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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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.


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.


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


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


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.


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

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

  1 reply  

Brian says:
11/29/2020 at 11:44:04 PM

If it's a 2 man front, then line up offensively as a 1-3-1 and use the same concepts. Always line your zone offense opposite the defense. 2-1-2 against a 1-3-1, 1-2-2, or 3-2. 1-3-1 or 3-2 against a 2-3


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

How successful would this be against a two man front?


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.


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.


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.


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