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Archives by Tag 'Zone Offense'

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 Tips and Drills for Attacking Zone Offenses

By adam.warner - Last updated: Wednesday, January 25, 2012

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.

4 on 3 Passing

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.


Gap Shooting

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.

Hubie Brown: Secrets to Beating the Zone

By adam.warner - Last updated: Wednesday, December 28, 2011

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.

A Quick Play to Beat Zone Defenses

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.

Keys to Remember

*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.

Options with the Zone Offense

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.

Two Dynamic Quick-Hitting Zone Plays with Tom Izzo

By adam.warner - Last updated: Wednesday, November 16, 2011

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.

1-3-1 Special

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.

1-3-1 Double

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.


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