Basic Zone Offense - High-Low

This is one of my favorite zone offenses. It can be taught very quickly and is ideal for teams who have infrequent practices, are getting together for a short time (like a tournament), or need to devote most of their practice time to fundamental skill development rather than plays.

This offense is called the High-Low because of the post alignment. You can call it whatever you want, obviously. It works best when the ball is reversed 3-4 times. The whole point is to set up an overload condition, then reverse the ball to make the defense move, then reverse again to force yet more defensive decisions.

The offense starts with an overload. Note that the point guard is not in the exact middle of the floor. He is part of the overload, so he should line up on the lane line. If the wings are getting some pressure from an extension of the zone, they should go low and cut back up to get free for the pass at the free throw line extended.

It doesn't matter too much which zone formation is used. The zone will need to conform to your offensive pattern anyway.

The play starts by passing the ball to the strong side wing. Its OK for Y2 to shoot, but that's too easy. Let's take the play further.

Y2 needs to pass to one of the two posts. Note that Y5 has popped out to the short corner from his low post position to get open. Y2 to Y5 is the most common pass. Y4 is usually more vigorously defended. If neither post can be hit, return the ball to the point and reset. The point can dribble exchange with Y2 if needed.

After a successful pass to a post, Y2 cuts for the basket, then V cuts to the opposite wing. Its not likely he will get a give and go pass from Y5, but it is worth a look.


Notice that Y2 bumps out Y3 who moves to the point position. The point Y1 has moved to where Y2 was. This movement sets up the first reversal pass.

Y5 hits Y1, Y1 to Y3, and Y3 to Y2. These passes must be very quick. Touch passes recommended. Skip passes are OK, too, but the longer route makes it easier for your post players to get to their new spots.

If Y2 is open, of course, he can shoot.

The posts do an "X" move, Y4 first moving to the ball-side low block followed by Y5 moving to the ball-side elbow. Y2 should give these two posts serious looks. The most often opening is for Y5 at the free throw line.

If none of those option pans out, we have a new strong side overloaded on the left. Y2 makes the same pass to the corner (remember, he can pass to Y5 instead) then makes the same kind of cut to the opposite wing.

Y1 and Y3 fill the holes like they did before.

Here comes the second reverse. We bring the ball to Y2 again and the posts make their X move looking for the same opportunities as before.

Repeat as needed or until Y2 runs out of gas going from side to side.

To set up Y3 for shooting opportunities, Y2 does not pass to the posts. He passes to Y1. The ball is reversed to Y3 and the posts follow the ball to the other side. Then Y3 would make the same passes and cuts as Y2 did.

This way, all three guards can be the shooting guard.