Youth Basketball Coaching - 1-2-2 Zone Defense


Areas of Strength
The greatest strength of the 1-2-2 zone is its adaptability. If the opponent exhibits excellent perimeter shooters, the defense can spread, still keeping good interior defense while covering all perimeter shooting areas. However, if a team does not have the excellent perimeter attack, the three perimeter defenders can sag inside, completely closing off the area near the basket.

Teams with poor ball handlers or poor passing teams cannot consistently defeat the 1-2-2 zone defense. Trapping and doubling ball handlers are integral parts of this defense. Playing the passing lanes forces the dribble from opponents who prefer not to dribble. Proper sags inside and closing the gaps outside will prevent dribble penetration from those teams that want to use the dribble.

Areas of Weakness
The entire lane area is an open seam. Penetration there and easy passing into the lane without proper defensive coverage, results in high percentage shots or a pass out which leads to a high percentage shot.

Great corner shooters can force the big men to concede the corner or open another high percentage area inside.

The 1-2-2 zone can be overloaded in the deep and very dangerous scoring area. Two big attackers, stationed on the big blocks, and a great scorer-passer, breaking from the baseline towards the high post, give the offensive team an unstoppable triangular overload directly in the heart of the team defense.

Good offensive rebounding teams will get many second shots. With only two dependable defensive rebounders, an attacking team that plans overloads in the primary rebounding areas will obtain enough extra shots to defeat the 1-2-2 zone.

Selecting and Positioning of Personnel
The 1-2-2 zone blends itself towards several coverages. Those coverages and the rules of your match-up dictate what type of personnel you will need.

There are three theoretical types of 1-2-2 zone coverage (Figure 1-1). X1 can sag into the center as the ball goes toa wing, and could cover the low post strong side when the ball is passed to the corner. This occurs when you use X1 as a tall defender, capable of defending the inside as well as the perimeter.

Or the wings, X2 and X3, would have coverage of the guards, wings, and corner areas. This forces X2 and X3 to cover a large area, but it leaves your two top rebounders, X4 and X5, near the basket; rebounding is a major weakness of the regular 1-2-2 zone. An alternative coverage is to let X4 and X5 go to the corner and X2 and X3 cover the strong side low post. This removes a perimeter alley from the defensive wing's coverage, but it also means that your wings must be capable of defending the inside low post with the ball in the corner. It does leave the opposite low defender in the primary rebounding area. In both cases, X2 and X3 must be extremely quick and fast to cover the area assigned to them.

The most popular coverage is the third theory. As the ball moves to the corner, the low defenders operate on a string; as one of them moves to the corner to cover the pass receiver, the other low defender comes to cover the strong side low post. The weak side wing drops immediately for weak side rebounding. This means your wings don't have to be quick, but they must be capable weak side rebounders. This is the most popular slide because it requires less specialization of skills from each defender. while it fits the personnel of most teams, it does have the disadvantage of utilizing those principles against which most teams drill daily.

X1, must be your best perimeter defender and must be a quick and feisty. On most teams the point guard fits this mold. He has to channel the offense in a pre-determined direction. Once having done that, X1 must prevent lateral penetration. Quickness, therefore, is more a premium than size. If X1 also has size, it'll just make your zone and match-up that much tougher. X1, when channeling, should initiate his coverage at mid court and when not channeling, should line up at the top of the key.

X2 should be your second best perimeter defender. Because many teams use a two guard offensive set against the 1-2-2, X2 will frequently cover the other guard. He must cover any quick moving attacker laterally without allowing dribbling penetration. In the match-up, size takes a back seat to quickness. If you intend to have this man cover weak side rebounding or inside in the regular 1-2-2, then he must have some size. Because most teams attack the right side of the court, the majority of time, X2 should be left of X1.

X3 is the weakest of the three perimeter defenders. In fact, this is an ideal place for one of your best offensive players. This defender can be big and slow. When you match up, he usually gets the weakest wing or corner attacker. In the basic zone this defender frequently has weak side rebounding responsibilities.

X4 and X5 can be slow, but they must be talented inside defenders. They are the reason you choose the 1-2-2 match-up. They are your matchers. The bigger they are the better. X5 should be a better high post defender. X4 might have to cover perimeter players more often than X5. X5 must be a better inside defender and a better rebounder.

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