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3 Simple Ways to Attack a Zone Defense

  • Author:
    By Joe Haefner
  • Date:
    Aug 1, 2011

Want to score more points against zone defense? Here are three really simple yet effective strategies that every coach should consider.

These strategies work against all types of zone defenses and will help you score more points:

Strategy No. 1: Put Your Best Ball-Handler in the Middle

I picked up this strategy from Danny Miles who is the head coach of Oregon Tech and creator of the Value Point System. Danny has 937 career wins and ranks second in NCAA/NAIA men's basketball history.

It's very common for teams to put their big man at the free throw line in the middle of the zone offense. Instead, he urges you to put your best ball-handler and creator there. It's doesn't matter if they're 5-foot-2.

Big players usually aren't as good at catching and handling a ball in traffic. But if you put one of your best ball handlers in the high post area, they will be able to drive around the bigger defensive players. They can score, dish, and cause lots of problems for the defense. This especially causes matchup problems for the defense because they always put the biggest clumsier players in the middle of the zone defense. They will not be able stop your quick guards.

Coaches should take a real good look at just putting one of their taller kids in the middle, because usually those players don't pass or shoot it very well and you don't attack as well with that kind of player.

Strategy No. 2: Attack from Behind the Zone

One of the best ways to attack from behind the zone it to always have at least one player in the short corner area.

You'll find that on almost every ball reversal the player in the short corner will be open. Then the wing can pass down to the open player in the short corner.

Once the ball is there, this is a very tough place to guard because at the moment none of the defenders are looking at the short corner player (because he or she is "behind" the zone).

Once the ball is caught in the short corner you have several excellent options to get high percentage shots:

  1. If wide open, the short corner player can take one step to the basket for a lay up.
  2. The short corner player can shot fake and take it to the hole.
  3. The player in the middle can dive to the basket and receive the pass from short corner (this seems to be open for a lay up almost 50 percent of the time).
  4. If they double down, the short corner can kick it out for a wide open 3-pointer.

The key is to force the defense to guard what is front of them (with ball reversals, cutting, and screening actions) and then attack from behind the zone. It works extremely well!

Strategy No. 3: Put Em Where They Ain't

I can thank Coach Ken Sartini for reminding me about this strategy and catchy phrase.

I heard a college coach say this about attacking zones: "It's not rocket science... put 'em where they ain't!"

Keep things simple, put your kids in the gaps of the zone.

This is a common strategy but I feel it's worth mentioning in this context because it's a good reminder to keep things simple. Attacking a zone doesn't have to be complicated.

Not to mention, wording things so players understand can certainly help. Sometimes when you say "find the gap" players don't really understand what you mean (even when they tell you that they do understand).

Try wording things differently. Simply tell your players to find spots where's there no defense (go where they ain't at).

Do you currently employ all three of these strategies?

If not, use these simple suggestions and you'll get better. These strategies work against all types of zone defenses.

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