7-on-5 drill gives zone defenses a needed boost From Chris Kusnerick, formerly of Rock Falls High School, Illinois

The 7-on-5 drill is a very good drill that our team used throughout the year to help players improve their ability to play solid, team-oriented zone defense.

This highly competitive drill takes only five to seven minutes to run and there is an offensive or defensive winner at the end of the drill. The losing team runs one sprint for each point difference between the two sides.

7-on-5 alignment

7-on-5 drill diagram 1
Diagram 1

While this drill can be run in any zone defense, it’s shown here using a 1-2-2 zone. That’s what our team primarily used.

DIAGRAM 1: Start out with five players on defense using a 1-2-2 set (or whatever zone defense your team primarily uses). Align seven offensive players in the spots shown. Start out with five offensive players on the perimeter and one on each block.

The drill begins with a checked possession at the top of the key.

Scoring system

The only way the defense can score is if it forces a turnover or deflects the ball out of bounds. The defense gets one point for each turnover forced or a deflection out of bounds.

7-on-5 drill diagram 2
Diagram 2

Offensive players can’t move on the inside or on the perimeter until a shot is taken. They also are not allowed to dribble, but can shoot at anytime.

The offense scores one point for each basket made and are allowed to go to the offensive boards after a shot attempt.

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Play continues until the defense gains possession of the ball. Set a time limit and keep score.

DIAGRAM 2: Defensive players follow the proper defensive rotation principles based on where the offense is swinging the ball. Remember, the offense can’t dribble to break down the zone, so defenders must react and rotate to cover the passes and movements of the ball.

7-on-5 drill diagram 3
Diagram 3

This diagram shows the proper rotation of the defenders when the ball is passed into the corner.

DIAGRAM 3: Due to the fact that they are outnumbered on the perimeter and also must account for two offensive players on the blocks, defenders must react quickly on all cross-court skip passes.

This diagrams shows the proper rotations when the ball is passed to the opposite side.

Encourage aggressiveness

This drill forces the defense to play very hard, which all coaches want on defense. Because the only way the defense can score is by a forced turnover or deflection, the drill encourages your zone defenders to play aggressively and take chances. They must also talk and communicate on defense at all times.

Coaches must call fouls very liberally. Every three fouls on the defense counts as a point for the offense team. Defenders must constantly pressure the ball, trap the corners and contest all shots.

Versatile drill

Even though this drill is shown against a 1-2-2 defensive set, it also can be adapted for teams that play 2-3 zone or a flat 3-2 zone defense. The rationale is if your defense can guard seven offensive players in this drill, they’ll be more prepared to guard five players in live-game situations.