In this post we are going to take a look the Responsibilities and Steal Opportunities for the Center in our 23 Zone.
The Center is the anchor of the 23 Zone defense. Because of that it makes sense to get some length and shot blocking in this part of your defense. If your guards and wings can effectively limit three point attempts and your Center can alter shots at the rim you can create an extremely effective 23 zone.
At the High School level this "length and shot blocking" is not always available from year to year. So in the years in which you do not have it you need to put a solid, willing defender in this spot . One that can guard the basketball physically and is willing to step in and take charges. I would not say that the Center position is one that creates a lot of steal opportunities, but there are a few scenarios where a good defender can get our team an extra possession.
I. Center Steals, Entry Deflections -
For the most part the guards take on the responsibility of taking away the middle man on offense. However, when the middle man (5) sinks lower in the paint the Center now has an opportunity to deflect or steal an entry pass.
When the ball is on the Wing the defense can not allow a post entry pass. If an offensive player attempts to do this the Center (X5) needs to 3/4 front or deflect that pass.
Ball on Top -
Protect the Rim, Talk to Guards
Ball on Wing -
Do Not Allow Post Entry
II. Center Steals, On Ball Defense -
When the ball does get touched to the Middle Man (5) at the free throw line it is the job of the Center to guard it.
The Center must arrive on the catch, have his feet wide, and really crowd the space the offensive player. We want to deter any type of pass to the baseline player or any kind of aggressive drive to the rim.
As you can see in diagram #2 the Wings (X3 & X4) will be diving to the blocks to aid the 5 man in protecting the rim.
Defensive Stance -
Get Low, Wide, and Crowd the Ball.
III. Center Steals, Perimeter Drives -
Outside of guarding the Middle Man the Center must also be prepared to step in and take on any perimeter drive that penetrates the defense.
Teaching Point #1 -
"Stay in Line with the Ball" - The Center should be constantly positioning himself to be in a direct line between the ball and the rim. This way they will always be in a position to meet the drive.
Teaching Points #2 -
"Square Up the Ball" - Centers can not allow the basketball to be dribbled around them. Whether the center prepares to take a charge, block a shot, or simply guard the ball sort of depends on circumstance - but the bottom line is that the Center can not give up a lay up in these scenarios.
Concluding Thoughts -
It is true that the elite 23 Zones are going to have a true Rim Protector at this Center spot. A Center with good length and activity can alter shots at the rim and even deter drives to the basket altogether. However, I do think that your center can be effective without great length. Making yourself in a "charge taker" on drives and a solid 1/1 defender on middle touches can make up for any height deficiencies. The rotations and responsibilities for the Center are fairly simple - and if they can be solid in those responsibilities length becomes less of a factor. Perhaps the most valuable way a Center can make up his lack of length is his talk - staying in constant communication with the guards and wings will only strengthen the defense's ability.
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Take a Look at these 23 Zone Resources:
Search #23ZoneTips on Twitter
Joe Gallo | 'How we Create Steals in our Zone' - https://bit.ly/2ZagfAO
Matt Cline | '23 Zone' - https://bit.ly/2QLa80Y
Radius Athletics | 'Syracuse Zone' - https://bit.ly/3dpsxJJ
Contact info for Coach Lynch