Why I developed the “Ball Match Up Zone Defense”

Why I developed this defense?

Over the years, various zone defenses and zone principles in a man-to-man defense have been used to counter the opposition’s advantages such as: superior size and strength, superior athletic ability, foul trouble, a superstar scorer, and/or lack of fluid execution. Teams have also played zone to take advantage of assets such as: long-armed defensive players, skilled post defenders, and a continuation of a zone press.

With the recent emphasis on dribble penetration (with or without ball screens), lack of interior post scoring and sophisticated inbounds plays, many teams are playing zone defense during some points of a game. It is nearly impossible to document all versions of zone defense used throughout the history of the game, however the trend of increased use of zones is expected to continue. We like to play zone when we score and when the other team is inbounding under our defensive basket, while playing man-to-man when we miss a shot. We like to follow this strategy for at least the first half, and then make adjustments based on which tactic is disrupting the opposition more.

Our version of zone defense can be best described as a “Ball Matchup Zone Defense”. While most matchup zone defenses position defenders based off the point guard and offensive players to the left and right of the point, our defense positions players based on the location of the ball. This system has defensive shifting concepts that always position one help defender on each side of the ball while guarding players or an area one pass from the basketball, with the goal of having three offensive players being guarded by five defensive players.

As a coaching staff, we feel teaching multiple defenses can be simplified if the same principles can be used in a man-to-man defense and a zone. By teaching the same principles, practice time can be used efficiently and is less confusing to the players. Examples of principles that can be the same include:

  • Defensive Stance Guarding the Ball and Ball Pressure
  • On-the-Line, Up-the-Line or Ball-You-Man Triangle
  • Denying when the Dribble is Dead
  • Closeouts
  • Post Defense (including Rules for Double-Teaming the Post)
  • Rebounding Techniques
  • Jumping to the Ball and Moving on Air Time
  • Trapping Situations

The major difference in teaching defensive principles that we have encountered is in defending ball screens and off-ball screens, unless a coaching staff decides to switch on all screens. We like to trap the dribbler when playing man-to-man and just switch with the perimeter defenders in the zone (although we have trapped with the 5-man as well). With most teams using the ball screen during every offensive possession, we feel this is an excellent defense to contest action of the perimeter as well as offering basket protection.

We feel a great asset of this defense is the flexibility it offers. The concepts that will be reviewed throughout the book can be used in the half-court, three-quarter court, or as a full-court defense. The defense can trap the ball on the sideline or use run and jump techniques. With a simple command such as “HOME”, the defense can rotate into a straight zone formation or man-to-man defense. Again, this flexibility is possible because the defensive principles being taught are similar for both man or zone defense.

The two major rules that govern everything we review about the Ball Matchup Zone Defense are as follows:

  • When the ball is in the middle of the floor (area of the court the width of the lane), the defense has a 1-2-2 or 1-3-1 zone look.
  • When the ball is on the side, long corner, short corner, or block, the defense has a 2-3 zone look.

Click here for Introduction Clinic

Click for Why this defense? Clinic

The following chapters will review diagrams to teach these two rules, some different defensive tactics that can be used, and some drill ideas to help teach the defense.

Regardless of our defensive strategy being used, we have three main goals defensively, which are:

  1. Contain the ball one-on-one without help and without fouling
  2. Contest every shot without fouling
  3. Hold the opponent to 1 shot per possession

Defensive Goals Clinic

If our team is not doing these three items with a high amount of frequency, it does not matter what defensive strategy we are using, we are going to have to score a high number of points to have a chance to win the game. Great strategy with poor execution will still lead to uneven results.

I would like to acknowledge that there are no new ideas in basketball. All coaches pick up concepts from others and weave them into their own style of play. I would like to thank the following coaches whose ideas have helped form the foundations of this defense:

If you would like to know more about this defense, watch these videos or purchase the E-book.  The E-book contains diagrams and the videos to supplement the material.


Notes from Coach Steve Biddison’s great book “50 Effective Ways To Unite and Motivate Your Basketball Team

Coaches in all sports (all walks of life really),

This easy-to-read book by Steve Biddison has 50 great ways to work with your team outside the field of play.  I have included my notes, but recommend you get the ebook to hear the stories behind each of the items.  I believe you will enjoy it as much as I did.

Here are other great books by Mr. Biddison.

Here are the books I have written.

Why Zone Defenses Struggle in Basketball?

ron zone book

As a coach who played some zone defense with his teams, these are the most common areas that need to be watched and addressed when opponents are finding it easy to get and make open shots:

  • lack of condition-be watchful for fatigue, here are some indicators:
    • arms down at sides
    • coming out of stance
    • not moving feet
    • lack of talk
    • lack of deflections
  • lack of ball pressure-a tremendous benefit of zone defense is that the on-ball defender knows where their help is, the defender needs to get in the offensive players “bubble” to force a dribble or make it tough to pass freely
  • not contesting shots
  • lack of rebounding-zone defenders need to form a triangle around the basket, perimeter defenders need to crash the help-side board and free throw area
  • getting split-zone rotations need to get one player on the ball through strong rotations and communication
  • defenders not aggressively “stretching” their floor area until the appropriate defender arrives
  • inside defenders not getting and staying “vertical” against inside shots
  • not having a strategy to cover when the ball gets the foul-line area, ball screens, overloads, and short corner coverage

I hope these tips help your zone defense be more effective.  Check out my video playlist on the Ball Match Up Zone.   Here are some other articles on this defense.  Have a great day!




Key teaching points for Basketball Zone Defense

ron zone book

As someone who has played, studied, written about, and coached zone defense, here are some key teaching points to work into your program.  Some of these points are critical for any type of defense, but some are specific to zone play.

  • Talk-I probably do not need to elaborate on this point.  Teaching teams to talk is one of the greatest challenges in coaching.  In a zone, teammates need to be aware of cutters, screens, shot attempts
  • Defensive Stance-Zone defenses require a great deal of sliding, closing out, and bump downs.  All Five Defenders need to be moving on airtime by jumping to the ball.  If players are coming out of their stances, they must be tired and need to come out.
  • Square up the ball-Offenses often try to get players and the ball into gaps, which brings two defenders toward the ball.  The effectiveness of zone defenses will increase dramatically if one defender can be on the ball.
  • Contest all shots-There needs to be a hand up in the shooters face on every shot.
  • Close out and Run Shooters off the line-Scouting reports will identify the shooters who cannot get clean looks.  Because of defensive rotations, sometimes the defender will need to close out aggressively on the shooter and will be vulnerable to a drive.  If the close out defender cannot stop dribble penetration, they should close out in a way that forces the offense to where the closest help is located.
  • Know who is always covering the basket on each rotation-Players on the help side need to be ready to flood the lane and protect the ball.
  • Ball Pressure-A tremendous advantage of zone defense is that the on-ball defender knows where their help is located.  Unless there is a player that the scouting report says to slough off of, get in the offensive player’s bubble.
  • Active hands and feet-Because offenses tend to pass more often against zones, active hands and feet can work for deflections and to keep the ball out of the middle.  Make sure players are mirroring the ball and can kick the ball (players often use the wrap around bounce pass).
  • Teach your big middle defender to maintain defensive verticality and take charges on dribble penetration-When seams occur, dribblers can often get to the rim from the perimeter.  Because of positioning, the big man is often the helper right behind the on-ball defender.
  • Get triangular rebounding and helpside defender on the defensive backboard-One of the most common knocks is defensive rebounding out of the zone.  While always getting a body on an offensive player may be tough, securing rebounding positions in front of the rim and blocks MUST happen (with thumbs in ears to be ready to rebound).  There will often be a 1 on 2 disadvantage on the helpside block, which makes obtaining this block position much more critical.  The helpside perimeter plays needs to attack the glass to remedy this 1 on 2 disadvantage.
  • “Down” all ball screens-Because of the importance of keeping the ball out of the middle, this is a key tactic with the increased use of ball screens against zone.  The defender needs to jump to the middle and push the dribbler toward the sideline.
  • Attack the ball on the baseline and flood the lane-Offenses often look to attack zones along the baseline and short corner.

If changing to a zone defense during a game, coaches need to fight the urge to change back to a man-to-man defense if they give up a three or an offensive rebound and put back.  Offenses score against every defense, coaches need to know why the breakdown occurred and make the appropriate adjustment.

Because of my experience with zone defenses, I have come up with a defense I call the BALL MATCH UP ZONE DEFENSE.  Read more about it here.

I hope these tips will help your zone defense.  You can follow me on Twitter or email at ronsiliko@gmail.com.  Thank you for reading and have a great day.

The Outstanding Ohioans show, Episode 51-Interview with Gary Adams, retired NCAA baseball coach and author

coach wooden book

For many of us involved in athletics, we dream of one day coming back to coach at our alma mater.  For Gary Adams, not only did he achieve this dream, he got to be mentored by none other than John Wooden.  His book, Conversations with Coach Wooden:  On Baseball, Heroes, and Life, is a great book talking about his relationship with Coach Wooden and their mutual love of the game of baseball.

Through this book, Coach Adams has written a great legacy piece about Coach Wooden, as well as his outstanding baseball program.

To connect with the Outstanding Ohioans show, here are a few ways:

Here were some highlights of our conversation:

  • Coach Adams grew up in Hamilton, Ohio, where he lived to the age of 14 before moving to California.
  • how him and his twin brother got interested in baseball from their Uncle, who played in the minors
  • idolizing future Major Leaguer Joe Nuxhall, who was seven years older, and remains the youngest player to play a major league game ever
  • listening to Waite Hoyt broadcast Cincinnati Reds games and becoming an Ohio State fan
  • playing baseball at UCLA, and observing John Wooden on campus
  • getting hired to coach at UCLA, and how Coach Wooden came to share his office
  • specific things he learned from Coach Wooden
  • Coach Adams “Sphere of Commitment”, based on character, team, academics, career built around family & faith
  • what was more important to Coach Wooden than winning?
  • Coach Adams and Coach Wooden strongly believed in leading by example
  • Coach Wooden’s sense of humor and the pigeon story
  • what kind of baseball player was John Wooden?
  • John Wooden’s “unique” baseball job offer
  • challenge of writing this book
  • Wooden’s reaction to a “bean ball” war between UCLA and Arizona State, when ASU was targeting Troy Glaus
  • how both coaches became authors upon retiring from coaching
  • the kinds of books Gary and his wife Sandra have written
  • Gary wants his legacy to be “a normal person who was considerate of others”

Thank you to Gary for sharing his great stories.  I highly recommend his book for anyone who is a baseball and/or John Wooden fan.

A @JimBurson trifecta-3 podcast conversations on the #OutstandingOhioans show with the highly regarding basketball coach, author, & speaker

In this episode, I am privileged to talk with Dr. Jim Burson for the third time.  Here is the link to the two previous interviews.

Dr. Burson is the Owner of Solution-Based Basketball, Author of The Golden Whistle & The Daily Nugget, retired collegiate basketball coach, and consultant to Nike Basketball and 94Fifty.

To listen to the show, click on one of the following:

 Here were some highlights from our discussion:

In this episode, I am privileged to conduct a second interview with Dr. Jim Burson.  Click here to hear the previous interview with Dr. Burson.

To listen to the show, click on one of the following:

In our first interview, we shared Dr. Burson’s incredible journey and discussed his recently published an extraordinary book The Golden Whistle:  Going Beyond:  The Journey To Coaching Success.  His career included teaching academic classes, playing and coaching a variety of sports at the collegiate level, assisting fellow Ohioan Bob Knight with the 1984 U.S. Olympic team, being featured in Sports Illustrated as the “Great Disseminator” of the famed Princeton Offense, serving as president of the National Association of Basketball Coaches, and serving as a consultant and business owner continuing to serve the game. 

Dr. Burson has a book coming out soon called “Daily Nuggets”, which is a way readers can engage the ten golden nuggets on a daily basis.  Dr. Burson talked about how The Golden Whistle has increased his connections and opportunities to speak and coach.

We went into extensive detail about how important it is to be a continuous learner and some strategies on how to apply what a reader learns.

This show brings the audience great things Ohioians are doing to make their communities, the state, the region, and the world a better place as entrepreneurs, leaders, historical and popular culture figures.



#Basketball Offenses vs Man or Zone #Defense

basketball offense book

Is there a Multi-Purpose Basketball Offense?


In the dozen years I coached basketball at different levels, I was far more advanced in my teaching of defense than offense.  I immersed myself in the study of offensive systems, but I was not sure of what I was looking for.


Then, I got clarity on what I wanted.  I wanted to find an offensive system that could be used against any type of defense.  That would free up more practice time to work on skill development, which was my main priority.  


In learning about the 1-4 High Offense and Open Post Offense, I discovered these offenses would cover all situations.  We could run motion, we could ball screen, we could work against a zone, we could have a delay game, we could combat defensive pressure.  The players were able to catch onto the basics quickly, which allowed to incorporate some of the special entries to take advantage of special talents that players had.


Does this system seem like it can help your team?


For only $5.99, coaches can get an instant E-book download from Amazon to your Kindle device, click here.  


This book contains the rationale, diagrams, and YouTube Videos to learn the system.


If you have any questions, feel free to get in touch with me via twitter @RonSiliko or ronsiliko@gmail.com.  Thank you for your time.