2-1-2 Zone Offense -
Use This Against Any Zone Defense

Categories: Offense (Team)  
Ages: All Ages  Youth  Middle School  High School+  


Here is a simple, yet effective zone offense that you can use against any zone defense. It will create constant overloads on each side of the court. I tend to use this against odd-man zone defenses such as 3-2 zone defenses and 1-3-1 zone defenses.


You need two guards that are comfortable dribbling and passing the ball from one side of the court to the opposite side of the court.


  • Here is the initial 2-1-2 set. Two guards are at the top. Post player is on the free throw line. The two forwards are in the short corners behind the defense.
  • The first offensive motion is initiated when either guard dribbles toward the ball-side wing.
  • In this case, 1 dribbles to the right wing.
  • 3 cuts to the corner.
  • 5 flashes to the high post.
  • 4 cuts to the ball-side short corner.
  • This will create an overload on the ball-side.
  • Players can look for the seams and kick-outs.
  • If defensive player #3 takes away the reversal pass to 2, then 5 may be open in the high post. If 5 comes out to guard 3, 4 may be open for a short corner pass.
  • If nothing is open, we swing the ball to the opposite side of the court.
  • 1 passes to 2.
  • 2 dribbles to the left wing.
  • 4 cuts to the ball-side corner.
  • 3 cuts to the ball-side short corner.
  • 5 cuts to the ball-side high post.
  • If 2 passes to 4 and 4 passes to 5, there are several high post options.
  • High Post Options
  • 5 can shoot or attack the basket.
  • 4 can relocate to the corner.
  • 3 can seal the low post defender and look for the hi-lo pass.
  • 1 can look for an opening on the opposite side.
  • Pin Screen Option
  • After using this offense for a few possessions, the zone defense might start to overload with the offense. As a result, the opposite side of the floor could be open.
  • In this situation, 1 pin screens for 2.
  • Delayed Short Corner Cut
  • Another variation is to delay the short corner cut.
  • If defensive player #5 sees that 3 is on the opposite side short corner, the defensive player might start to cheat towards the player in the high post. As a result, the cut to the short corner could be wide open.
  • Double Pin Screen Option.
  • The delayed short corner cut also opens up another option for a double pin screen.
  • 1 and 3 pin screen the outside defenders on the zone.
  • Guard to Guard Exchange
  • If you are going to use pin screens, I would consider having the top guard players exchange after every pass to the corner player. This will get the defense accustomed to the ball-side guard cutting away from the ball-side. After a few possessions, the defense may become lackadaisical to the cutter and that's when you can surprise them with the pin screen or double pin screen.

Additional Comments:

Depending on the quality of the zone defense that you face, you can have the offense pass the ball corner to corner 2 to 4 times. This will loosen up the defense and allow better passing angles to the post players. As a result, we will get inside looks or kick-outs to our 3-point shooters.

You can replace the high post player with a guard. Some coaches like to put their best ball handler in the high post in order to attack the defense and make great passes out to the perimeter players.

And the common thing among all good zone offenses is that they have good players, so be sure to work on your fundamentals and skills.


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J says:
3/23/2011 at 2:16:33 AM

What do the offensive slides look like against a 1 - 3 - 1 zonew defense? The 2 forwards on the short corners will not have good angles to receive passes from the guards and dribble to the wing is likely to be contested.


waleed says:
3/23/2011 at 3:56:53 AM

thanks for this drills ... i m very benifit and usefull from this ... i wish to help me to learn how the movements of diffense players inside zone when we use the two kinds of diffenses ;man to man diffense and zone diffense ... please help me and thanks for your geneourisity .


Stepan Korotaev says:
3/23/2011 at 6:14:20 AM

I learned a lot about attacking the zone from watching Syracuse games this year. They played it almost constantly (and very well) so all the opposing teams had no other choice than to come up with some sort of zone offence. And because everybody knew what they were gonna face against Syracuse, everybody was well prepared so many effective plays were run.


Coach C says:
3/23/2011 at 6:27:28 AM

I'm interested in what the slides look like agaisnt a 1-3-1 zones as well. It's the zone we have the most trouble with. Does this work better against a 1-2-2 and 3-2? Like J said it looks as if the forwards on the short corners will not have good angles to receive passes from the guards and the dribble to the wing is likely to be contested.

  1 reply  

Ethan Bishop says:
5/25/2017 at 1:23:09 PM

The 1-3-1 is my specialty, and I run it against any and all offenses, mostly because I teach my high post defender to not allow the offensive high post player to establish position since so many teams like to initiate their offenses through the high post. What I have found with this strategy, though, is that the corners and short corners can be open for a second, so you have to focus on quick passes and fast ball reversal. Consider this, for example: the offense sets up in a 2-1-2 to offset our 1-3-1. In this case, the top guy on our defense influences the ball handler to one side of the court, which shouldn't require much effort because this offense is initiated when the ball handler chooses a side to dribble to. So if the ball handler dribbles to the right, as in the example above, the 3 blasts to corner, the 4 to short corner, and the 5 to the high post. Now, if the defender guarding the 3 doesn't close out to one pass away/deny position, then we can pass to the corner for the shot and/or baseline dribble penetration if it's there. If the 3 defender does his job and stays parallel to the ball, then he will be in correct deny position on the corner, but this opens up the short corner entry and?or high post entry. If we can get the ball to the short corner, and the 4 defender is in good on-ball position, then the weakside guard can read this and flash to the opposite low block because this area will be vacated by the 4 defender. If the 4 defender doesn't close out well on the short corner, we have a quick shot. In addition, if the 4 defender doesn't close out well, and the high post defender rolls down to compensate for this, the high post offensive player flashes to the hole for a quick layup.


Coach Mo says:
3/23/2011 at 7:59:34 AM

I run an offense very similar to this against odd front defenses at the high school level. It is a change up offense...not terribly difficult to defend if it was your only offense...but as a change up, it works very well. About the only difference is that we wait until the ball gets to the corner before the backside post crosses into an open area low. If defense is lazy in their slides, you get a lay-up. We put our best driver at the high post. When the high post gets the ball, both low players get to the blocks (triangle). One dribble will draw the wings (if not continue the drive) and that opens up one of the blocks (posts) for a dump pass. Works well. Again, it's not an every possession offense, but great as a change up.


Coach Mo says:
3/23/2011 at 8:05:27 AM

J and Coach C: Our slides do not change no matter what the defense does. We stay in the 2-1-2 set...the ball side baseline is wide...the backside on the block. Always look for the diagonals (down and up) against the 1-3-1. When the ball goes to the corner, the baseline defender covers corner...our backside crosses at that time. The middle of the 1-3-1 defense is responsible for sliding to the block...if they are slow, we are wide open. If the post decides to drop down, that's when we attack at the high post. We use a guard there...if the high post isn't on her, she has a shot, drive or pass. We do have our wings move into the open areas (gaps, wing area) when the high post gets the ball.


Heath Decker says:
3/23/2011 at 8:28:22 AM

When running this offense look for the weak side guard cutting to the basket on a short corner pass. This only works if the weakside defensive guard fails to slide into help side position. Got lots of easy lay-ups against both 3-2 and the 1-3-1. Generally works well if the ball is reversed multiple times.


Coach Bill says:
3/24/2011 at 11:17:17 AM

I have run the 1-3-1 defense for many years. This offense is one of the few that will work against it. In order to attack the 1-3-1 you have to have a high and low post, point, wing and corner. This offense has it.


Rob says:
3/25/2011 at 8:40:03 AM

We run this offense against a 1 guard front. We have had a lot of success with it. Hard to stop if your a good passing team. You must be patient.


Dave says:
4/3/2011 at 10:14:51 PM

How successful would this be against a two man front?


jeff says:
4/4/2011 at 4:08:33 PM

How effective would this be against a zone with a two man front?


Joe Haefner says:
4/4/2011 at 6:53:18 PM

Jeff & Dave,

I have tried this a few times against 2-man front, but I usually like a 1-3-1 set better. I think it could work tho.


coach pelser says:
10/5/2012 at 3:40:37 PM

i kill this offense any time a team trys to run it against me its all about your defense sliding there feet in the 1-3-1 zone ,this offense requires to much thinking and passing which allows my d to capitalize and create a lot of turnovers


Ken says:
10/5/2012 at 3:54:19 PM

A few things here..... its all about execution.... who excutes better, the offense or the defense?

One college coach told me this about attacking zones..... "it's not rocket science - put em where they aint."

Creighton Burns always says this... " If your Jimmies and Joes are better than my Xs and Os.... you will win.

This offense seems to do a lot of things to confuse the defense and get players open. Screens, shot corners, high low opportunities, etc. Here is another thing that you could do just by sliding 2 over a bit earlier on the Double Screen option... throw a lob to him


Craig says:
10/19/2017 at 11:47:01 AM

Does anybody know of any team either at the high school or college level that runs this and has film on YouTube or something that I can view?
Looking for it to show my team.


Mike says:
1/28/2018 at 4:52:38 PM

This is pretty interesting, but what I am curious to know is if your opponent runs this zone offense against you, is the suggested defense to run then a man-to-man defense? If so, should players initially start off showing a 2-3 zone and then break it off into a man coverage which may hopefully confuse the opposition? Any guidance would be appreciated.

  1 reply  

Jeff says:
2/10/2018 at 8:05:54 AM

We never worry about what the offense is doing. We run "our defense" which can disrupt any offense. Whether we run man to man, 2-3 zone, or match up... we are really good at it. We don't change and we generally disrupt teams enough that they have to adapt to us instead of the other way around. Some coaches will change defenses and I suppose you could change to any defense to disrupt them. I think whatever defensive system you use (man to man only, multiple defenses that change, etc)... you just get really good at it. I know some coaches change defenses during a possession but not many. That requires a lot of practice and usually not something you do until high school varsity level and even then it requires a lot of practice.


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