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“From Barack Obama to the Sixth Principle of Zone Offense”

Posted by Steve Bzomowski on February 19, 2007

Barack Obama is the junior senator from Illinois. He’s also running for President. Obama’s wife, Michelle, is the sister of Craig Robinson, two-time Ivy League Men’s Basketball Player of the Year at Princeton and now the head coach at Brown University. Not long ago, Robinson was a teammate of Arne Duncan, now CEO of the Chicago Public Schools (and former standout cager at Harvard AND who worked the NTL Weekend Camp in Lakeside MI in 1999) when they won numerous nationwide “HOOP-It-UP” Three-on-Three tournaments after their respective overseas careers concluded. Arne Duncan, at 6’5″, was so unathletic that to call him unathletic would be generous, but was also so good (think a slinkier Chris Mullin) that his senior season at Harvard in a game at Boston College, he scored 14 straight points by himself. No one else from either side scored; think of that. (After having an eight point second half lead, we blew a breakaway dunk and then blew the game, 87-86.) Many of his hoops were scored from underneath the basket, seemingly coming from out of bounds, or, at least, from behind the backboard. He was and is the finest practitioner of the sixth principle of (The Seven Principles) zone offense that I have ever seen.

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The Seven Principles of Zone Offense”

Posted by Steve Bzomowski on February 18, 2007

Never Too Late Basketball Camp’s ZONE OFFENSE PRIMER

Against any zone you want to do seven things:

1) line up in the gaps, that is, against a two person defensive front (2-3, 2-1-2) you should line up with someone top of the key, two players on the wings and two in the post;

2) perimeter players should look to dribble the ball into the gaps, between defenders. The idea is to get two players to guard you, just like you do against man-to-man and then kick it out to a teammate, get the defense moving;

3) use pass fakes to move the defense. This is the only time I advocate putting the ball up over your head. Do a hard, short snappy fake as you do a short step, then step with the same foot to pass. If you get good at this, you can jerk the defense all over the place and free teammates up for easy scores;

4) get the ball inside to the post players to collapse defense, not necessarily to score, but to collapse defense. Post players should move toward the ball with both hands high over their heads to give a clear target;

5) when post players catch, they should immediately square up to the hoop and process three thoughts: a) am I open, b) is my post teammate open, c) if neither a) or b) kick the ball out to the weak side, or opposite where the ball just came from;

6) one of the post players should be running the baseline, behind the bottom line of the defense as much as possible to flatten out the zone, to get inside defenders turning their heads and to give more room and opportunities to catch in the paint;

7) an additional thing to remember: when you devise a zone offense and you utilize cutters, when a cutter goes through, that cutter creates a vacuum in his/her wake, a vacuum in which a teammate should step into to receive a scoring pass.

You can run it with no cutters against a 2-3 using a point guard, two wings, high post low post exchanging scheme, and against 1-2-2 or 1-3-1 you can use two guard, high post and low post and corner line-up. Post players in both scenarios should exchange using an X-cut pattern almost every time the ball is reversed.

The simple rule is: against man-to-man you want player movement, against zones you want ball movement. There should be NO turnovers against zones; perimeter players should step WAY OUT to get reversals. If the defense challenges those outside passes, that just opens up the middle, which is what the offense wants.

One HUGE point regarding all perimeter players in any zone offense is that they should constantly be adjusting their positions as the defense moves. The flatter the zone gets, or the more it collapses, the more they can step in. The higher the defense steps out, the farther out the offense should step out. This is going to sound overly technical and I never heard anyone else coach this but it is absolutely true: the perimeter players should stay between 12-15 ft from the line that could be drawn between the two defenders they are splitting (remember, you’re always in a gap between two defenders whether you have the ball or not) and on a perpendicular to the spot that is the mid-point between those two defenders.

Say you are a wing player (on the left side) against a 2-3 zone. One defender is on the baseline and one is around the left elbow area, the two closest defenders to you and the ones you are splitting. Say the ball gets swung to the right wing, that elbow defender would probably dive into the middle of the lane, thereby changing the line between her and the defender who is on the baseline. You should adjust your position so that you stay on a perpendicular to the line between those defenders and 10-12 ft away from that line, spaced equally away from them. That means you are open and available and in the best place to catch and shoot. Closer and you’re not open; farther away and you aren’t taking best advantage of what the defense is giving you. (To give you perspective, the lane is 12 ft wide.) This all becomes totally second nature to players as they become more experienced.

Use back screens on the baseline and wings. Use skip passes, generally, and skip passes specifically on those back screens. When not penetrating and when not utilizing ball fakes, move the ball quickly; remember…ball movement versus zones.

Oh, and it REALLY helps to have some zone buster shooters. You can even start calling one another “zone buster” or “buster” or “zobbie”.

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