Basketball Systems, Skills & Drills

2-2-1 UConn

Jim Calhoun

The 2-2-1 is a safe press that can be used by any team. It does not emphasize an early trap and then have the whole floor to recover (such as the 1-2-1-1). Pressure the ball, force it sideline, but most importantly contain the dribbler. Make sure the ball goes around the press, never through it.

1) Three Regular (2-2-1 with trapping)

Do not deny the inbounds pass or get up on the attackers, the frontline picks up the ball somewhere near the foul line.

X1 must immediately pressure ballhandler O1, make him do something, pass or dribble, but X1 can't be beaten quickly off the dribble or let O1 make a long pass. By his alignment, X1 forces O1 up the sideline.

The other four defenders form a "box" of help behind X1 (a 1-4 principle).

X2 pinches to the middle below ball level, making sure the ball doesn't come to the short middle by dribble or pass, and he can't be face cut. Ball reversal doesn't initially bother them. X3 gets into the passing lane to O3, any pass must be over his head (a lob pass), and helps contain the ball by taking one step up then two steps back (cat and mouse). X4 covers long middle, no face cutters. As the ball nears halfcourt, deep man X5 gets closer to the sideline, 4-5 feet outside the lane, to pick off a pass or trap. X5 must move with (mirror) the ball as it is advanced.

X3 comes up to trap when he sees that the ball is in full control by X1. Protect middle and strongside, leave open a skip pass. X2 looks for the nearest defender to take away.

The first trap is not normally early, and can be all the way to the far baseline. UConn wants a good trap along either sideline. Create a good trap in the backcourt and allow the reversal pass, or once the ball gets advanced just over halfcourt ideal trap situations arise, with less ground to cover if a trap is broken.

On a pass ahead to O3, there is a second strongside trap (deep trap), by X5 and X3.

Against stronger teams, take fewer chances on multiple traps in one possession, but this is the best percentage trap for steals.

X4 covers low middle, X2 has high middle. X1 is the interceptor, he reads the situation and takes the nearest pass. Here he sees nothing in the middle and takes O1.

The skip pass to O4 is left open. If O4 were at the high post, X2 would cover him and leave open a pass to O2 out top.

(FIBA Assist issue 2 - X4 covers the strongside block and basket, X2 covers the top of key to elbow area, X1 takes any pass out of the trap back towards midcourt.)

On a pass out of the trap, the defenders get into the regular defence, usually man to man (Five). The point guard yells "5-5", buying one or two seconds to recover. (In a situation where the point guard wants to continue the press, he would yell "3-3".)


a) If O1 gets to the middle on the dribble, X1 tries to backtip from behind, X2 tries to slow him down, the other defenders retreat.

b) On a long pass (e.g., the inbounder flies), automatically recover to the regular halfcourt defence. It's to the advantage of the defence if O4 or O5 has the ball 40 feet from the basket.

UConn does not discourage ball reversal. Use the bump principle, X2 holds until bumped by X1, he can't leave early or the middle would be open. The weakside becomes the strongside.

2) Three Up (2-2-1 off free throw)

Sometimes after a made free throw, X1 and X2 fully deny the inbounds pass, second-line defenders X3 and X4 float to take away a pass over the top (shown).

If the inbounds pass is made, it's the regular 2-2-1 but extended upcourt. Deny reversal if the ballhandler picks up the ball.

"Up" is a call from the bench or by the point guard.
Coach Mac - X1 and X2 face guard to deny an inbounds pass.

3) Three Retreat (no trapping)

Three-Retreat is a conservative press with no trapping (especially late in a game), defenders give ground and retreat, then get into the regular defence. After seeing Three and Up, the attackers may not realize there are no traps.

4) Three to Five

If the offence flashes back a big who isn't a good ballhandler, automatically go into man defence on the catch, put pressure on the ball, make him dribble then pick it up and don't let him pass.

5) Match-up (FIBA Assist)

Deny ball reversal. On the inbounds pass to O1, X2 jumps up to guard the inbounder and deny the reversal pass. X4 moves up and matches up with O2, X4 and X5 also match up with frontcourt attackers. It becomes more like a man-to-man press, but UConn will trap out of this version with rotations similar to the regular 2-2-1.
See 2-2-1 Kimble (Match stunt).

6) Another UConn option is to pull the frontline of the press back towards halfcourt.

This page was made with Basketball playbook from Jes-Soft

2007-23 Eric Johannsen