Deciding between running a man-to-man defense or one of the many zone defensive options can be tricky in youth basketball. The best defense to run for youth basketball though is the 2-3 defense. This defense is easier to pick up on and can be changed and made more complex as your team gets a solid grasp on the basics. The 2-3 defense is very versatile so whether you just run the basic 2-3 defense or a modified version that is ran in more elite level basketball, this defense will work for your team.
2-3 is the best defense to run for youth basketball because it is able to defend inside the 3-point line where most shots will be coming from at a higher percentage, while also getting out on shooters when needed. Its many variations can be used to more effectively defend in any situation based on your team or your opponent’s strengths.
1 and the 2 are up top, 3 and 4 are in the bottom sides, while the 5 in the middle of the paint. When the ball is swung around the key, the 2 and 4 or 1 and 3 have to communicate to get out on shooters and keep the baseline covered. The opposite 1 or 2 has to swing to the free throw line and make sure the pass to the high post is covered so they do not get an open shot. The 5 covers the paint and stops any drives and has to cover the block at all times. When the ball is on one side of the key, the opposite 3 or 4 on the baseline can cover the skip pass across the floor but his main duty is the man the opposite block, so no backdoor cuts give an easy layup. When a shot goes up, each player should be in good position to box out an opposing man and come up with a stop.
A quick variation to catch the opposing team off guard some possessions is the trapping 2-3. Simply, once the ball passes half court, the 1 and 2 attack the ball and trap up top. The 3 and 4 then try and jump the pass to the outside wings while the 5 mans the paint to make sure there is no easy pass into the paint for a layup. If stolen, enjoy a fast break the other way, if not then sit back into your team’s normal 2-3 and run as before.
Be careful when running this variation though, as if you run it too much or too predictably, the opposing team can beat you for easy points. A good time to run this variation is after a timeout, or stoppage of play when the other team will be slowly dribbling the ball up the court.
The main differences between the basic 2-3 and Syracuse 2-3 is the role of the bottom defenders. Mainly revolving around the 5. Whenever the ball is passed into the high post or in front of the 5, he then basically plays 1-on-1 man defense while the other 4 players on the court sit back in their spots to stop outside passes or backdoor cuts. When the ball is on the wing, the 2 and 4 or 1 and 3 trap the ball. The 5 is then responsible for covering the baseline. The opposite top 1 or 2 has to deny the pass to the high post and the opposite 3 or 4 covers the paint.
This defense is subject to skip passes but in youth basketball this is also a harder pass to pull off. The 5 though has to be ready for a lot of responsibility and be able to move around the court a lot as this variation requires them to be focused and on-point at all times.
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