This is a very common [tag]defense[/tag], still used by many high school and college [tag]basketball[/tag] teams.  It is considered one of the hardest defenses to attack when it is executed properly.  This is one of the truest of the [tag]zones defenses[/tag], with a player ‘owning’ a certain section of the defensive court.

The key to this defense is making sure the players understand the zone they are supposed to cover.  If the discipline of the team to cover their zone fails, then the zone itself will fail.  The basic idea behind this defense is to meet the ball carrier at the perimeter, and then clog the passing lanes and cover the defenders that can immediately threaten on offense.

1 man

The one man is going to be the key to forcing the pass one way or another.  But, this position does not want to pressure the ball carrier too far past the three-point line.  This can extend the zone too far and create an opening in the middle. 

This player need to be quick and alert, as many of the passes that try to break up this zone coverage will go through the middle.

2 and 3 man

These players cover the largest area, being forced to play outside the three-point line, all of the way back to the basket.  These players are essential to the proper protection of the zone defense, as they help defender the perimeter, but then fall back to the basket to prevent any passes down the center lane.

The 2 and 3 man need to be very agile, but also big enough to defend down low when called upon.  They will be called upon to rebound on many occasions, so crashing the boards should not be foreign to them.

4 and 5 man

These two men patrol the lower area of the defensive court.  They do cover a great area, because they are also required to cover from the perimeter to the basket, like the 2 and 3 man.  The coverage schemes between the two different levels of the zone are different, however. 

It is good to have two players who can rebound well, but still have the quickness to cover the perimeter.  This is a similar responsibility to the 2 and 3 man.  The major difference between the two positions is that the 4 and 5 man move mainly backward and forward, while the 2 and 3 men must move back and forth, and also laterally.

The Set up

The 1 – 2 – 2 is a very simple defensive set up, with a top man and two layers of two men each.
At first glance, you would think this zone defense is soft in the middle.  This isn’t the case.  If the zone is run properly, the middle will be covered quite well, and is relatively impenetrable.  Here are a few things you need to remember when running this zone defense:

-“ The 4 and 5 man overlap their coverage across to each other’s side of the key.  As you will see in further diagrams, they will help each other patrol the middle so no one can make it through.

-“ The hands must be kept up at all times.  To demonstrate the importance of this, have your players keep their hands at their sides.  Show your defenders that they leave gaping passing lanes in the defense when their hands are down.  With the hands up and moving, the offense will see the lanes fill up with hands and bodies, providing an illusion of impassability.

-“ The players have to understand that their zone is their priority.  I will show in the next diagram where each person needs to cover when a pass or dribble goes in a certain direction.

-“ In any zone, calling out cutters and shots is important so the defense can react to what is going on around them.


After the first pass (or dribble), the following will take place:

-“ The 1 man will follow the dribbler (or the pass) to the outside of his or her own zone.  Then, they will drop back to cover the center of the key to prevent any cross passes.
-“ The 2 man drops underneath the hoop to intercept any cross passes and to cover rebounds on the long distance shot.
-“ The 3 man picks up where the 1 man’s zone ends, and follows the pass or dribble to the end of their zone down to where number 5 picks up the man or the pass.
-“ The 4 man comes across to cover where the 5 man has left to cover the perimeter.  This is important because an offense might try to put a man down low to counteract the 5 man leaving the key area.
-“ The 5 man picks up the man or the pass where the 3 man has come to the end of his or her zone. 
-“ Once the ball gets down to the post, the3 man is going to retreat back up to the corner of the foul line to cover the lane back to the top of the key. 

This is a basic zone defense that every team should learn.  It is a great switch from a man-to-man defense, especially when you are getting beaten by a team shooting from the perimeter.