2-2-1 Zone Press Fundamentals

2-2-1 Zone Press
From FIBA Assist
Lucien Van Kersschaever has been the Director of the Basketball Academy in Antwerpen (Belgium) since 2005. He has been the Technical Director of Belgian Men’s and Under 20 National teams. He started his coaching career as head coach of Sunair Ostende, and has coached Racing Mechelen, winning seven Belgian Division I titles and five Cups of Belgium. He has also served as head coach of Dutch Men’s National team.


We set in a 2-2-1 formation (diagram 1), and we run this defense after a made or missed free-throw. The aim is to change the pace of the game, forcing opponents to make mistakes, and allowing us to steal the ball. I tell my players not to gamble too much, and also this is very important, to keep their assigned positions.

First Line of Defense

  • Both guards must maintain proper spacing, staying about 3 meters (10 feet) away from each other.
  • They do not allow a pass to be made in the middle of the court.
  • They must force players to make a pass below the extension of the free-throw line.
  • Once the pass is made, they must force the player with the ball to dribble.
  • They must force the ball handler to dribble along the sideline.
  • As long as the ball is in front of a defender, he must stay with the offensive player.
  • Once the ball has crossed the half-court line, the defender must push the ball towards the corner.
  • If the ball is passed over the heads of the defenders, they must sprint back toward the basket.

Second Line of Defense

  • Defenders must stay one step below the mid-court line.
  • The defender away from the ball must stop any opponent, who cuts in the middle of the court.
  • Defenders must trap when the dribbler crosses the half court.
  • The defender opposite to the trap must slide back to cover the high post.
  • Defenders must rotate to open spots on the baseline.
  • When the ball goes over their heads, they must sprint back to open spot at the baseline.

Third Line of Defense

  • This player must always talk to the other defenders, because he sees all the court.
  • He must take position on the ball side.
  • He must stay as low as the deepest offensive player.
  • He must close out if the ball is in the corner.
  • He must go for the steal on the long pass.
  • He must prevent any baseline drive.


  • All defenders must communicate with each other.
  • Let the first pass be made, but not in the middle of the court.
  • Force the first receiver to dribble along the sideline.
  • Do not let any opponent make a flash cut in the middle of the court.
  • Leave the position only when the ball is passed over your head.
  • Whenever this happens, sprint back.
  • Move when the ball is in the air, not after an opponent has received the ball.
  • On a long pass to the corner, go out and aggressively cover the ball handler.

Ball Inbounded on One Side of the Court

  • X1 forces 1 to dribble, as soon as this player received the ball.
  • X2protectsthemiddleofthecourt,and he will take over as soon as an offensive man crosses in the middle of the court.
  • X3 must avoid any flash cut of 3 in the middle.
  • X4 protects the middle of the court.
  • X5 moves in one or the other direction based on the movements of the ball (diagram 2).

Flash Cut in the Middle from the Backcourt

  • X4 denies the flash cut of 3, until X2 covers him. Then, X3 goes back on his position. X2 will deny any pass in the middle to 3 (diagram 3).

Skip Pass

  • On a skip pass, from one to the other side of the court, X1 and X2 must move together, while the ball is in the air.
  • X4 moves up for trapping, X3 protects the middle of the court, near the three-point line, X5 takes position in the 3-second lane, and X1 runs in the middle of the court, near the jump ball circle (diagram 4).

The Dribbler Crosses the Mid Court

  • X2 and X4 trap, and X3 protects the lane, setting himself at the free- throw line. X1 denies the pass to 3, ready also to cover a skip pass to 1,while X5 is responsible for guarding 5 if he cuts to the ball side (diagram 5).

Pass to the Corner Rotations

  • X5 must goes out aggressively on 5, X3 slides down on the ball side and toward the baseline, and covers all the cuts to the post area. In the meantime, X2 and X1 protect the elbow and free-throw line (diagram 6).

Breaking the Press with the short quick pass: