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Basketball Defense - 2-2-1 Zone Press

From the Coach’s Clipboard Basketball Playbook, @

Before proceeding with this page, read "Transition Defense", on full court defense.

Set up the 2-2-1 zone press like this (see Diagram A). Have two players set at both ends of the free throw line. Two other defenders should be positioned just inside the half-court line, and the fifth player plays "prevent".

The in-bounds pass is not contested or guarded. Do not allow a pass in the middle of the floor. The defenders X1 and X2 should allow the pass to a receiver near the corner. They should wait until the ball-handler commits and starts dribbling.

Once the dribble is started, they should attack and trap him/her near the sideline (Diagram B). The other two defenders then position themselves in the passing lanes to other would-be receivers and look for the interception. The X5 defender should only come up if he/she has a clear-cut interception.

2-2-1 full-court zone press 2-2-1 full-court zone press - trap the corner 2-2-1 full-court zone press - sideline trap

If the ball gets part way up the sideline, the mid-court defender (X3 or X4) should stop the penetration along the sideline, and trap the ball-handler along with the guard from that side (X1 or X2). Now the opposite guard and mid-court defenders play the passing lanes (see Diagram C).

Allow a backward, retreating pass, as the 10-second rule is in your favor. If the ball moves to the opposite side, the traps and zones are set on that side the same as described above, only with the opposite defenders positioned as above. The defenders should never let the ball get ahead of them on the court. If that happens, they must sprint down-court quickly to recover.

Once the press is broken, or the offense crosses mid-court, all defenders not on the ball should sprint back to the paint to protect basket (unless there is an easy trap in the sideline, mid-court line corner). The on-ball defender should stay on the ball and stop dribble penetration.

There are variations and adjustments to this basic zone, depending on how the offense uses their point guard... i.e. whether he/she tries to receive the in-bounds pass, or make the in-bounds pass and then receive the ball right back.

basketball press defense

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2-2-1 Zone Press Adjustments

Here are a couple of variations on the 2-2-1 zone press.

2-Up Zone Press

The "2-up" zone press is used against teams who have their best ball-handler make the in-bounds pass, and then step in-bounds and receive the pass right back. We want to keep the ball out of the hands of the best ball-handler, and have someone bring it up who is not comfortable in that role, thereby increasing the chance of a turnover.

See Diagram A. In this case, the X2 defender will deny the pass back to the in-bounder, and will play him/her man-to-man, in full denial. The other four defenders essentially play a zone.

X3 will prevent the sideline pass, and X4 prevents the middle pass.

The weak side of the court is open and X5 might be able to anticipate a long cross-court pass there, or a long down-court pass. Long passes are often thrown out-of-bounds, or are intercepted. But again remember, all zone presses have an element of risk, and are a gamble.

2-2-1 full-court zone press - 2Up 2-2-1 deny press

2-2-1 "Deny" Defense

With this full-court press, we try to deny the in-bounds pass and get the 5-second call. This can be used against a team that tries to make the in-bounds pass to their best ball-handler. See Diagram B.

In this defense, don't guard the passer. Instead, place your X5 back in "prevent", to protect against the long pass and lay-up. The other four defenders match up with the other four offensive players and play full denial, trying to prevent the in-bounds pass. Until the ball is passed in-bounds, you have a 5 on 4 situation, with five defenders and only four offensive receivers.

The offense may try to screen to get a man open. Be ready for the quick switch, or fight through.

The offense may try to run their O4 and O5 toward the passer for a quick pass. Defenders X3 and X4 must stay between them and the passer to deny this pass.

Often defenders X3 and X4 are worried about getting beat by the long pass over their heads, but defender X5 should be back to cover the long pass. This is the advantage of not guarding the passer, but rather having X5 protect against the long pass.

Helpful DVDs:

Coach Calhoun teaches the 2-2-1 press

Jim Calhoun: The 2-2-1 Press
with Jim Calhoun, 2004 and 1999 NCAA Championship Coach
Coach Jim Calhoun outlines the pressure defense which has led the Huskies to national prominence and an NCAA Championship! Unlike most pressure defenses, Calhoun's 2-2-1 focuses on pressuring the ball down the sideline in the back court, reserving traps until the ball has passed half court. Demonstrations include... (more info)

Price: $39.99
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Teaching the 2-2-1 press at the high school level

2-2-1 Press for High School Basketball
with Kevin Sutton, Montverde Academy Men's Basketball Head Coach, NIKE Skill Academy Instructor
Coach Sutton's concept of defense is to force turnovers and create offense on the other end. The "55" is a 2-1-2 full court zone press and is a defensive cornerstone in this program. While doing this the opponent will become fatigued, leading to more success. Defensive principles are important and include: Ball pressure, containing the dribble, force the ball into trap areas and up the sidelines. Sutton's scramble/recovery mode is based on closet man/closest ball. The first press illustrated by Sutton is the 2-2-1 zone press. The first line of defense... (more info)

Price: $39.99
Buy Now

Coach Donovan teaches the matchup press

Billy Donovan: Mastering the Full-Court Match-Up Press
with Billy Donovan, University of Florida Head Coach; 2007 & 2006 NCAA Champions, 2000 NCAA Runner-up; One of only two people ever to serve as head coach, assistant coach, and player in a Final Four
This defense has been the cornerstone of one of the most successful coaches and programs in the country. Coach Donovan walks you through his 2-2-1 full-court man press with stunting, and the 1-2-1-1 pressure defense. Using on-court demonstration and game film Donovan details each player's responsibilities, when and how to trap, and transitional coverage once the press has been broken. Included are basic coverages for all press breaks and breakdown drills... (more info)

Price: $39.99
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Simplified Run and Jump Press

Simplified Run & Jump Press
with Forrest Larson, Lake Geneva Badger HS varsity coach
Coach Forrest Larson teaches the run and jump press with 10 drills that make the defense easy to teach. The basis of the run and jump is traping the ball down the sideline and jump-switching in the middle. Coach Larson emphasizes the teamwork involved in executing this man-to-man press. The defense is taught with drill work for the different methods of defending and attacking the inbounds pass to the techniques, strategies, and rules used to defend the ball all the way down the floor. The defense will force your opponent to play at an uncomfortable tempo... (more info)

Price: $39.99
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Coach Gonzalez teaches the matchup press.

The White/Black Full-Court Match-Up Press Defense
with Bobby Gonzalez, Seton Hall University Head Coach; former Manhattan College Head Coach
Coach Gonzalez teaches how to force turnovers, confuse and fatigue the defense, and how to create and capitalize on scoring opportunities using a relentless full-court man press. Using markerboard presentation and extensive practice and game footage, Gonzalez details the match-up principles, alignments, and trap options for the White press (run out of a 1-2-1-1 set) and the Black press which emphasizes all out ball denial. Gonzalez discusses how to use the White and Black presses to speed up the offense, get them off-balance, and force non-ball-handlers to bring the ball up the court. He also covers... (more info)

Price: $39.99
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Coach Williams teaches the press.

Gary Williams: The Complete Guide to Full-Court Pressure Defense
with Gary Williams, University of Maryland Head Coach, 2002 NCAA Champions, Seven "Sweet Sixteen" appearances

"Full court pressure is the ultimate weapon in basketball." - Gary Williams

A game-tested, baseline-to-baseline method for trapping and applying pressure defensively! Coach Williams gives you an insider's look into one of the most potent and aggressive full-court defensive systems. A large part of Williams' success has come from his aggressive and intense style of play, which includes the full court pressure defense... (more info)

Price: $39.99
Buy Now

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