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How to coach and teach the basketball flexing zone defense

In the old days, teams using a zone defense usually stuck to a particular zone; however, later, a few coaches began to use two or three different zones. The most often used zone sets were the 2-3, 2-1-2, 1-2-2 and the 1-3-1. They did this as total preparation for any offense.

The flexing zone defense will give you a multiple zone defense that can be used with a wide variety of offensive formations. Itís several defenses in one and will allow you to reign in the amount of time spent developing defenses.

The team that continually changes its pattern in an attempt to overload, or exploit a zoneís weakness, wonít be able to do this against a flexing zone. Most teams attack an odd front zone with an even number front. Conversely, they use an odd man front against a zone with an even number of defensive front.

Developing a Flexing Zone Defense

Any of the standard zone formations may be used as the basic defense. Back in 1964, the 1-3-1 was found to be most effective because of the simplicity of its slides. These basic slides are shown in Diagrams 1 to 5.

Diagram 1 illustrates the basic 1-3-1 defensive zone set. This defensive set is the most effective set to use as the basic formation because of the simplicity of the slides necessary in the building of an effective flexing zone defense.

The 1-3-1 zone and its basic slides are illustrated in Diagrams 1 to 5. This defense is as old as the hills, but did not come to my attention until 1964 when I read a book by Wayne Dobbs and Garland F. Pinholster, entitled Basketballís Stunting Defenses, published by Prentice Hall that year.

Pay particular attention to these illustrations and use them as your guide to adjusting this defense to fit any modern day offensive set. You will find the slides are the same on both sides of the court, except for the corner positions. Notice that three men are always between the ball and the basket. It makes no difference whether the ball is at the top, wing, or corner. Players move with the ball, whether it be passed or dribbled.

It helps to put a player with long arms in defender 3ís position and there are several other factors that contribute to the success of a flexing zone defense. Another important part of this defense is your players must keep the hands and arms extended at all times. This, alone, will discourage shots and passes, especially long passes that shatter zones.

A good way to give your players a visual understanding of the importance of keeping the hands and arms extended at all times is to put five players into the standard 1-3-1 defensive set (Diagram 1) in front of the basket. Have the rest of the team gather around you near center court. Have players in the defensive set extend their arms and hands from their sides. The difference is astounding. This is a good way to get your point across. It is also a good time to let them know that should they ever fail to do this, their playing time will suffer. This world has always been full of lazy basketball defenders. Itís no different today, than it was 50 years ago.

Slides to the Right

Ball at the Right Wing

Ball in the Right Corner

Slides to the Left

Ball at the left wing

Ball in the left corner

Overload Left or Right

As mentioned earlier, "the slides are the same to both sides of the floor, except for the corner positions. When the ball goes to the left coner, defender 3 plays the ball as shown in Diagram 5 and defender 5 assumes the second position in the line of three men between the ball and the goal."

Because of the distance involved in moving from one corner to the other when one man is assigned to cover both corners, defender 5 is assigned the right corner, as seen in Diagram 3, and defender 3 takes the number two position. This allows either man to cheat slightly toward his corner when the offense overloads in that direction.

Overload to the left

Overload to the right

In the event a 1-3-1 offensive formation is used, no flex is necessary to match up with the offense. Coverage for the 1-3-1 formation is shown in Diagrams 6 and 7.

Continued on next page

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