Aggressive Zone Trapping Philosophy

The following is from Jason Burkiewicz, Head Girls’ Basketball Coach, Annawan High School (IL):

Full court:

  • 2-2-1
  • 1-2-1-1
  • 1-2-2

Half court:

  • 1-3-1

Rules and thought process to trap our trap defense:

  • Constantly have two people on the ball pressuring
  • The ball is never allowed to go middle
  • Remaining three players off the ball are playing gaps and reading the next pass
  • Our goal is to get our opponents to focus on simply getting rid of the ball and hoping for a shot rather than running a comfortable offense that they practice over and over.

Player thought process:

  • We do not play “safe.” We rotate and go for steals in the passing lane all game long
  • We will trade a lay-up for 3-5 steals any day so our players are quickly taught to not get discouraged when we allow an easy lay-up
  • I choose zone traps because most coaches choose the same or similar ways to attack them.  By midseason our girls have a great recognition of what opponents will try to do and it can often times be like playing the same game over and over again.
  • The two trappers are relentless
  • Our two trappers on ball are taught to force the ball handler toward each other leaving 2-3 ft. gap between them while the player is dribbling
  • If we leave that gap the ball handler is tempted to split, where our ball side defender will sweep the ball as it cannot be protected dribbling between two people.  It will be exposed to one. (We have become very good at this over the years)
  • We want them to pick up the ball as much as possible to promote as many passes as we can in order to try and take one out of the air for a lay-up
  • I put my quickest defender on the left side of the court always to protect against the guards who always want to dribble right.  Their rule is to keep their right shoulder outside of the ball being dribble in the right hand of the ball handler.  In addition they should never fall for jukes, stop and go’s, etc.  I know that ball handler wants to stay right.
  • When they overplay the right hand and get the ball handler to pick it up, that’s when we immediately go on the attack.  Their partner who was 2-3 ft away closes quickly
  • Our goal from here is to get that person to throw it quickly to the first person they see or turn their back on us.
  • Lastly, if they keep the ball and turn their back on us we show our players and drill that the offensive player only can pivot, whereas us on defense can continue to move our feet.  Therefore we will continue to slide our feet and keep our bodies in between our opponent and forward progress.  They will not be able to pivot out or complete the only pass we leave open.  The long ball!
  • Many coaches want to throw the ball long on us as we do often times leave a girl open.  However we only rotate and leave her open after we feel we have the trap that takes it away.
  • If these things take place we feel we will have a lot of success
  • The ball handler never splits our traps.  In fact we bait you to go there and we’re ready when they do.
  • Opponents that have failed with the pass begin to try and dribble through our pressure defense
  • When this happens we teach the ball side defender only to sweep at the ball
  • If they get a piece of it their job is to head to our basket and the next level’s job is to pick it up and throw it ahead for a lay-up

Trapping Drill

  • Put a ball handler on the end line starting at mid-lane with a goal of trying to dribble to halfcourt
  • Have your two trappers start at the elbows
  • Teach them to come down the lane line to start.  It is important to teach angles to your players in order to get you opponent to pick up the ball.  If your player runs straight at them they are going to allow their opponent to blow around them.
  • I teach when the ball handler is aggressively coming forward we need to move backward with them while staying in front to slow them down.  We call it, “catching” them first.
  • After the ball side defender gets the ball handler to slow down, stop, or even retreat.  That is our cue to begin the attack.

Mustang Drill

The following is from Nick LoGalbo, Head Boys’ Basketball Coach, Lane Tech High School (Chicago):

LOGALBO Mustang Drill 001

• We begin 3 on 3 and run through an action.
• Here we are running a fade screen (or an up from the 2 man side).
• We will discuss how we defend and on the action we will go live.
• We can run several actions so we can learn how to defend.
• We can go stagger, cross screen down screen, pick and roll, etc.

LOGALBO Mustang Drill 002

• From that action, we get into conversion.
• On a make the ball must be inbounded, on a miss we are in Flash vs. Rambo.
• Two offensive players come in from baseline, two defensive players come in FT line extended.
• As they are converting, they must sprint and touch baseline.

A Defensive Philosophy

Teaching our teams to be strong defensively is the foundation of our basketball program. Regardless of how our teams are playing offensively, we know that are defense will always be there for us. We must work on the fundamentals of our defensive system on a daily basis and emphasize behaviors that make us strong in that regard.

To ensure defensive success, we must:

  1. Communicate on every possession. 
  2. Be committed to getting back and not giving up easy baskets. Make them face our set defense. 
  3. Be able to pressure the ball.
  4. Be ready off the ball.
  5. Allow no middle seam penetration.
  6. Fight to keep the ball out of the post.
  7. Help early on all dribble penetration.
  8. Be in position early. Don’t react, anticipate on defense. 
  9. Challenge all shots with TWO hands. 
  10. Rebound the basketball.
  11. Know our assignments and coverages against opponent actions. 
  12. Dodge and defeat screens.
  13. Make toughness and hustle plays (ex. loose balls, taking charges).

We will work on individual and team defensive fundamentals on a daily basis at all levels in our program. We fully subscribe to the concept that offense may win games, but defense wins championships. 

Defensive Drills: Paint Game

The following is from Chris Snyder, Head Boys’ Basketball Coach, Lakes Community High School:

We put a lot of emphasis on proper close outs on the ball and we also want to keep the ball out of the paint. This is a drill we use to work on that. It is a competitive drill that requires players to keep the ball out of the paint on the closeout. It is a great game simulation drill and requires strong closeouts to make sure the ball stays out of the paint!

Paint Game 001

• 1 passes out to 2 and closes out
• 2 tries to drive the ball and get two feet in the paint using two dribbles or less

Paint Game 002

• If 1 stops 2 from getting in the paint, he gets a point
• If 2 gets into the paint, he gets a point
• Either way, 2 will pass to 3 and 5 will close out on 3

Paint Game 003

• 1 (defensive player) will replace the offense, 2 (offensive player) goes to the end of the line

Paint Game 004

• Same process continues
• 3 will pass to 4, 6 comes out and closes out
• After 4’s possession, he will skip across to 1 to continue drill
• Play until a player gets a certain amount of points, great way to emphasize hard closeouts and keeping the ball out of the paint.
• Side benefit is offensive player working on using his dribble effectively.

Concepts for an Effective Defense

A good defensive team may take some chances in the full or half court areas. They may mix their defenses in various ways. But a great defensive team is always solid in the scoring area. If we make this commitment, we can be good as any team defensively.

To excel in team defense, you must be willing to do certain things:

• Put playing defense high on your list of priorities – have pride in playing it as an individual and team.

• Talk on defense.

• Be willing to give yourself up to help on defense. We are always defending against penetration; each man defends his man, the ball, and the foul lane.

• Be willing to identify with the rebound and loose ball.

• Have the courage to be physical – to put your body on people, to make the first hit on block outs, and to defend cutters.

Once we are committed as a team to playing the most consistent defensive game possible, our basic plan in setting our half-court defense then follows:

• Be a great transition team. Stop the fast break, easy sideline break, or easy early offense shot. Make the opponent have to play us 5 on 5, not 2 on 1.

• Push the ball to a sideline so we can establish a strong side defense. Then, we can set our weak side help defense and make the try to beat us on the entry side of the court.

• Stop easy penetrations and swings to the weak side by having our team defense set quickly. 

• Stop the low post attack. Prevent easy passes in and also prevent scores, if the ball does get inside (i.e. weak side help, trap, etc.).

• Rotate to cover up any opponent who was left open because one of our defensive teammates left to attack a penetrating drive or low post pass.

In the end, each player must commit himself to his teammates. He must be willing to say he will give his best to help his teammates get the defensive job done. It is not enough to say, “I’ll get mine, you get yours.” You must be willing to say, “I’ll get mine and yours too, when you need me.”

By being willing to give help to attack every penetration into our defense and to rotate to every open man we will be able to challenge every shot in good shooting range.

When the day arrives that each teammate feels we are going to war together and that each man has his teammates to back him up, we will have a team we can be proud of, and one that will win consistently.

Coach Quotes on the Importance of Defense

“You win in this league on defense.” – George Allen on the NFL

“Winning is more related to good defense than good offense.” – Dr. Jack Ramsey on the NBA

“My philosophy of defense is to keep the pressure on an opponent until you get to his emotions.” – John Wooden, UCLA

“It’s fun to play defense. It’s fun to watch the opponent sweat on offense, start complaining to the officials, and eventually be taken out of the game because he’s making so many offensive mistakes.” – Maury John, former college coach

“Defense is the great equalizer. It’s the chief characteristic of the champion and the trademark of the underdog.” – Dr. Jack Ramsey

Pete Carroll on Defense

“From the discipline and repetition comes the ability to improvise and be creative,” he said matter-of-factly. “If you try to be creative and improvise without the discipline, you have chaos. But once you have the discipline, once you take care of all of the details, you can play with it. You gain the ability to add accent, to improvise with trust and confidence, to make it into jazz.” – Pete Carroll

Doubling the Post

The following is from Coach Mike Neighbors, Head Women’s Basketball Coach, University of Washington. You can follow him on Twitter @CoachNeighbors.

As a result of graduation and injury, we have utilized double teaming of a dominate post player more this year than every before. It has forced us to become bet- ter at a skill we have never taught, drilled, or evaluated. It has forced us to simplify the endless number of possible ways teams may attack us as a result of the actions. Now 20 games into the season, while it’s still a work in progress, we at least have a plan that we try to execute.

When you make the determination that you will be using a double team on an opponent post player you are essentially saying to your team that we don’t have a defender who can effectively contain this player one-on-one. I realize there are certain times double teaming a turnover prone post player can be a valuable attack, but for our purpose today we are focusing on trying to contain a dominant post player.

A) Push the post as far from post-up as possible… 6-8 inches can make a big difference with even the best post move
B) No angle to basket on catch… position body between offense player and the bucket
C) Active Wall-Up knowing the players go-to shoulder

A) Awareness to move to trap on the air time of the post feed to be there on the catch
B) Velcro to the player showing both hands to official
C) Sprint out of the trap when pass is made

A) Cover the RIM
B) Cover the NAIL
C) Shade to best perimeter shooter

Varying the trap adds another element to the attack. You can vary the person who does the doubling and you can also take the double completely off if a post begins to anticipate being trapped.

We drill this with our normal shell defense sessions and also when we are scouting specific actions in preparation for games.

Using the 1-3-1 Zone Defense

The following is from the July issue of The Real AAU Basketball Magazine and Coach Matt Monroe:

The 1-3-1 Half Court Zone Defense is a great way to disrupt opposing offenses. It can effectively be utilized as your base defense or for special situations.
Benefits of Implementing the 1-3-1 Zone:

1. Teams have to prepare for you.
The majority of coaches spend most of their time in practice working against or on man-to-man defense. Although the use of zone defense has become more popular in recent years, man-to-man is still the most common defense teams face. Even if you do see a lot of zone teams, they more commonly play variations of the 2-3 or 3-2 zone. The 1-3-1 half court zone is a defensive look that teams do not have to see on a regular basis. Because of their unfamiliarity playing against the 1-3-1, your opponents will have to spend a considerable amount of time preparing to face you, while limited the amount of work they can delegate to other facets of the game.

2. There are a limited number of ways to attack the 1-3-1 zone.
There are two major reasons why there are a limited number of ways to attack the 1-3-1: there are a limited amount of variables when it comes to defensive rotations and since coaches don’t play against it frequently, a lot less time is spent at figuring out how to break it. Since there are a lot less ways to attack the 1-3-1, you don’t have to spend as much time prepping your defense from game to game, allowing you to focus on other parts of your game plan.

3. The 1-3-1 alignment makes it easy for your team to fill your fast break lanes and run in transition.
If you run a numbered fast break (#2 and #3 run wide, #5 rim runs, etc.), the 1-3-1 allows you to get into your primary break lanes a lot quicker since you’re already in set areas within your zone defense.

4. Your rotations and alignment can be modified easily based on the strengths of your individual personnel or the scouting report of your opponent.
There are many different alignments and adjustments that you can make to your 1-3-1 to get the most out of your defense. Different alignments and rotations can be effective to maximize the strengths and hide the weaknesses of your team. Changing the look of your 1-3-1 is even better for taking away the strengths and exploiting the weaknesses of your opponent. Several ideas for adjustments to your 1-3-1 are detailed later in this article.

5. The 1-3-1 zone works especially well against:
• Teams that rely heavily on dribble penetration
• Teams that run a lot of different man-to-man offensive sets
• Teams that don’t have a lot of time to prepare to play you (travel tournaments, second game of a Friday/Saturday double header, etc.)
• Teams that have one or two great individual players (flex or trap adjustments)
• Poor shooting teams, as the 1-3-1 forces opponents to take outside shots, thus lowering shooting percentages.
• Many others

To read the full article, please CLICK HERE.

Stan Van Gundy on Defense

The following is from a handout provided by University of Illinois-Chicago assistant men’s basketball coach Al Biancalana:

“There are no easy answers or miracle schemes that will be consistently effective with minimum effort. Great defense results not from great schemes but from the defensive commitment from the players and staff. To be a great defense team, we must trust our system and make it work. We must trust our teammates to do their jobs and make sure that they can trust you to do yours.”

- Stan Van Gundy, Head Coach, Orlando Magic