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PostPosted: 30 Jun 2012, 22:56 

Posts: 10
My U12 boys have been coming up against a lot of zone defense lately and it is causing us some problems. We have tried teaching them ball reversal to move the zone and to penetrate gaps, but we struggle to score. As we don't have a huge amount of training time we have focused on man to man d and not zones. Should I teach a set zone offense or is there another way to teach this age group how to break a zone defense? Thanks.

PostPosted: 01 Jul 2012, 10:28 
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Its too bad that they are playing zones, but if this were me I would look at two approaches.

1- ( as a college coach once told me )" Its not rocket science, put em where they aint." Move the ball, reverse it, do the things you are working on right now. Try to keep it simple. You can attack gaps, skip pass, utilize the short corners and every body needs to be in passing lanes. You can always screen vs zones too.

2- If you run a motion type offense, you can try using that using your man offense rules except that they have to be in passing lanes after they cut.

What are you trying right now?

PostPosted: 02 Jul 2012, 22:53 

Posts: 10
We run 5 out motion which the boys are getting the idea and we do well against m2m. We use normal rules of motion, pass, cut to the basket and out the side opposite to where you passed and everybody relocates. We're a fast team and score a lot on fast breaks. We play man to man d only at this stage.
I tried running motion against the zone defense friday night and the boys passed it around okay but seemed unable to cut because there were defensive players (2:1:2 zone)there so the ball went back and forth, going nowhere. I also tried putting the two bigs in the short corners and getting them to cut into the middle to receive the pass but the perimeter players wouldn't pass it in. We played a zone a couple of weeks earlier that we beat by attacking the gaps, but that zone didn't move well and it was easy to step around them. This one was played quite well.

Could you explain more about pt 2 - about being in the passing lanes after they cut. What is different to the normal cut you would make in motion?

Should I introduce screens (these kids are brand new to this level) and if so, what do I start with? Sorry, lots of questions but I'm not sure I'm explaining and practicising 'attacking the gap' very well. Thanks for your help.

PostPosted: 03 Jul 2012, 06:41 
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Passing lanes...

What I mean by passing lanes is that there is NO defensive player between you and the ball. So, as you make your cut, cut between the gaps, go out the back side and position yourself so that you can see the ball without a defender between you and the player with the ball.

(I'm not sure of your age group so while this is not a difficult concept, younger kids might have a hard time with this unless you give them plenty of repetitions.) There were times I used a posey board to show them and I also just stopped the drill/scrimmage and showed them what I meant, "being where someone aint."

IF you think your kids can handle screening......You could screen the top guard, drive the ball into the next gap (inside shoulder of the next defender) and have another offensive player in the short corner or out a little more.... that bottom defender will have to make a decision... cover the ball, or cover the next man. I hope this is clear enough.

You can back screen the zone and skip pass to an offensive player also.

PostPosted: 03 Jul 2012, 07:55 
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At that age level I have found the easiest thing is to just put players in gaps and emphasize some simple concepts. We also run motion against man which makes it easier to do this against zone.

So we are stilling running our motion however we cut down our player movement and emphasize more ball movement. I don't even mind if players pass the ball without cutting, as long as they're moving the ball, looking inside, and just playing.

Adjustments Versus Zone Defense

When we face zone defense, we will continue running motion. Spacing, looking inside, ball reversals, catching and facing the basket, and all our core motion offense rules are still very important and applicable to the zone. However we'll make a few small adjustments...


We will change our alignment when facing a zone. We'll go to a 3 out 2 in formation. The 3 perimeter players will work together and the 2 inside players will work together.

Perimeter Players

Pass and cut. Look for an opening. Look for cuts to the corner and then look inside.

Low Post Player

This player can be in the short corner (butt to the baseline), in the low post, or flashing to an open area.

When on the low block and the ball is reversed, stay on the weakside and wait for the ball to come to you. You will be open for the seal on the reversal.

When the ball goes to short corner, look for middle post player diving to the basket.

Middle Player

This player can be at the free throw line, high post (elbow), flashing to an open area, or mid post. Maintain spacing and be aware of the low post player.

Dive when the ball goes to short corner.

Seal for position and use your body to box out and create big gaps in the zone.

As always, crash the offensive boards and anticipate the shot.

Pass Fakes

Use PASS FAKES against the zone. This will get the defense out of position. Use fake skip passes and so on. Be decisive in your cuts (cut hard), maintain spacing, and get ball reversals.

1-3-1 Zone Adjustment

When needed, we will change to our press breaker formation. All rules still apply. Just run your press breaker which follows motion offense rules and spacing.

When facing a 1-3-1 we go to a 2 guard front and believe it or not we run our press breaker and it works really well because players are familiar and it's simple. Here's our press breaker:

Jeff Haefner

PostPosted: 05 Jul 2012, 01:02 

Posts: 10
I will continue working on 'playing the gaps' against zone and your replies have given me much more to work with. Most of my kids are 10 years old and our pre-season tournament saw us beaten every game by 20-30pts. Now, half way through the season we are on top of the ladder by focusing on motion offense and man to man defensive fundamental skills. Your responses confirm my commitment to teaching this way rather than resorting to set plays at this age level. I will start to introduce some basic screening action as well. Thank you. This is a great resource.

PostPosted: 05 Jul 2012, 08:25 
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Oz -

Kudos to you for sticking to your guns, teaching your kids the correct way to play the game (at this age) Teaching m2m defense is tough at any age, but at 10 - EXTREMELY TOUGH. IF you can get the idea across to them regarding HELP defense, they will be way ahead of the game.... and then it looks like a zone. They are playing their 3 vs your 5 ball side.

There is always room for a couple of set plays, but it that is all teams are teaching, their kids will become robotic. Again, you are teaching your kids how to read and react to defenses, puts you way ahead of others.

Try to keep things simple for them so they don't have to think too much. I hope that both you and the kids are having FUN. It sounds like the parents understand what you are trying to do also... that is very important. At this age, its not all about winning, its about teaching fundamentals on both ends of the floor and letting them have fun, while getting them ready to play at the next level.

Your reward will come when you see some of your kids playing high school ball and still keeping in touch with you as they get older.

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