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Zone Defense with a Twist:
The Box and None

This zone defense is one of my favorite defensive strategies. I am not a big fan of zones as a rule, mainly because I think teams often hide behind them because they aren't confident in their ability to play straight up man to man. But when played aggressively, a good zone can really do some damage, and by pairing a simple four-man box zone with an aggressive, pressure man to man on the ball, turnovers can result.

I like to tell my players to be offensive on defense. Too many players feel they are in a weak position when they don't have the ball - instead, they should realize that they can move faster, see better, plan better without the ball than they can with it. When playing a zone defense, players should be looking to steal whenever they can.

This is one potential strength of the zone - players are not specifically assigned an opponent. Unlike man to man defense, defensive players in a zone are not fixed on one man, so they often are able to see movement happening better across the floor and prepare for the next offensive move. Which can often result in more picked-off passes.

Especially if the person carrying the ball is being hassled by harsh one-on-one defense.

The Box and None Zone Defense

The Box and None defense is set up about the same as the Box and 1 Defense, except that the player in the "1" position (in this play, the "none" position) is not assigned a particular offensive player - he is, instead, allowed to roam free.

Like the Box and 1, the other four players set up in a box around the key and move appropriately according to the movement of the ball.

zone defense - box & none 1

The Box and None Zone Defense: The Role of the "None"

The player in the "none" position can do whatever the coach wants him to do - double team no matter where the ball is, hassle a particularly troublesome area - e.g., if the opponent has a sweet spot on the 3 point line, the "none" can stay close to that.

What I like to do is have the player in the "none" position follow the ball. He picks up the ball carrier at about three-quarter court and harasses him all the way up the floor.

  • When the ball is passed off, the "none" switches and plays one-on-one with the new ball carrier.

    zone defense - box & none 2 zone defense - box & none 3

    The Box and None Zone Defense: The Role of the Box

    While the "none" is making it difficult for the ball carrier to see open passing lanes, the players on the box need to anticipate passes and look for opportunities to steal. If the "none" does a good job, the offense will likely make some bad passes, and if the box is ready for this, they'll get some turnovers.

    The "none" should also look to break as soon as he sees the errant pass end up in one of his teammates hands - while the offense is likely still disoriented from the defense's pressure, the "none" can often sprint down the court and find himself alone on the way to the basket. Players on the box that intercept the pass should immediately look upcourt for a cutter.

    Choose a player for the "none" that is quick and aggressive, and that is not absolutely necessary when the team is setting up on the offensive end - this is an exhausting role, and after a few minutes the player on the "none" will likely start to slow down. Also expect the "none" to pick up several fouls in a relatively short time - be watchful of this, because you don't want him fouling out after five minutes of play.

    Like I said, this zone defense is one of my favorite basketball coaching strategies, but I wouldn't use it as my primary defense. It is a great way to throw some pressure on the offense for a few trips down the court, but the player in the "none" position will get tired very quickly and start to make mistakes, and the offense will figure out what is going on after a while and compensate. Use this defensive strategy as you would a press - put it on for a couple of minutes, then switch back to your primary defense.

    Find more ideas on Coaching Zone Defense here

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