There are a lot of different zone presses out there. You might run into a full-court 1-2-2, 2-2-1, or Diamond and 1. All of which can be run as a half-court or three-quarter court press. And there are others as well, not to mention that each team runs its press differently. Still, with a focus on fundamentals, such as getting the ball inbounds quickly, passing the ball, coming to the ball, avoiding traps, using ball fakes, and moving the ball to the middle of the court, your team is one step closer to beating any zone press.
Don’t Let Your Opponent Set Up The Press
The best way to beat a press is to not allow it to set up. I know it seems too simple. But depending on the opponent, it can work, especially if you have established a hustle mentality with your team.
Your team must get the ball inbounds right after your opponent makes a basket. To make this happen, it’s important to have one person in the game who is assigned to inbound the ball. There will be a few players on your team who take on this role, depending on who is in the game. These players must know that it is their responsibility and should work on the role during practice, so that it becomes a habit.
All of your players need to be on board when it comes to beating the press. Guards must be ready to receive the ball right away. And they need to look up the court and push the ball, preferably with a pass, as soon as possible. All of this, however, should be under control. As coach John Wooden used to say, “Be quick but don’t hurry.” If a pass isn’t open, your player can dribble in the direction of their basket if the press isn’t set. If the press gets set, then your team should run your press breaker.
It seems simple, yet it’s not, unless your team has the right mentality. Players often get used to going to spots and setting up their press breakers, and not always at an extra fast pace. So it takes practice to get your players to take their hustle to another level.
Pass The Ball
If your opponent is able to set up their zone press before you get the ball inbounds, then attack the zone with your press breaker and emphasize passing. I’m sure you’ve heard it before, but it’s worth repeating, a pass moves faster than a dribble. If you have the chance to move the ball up the court with a pass, do it. Make sure to have your players work on passing in practice. Put them in pressure situations, teach them how to avoid traps, and how to pass out of them.
No matter how good your team is, your players will get trapped from time to time, so they must know how to stay calm and keep the ball moving up the court. Spending time on passing skill work and ball handling will help your athletes to feel confident and comfortable moving the ball up the court, and avoid traps.
Come To The Ball
Your players need to be aware that someone will be trying to steal the ball from them when they are being pressed. So teach them to come to the ball when it is passed to them. This way even if an opponent tries to jump in and steal the ball they can’t, and may even foul your player in the process.
Use Ball Fakes
Ball fakes work like magic against zones. Your opponent’s zone will shift and create openings with a good pass fake. Often opening up an easy pass, or making the zone adjust so that your team can easily reverse the ball. Or even make a gap worth dribbling through. I recommend passing, but if a good gap is there, use it.
That is the thing about basketball, it’s a game that is ever-changing, so although players need to have structure, they also need to be able to read the defense and work with what they are given. Often it’s a couple of quick passes, or pass fake and passes, but sometimes a player might need to dribble and when they do, I suggest they take it to the middle of the court, the same place I prefer that the pass goes.
Get The Ball To The Middle Of The Court
Every coach that I ever had told me that the best way to beat a zone press is to get the ball to the middle of the court. As you can imagine, that’s what I had my players do when I coached because it works. You will see teams run a sideline press breaker, but I can only tell you that when a player comes up the middle of the court and has the option to pass to either side, it opens things up. And when they stay away from the sideline, it’s more difficult to trap.
When your team breaks the opponent’s zone press, they will be able to set up their offense. That’s if they didn’t get an easy transition basket instead. Emphasize these fundamentals during practice, and your team will be one step closer to beating any zone press with confidence.