Simple Youth Basketball Offense Against Zone Defense

Written By: Lamar Hull @ Google+

At the youth basketball level a lot of zone defense is played because this keeps young players in spots versus having to teach man-to-man defense that younger players are typically not ready for yet.

The ability of a team and coach to execute a zone offense is CRITICAL to the success of the overall team when facing a zone defense.

There are some key points that need to be considered when structuring a zone offense, so it is imperative that young basketball players and coaches understand the basic ideas to play well against a zone defense.

1 3 1 offense against 2 3 zone

1-3-1 offensive set vs. 2-3 zone defense

Coaches can make this offense efficient by remembering a few things.

The first thing to know is that you should have a counterattack to a specific zone defensive set.

For example, against a 2-3 zone defense you should utilize a 1-3-1 designed zone offense.

This gives the young point guard three passing options without too much difficulty.

The player behind the zone should run baseline-to-baseline, so that your team can create a short-corner shot opportunity.

If the player is able to get the ball there quickly, it is almost like getting the ball in the middle. It releases havoc on the zone defense.

While running the 1-3-1 zone offense or any zone offense effectively, it is important to be aware of the three-second rule.

Many zone defenses force turnovers with the three-second rule because players forget to keep moving when playing against a zone. Movement is another key to success against a zone defense, whether that is movement of players and the basketball.

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In order to beat a zone defense, the offensive players have to keep moving within the zone and get the basketball in to the paint.

Getting the basketball in to the teeth of the zone forces the defenders to collapse on the basketball which will leave your shooters open.

If your team shoots well, you will force the opponent to come out of the zone and play man-to-man. A lot of teams at the college and high school level like to play matchup zone defense, so that they are not EXPOSED.

Also, when your team gets a defensive rebound, your players have to push the ball so that the zone cannot setup. If the defenders just sit in the zone and do not have to move or react, then you will make the zone defense very effective.

Zone offenses should have players cutting, screening and someone in the high or low post to get good looks at the basket. When cutters go through the zone defense, defensive players must communicate, especially if offensive players start playing behind the zone.


This is a great way to force a zone defense out of its comfort. You really do not need a ton of plays to be effective against a zone defense. A great offense with the right amount of passing and movement can force the zone to decide if they want to stick to the zone defense or play man-to-man.

There are some set zone offensive plays that can help to deteriorate a zone defense. In youth basketball, it will be difficult to get a lot of specific plays for young players to use.

At this age level, you should make a SIMPLE game plan that will keep your post players moving around the box and following the ball around. If the ball goes to the left wing, the post player should flash to the left high post.

This is a good way to force the defense to cover the post. When this happens, there are more chances for other players to flash to the open spots to get good looks at the basket.

One of the best ways to get open looks in a zone is by screening. Simply have the guard go in one direction. Send the player in the post to follow the ball. Have another player screen the bottom player in the zone.

This frees up the corner for another player coming off the bottom. If the defense gets to that man, teach your post man to find the next guy and seal him. This creates easy scoring chances with quick targeted passes.

Set Play versus 2-3 Zone Defense Video Step-by-Step

Zone Offensive Plays

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