3-2 (1-2-2) zones are commonly used to defend teams with good outside shooting and/or weaker post players. You can also use it as a trapping defense.
Youth Coaches: Even though, you CAN win more games, AVOID playing any type of zone defense, because it can teach bad habits and hinder the long-term
development of your players. Our advice would be to focus on Man to Man Defense.
If you would like to read a detailed explanation of why we advise youth coaches to avoid zone defenses, click
Basic Rotations and Positions of the 3-2 (1-2-2) zone
Ball on wing:
Defender 3 comes out to guard the ball.
Defender 1 drops down to the high post area.
Ball in corner:
Defender 5 goes out to guard the ball.
Defender 4 slides over to defend the low post.
Defender 2 drops down to either defend the opposite low block or the wing if a skip pass is thrown.
Defender 1 defends the high post area.
Defender 3 can either sink in to stop penetration or apply pressure by denying the reversal pass.
Defender 1 and defender 3 form the trap.
Defender 2 slides over to slightly above the free throw line. He is anticipating a pass back to the top of the key or a skip pass to the opposite wing.
Defender 5 takes a step out to try to anticipate a pass to the corner. He shouldn't sneak out too far if there is a player in the high or low post area.
Trapping the corner:
Defender 3 & defender 5 form the trap.
Defender 4 slides over to defend low post.
Defender 1 anticipates a pass into the high post or wing.
Defender 2 plays 'center field.' He covers the top of the key until defender 1 recovers. He covers the skip pass to the opposite wing. He covers anybody cutting to the middle of the lane.
Helpful Zone Defense Resources
If you'd like to dig deeper and get more information about developing an effective zone defense, we highly recommend Al Marshall's Zone Defense. In our opinion, he runs one of the best zone defenses in the country and it gives you the most thorough explanation of zone defense we have seen.
This zone defense works well if the opposing team has strong guard players, because it puts an extra person on the perimeter. At the same time, it could help your slower guard players.
You have to be careful because this will put more pressure on your post players and it also makes the post area vulnerable which could result in foul trouble for your best players which is the last thing you want to do. This can also cause you some trouble, if you play against an opposing team with strong post players.
i have been coaching with my own idea but this realy help a lot i have already 4 championship 1 no contest with 15-0 sweep reach quaterfinal we withdrawn dew to players an availability and 1 second place in my coaching carrier
Would you suggest trapping high if you don''t necesssarily have great height, but blessed with total team speed. I want to add something to my defense other than my diamond and/or full court man press that might catch an opponent offguard.
You could experiment with trapping high out of the zone. You could also play man to man defense, extend the defense to half-court beyound, get in the passing lanes, and front the post. You could also try the Run-and-Jump.
I have also experimented with a defense called ameoba, which my players set up in a 1-3-1 zone and wherever the ball crosses the half court decides what defense we jump into. It will either be 2-3, man or 1-3-1 trap. This has help me to confuse the offense by changing the zones at each timeout.
Some other sites want the no. 1 player to stay at ball level all the way down to the low post. So instead of no. 4 taking the lowpost the no. 1 does. the no 4 player can then stay at opposite side instead of no. 2 dropping down. the no. 2 player protects the high post and skip (like the above mentioned trap in the corner).
What works best?
We are going to the national championship final at end of november and will be meeting a team that has better guards than we have but they are equal or worse on the forwards. What do you recomend? If I should play like the other sites say. Should it be a no. 3 player or no. 1 player on top?
What works best is probably based on your personnel. Is your no. 1 player in the zone tall enough to front the post? Is he quick enough to guard the perimeter? Then, you could drop him down to the post.
You could experiment with both types of defense. If something works, stick with it.
Here is a possibility if anyone wants to try this. Anytime the ball goes to the corner, your 4 and 2 man or your 5 and 3 man trap hard in the corner. Your 1 man will then drop to the block to take away post entry. The backside top player will then go to the elbow on the side the ball is being trapped and you still have backside help in the post. This puts alot of added pressure on the offense to make a skip pass. I have been able to get numerous steals this way, especially when the 1 man drops down to the post. Very effective!!
I believe, though 3-2 and 2-3 zones are certainly the most frequently used sets, 2-2-1 and 1-3-1 patterns should also be covered. If you have one tall guy who can clean everything around the basket and four much smaller and quicker players you would probably choose 2-2-1. And 1-3-1 set is also very useful in many cases. I agree that any zone defense is secondary to the man-to-man but isn't this opinion (so widely shared) a reason why American teams struggle so much against European zones in many tournaments? Anyway, playing Z (and against it) is not equal to playing D but it's just as hard as anything else on the defensive end.
The ZONE allows the players to move as a unit wherever the ball moves. It is almost like all five players follow the ball within their zone. However, when the ball is in the wings it is a good opportunity for a trap.
I have been using a zone defense with small inexperienced 5th and 6th grade girls and we hold the other teams to half of what they are used to doing. It forces bad shots and bad passes.
I'd be hesitant towards using zones with youth and junior high teams. If you teach zones before the team has the principles of man to man down pat, they may form some bad habits that will hurt them in the LONG-TERM. I've seen this many times at the high school level.
You also mention "The ZONE allows the players to move as a unit wherever the ball moves." The same should happen when a man to man defense is taught properly.
I have a lot to learn. This is my first time coaching and I need to learn to implement a man to man defense. I did not realize that the DEFENSE moves as a unit with the ball when playing Man to Man. What is the best link you have to teach this concept to young girls?
What are the rotations when the ball is passed into the soft spot/short corner? How would you teach to cover it? Also, I would think the skip pass could really hurt the 3-2, how is it covered? I am asking because I am thinking of using the 3-2 next year with my high school team and need to be in depth with how to cover everything possible.
I ran the 1-2-2 or 3-2 last year. I found that it works fine versus a 1 guard front. The problem we had was versus a 2 guard front. Our adjustment was to sink the point defender in the lane and have him stay between the ball and the basket. Our wings and post would be responsible for the slots and the corners. We then ran into the problem of teams putting players in the grey areas and placing their corner players a little higher making the post cover more ground.
After all these problems I came to the conclusion that we needed to match-up. The match-up would solve all these problems. The problem I found with the match-up is it seems to be a little complicated.
My question is related to the match-up. I have seen various resources on the match-up. When I watch teams in college their match-ups look nothing like the resources I have studied. Does anyone have a good match-up or good match-up information that can be taught to high school athletes.
Coach Willy the best way to run matchup out of the 3-2 is to use man to man defense rules and start all players inside the 3 point line. I use the packline man to man rules with all my zones. For example if ball is in the corner the bottom forward would guard ball 1 on 1. You would bring the other forward over to front the post or play behing no 3/4 front. ball side wing could deny return wing pass or clog the lane for penetation(that would put player in help postion). top player would be responsible for high post on ball side. The opposite wing would drop to the midline in an open stance just like he would in help side man to man. This player would be responsible for the first skip pass to the weakside.the top player would be responsible for skip passes to the top. The top player would guard the ball when ball is at the top and if that person drible guard man to man until they can pass the dribbler over to the wing. The key to this mathup zone is to have one man guard the ball and the other 4 players play help defense.
I've been playing 'ball for approx. 20 years (never been anything special but just love the game!) and am currently playing in a team with 4 guys who are about that age, and two in their 40's - 50's... been trying to explain the 3-2 to these guys for the last few seasons and decided I'd try n look some stuff up... found this page and can't agree more with what's on here! This will be getting printed out and given to every member of the team to back up exactly what I've been trying to tell them! Thanks heaps, you know your stuff! Dave. Perth. Australia.
Doesn't the bottom guy need to move up across the middle of the lane so he can slide over top of the low post? The point guy should drop to the bottom of the circle and the wing should come back to the high post when the ball is in the corner. This is not a trap defense, one on the ball at all times. You want a trap defense play a 1-3-1 or a 2-2-1.
Rusty, I would say it depends on the post player. If it is somebody who is not a threat, just leave the post player on him and have the othe defenders maintain their position based on where the offensive players are located. If he is a theat, you may want to drop down 1 or 2 players on him to get the ball out of his hands. Now, if they have a great post player and great shooters, you have to pick your poison.
To be honest, Trey. I don't have a lot of experience playing this type of zone defense. I would say that might depend on the post player. If it's a player that you don't want to touch the ball, you may want to completely front the post player. If it's somebody who is not a threat, maybe you stand behind them. If you get on the top-side, I'd also be worried that the help defense might not be there. However, it probably wouldn't be wise to use a 3-2 zone against a good post player.
As for the trapping, I don't think you limit trapping to a type of defense. I've had success trapping out of a 2-3 zone. If it works, it works. However, when I used a 2-3 zone, it wasn't a constant trap. We'd do it a few times a game out of our normal set.
What do you think about the 3-2 match up? I find it helpful and runs well wth a solid man defense as our main two 1/2 court defenses. We try to double down using our 2 or 3(Wing) to help the post by having our post defend from behind taking away the drop step and lead the post player to the trap. What do you think Joe?
I coach 7th grade boys and we recently loss to a team that runs a 3-2 defense with the 3 defenders on mid-court waiting for my ball handlers. My team panics and tends to make a bad pass. How do I play against a 3-2 defense? Thanks.
I have used this defense my primary defense for my team for the last 3 years. It confuses most coaches. They either attack it from the high post or the corner. Both are fairly easy to defend against and if they choose to attack from the corner we trap all corner passes. If you com against a good post player and you want to double team you should use the point player to drop down from the high post and the offside wing steps to the high post.
I've got to tell ya, I coach our 14U AAU girls team. Not the fastest girls, but long and willing to work. They have taken to the 1-2-2 so well that they have their own way of playing it. I showed them the basics and they've morphed it into "their own thing". I tell them all the time that our 'calling card' is defense. We've been fortunate enough to make good teams look bad by mixing up defenses and using the 1-2-2 as our backbone. Over the past 3 months, we've been to 6-7 tournaments and have lost 3 or 4 games... giving up an average of 25-30 pts per game. We just won a national exposure tourney giving up 9 pts in the second half of the championship game.
If you can get your players to buy into defensive philosophies, you'll be successful at any level.
I run a 1-2-1-1 full court press that drops into a 3-2 matching zone. Out of bounds defense is man-to-man automatically. It seems to work for me, but I do emphasize the importance of knowing how to play man-to-man D
Well I believe this 3-2 works very well at containing the perimeter players. It can be difficult if the post guys aren't mobile enough to close out if the offense is in some type of overload and they have a shooter in the corner. My suggestions is that on the first past the post player ball side come out to corner player and opposite post players replaces him at the ball side block. That meaning the opposite wing defender will drop! Another defense that can help is running a 3-2 but go man after the first pass. You can change it up at times to the second or third pass depending on how much time you have worked on it and how well your players understand it!
I was playing one on one basketball with my friend. He shot the ball and it hit the rim. I ran after the ball and got it and made a shot afterwards. My friend said that I couldn't count that point because I didn't take the ball out behind the 3-point line. Can you clarify that rule, please.
I like this zone works so good. My speedy guards has let up almost no points because o this zone. The team we are playing has to get in the post to score and we have good post players/tall dudes!
Thank you (so much)😛😛😛😛😌😪😅💩💩💩💩💩👽👽👽👽👽👽👽👽💩💩💩💩💩
Can someone help me with the rotation if the 1 drops down to the post (like some of you have mentioned) and the 2 has to cover the skip pass up top? Does 1 come back to the wing or to the point & bump the 2 over to the wing? Next time around is it still 1 who drops down? With a lights out shooting point guard it seems like I''''d want to keep my 1 close.
Joe - I played college basketball, we spent at least 20-30 minutes working on man defense principles per practice, that's every day. Defending ball screens and screen the screener type plays is challenging regardless of level. I now coach youth basketball and only have 1 hour a week. I play zone as I simply don't have time to be effective coaching doing anything else. meaning we would just get destroyed if we tried to play man. I think it's noble to be concerned about the long term but losing doesnt go over well and nobody has fun losing. Many of these kids want to win. I think winning mentality and learning what it takes to win is a valuable skill not to be forgotten. We spend time covering things at a high level for shell and man principles, the nature of the youth basketball programs just doesn't allow man to be a focus for me. These kids play on 3-4 teams, maybe the answer is play same amount of bball, but on 1 team. in that case, I'd be able to coach it effectively....My 2 cents.
Thanks, Mike. I definitely hear you. I've done the exact same thing before.
However, after I saw their high school careers unfold, I really regretted it. They had trouble competing because their defense was really bad.
I've learned that it takes multiple years of teaching good defensive habits and instilling that defensive mindset to be really effective. I believe it's more than an understanding of how, it's also a mentality that needs to be developed from an early age.
I actually wrote an article on this topic in more details if you want to take a look: https://www.breakthroughbasketball.com/defense/age.html
Mike - Maybe if you try simplifying the defense it will help?
I spent about 15 minutes a week on man to man defense with 3rd grade girls. They win the majority of their games and it's primarily because of really good defense and solid ballhandling skills.
As 4th graders, again 15 minutes a week on defense. Teams really struggle scoring against us. Have a decent little team winning numerous tournaments (no cutting of players... my daughter picked her friends for the most part).
For man to man defense, spend some time with mirror drill, 1on1 defense, and basic shell drill. That's about all you need to do. Teach on ball defense. Then teach everyone else to get half way between their player and the ball (always point your pistols at both).
Lastly, tell them to make sure the ball doesn't get close to the basket (out of the lane). That simple concept is the basis of our defense.
Much of the teaching is done in scrimmage and games. Constantly preaching, stay in your stance, see your player and the ball, keep the ball out of the lane.
And I will say we constantly emphasis defense, effort, and helping each other. But it's during games and other drills meant for offensive skills and what not.
That is 99% of what we have done. Simple. The only other things we have done (mostly between games in the hall way... is we should players how to 3/4 front the post and how to switch ball screens).
Keep it simple and you can teach really good man to man defense with minimal practice time.