Five Man Overload

Notice: This article was written by Steve Jordan, Coach's Notebook. Email the author at

We have spring and fall basketball leagues here that allow coaches to put kids together and see how they play. The main benefit is that we can go into our tryouts a bit better prepared and a bit less likely to overlook someone in that hectic 3-4 four day period. Right now I am coaching 8-9 graders who will be coming into our school and are JV prospects. Practice time is minimal if there is any at all. That means coaching time is limited to a pregame talk, a five minute half time, and three one minute timeouts. My main coaching tools are the dry-erasable clipboard with a court diagram on it and whatever gift of gab I can muster up to make them listen for a minute. We play M2m and the offense is dirt simple: two-man game on one side, three man game on the other, the main focus being to keep the floor balanced that way.

Most coaches do the same, and their concern is working on basics, but some now are running zones to improve their odds of winning and it is effective. Nobody has the resources to develop a zone offense. You can figure out the rest.

There is an added element of risk to this ... we have a pretty lax atmosphere here when it comes to kids changing schools. So if you don't look like you know what you're doing, there's not a whole lot stopping your kids (and their parents) from wanting to belong to the school that appears dominant in the off season leagues.

So here you are, trying to come up with a zone offense with nothing more than a clipboard and a timeout ... I am sure you can relate.

There are three main elements to breaking a zone down. You need to overload one side of the floor to outnumber the defenders, attack the gaps (with dribble penetration) to draw defenders to the ball making it easier to pass the ball, and you need to reverse the ball to weak side to force the defense to move and make multiple decisions. Eventually, the defenders make poor decisions (or no decision) and the openings can be pretty spectacular, but selling that to the kids is no easy task until they actually do it.



The first time we did it, the defense looked stunned. The weak side defenders didn't do anything. We got a wide open shot from the corner.

The second time the defense shifted as shown and we passed inside to the 5 man. He scored.

The instruction to the kids was if we did not get a shot after 3-4 passes, the corner man went to the block and the block went to the weakside wing. This was successful because our big guy is a pretty good shooter.

Now, if the 5 doesn't shoot, then the plan is for everyone to come to the ball side so we can set up another 5man overload on that side.

I was pretty pleased with the results. Did we win? No. But we lost by a basket to a team that had trounced us twice.

Did the team look organized and effective? No. We had several goofy turnovers and half the time the guys would go down and set up right next to a defender, like they completely forgot the plan after a single possession. I burned all my TO's on that alone. Also, we were playing on a very small floor which made that zone more troublesome. When we hesitated on our passes, we got trapped. A bigger floor and more familiarity on the player's part and we could have done better.

See what you think.