Jimmy Adams
Head Basketball Coach
Raleigh Egypt High School
Memphis, TN

The 2-2-1 zone press is a standard to the game of basketball and is part of nearly every team’s defensive repertoire. Most high school and college teams utilize this press in some way during the season, and are familiar with its basic shifts, rules and coverages. Although there are similarities in everyone’s use of this press, there are also subtle differences. Each coach differs in their philosophies of the game and in their teaching methods so it is assumable that each coach also teaches and utilizes this press differently. Hopefully, this explanation of the way that I teach and utilize this press will be of some benefit and use to you in the future.


The two players on the front of the press are referred to as guards, even
though you may play forwards or centers in these spots from time to time.
They are positioned at the corners of the free throw line (10-12 ft apart). If
the ball is taken out on either side of the basket, they move over toward the
ball, keeping the same spacing.

1. Responsibilities:
a. Allow the inbounds pass if it is in front of them.
b. Challenge any pass that is attacking (going towards the basket).
c. Allow any passes that are passed back.
d. Don’t allow the ball to be passed to the middle of the floor.
e. Don’t allow the dribbler to penetrate the middle of the floor.
2. Ball Side Guard
a. Challenges the dribbler on his side and forces him up the sideline.
b. He must allow the dribbler to continue up the sideline maintaining a
position of one-half step ahead of the ball and an arm’s length away.
c. If dribbler attempts to reverse to the middle of the floor, he must take
a defensive position to prevent it.
d. Attempts to lead dribbler to the “Dead Man’s Corner”.
e.  Will trap with the ball side forward.
3. Off Ball Guard
a. Must stay ahead of the ball and in the middle of the floor. It is critical
that this guard prevent attacking passes and penetration to the middle
of the floor.
b. If ball is reversed to a player in the middle of the floor, the off guard
takes an inside-out route to force this dribbler up the opposite sideline.
The positioning of the guards are reversed and so are the roles. Other
guard must now get ahead of the ball and in the middle of the floor.
COACHING POINT: Drill frontline on reacting to passes and changing
COACHING POINT: Drill frontline on stopping middle penetration by
pass or by dribble.

The two players that make up your second line of the press are referred to as
forwards, but might be any combination of your personnel. They line up
initially 12-15 ft. behind the guards and 10-15 ft. apart. To these players,
spacing and timing are key ingredients to the success of the press.

The first job for these players is to deny any passes to the middle of the
floor. They will close the trap with the guards and help the center with
deep coverage of the basket. A lot is expected from these players and
they are usually the ones that determine the press’s effectiveness.
2. Ball side forward
a. Prevents pass from going up the floor on the sideline. Stays in the
passing lane but about 6-8 ft. from the sideline so as not to
discourage the dribbler from coming up the sideline. He retreats
as the ball is being dribbled up the sideline, keeping the same distance
between him and the ball side guard. If the dribbler gets ahead of the
ball side guard and attempts to turn toward the middle, he will take an
inside-out support position to the gap and force him back to the
b. He continues to retreat on ball advancement until the dribbler almost
reaches midcourt. This will put him around the front court hash mark
when the dribbler starts across the line. Timing and spacing are
crucial here for the trap to be successful. Any sooner or closer, and the
dribbler will be discouraged from dribbling across the line. Another
point is that any sooner, and the center has to react sooner leaving the
midcourt area open.
c. When the dribbler crosses the line, the forward should be inside the ball
so that the dribbler cannot split the defenders. Both players are now
trying to keep the dribbler on the sideline with the forward trying to stay ahead of him enough to angle him into the sideline making him
pick up his dribble.
d. When the trap is complete, the defenders MUST NOT FOUL. This
negates a lot of hard work on everyone’s part. They are to mirror the
ball and adjust their trap position according to the offense’s pivoting.
They are trying to cut down passer’s visibility and to deflect any pass.
Good footwork and body positioning are critical in the trap.
3. Off side forward
a. Moves to the middle of the floor and prevents any pass to the middle
man. Have this defender play on the basket side of the middle man.
b. As ball is advanced, he maintains 12-15 ft. spacing between himself
and the ball side forward, and maintains 12-15 ft. spacing between
himself and the off side guard. This allows him to reach the free
throw line area at the time of the trap and gets him in position to
support the center.
c. If the trap is split, he will stay between the dribbler and the basket
while the center drops to cover the ball side block and the offside
guard drops to cover the backside block.
d. If trap is broken by dribble down sideline or ball is passed down
sideline, offside forward will cover the ball side block.
This player is the basket protector much as a soccer or hockey goalie. He might
be a good shot blocker or maybe even good at drawing charges, but his job is
not to give up layups or easy shots. He initially lines up at the free throw line
area and plays on the ball side elbow. He challenges all long passes and “holds
off the attack until the reinforcements get back”.
1. If the ball is being dribbled to the goal, he always takes a position between
the ball and the basket. When the ball is being dribbled  up the middle of
the floor, he allows the dribbler to come to him, but does not allow him to
penetrate the free throw line.
2. If the ball is being dribbled up the sideline, he reacts to the ballside forward’s
movement. When the ballside forward moves up to close trap, the center
then covers the pass down the sideline. If he cannot steal the pass down the
sideline, then he takes a position between the ball and the basket and prevents
ball penetration on the dribble.

                                 SPECIAL COVERAGES

   A.   If the ball is passed to the middle of the floor
1. If the receiver turns and dribbles the ball, the center takes a position at the free
throw line and prevents penetration past that point.
2. The forwards sprint in a straight line to the blocks on their side of the floor in
the passing lanes and looking for a pass deflection.
3. The guards attempt to get back inside the ball. They squeeze the dribbler from
behind and try to flick the ball loose by scooping up.
4. Once everyone is inside the ball, if it is passed to the side, the press will
   B.If the offense continues to throw over the front line and dribbler continually splits
               the trap, back up press 10-12 ft. so as to make gaps smaller.
   C.If the offense continues to attack with a 1-3-1 alignment and is successful in
               Getting the ball in middle by pass, you can tandem the guards to matchup this
               alignment so as to force the dribble

                                 When to break off pressure:

There is a fine line between attacking and defending. We must recognize these break points. When the ball is successfully passed out of a trap, and if the offense continues to attack, we will recover into a 2-3 zone alignment to be sure that all these areas are covered. If the ball is brought out front to set up an offense, we will have a player stay with the ball, and the other players match-up with the man in their area to play man-to-man defense.