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How to Coach and Teach the Basketball 1-2-2 Zone Defense

In his day, Coach Dean Smith considered this the most difficult of the straight zones to attack. This is still probably true, today, and should be in your arsenal of defenses.

"Diagrams G-16 and G-17 illustrate the individual positioning and areas of responsibility of this alignment. Defenders #4 and #5 have the heaviest burden in this zone. They must move farther and faster to get the job done. The reason for this difference will become evident once the ball is passed around the perimeter in Diagrams G-18 and G-19.

"Diagram G-18 shows the position of the 1-2-2 zone when the ball is at the top of the free-throw circle. Whenever the ball is anywhere in the high middle area, you want defender #1 to be all over the ball handler. The moment the ball leaves that area, either by pass, or dribble, defender #1 backs off into the middle of the zone, which changes it to more like a 2-1-2 alignment.

"As the ball shifts to the side in Diagram G-18, defender #4 moves along with it in the direction of the basket. Defender #3 moves out to stop the dribbler and defender #2 comes back into the lane. Note that defender #5 comes out of the lane as soon as the ball begins to move. In this defense, offensive #1, in Diagram G-19, is free to pass the ball swiftly to #3 on the corner. Therefore, defender #5, who is responsible for #3 in the corner, cannot stay in the low post.

"In Diagram G-19 the pass is made to #3 in the corner. As the ball moves to the corner, defender #3, now has the job of backing off in order to prevent a pass into the high post area. Defender #5, already on the move toward the corner, comes out all the way with his hands up, and preventing a baseline drive. Defender #4 moves to front a low post, should one be there.

"Note that the moves by defenders #4 and #5 as the ball swings around the horn represent the biggest challenge to the 1-2-2 zone. To illustrate this, letís go back to Diagrams G-16 and G-17 for a moment. Note the length of defenders #4ís and #5ís territories. Both have a lot of distance to cover. Imagine the ball located in the lower right corner of Diagram G-16. Defender #5 then would be fronting the low post within three feet of the lane while defender #4 would be heading toward the receiver in the corner. Now, if the ball is quickly passed out of the corner and around the horn, both defender #4 and #5 must travel the entire length of their territory within three passes to protect the other side. This is why it was indicated earlier that the #4 and #5 positions are crucial to the success of this defense. Both defenders have to move 8 to 10 feet on each pass in order to give the zone proper protection in the low posts and at the corners.

If your needs call for a less aggressive defense, then go for the 1-2-2 defense. It may help when you have players in foul trouble, or you need better rebounding.

Teaching the 1-2-2 Defense

Show each player his territory in the 1-2-2 zone and briefly outline his responsibilities. The only part-method drilling is to show defenders #4 and #5 how to move on each pass. This is done simply by passing the ball around the half-court and having the post men move far enough on each pass to cover their full territories. Defenders #4 and #5 are taught to keep their feet wide, knees bent, and move quickly while the ball is in the air.

All additional work with the 1-2-2 defense is done through the whole-method approach. Your scrimmages will provide the opportunity to spot problems which become more apparent in game-type situations. Stress the importance for all players to keep their hands up!!

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