1-2-2 Zone Defence

The 1-2-2 Zone Defence would have to be one of the most commonly seen defensive formations within the zone category. The 1-2-2 Zone Defence provides very strong interior defence around the keyway. For this reason, the defence also provides a good initial situation for strong rebounding coverage.


One of the strengths of the 1-2-2 Zone Defence is the positioning of the players off the ball to provide strong help defence if dribble penetration occurs. The player guarding the ball in situations where the offensive player can dribbler to the left or right will always have defenders just behind and on both sides. This makes the 1-2-2 Zone Defence very effective when dealing with a team that has an offense that looks to constantly penetrate off the dribble. Additionally, if a specific offensive player is too strong off of the dribble this might be a good defence to utilise as well.


A weakness of the 1-2-2 Zone Defence is if the ball is rotated into the long corner and then the strong side high and low posts are flooded by offensive players it will be difficult for the defence to contain all of these positions at once and maintain the formation. If this does happen, the defensive players will be forced to guard these players leaving the weak side of the floor open to the offense especially if the ball can be reversed quickly.

1-2-2 Zone Defence Diagram 1
1-2-2 Zone Defence Diagram 1

The 1-2-2 Zone Defence looks to place a high number of players around and in the keyway. The 1-2-2 Zone Defence does look to create length as well by extending to the three-point line at the top of the keyway.


The shaded area represents the possible range for a defensive player’s movement. Depending on the ability of the offensive players in opposition this area can, and should be reduced to include movement just above the three-point line.


In the 1-2-2 Zone Defence the key is for players either side of the player guarding the ball to fall in behind in strong help positions. In the above diagram when One (1) is guarding the ball, Two (2) and Three (3) should be ready to help contain dribble penetration.

1-2-2 Zone Defence Diagram 2
1-2-2 Zone Defence Diagram 2

The 1-2-2 Zone Defence’s strength is in the compact nature of the players in support of one another.


As the ball is pass to the foul line extended Two (2) moves to guard the ball.


One (1) retreats into the position now left vacant by (Two)


Four (4) and Five (5) move a few steps towards the strong side of the floor to start the next possible rotation in guarding the ball.


Three (3) has an opportunity while this is happening to move to below the foul line if needed to add further bodies along the split line.


There are a few different rotations that can be applied to the 1-2-2 Zone Defence. In this rotation, if the ball is reversed then the weak side wing player (Three) is in a very good position to closeout to the ball from a short distance.


Additionally, this player (Three) should be able to occasionally deflect and steal a loose or particularly poor pass.

1-2-2 Zone Defence Diagram 3
1-2-2 Zone Defence Diagram 3

On the pass from the wing to the long corner Four (4) makes the short close-out.


On the flight of the ball Two (2) can now move into a strong help position behind of Four (4). If the ball handler attempts to attack away from the baseline then Two (2) will only be a short distance away in a help position.


Alternatively, Two (2) could be kept guarding the player in the wing position effectively isolating the player in the long corner with the ball.


A weakness that can be seen from the diagram above is the space in the strong side low post. If an offensive player moves into this position than Five (5) can always rotate to guard this position. If this situation occurs then Three (3), would then rotate towards the rim and be another defensive layer around the immediate area of the basket.


If the offensive team continues to expose this weakness then the use of the different zone formation might be more advantageous.


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Coach Riches has been working within the sport, business and education industries for many years. During this time he has built an extensive number of formal and informal qualifications. A firm believer in training and development designed to help people reach their full potential, relevant o their needs and functional to their industry environment.

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