How would you practice basketball zone defence with less than 10 people available? I understand that you can put 5 on defence and the rest available in offence but it simply would not produce as much movement in the offence to really practice good one movement.

What is a good technique to simulating/compensating for missing offence players? (E.g. is it possible to get 3 offence players to make offence plays on one side of the court first then switch to the other side?)

Reference to some professional materials (books etc.) would be much appreciated.

2 Answers 2



When my team (of 12 players) plays basketball, we have 1 person on offense dribbling the ball around, forcing all players to move around based on where the ball is. This is great practice if you go by these guidelines:

  • Do not go for steals, or you will not be able to see movements.
  • You must move with the ball, or the drill is pointless.
  • Every once in a while, you will have to practice 5-on-5.

Hope this helps!

  • 1
    With 12 people, I'm guessing you split them into two groups of 6, each with 1 O and 5 D?
    – corsiKa
    Feb 12, 2012 at 5:56
  • @corsiKa: Exactly.
    – Dynamic
    Feb 12, 2012 at 14:17
  • 1
    This works on one level: overall movement. However, it doesn't work when you are trying to improve people's "prioritisation" (i.e. decision-making) between "player next to me" and "overall play" which is what breaks the zone from the inside often. Meaning: players who are learning zone often pay too much attention/stay to close to the opponent next to them/in their zone instead of shifting. Yes the drill with a dribbler will help them start moving but when you put an opponent in front of them they will start "stretching" the zone again. At least that's my expectation.. Feb 12, 2012 at 21:51
  • 1
    @DmitrySelitskiy: Well it worked for us, and we had a 10-6 season. If you have intelligent players, this will work.
    – Dynamic
    Feb 12, 2012 at 21:57

To effectively practice any sport, it is not necessary to perfectly simulate an in-game experience. Most forms of practice, after all, are not scrimmages, but drills that improve one or a few skills that may prove useful during a game. Zone defense requires a number of generic defensive skills such as proper footwork, tenacity, one-on-one spacing and, of course, conditioning. Any drill that improves these skills will be helpful in improving a player or team's zone defense.

That being said, a team will have to get 5 players on defense at once to really learn how to play zone. And they will have have to face a real 5-person offense to see how a ball and players move and to learn how to react according to the principles of whatever zone defense is installed. Therefore, game-like (5-on-5) simulation is necessary to install an effective zone, and scrimmaging is the reason teams keep more than 10 players on a team at any given time.

Of course, there's always the video room (and now, the Internet). You don't need a full squad to learn about John Beilein's famous 1-3-1 (video).

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.