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How to coach, teach and use concealed basketball defenses

Sometimes teams are less effective in a particular offense than they are in others. For this reason, it is a good idea to try to force the opponent into using an offensive attack that is least likely to present a scoring threat. Occasionally, you will find certain offenses easier to cover. In such situations, conceal the actual defense until the offense begins to make their approach. As soon as the offense recognizes the initial defense, have your players move into the actual defense either on a prearranged signal or automatically.

Teams with a zone defense and a man-to-man defense can use concealment. By showing a zone defense as the offense approaches and then quickly picking up man-to-man assignments, it is likely that they will catch the offense attacking your man-to-man defense with their zone offense. Since zone defenses usually do not involve screens and a large number of cutters, this can be an advantage,

The reverse can also be used. Having your players act as if they are picking up their man-to-man assignments as the offense comes down the floor can conceal the zone. Tell your players to fake the man-to-man defense, verbally disillusioning the offense. Calling, "I've got 32. Pick up your man tight," helps convince the offense you really are playing man-to-man defense.

When the offense crosses the 10-second line, the defense can begin to move into its zone position. It is best to use a zone formation that blends well with the opponent's offensive formation. Better still, apply the rules of the flexing zone and be prepared to meet any offensive alignment.

Draw your opponents into their weakest offense

Similarly, two different types of zone defenses may be employed. If your scouting report shows a zone offense with a definite weakness, set up the zone defense that will entice the opponents to use their weakest offense. For example, suppose Harrison High School always attacked a 2-1-2 zone with a 1-3-1 static offense. The scouting report on Harrison showed their wingmen to be weak, three-point shooters. Because of the inability of their wingmen to score from outside, the 1-3-1 offense should not be too effective. By showing a 2-1-2 zone as the offense comes down the court, the 1-3-1 offense would be used and the 2-1-2 would be flexed to cover that particular offense.

Each defensive player moving to cover the offensive threats in different areas, so that the defense now resembled a 1-3-1 zone would accomplish the flex. (See Diagrams Conceal (1) and (2).)

Diagram explaining how to conceal basketball defenses.Diagram explaining how to conceal basketball defenses.

Use Concealment Sparingly

It is unlikely that concealment will be useful throughout the entire game. It may simply work for three or four minutes during the crucial part of the game. These few minutes may be just enough to turn the tide in a close game.

On the other hand the confusion created by the bedlam and noise of the game often makes the players and coaches the least reliable people to determine the type of defense their opponents are using. Points lost while experimenting with inappropriate offenses paves the way to defeat.

Concealing a flexing zone

An excellent way to conceal a flexing zone is to have your defensive guards move out and press the offensive guards at centerline or further. The pressure can be applied three-quartercourt, fullcourt, or halfcourt, but as soon as the offense approaches the scoring area, have the two guards to drop off into their normal flexing zone positions. This backcourt harassment in itself will be an effective weapon. Chances are, the offense will be so disgruntled when first faced with the pressure, and they will not question the possibility of being confronted with a zone defense.

Concealing a man-to-man

One way to conceal a man-to-man defense is to set up a three-man front, as is the case with a zone press. Double-team the first pass in bounds and play for the interception on the next pass. If the double-team and interception attempt are unsuccessful, drop back quickly down the floor and pick up the assigned men. Such a defense would work only on out-of-bounds situations. On all other turnovers, the defense would merely sprint down the floor and defend on a man-to-man basis.

Some offenses begin with a basic 2-1-2-floor balance, but after sending a cutter through, the basic balance becomes a 1-3-1 formation. Continuity may or may not be obtained from this point.

Play the initial formation man-to-man. Follow the cutter, in most cases a guard, through to the baseline and defend from the normal 1-3-1 zone at that point. This defense can be used against the shuffle offense. (See Diagram Conceal (3).)

Diagram explaining how to conceal basketball defenses.


Diagram explaining how to conceal basketball defenses.Diagram explaining how to conceal basketball defenses.


Diagram Conceal (4) shows how the man-to-man defense would be aligned with the offense. After X3 followed the cutter through to the baseline, the 1-3-1 defense would resemble that shown in Diagram Conceal (5). To execute this defense, both guards should know how to play both the point position and the goalie position. Each would be forced to play the positions, depending on whose man went through as a cutter.

The shuffle is versatile enough to prevent such a simple plan from working over a sustained period of time. The ball can be thrown in to the number 4 man or the number 5 man. A pass to either of these men could be the cue for a 2-1-2 zone. This might confuse your own players, however, and the simplest procedure would be using the man-to-man at all times when the ball is passed to number 1. This would be the sue to follow the cutter and defend from the 1-3-1 zone.


There are countless ways to effect defensive concealment. Your own ingenuity can produce many different ways to hide a particular defense. Attacking with the wrong offense can be a frustrating and demoralizing situation to the opposing coach, as well as his team.

Remember that the concealment may not be effective for long. When the defense catches on, change to something else.


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