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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, former Head Coach UConn.

Price: $39.99
Buy Now

Teaching the 2-2-1 press at the high school level

2-2-1 Press for High School Basketball
with Kevin Sutton, former collegiate assistant coach and high school head coach.

Price: $39.99
Buy Now

Coach Donovan teaches the matchup press

Billy Donovan: Mastering the Full-Court Match-Up Press
with Billy Donovan, Head Coach Oklahoma City Thunder, former University of Florida Head Coach.

Price: $39.99
Buy Now

Simplified Run and Jump Press

Simplified Run & Jump Press
with Forrest Larson, Lake Geneva Badger HS varsity coach.

Price: $39.99
Buy Now

Coach Gonzalez teaches the matchup press.

The White/Black Full-Court Match-Up Press Defense
with Bobby Gonzalez, Seton Hall University Head Coach

Price: $39.99
Buy Now

Coach Williams teaches the press.

Gary Williams: The Complete Guide to Full-Court Pressure Defense
with Gary Williams, former University of Maryland Head Coach.

Price: $39.99
Buy Now

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