Best Zone Press For Youth Basketball

James Lee
• Tuesday, 27 October, 2020
• 8 min read

It gives your team great trapping opportunities while being a good press for containment and not allowing easy scores on the other end of the floor. Players running the 2-2-1 press in older age groups have to play smarter in order to not allow the pass over the top and easy layup.

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To put it simply, the goal of the press is to keep the ball out of the middle of the court and force the opponent to play down the sidelines. Allows you to disrupt tempo The 2-2-1 press forces the opponent play at an uncomfortable pace.

On one end of the floor they’re forced to be slow and deliberate to bring the ball up the court, but once it’s been advanced it often leads to the opponent taking tough and rushed shots. Run down the shot clock By taking away long passes and forcing the offense to be deliberate with the ball and make smart passes and ball reversals, it’s going to wipe a lot of time off the shot clock and potentially force a back court violation.

When players are in a team press like the 2-2-1, it means you have to trust your teammates and work as a unit. For whatever reason, I can confidently say that players play much harder when your team is implementing a press.

Fatigue the opponent It’s physically and mentally tough to play against a press. Defenders trapping must move their feet into position and not reach or slap at the ball with their hands as this will often result in a foul.

What you do when the press is beaten will depend on the age and experience level of the team you coach. Back Line Out of the other three players, you need to decide which one is best at reading the play and intercepting the basketball.

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The responsibility of the front line player on ball-side is to pressure the dribbler after the catch and force them down the sideline where we can trap the ball. It’s imperative that these players are able to put pressure on the basketball and channel the ball-handler down the sideline without getting beaten off the dribble.

The key is to keep a bit over an arms-length distance away from the offensive player and force them to play slow and methodical. The ball-side second line is responsible for trapping the basketball and forcing the opposition to make a lob pass over the top that can be intercepted.

The weak-side second line player is responsible for falling back and protecting the ring. The single person in the back line’s primary responsibility is to intercept the basketball.

As talked about in the initial setup, this position should be the best player on your team at reading the play and intercepting the ball since they will get plenty of opportunities to do so. Instead, we start the two front line defenders (X1 and X2) on the high posts and wait until the ball has been passed in before picking up the player with the basketball.

This plays to our advantage in slowing the ball down and potentially getting a back court violation. Instead, we start the two front line defenders (X1 and X2) on the high posts and wait until the ball has been passed in before picking up the player with the basketball.

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This plays to our advantage in slowing the ball down and potentially getting a back court violation. We don’t want to allow their point guard to survey the floor and make easy reads as to where they should pass it to.

When the closest guard closes to defend the ball-handler, they must position their body in a stance that forces the offensive player towards the sideline (where our traps will occur). If they do dribble middle past the on-ball defense, it’s the weak side front line players job to come across and help and make them pass back to the sideline.

The last man back (X3) should always be in-line with the basketball and be ready to pick off any long passes made over the top. Once the offensive player is forced to the sideline it’s time for the middle-line to help and trap the ball.

As the dribbler nears the second-line, the strong-side second-line player (X4) moves up to set the trap with the on-ball defender (X1). The goal of the trap is not to steal the basketball but to force the player with the ball to make a lob pass over the top that can be intercepted.

If your players reach in and try to steal the ball it will more often than not result in a foul call. This will keep the energy of the team up while also further distracting the offensive player that is being trapped.

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When the trap happens the weak-side front-line player (X2) must immediately move into the middle of the floor and become and interceptor. The back line player (X3) is now the main interceptor and is in position to pick off any lob passes over the trap.

The weak-side second line player (X5) now falls back and protects the basket from easy layups. Most 2-2-1 presses end after the first trap and use this lob pass over the top to break the press before the point guard comes and receives the easy pass before setting up their half-court offense.

The ball-side front line player (X1) should try and take away the easy pass to the closest guard. This is a very effective trap once it has been drilled to your team and is fantastic and continuing to disrupt the tempo of the opposition.

If the press is beaten in the front court, X1 and X2 can look to double the ball or get a tap from behind. If they double the ball X4 and X5 become the interceptors while X3 stays back and protects the ring.

I prefer my teams to go with option two which is much simpler for youth players and allows us to set up our half court defense and play from there. A variation you can use for the 2-2-1 is to deny the inbounds pass instead of allowing the opposition to enter the ball uncontested.

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As soon as the ball has been inbounded the on-ball defender takes a step off and resumes channeling the basketball down the sideline, while the weak side front-line player sprints to their position as interceptor/help defender in the middle of the floor. The conservative 2-2-1 press is a variation of the 2-2-1 that I’ve used when the team I’m coaching has one big and fairly athletic player that I would rather have stay back and defend the ring at all times.

Many coaches use this version without considering the original 2-2-1 because they assume the biggest player on the team should always be all the way back. This player must sprint laterally across the court looking to make an interception instead of falling back to protect the ring.

I find this variation to be less effective at stealing the ball compared to the back line player being the main interceptor, but if you have the right personnel, it’s great to be able to still run the press while still guarding the ring with your big player. By forcing them to play fast and slow at the same time, the opposition will find it incredibly hard to ever get into a rhythm on offense which is exactly what the 2-2-1 press sets out to achieve.

A well-drilled team running a full-court press is exciting to watch and can be devastatingly effective against any opponent. When your players are all on the same page and rotating as one unit, the press will give you many advantages that can turn a game in your favor.

When coaches say 'full-court press ', they're talking about putting pressure on the opponent for the entire length of the court. This is instead of sprinting back to the half-way line and setting up a half-court defense like many teams do.

Using a full-court press to dictate the tempo of the game is the benefit most often overlooked by basketball coaches... If you're competing against a team that likes to slow the basketball down and pass inside to a dominant post player, running a full-court press will force them to play faster and take more undisciplined shots early in offense.

Dribbling and passing are the two most important skills for breaking a press and advancing the basketball up the court... It should come as no surprise that a full-court press can be very effective against teams without quality guards who make smart decisions.

A high-energy full-court press can be extremely effective against teams who like to slow the basketball down and run their half-court offense. Occasionally you will have games where your team looks tired and unmotivated to play hard.

Maybe they've already played 2 or 3 games that weekend or your team has just travelled to a tournament a long distance from your hometown. Either way, running a high-intensity full-court press can be a great way to change things up and snap your team out of a sluggish start.

If you experience a stretch where the opposition scores 6 – 8 quick points, use a full-court press to change the game. Changing the defense and tempo is a great way mix things up and take control of the game again.

Sometimes your team will face a great point guard, and you just want to get the basketball out of their hands. Instead of allowing them to easily dribble up the court and set up the offense, a full-court press forces them to pass early.

As long as your team doesn't allow them to easily get the basketball back, it can force a different player to set up the offense and create scoring opportunities. Make sure you're aware of these points when deciding whether to implement one on your basketball team.

I won't go into too much detail on this topic (I'll save that for an entire blog post), but it's important to know that running a full-court press isn't great for the development of youth players. Youth players don't have the experience or decision-making skills to break a full-court press.

All 3 points above result in a youth defense being able to flood the front court without fearing a long pass over top and allowing a wide open layup. Which is why I always recommend youth teams drop back beyond the half-way line on defense and allow the players to compete in the half-court as much as possible.

Attempting to teach your team a half-court offense and half-court defense is hard enough in that limited amount of time. Adding a full-court pressure defense will take up even more practice time that could be better spent on other areas of the game.

A man-to-man press involves every defensive player guarding a direct opponent for the entire length of the court. Involves every defensive player defending their direct opponent for the entire length of the court.

With so many options available, it can be difficult for a coach to decide exactly which full-court press to teach their team. Getting steals and then quickly attacking the hoop looking to score or draw the foul.

Forcing a turnover and then putting the breaks on and either passing the basketball around the perimeter or working the ball inside to a post player. If you have a great post player who can protect the rim in a two-on-one situation, you might feel comfortable implementing an aggressive press like the 3-1-1 knowing if the first two defensive lines get beat, they will be able to protect the rim.

When coaching older teams, and you have more practice time, you can choose to implement two different full-court presses... But during youth basketball, I recommend focusing on the first two questions and selecting a full-court press that fits your team's personnel without worrying about the opposition.

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