July 15, 2019 • OffenseWinning Hoops

High-post zone offense breaks down defenses

by Ed Keefer, contributing writer

As is the case with most high school programs, our team has very limited practice time to get ready to play. We need an offense that can be easily taught and practiced from the middle school levels up through our varsity team.

high-post zone offense diagram 1Regardless of the zone defense we face, our offensive philosophy is to get the ball into the high post. A well-drilled player with the ball in the high post has many more opportunities to break down a zone defense than a player with the ball in any other position on the court. In fact, we believe that if an opponent allows us to get the ball into the high post, then we’ve already broken down their zone defense.

High-post zone offense

The high-post zone offense starts in a 1-2-2 setup, but the point guard initiates the offense from either foul-lane extended. The first goal of the offense is to attack the defensive guard on the ball-side elbow.

DIAGRAM 1: When the ball-side elbow opens up, either 4 or 5 is going to move into this spot. If the defensive guard comes out and extends pressure on the point guard, the post player moves up. The point guard then makes the entry pass. You can vary the movement of the two post players as to which one moves into the high post. The post player that stays low can either stay where they are or move to the opposite box.

high-post zone offense diagram 2DIAGRAM 2: In most cases, the point guard passes the ball to the wing. Here, as with all our passes, we teach our players to “fake a pass to make a pass.” As the defensive guard comes out, the wing passes to the post player moving into the high post. The second rule is that whenever the ball goes into the high post, both wings drop into the corners.

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At this point you can see the options for the high-post player. They can:

  • Pivot and shoot.
  • Pivot, fake a shot and drive if the ball-side forward has started to cheat out into the corner.
  • Pass the ball into the corner for a 3-pointer.

high-post zone offense diagram 3You can also go high-low with the other post player.

DIAGRAM 3: This option is particularly effective because it moves the defense and allows defenders to make a mistake in their defensive slides. The post player — by pivoting on their inside foot or using a reverse pivot — passes into the weak-side corner. If both post players are on the same side, they criss-cross with the high-post player going first to the ball-side box and the other post flashing into the high post.

DIAGRAM 4: If the other post player stays on the weak side, they can allow the defensive forward inside position and screen their side on the ball reversal and post up the center.

high-post zone offense diagram 4Reading the weak-side guard

As the wing catches the ball, teach them and the point guard to read the weak-side defensive guard as he or she comes over to guard your high-post player. If they play the post player on the high side, the post player seals the defender and the wing player looks to immediately get them the ball.

If the weak-side defensive guard plays beneath the high-post player, the wing can pass the ball back to the point guard, who has moved into a position to attack the defense, looking to kick the ball into the far corner.

It’s critical to teach your players to read the defense and learn to take what the defense is giving them without forcing the ball to a player who isn’t open. For the high-post zone offense to run smoothly, your players need to practice pivots, fakes, shots and drives.

Ed Keefer is a former head girls basketball coach at Jefferson Forest High School in Forest, Virginia.