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How to coach and teach the basketball flexing zone defense - part 2

Flexing from the 1-3-1 against a 2-1-2 or 1-2-2 offensive set.

Most teams will attack a 1-3-1 zone with either a 2-1-2 or a 1-2-2 offensive formation. The 1-3-1 zone can be flexed to match up these offenses.

The flex may become automatic when a two-man front is seen. Or it can be more mechanically through the use of a signal given by a defensive quarterback.

You might choose to make the adjustment at a timeout; however, best results are obtained when the flex is automatic. The defense should also be aware of any change in the offensive position on the baseline and the free throw line. These are the points at which a 1-2-2 offense will differ from a 1-3-1 offensive set.

To cope with the threat of the 2-1-2 offensive formation, have the defensive players nearest their original zone area as seen in Diagram 7.

Ball in the Right Corner

Slides Against a 2-1-2 Offensive Set

Defender 5 covers ball in right corner.

With each man flexing to cover the offensive threats in different areas, as shown in Diagram 8, the defense now resembles a 2-1-2 zone. Wnen the ball is in the right corner, (Diagram 9), defender 5 takes the corner, defender 3 assumes the second position, and defender 2 takes the goal, thus keeping three men in line between the ball and the basket as shown in Diagram 8.

Defender 1 slides toward the middle to protect this vital area along with defender 3.

Defender 4 has three alternatives. He may double-team the ball in the corner, overplay the receiver in the area of the free-throw line extended, or slide to the middle to help out on a dangerous pivot man.

Ball in the Left Corner

Defender 3 covers ball in left corner

Slides Against a 1-2-2 Offensive Set

Defender 2 has the same options at his descretion when the ball is in the left corner. When I was coaching, in our pre-game preparation, we determined exactly how these wingmen, defender 2 and defender 4 will slide.

If the ball in the left corner, (Diagram 10), defender 3 would play the ball. defender 5 would take the second position, and defender 4 the third, or rebounding position under the basket. Defender 1 would slide to the middle and help out same as he did on the other side of the court. Defender 2 would either double-team, sag to the middle, or over play the receiver to prevent a pas back out of the corner.

Flexing Against a 1-2-2 Offensive formation

When the opponent chooses to employ a 1-2-2 offensive formation (Diagram 11) the middle man, defender 3, simply drops back to a position along the baseline opposite defender 5, who has flexed to a position on the right side of the key. The other defensive players keep the same positions.

As the ball moves around the perimeter of the defense, the players take the same slides they took while in the basic 1-3-1 zone.

I feel if we can successfully defend against the 1-3-1, the 2-1-2, and 1-2-2 offensive formations, we are prepared to cope with any situation that might arise. By making slight adjustments in pre-game preparation, the flexing zone can easily be adapted to any type offense, including unorthodox formations. It is a good idea to work against some of these unorthodox formations in case there should ever be a need to defense one.

At this point, let me say that we never use the flexing zone unless we can stay close to the basic slides of the 1-3-1 zone. Players should not be burdened with complicated "match-ups." Instead, you should want them to concentrate on quick, aggressive movement, holding foremost in their mind the thought that everything in their power will be done to stifle the opposing team's scoring threat. The slides of the flexing zone should be smooth and fluid.

The 2-3 and the 2-2-1 Give the Flexing 1-3-1 Trouble.

Two formations that I find most difficult to adjust, without breeching the rules of the basic 1-3-1, are these two formations. The flex for the 2-3 formation is shown in Diagram 12 and the flex against a 2-2-1 set is shown in Diagram 13.

Slides Against a 2-3 Offensive Set

Slides Against a 2-2-1 Offensive Set

These match-ups must be governed by a different set of rules. In Diagram 12, defender 5 has pulled away from the baseline area that he customarily covers. Thus, the basket area is left wide open, eliminating one of the advantages of zone-protection of the highest percentage shooting area.

In Diagram 13, defender 5 is pulled into the corner normally guarded by defender 3. In this particular case, defender 3 is forced to cover defender 2’s area as defender 2 moves out to cover a guard.

Importance of the Flexing Zone

As I look at today’s defenses, it appears the flexing zone has become the heart of the varied stunting defenses. Perhaps, someday, it will evolve into a type of ruled defense.

Since the flexing zone requires each player to play the man in his area man-to-man, movements of players on offense necessitates the implementation of a few basic rules to cover all situations.

The flexing zone is more effective against an offense in which the players remain relatively static. Should an offensive player dribble, the defender who matched up with him stays with that offensive player until he dribbles into another’s defensive zone. When that offensive player has been picked up by another defensive teammate, he then assumes the correct floor position in relation to the ball.

If an offensive man cuts to the basket, or the ball, the defender overplays the cutter as far as the three-point line, then assumes his correct floor position.

Six Defensive Principles

  1. There are several other factors contributing to the success of a flexing zone. Master these and it will help establish a sound defense.
  2. Beat the offense down the floor.
  3. Keep the hands and arms extended at all times. This discourages shots and passes, especially skip passes.
  4. Recognize the offense and flex to match it before the ball penetrates. Guard the player in your area man-to-man.
  5. Do not allow the ball to be passed into the middle. Overplay offensive players stationed on, or near, the free-throw line so they can not receive the ball.
  6. Do not give the teams a good three-point shot. Always put a hand in the shooter’s face.
  7. As soon as a shot is taken, block out for a rebound.
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