Youth Basketball: Rules for Attacking Zone Defenses


Zone defenses are usually designed to keep the ball out of certain areas, especially areas close to the basket. Even more common are zones designed to match up with players in certain areas and still attempt to keep the ball out of the basket area.


  1. Get the ball to the baseline, as it is vital to flatten out the zone on the baseline. You need not always get a shot from the side of the floor where you enter the offense the first time. Patience and ball reversal versus a zone usually provide a higher percentage shot.
  2. Always look to make passes into the high post or low post areas. This penetrates the zone and provides opportunities for ball reversal through the post area. Passes to the high post area put tremendous pressure on the wing men of the zone.
  3. Dribble drive the seams (gaps) in a zone. An important coaching point here is to teach players to dribble penetrate as a passer. Do NOT allow them to jump up and leave their feet while making passes. It should be noted that the use of the dribble in Motion Offense versus the zone is emphasized to a greater extent than it is versus man-man defense.
  4. Always keep a player behind the zone away from the ball. This allows two possibilities: 1.) the quick over-the-zone pass for an open shot or ball reversal, and 2.) the possibility of breaking a man to the ball from behind the zone. Keeping a player behind the zone makes the defenders constantly turn their heads to locate players. Sometimes, zone defenders lose sight of the man and make a defensive mistake.
  5. Players should always go to open spots on the floor and square up to the basket if they receive the pass.
  6. Pass to any open teammate. This sounds silly, but movement of the ball is critical versus zones along with player movement and dribble penetration.

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