It's a Different Way to Play the Game



We have always felt at Williamsfield High School that we needed to do things a little different if we are going to give our kids a chance to win. Our enrollment in grades 9-12 runs around 80 kids each year. Therefore, we feel it is very difficult for us to match up in a man-to-man defense, plus the 3-point shot makes it very hard to play a straight zone defense. With these thoughts in mind, we have used a variety of combination defenses, which have served us well over the past 25 years.

Our first step in teaching these defenses is to familiarize our players with the slides and rules of the traditional 2-3 and 1-3-1 zones. Once you have taught these two zone defenses, it now opens the doors to playing many different ypes of combination defenses.

With this article, we are only going to talk about the two main combination defenses that we use. We use the 41 defense when we are playing someone with an outstanding scorer, and the 32 defense when we play an opponent who has two outstanding offensive players.

First, let's take a look at how we play our basic 41 defense. When we call for the 41 defense, we are going to be playing four of our defenders in a 1-3 zone, and the fifth defender will be assigned to our opponent's number one offensive threat in a man-to-man situation. Here are a few rules we give to our players who are defending in the 1-3 zone: The point of the 1-3 zone is usually a guard that will pick up the ball in the middle of the floor when it crosses the 10-second line. When he is not guarding the ball, we want him to sag back toward the lane and help on the opponent's post players. We play our best rebounders at the wings and they defend the offense on the sides of the floor down to the baseline. If the ball is shot on the opposite side of the floor, they are responsible for the weak-side rebound. Your middleman needs to be a hard-nosed player who will play between the ball and the basket and front any post player in that line. He also needs to be ready to help on dribble penetration. In addition, all zone defenders must always see the ball, contest shots, block out, and, last but not least, help on the special offensive player you are playing with a man-to-man defense.

There are also a variety of rules for your man-to-man defender. You as a coach, through scouting, need to be able to tell your man-to-man defender exactly how you want him to guard. Do you want him to deny his man the ball? Does he have help-side responsibility? Does he double the post? In addition, your man-to-man defender should know if his man shoots the three, and if his man has post moves. Your man-to-man defender should also be ready to handle screening situations as you want him to.

The second of our combination defenses is called 32 defense. This is our 3-man zone, usually in the form of a triangle, with two of our defenders playing man-to-man defense on our opponent's two best offensive threats.

The rules for our defenders playing the triangle zone are the same for our point man and two wing players in our 1-3 zone. Again, it is most important that our two man-to-man defenders know exactly how they are going to defend the opposition's two offensive threats.

We have found through the years that most teams attack our 41 defense with their zone offense and in most cases they will run their man-to-man offense against our 32. This is where scouting becomes very important, and we depend on this to prepare for our opponents.

Combination defense must be drilled just like any man-to-man or zone defense, and we drill every practice. We have also developed our own way of handling screens and also some unique ways to trap out of these defrenses.

We have also had a good time talking with former players about these defenses, and many times this leads to new ideas which we put in to help us make these defenses better. But one thing we all agree on--it is a different way to play the game.