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Basketball Offense - Screening the Zone

By James Gels, from the Coach’s Clipboard Basketball Playbook, @

A few nights ago, I watched (on TV) the Pitt Panthers take apart Syracuse's Jim Boeheim's famed 2-3 zone defense. Now, Syracuse's 2-3 zone is one of the best zones out there, as the Orangemen won the NCAA National Championship with it in 2003. I was impressed with how Jamie Dixon's Pitt team got the ball inside with relative ease, mainly by screening the top two defenders in zone, usually a ball-screen, then sealing the defender and rolling inside for the pass.

I am convinced that one of most effective ways of attacking zones is by screening the zone. Yes, quick perimeter passing, over-shifting and overloading the zone, dribble-penetrating the gaps, beating the zone up the floor, etc. are all important key elements of any good zone attack (see Zone Offense).

But screening the zone and sealing (pinning) zone defenders are also great ways to get the ball inside. And getting the ball inside is very important. You don't want to just settle for outside jump-shots all night. You have to get the ball inside to get high percentage shots, force their "bigs" to play defense (and expose them to foul trouble), and you want to get to the free-throw line.

Screening the 2-3 Zone

First, let's take a look at what Pitt seemed to be doing against Syracuse... keeping in mind that it always helps enormously to have the great inside athletes that Pitt has.

In diagram A, we see the 2-3 zone, O4 is at the high post (1-3-1 set). As the ball is passed from O1 to O3, the X1 defender closes-out on the ball. O4 will ball-screen X1, and the ball is passed back to O1, which engages the X2 defender who closes-out on O1 (diagram B).

Screening the zoneScreening the zone - high post seals on-ball defenderScreening the zone - high post seals high post defender

Meanwhile, O4 seals the X1 defender and cuts inside and gets the open pass from O1. O4 can shoot here, attack with one-dribble and a jump shot, pass inside to O5, or kick it out to O2 on the wing. If O4 does not receive the pass, he floats down in the gap along the ballside lane line as the ball is passed to O2 (diagram C). O4 will end up near the block.

As O4 gets to the low block the opposite post O5 X-cuts to the ball-side elbow (diagram D), and he could get the pass here from O2. As the ball is passed back out to O1 (diagram E), O5 ball-screens. O1 passes to O3 and O5 seals the X2 defender and cuts inside for the pass from O3 (diagram F), and now O5 has the same inside options.

Screening the zone - weakside post flash to elbowScreening the zone -  high post ball-screenScreening the zone -  high post seal and slip

If O5 does not receive the pass, he finds the gap along the ballside lane line (diagram G), and will move down to the block. This triggers O4 to cut to the ballside elbow, and we are back where we started in diagram A. Diagram H shows O4 ball-screening once again.

Screening the zone - flash cut, continuityScreening the zone - high post screen, continuity

Ball-screening the top two defenders, combined with the posts working together and X-cutting, was very effective for Pitt.

Let's look at some other ways of screening the 2-3 zone.

The rest of this article is in the Premium Members section and the Deluxe CD and downloads. It also includes additional ways of screening the 2-3 zone, screening the 1-3-1 zone and screening the 1-2-2 zone.

Also see: Anchors Zone Offense

Helpful DVD's

Bob Knight: Encyclopedia of Zone Offense

Bob Knight: Encyclopedia of Zone Offense
with Bob Knight, former head coach at Texas Tech and Indiana University; Over 900 career wins, 3X National Championship Coach, Five Final 4 appearances; 4X National Coach of the Year;1984 US Men's Olympic Coach (Gold Medal)

Bob Knight opens his championship playbook and shows you how to beat zone defenses. Using the same concepts he used to amass over 900 career wins and three national titles, Knight doesn't just coach his zone offense, he teaches it.

In this on-court clinic presentation, Coach Knight teaches you everything you need to know about playing against a zone defense.... (more info)

Price: $119.99
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Coach Izzo teaches his 1-3-1 set for attacking zone defenses

Tom Izzo: The 1-3-1 Zone Offense
with Tom Izzo, Michigan State University Men's Basketball Head Coach, 2000 NCAA Champs, 3X National "Coach of the Year"
Get an insider's view into the Michigan State playbook with this fantastic DVD instructed by Coach Tom Izzo. These set plays have led Tom Izzo and his program to one NCAA National Championship title, four Final Fours, and eight NCAA appearances in his ten years as a Division I head coach. Coach Izzo has won 77% of his games utilizing these set plays. This video will demonstrate ways to take advantage of any type of zone defense... (more info)

Price: $39.99
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Coach Self teaches how to attack zone defenses

Bill Self: "Basic" and "Motion" 3-Out 2-In Zone Offenses
with Bill Self, University of Kansas Head Coach; 2008 NCAA Champions
Bill Self focuses on seven principles for effective zone offense and teaches you the Jayhawks' "basic" and "motion" 3-Out 2-In Zone Offense. He walks you through the necessary techniques of both the perimeter and post players such as quick ball movement, skip passing, lob passing, utilizing the short corner and using high/low motion. Self also demonstrates drills that any coach at any level can use to enhance the continuity in the zone offense. He discusses responsibilities and reads and demonstrates the cuts, screens and movement for every position. As a bonus, Self also includes a handful of quick-hitter plays and out-of-bounds baseline plays... (more info)

Price: $39.99
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Coach Boeheim teaches zone offense

Jim Boeheim's Complete Guide to Zone Offense
with Jim Boeheim, Head Coach, Syracuse University, 2003 NCAA Champions!!
Coach Boeheim, one of the most respected minds on the zone and match-up zone defense, now shares on video, for the first time ever, his views on how to take advantage of any zone defense. Coach Boeheim's zone offensive principles are simple: ball movement, man movement, and patience. He uses each of these principles in teaching a zone offense which can be run against a 2-3, 3-2, 1-3-1, and match-up zone (odd or even fronts). He combines chalkboard instruction with on-court demonstration and game clips. In addition, he covers the techniques necessary to effectively attack any zone with these offenses that include... (more info)

Price: $39.99
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Coach K teaches how to attack zone defenses

Mike Krzyzewski: Duke Basketball Attacking the Zone
with Mike Krzyzewski "Coach K", Duke University Head Men's Basketball Coach; NABC "Coach of the Decade," 12X NABC "Coach of the Year," Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame (2001), 5X NCAA National Championships
In an energetic and information-packed on-court presentation, Coach Krzyzewski explains the zone offense and principles he uses in attacking a half-court zone defense. Krzyzewski believes the secret to effective zone offense is to keep it simple by running one highly effective offense that can be utilized against even the most potent defenses. Coach Krzyzewski has designed a zone offense that is easy to implement and impossible to stop! In addition, Coach K shares the five major components... (more info)

Price: $44.99
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Geno Auriemma: The Simplified Zone Offense

Geno Auriemma: The Simplified Zone Offense
Head Women's Coach UConn, 2015 NCAA Championship Coach; 10x NCAA Women's Basketball National Championships; 8X National "Coach of the Year"
In an exciting on-court presentation, Coach Auriemma teaches simple strategies for beating a zone defense that are easy to implement and impossible to stop! Auriemma provides drills, strategies and player positioning to help your perimeter and post players beat the zone. He demonstrates a 3-2 Zone Offense and a 1-3-1 Zone Offense that include similar principles, but will confuse your opponents. In addition, Coach Auriemma also gives you eight quick-hitter zone plays... (more info)

Price: $39.99
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The Dribble Drive Zone Offense

The Dribble Drive Zone Offense
with Jerry Petitgoue, Cuba City HS (WI) Head Boys Basketball Coach (35+ years), 19 Conference titles, 3X Wisconsin State Championships .
Coach Petitgoue, the winningest coach in Wisconsin High School history, shows how to defeat zone defenses with the Dribble Drive Motion Offense. Petitgoue's on-court demonstration shows how to attack the 2-3 zone, 3-2 zone and how to beat it in transition. With an emphasis on... more.

Price: $39.99
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Copyright © 2001 - 2016, James A. Gels, all rights reserved.

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