then a shot fake, a next pass, another pass, and shot. According to Coach Rice, sometimes we over-penetrate, so we need to practice making the drive and short kick.
The previous clips can be seen on Championship Productions’ DVD “Mike Rice: Zone Offense and Zone Concepts.” To check out more videos focusing on zone basketball, simply head over to our basketball library.
Legendary basketball coach Hubie Brown is a master tactician – particularly when it comes to zone defense. With Brown as your guide, learn effective offensive strategies to beat tough zone defenses, no matter if it’s a 2-3, 3-2, or 1-3-1 look. These are some of the same offensive tips and schemes that Brown implemented with his teams during his Hall of Fame career, including most recently as the head coach of the Memphis Grizzlies from 2002-05.
This play is designed to beat most zone defenses, especially 2-3, 3-2, and 1-3-1 schemes. If implemented successfully, opponents should be getting out of a zone defense alignment in a heartbeat.
The Set-Up: 4 and 5 start out at the top of the key but spread out and just inside the 3-point line (elbow extended). 1 has the ball at the top of the key, while 2 and 3 are on opposite wings.
*When you leave an area, replace
*You must have a short pass and a long pass to make the offense work
*You must be able to reverse the ball
The Action: The point guard passes the ball to the big guy on the left (though he can pass to any of the two big guys if he desires). When running the big men in the transition game, Brown likes to run them to the middle of the paint. When it comes to zone stuff, he prefers to run guys to the same exact spot every time.
After the ball is passed to one of the two big guys, we run an X. The opposite big guy cuts toward the paint immediately and looks for the immediate pass in stride down low. If he doesn’t get it, he goes to the low block and the PG replaces his spot up top.
The ball then gets skipped to the player in the corner. The passer then makes an X-cut down the lane and looks for the pass. The big guy on the low block will now cut up the lane and the opposite wing player should fill the spot up top.
The player with the ball in the corner now has a short and long pass available. The skip pass goes back up to the top player on the opposite side.
If it’s a two-man front (i.e. 2-3 defense), you should step right up into the two guys. This will give you two more options. If it’s a 3-2 zone, always step into between the point and the wing.
Meanwhile, any time against the zone where you throw the ball into the post, (don’t forget: post players should be set up on the first lane line, don’t be on the block), leave an area and replace. The player now has options with the skip across for the 3, a cutting player down the opposite side of the lane, and more. If you screen the zone up top, the opposite player then cuts diagonal to the box and opposite wing guy drifts to the corner.
*Now watch as the squad runs through the drill at full speed run with all of the different options.
The previous clips can be seen on Championship Productions’ DVD “Hubie Brown’s Secrets of Winning Basketball – Volume I.” To check out more Hubie Brown videos, including Volume II of Secrets of Winning Basketball, head over to our basketball library.
In this week’s team development feature, Michigan State head coach Tom Izzo reveals some of his favorite zone quick-hitting plays. These special situation plays – perfect for quick baskets or change-of-pace looks – have been used with great success by Michigan State over the years. Coach Izzo first breaks down each play before getting players to run through them with a ghost defense and then eventually 5-on-5.
Remember, these are just quick-hitting plays. They aren’t actual zone plays run to get continuity. We start in a 1-2-2 or 1-3-1 set in our basic offense. For these plays, if we start in a 1-2-2, we can get into the 1-3-1 pretty quickly by flashing the left low player up to the foul line area.
Rule: Never have the point guard and high post player in a tandem.
The 1-3-1 Special can be done two different ways, especially if you have a good point guard shooter or a good 4-man shooter. We will enter the ball to the right-side wing. If we want the shot for our point guard, we call out “Special For Me” and the player taps his chest. The point guard will then run down to the block and post up.
The flash player will now pop out at the top of the key lane extended. The opposite wing player will now rotate up almost lane extended. Next, as the wing player with the ball is looking in down low for the PG, he will then reverse it around the key and the PG will cut baseline and into the opposite corner.
The remaining low-post player will set a screen down low for the PG (if the player fights over the pick, he should step into the middle man in the lane). The PG then receives the pass in the corner and hits the shot.
If the PG isn’t a great shooter, he should make the pass to the wing and then step away to the opposite side of the key. Now, the 4-man (or flasher) will run baseline for the corner shot.
As for the low-block screener, his job is to read the bottom guy in the zone because the zone has been shifted. If he steps out, then you must step into that middle guy. You can look to receive a pass from the guy up top, so be aware. Otherwise, we can hit the 4 in the corner, or the 4 can receive the pass and then pass it down to the low-block player for a layup.
Key: Look to get a quality shot off within 10 seconds.
Here’s another quick-hitter called 1-3-1 Double. To begin, the sleeper player starts out down low on the right block. The PG then passes to the right wing player. The PG goes through and posts up down low on the block. The player in the middle now pops out to the top of the key and the wing player with the ball dribbles down to the corner to shift the entire zone.
Next, the opposite-side wing player will now come down and set a double pick with the other low post player. The player with the ball passes back to the player up top, and then the PG down low cuts baseline and right off the double screen to the opposite wing. Finally, the top screener flashes to the top of the lane, and the low screener goes for the lob. You have three solid options here.
Note: Most zones try to get you to pass the ball around the perimeter, so if the ball gets into the middle of a zone defense, we are in business.
The previous clips can be seen on Championship Productions’ DVD “Tom Izzo’s Basketball Smorgasboard of Drills and Basketball Wisdom.” Check out our entire Tom Izzo/Michigan State DVD catalog by clicking here.
Check out these three effective offensive plays designed to attack zone defenses. You’ll get an overview of each play and a full diagram before seeing the play being run in action on the court with real players. The following plays offer a variety of options for teams, from three-pointers to pick & rolls and even inside looks in the post. Meanwhile, one play is even ideal for a last-second shot at the end of a quarter or game.
Submitted by Jim Calhoun, University of Connecticut, Storrs, CT
Overview: This play is run out of a 1-2-2 set. It’s been very effective for the UConn men’s basketball program. At one point, this play was run on 42 possessions and saw the team score 31 times.
The Set-up: 5 and 4 set up behind the zone. 5 starts out on the low left block and 4 is between 3-point arc and the right low block. Meanwhile, 2 and 3 line up on each wing behind the 3-point line. 1 begins with the ball up at the top of the key.
The Action: 1 dribbles in a few steps at the top of the key to draw two defenders and then passes to three on the right wing. 5 then sets a back screen on the middle defender in the lane. 4 then sets a back screen for either the near forward or middle defender. At the same time, 3 passes back to 1 and then cuts toward the basketball and through to the opposite corner. As 3 makes his cut, 2 quickly set a down screen on the offside forward. 1 then receives the pass from 3 and then swings it back to 3 in the corner.
The Finish: 3 can shoot the three-pointer or make an entry pass to 5 sealing on the low block.
Submitted by Brent Lemond, Vanguard High School, Ocala, FL
The Set-up: This play starts off in a 2-1-2 set. The 5 player starts out at the free throw line area and then steps out and screens for 1. The defender here should be forced to help on 1, leaving 2 open for the shot on the wing. If the defender (X3) steps out to take the shooter, 2 then looks for 3 in the short corner.
The Finish: From here, 3 will look to score or can drive and dish. If defender X5 moves to cover the short corner, then 2 can hit 5 after the screen is set.
Submitted by Pat Sullivan, Head Men’s Coach at College of St. Francis, Joliet, IL
The Set-up: The initial set up is a 1-2-2. The ball is moved around until about 15 seconds remain on the clock, if possible. Attack the inside first. Make sure a shot is taken with less than six seconds left.
The Action: 1 passes to 3 on the left side wing area and then moves toward the pass to create a lane for 3’s return pass. Meanwhile, 2 should be your best shooter and then moves down and creates a stack with 5 on the low block. 3 will then set a screen below 4 on the opposite low block. 1 then dribbles to the middle of the floor and reads player 2’s cut. 2 then either flares out to the corner off of 5’s screen on the low block or heads to the opposite corner thanks to the double screen set by 4 and 3 on the low block.
The Finish: Player 1’s first look should be to 4 on a flash in the paint. The option is also there for 5, who is also flaring in the post. If 1 passes to 2 off the double screen, then 3 should clear to the opposite side corner. The options also exist for 2 to take the jumper or 2 can feed 4 down low. The play can be run to opposite sides and be sure to look for 4 as your first option at the outset.
We have recently released four new basketball DVDs featuring Jim Larranaga (George Mason), Lawrence Frank (Boston Celtics), and Mike Rice (Rutgers)! Check out these new DVDs to take your program to the top!