Defense Drill: 1 2 3 Progression

Drill Purpose (All Ages)

This is a progression drill that improves defensive footwork, one on one, and wing defense.

123progression1 (3K)
Progression 1

1 on 1 full court zig zag. The defensive player should focus on footwork, playing the angle, and staying in front of the ball handler.

Once the offense gets past half court, they can go live.

All these drills should be played live to a score.

123progression2 (3K)
Progression 2

2 on 2 - Full court zig-zag with wing defense.

Be sure that your wings get in the correct defensive position and do what ever it takes to stop the ball.
123progression3 (3K)
Progression 3

3 on 3 - full court zig-zag with 2 wings.
Do you have any questions or suggestions for this drill? Let us know by leaving your comments...


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John Tobin says:
7/6/2021 at 1:32:59 AM

I have a rotation drill I created in mid 80’s when I was coaching in the PSAL and CHSAA NYC. It incorporates 5 players and every facet of the game. I had middle school players, playing man if first pass goes to wing. Zone if they throw to post, which we don’t allow but it happens. I matchup man1-2-2, 2-3, 3-2, 2-1-2
Whatever because the know how to rotate in the full and half court


Mike says:
11/27/2012 at 4:51:06 PM

I use this drill for around 5-10 minutes every practice. Yes, it does not happen very often in a game, but I 100% agree that it improves overall athleticism and condition. I have a few guards that I match up intentionally in order for them to push themselves to the limit, and when it comes to game time, I have the 2 best defensive guards in our area. They can pressure the ball up the court all game and still not be tired, and it usually results in a minimum of 5 turnovers and 10 quick transition points just because the basic pressure is there and the opposing guards get flustered. Great drill!


Jeff Haefner says:
11/10/2012 at 8:16:32 AM

Ernie -

When guarding one pass away, you just follow stand man to man defense principles....
- see man and ball
- be in a position to stop the ball and recover to your man
- be in an athletic stance ready to move

For more info on defensive principles and rotations, see this page:


Jeff Haefner says:
11/10/2012 at 8:14:09 AM

Walter - On the progression #1, you just have a defender and ballhandler zig zagging up the court.

On progression #2, you add an offense player on the wing and a defensive player guarding him/her. Those two players are set up on the other end of the court and have to wait for the ball to come to them.

On progression #3, you add another offense player on the wing and a defensive player guarding him/her.

So yes, it's always two players (offense and defense) coming down the court, and some other players waiting for them.


Ernie Gilliard says:
11/9/2012 at 10:21:17 PM

What are the defenseive rotations


Ernie Gilliard says:
11/9/2012 at 10:09:10 PM

When you progress to two on two or three on three, what are the rules for the offensive wings?


Walter Young says:
12/20/2011 at 10:49:11 PM

I don't get how the 123 progression is run. Are only two players coming down court?


Joe Haefner says:
8/22/2011 at 9:45:12 AM

Coach Tristan,

I agree with your statement about full court 1on1 drills. The situation doesn't happen very often during games.

However, I am a huge fan of them for these reasons:

1. Improves athleticism.
2. Conditions players.
3. Overloads the defense, so half court defense feels easy.
4. Improves team defense.
5. Gets the competitive juices flowing.

You can read more detail on each of these reasons in this article:


Coach Tristan says:
8/19/2011 at 6:57:25 AM

I've never been a fan of the zigzag drills. First of all, most players don't like them because they are exhausting. But off course that is not the reason why I don't like them... I don't like them because it rarely happens in a game. For example, in our full court defense we try to send the offensive player to the side. If I want to work on defense and slides, I prefer a mass-drill or a 1 on 1 halfcourt drill.


waleed says:
3/31/2011 at 8:03:00 AM

thanks for this drills .... we need more for the movement of the defense players inside there zone ... thanks again


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