1-4 high zone offense forces baseline defenders into tough decisions From Mike Ely, head basketball coach, Charlottesville Lady Cavaliers AAU, Virginia

This is a simple but effective zone offense run from a 1-4 high set. The main objective is to force the back-line zone defenders to make some tough decisions about their responsibilities.

Through good floor spacing, smart passing, quick cuts, solid screens and continuous ball movement, your offense should be able to find some holes in the zone and get a look at high-percentage scoring opportunities.

Initial set

Diagram 1

DIAGRAM 1: Our point guard (1) initiates the offense by dribbling the ball to the right side. The off-side defensive guard follows the ball slightly and moves toward the middle of the floor as the ball is dribbled to the right. As the off-side defensive guard slides to the middle, 4 sets a backscreen on him or her. 1 watches for this backscreen and passes to 3.

Diagram 2

DIAGRAM 2: As the pass goes from 1 to 3, 4 pivots to face the ball, turning in the direction that the defensive guard is trying to fight over. This move slows the guard’s recovery even more. All this is done as a decoy to lure the defensive forward to cover 3.

Diagram 3DIAGRAM 3: Since the defensive guard can’t recover and defend 3, due to the backscreen set by 4, the ball-side defensive forward needs to make a decision. If the ball-side defensive forward stays in, then 3 has a wide-open jumper. As 3 receives the pass, 5 breaks from the weak-side elbow toward the basket flowing to the ball-side short corner.

Diagram 4

DIAGRAM 4: If the ball-side defensive forward moves out to cover 3, then 5, who moved to the ball-side short corner, is wide open and 3 must pass to 5. For us, the short corner is 4 to 5 feet off the lane. While this action is occurring on the ball side, 1 and 2 find the gaps in the zone looking for a possible pass from 3.

We always tell any player who is a potential receiver of a pass to pretend that the ball is a camera. You must move yourself into a position where the camera can see you clearly to take your picture.

Diagram 5

DIAGRAM 5: After 3 has passed the ball to 5, (as the defensive forward slid out to cover 3) it now places the defensive center in a very awkward situation. If the defensive center doesn’t slide over to cover 5, then 5 has an open 4-foot jump shot.

Diagram 6

DIAGRAM 6: If the defensive center moves out to cover 5, instruct 4 to dive hard to the basket looking for a pass from 5. This move has resulted in many easy layups for our team. The other offensive players must always be moving to make sure that the player with the ball can see them.

Diagram 7

DIAGRAM 7: If 4 isn’t open on the dive to the basket, 5 can throw a skip pass to either 2 or 1. 4 breaks along the baseline and gets into position on the weak-side short corner.

Countering the counters

Once you have run this series several times, the off-side defensive guard makes an adjustment so that you’ll be unable to set the initial backscreen. That defender plays on the top side of 4, cheating more to the side of 3.

Diagram 8

DIAGRAM 8: The defensive guard cheats toward 3 (anticipating the “backscreen-and-pass” from the original series). 4 then flashes to the ball. 1 passes to 4.

Diagram 9

DIAGRAM 9: As the pass from 1 to 4 occurs, 5 dives to the basket, cutting inside the off-side defensive forward. 2 slides down to the weak-side corner. If the defensive center steps up to defend 4 at the foul line, 4 looks to pass to 5 cutting to the basket. If the defensive center stays back, 4 has an open jump shot from the foul line.

Diagram 10

DIAGRAM 10: If the defensive center steps out and the off-side defensive forward slides over too quickly to cover the pass in to 5, then 4 throws a skip pass to 2 for an open jump shot on the weak side.

Diagram 11

DIAGRAM 11: Due to the ability of our “bigs” to handle the ball, 4, who received the ball from 1, may also attack the basket by dribbling at the gap between the defensive center and the off-side defensive forward.

5 dives through the lane and pins the opposite defensive forward. 4 can drive to the basket, throw a short pass to 5 for an easy layup, or kick the ball out to 3 or 2 for an open jump shot.

Diagram 12

DIAGRAM 12: For our team, this 1-4 high zone offense can smoothly flow into our “Short-Corner Zone Offense.” If 5, who is positioned in the short corner, does not shoot the short jumper or pass to 4 diving to the basket, we’d look for a skip pass to either 1 or 2.

Diagram 13

DIAGRAM 13: If 5 passes to 2, 4 moves to the ball-side short corner and flashes to the ball. 2 can shoot a jump shot from the wing area, pass to 4 on the ball-side short corner, or hit 3 with a skip pass to the weak side.

Diagram 14

DIAGRAM 14: If 2 passes to 4, 5 dives hard to the basket looking for the pass from 4. Once 4 has the ball on the short corner, he or she can shoot the short jumper, throw a dump pass in to 5, (if the defensive center steps out to cover the short-corner jumper) or throw a skip pass to either 3 or 1.

Diagram 15

DIAGRAM 15: If 4 throws a skip pass to 3, you can continue the rotation, with 5 breaking to the ball-side short corner and 4 moving to the ball-side elbow.

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