fu·sion: a union by or as if by melting; a merging of diverse, distinct, or separate elements into a unified whole
The Fusion Match-Up Zone Defense is designed to be the perfect mixture between zone and man defense.
Growing up felt like an apprenticeship for my coaching career with my dad being a high school coach. He was always passionate about teaching high school boys to become successful men and teaching kids how to work hard on skills in the off-season and throughout the year. His coaching philosophy on the game of basketball is best summed up with “how can I give the best chance for my players to be successful in every game.”
With this, Coach Tony Hardin (over 30 years successful high school coach in TN) started the foundation — his version of the “Match-Up Defense”. Dad Coached many great people/players including Jason Witten of the Dallas Cowboys but for the most part, night in and night out his teams were less deep, athletic, or skilled as the teams in conference or around the state.
His “Match-Up Defense” was an almost instant success … winning the conference multiple times and taking teams to the state tournament. He took parts of defensive philosophies from many different coaches until it was tailored to his liking.
When I became a college head coach, we tweaked the “Match-Up” and came together on making the “Fusion Defense.” We had great success in using the Fusion!
Coach Tony Hardin uses it as more of a half court semi-slower style. My teams pressed and played very fast. We put pressure on the ball in the fullcourt and made it extremely hard to run anything in the halfcourt with the “Fusion” with straight up defense or trapping.
I say this about style of play to let you know that you can play any style and still use the “Fusion Defense”. You can speed the game up or slow the game down — whichever your team and coaching style is geared for. We both have taught the Fusion Defense in many clinics, coaching roundtables, and schools to teach it for coaches. I hope this helps you in your coaching journey.
Here are the top ten reasons for using the Fusion Defense:
- Everyone practices their man offense daily but they seldom prepare for a matchup zone.
- It creates confusion in your opponent.
- Once you have instilled the rules into your team you never have to be concerned with mismatches.
- You can run a variety of defensive pressure concepts out of the same basic principle set which allows you to disguise pressure and trapping.
- You can apply ball pressure with less risk of a goal attacking drive.
- You can quickly make in-game adjustments to a variety of offensive attacks.
- It helps builds team chemistry because it is a team defensive concept.
- Players never have to switch sides of the floor when playing transition defense.
- It eliminates the need to teach different principles on how to play a variety of screens.
- It gives your team and identity or something that is unique to them.
Fusion Match-Up Zone Defense objective: Take the other coach out of the game by making players have to make decisions that they do not normally make (which means they are not confident or comfortable in making these decisions).
The Fusion Match-Up Zone Defense
FUSION is the perfect mixture between zone and man.
The basic set of this defense will mirror the offensive set of the opponent. It may be easier to visualize the set as a 1-2-2 or a 1-3-1 for mental purposes. The initial concept is for 4 men to be matched to a specific player and the other defender becoming a one man zone. It is also very important to realize that 2 and 3 (wings) are interchangeable and 4 and 5 (post) are interchangeable and can cross the floor. If your personnel will allow for it all three perimeter players should know the point position.
Basic Principles and Rules
The underlying principle is that this is a TEAM defense and each defender must adjust to the ball movement as he stays in his proper guarding position.
(We must learn the basic principle and then make adjustments to the opponents’ strengths and tendencies in the pre-game preparation.)
KEYS TO SUCCESS OF THIS DEFENSE
Allow No Penetration into the lane
- No dribble penetration
- No passing penetration except to the high post from the top of the key
- Adjust your guarding position with any movement of your man or the ball
- Move quickly on the pass while the ball is in flight
Communication is a huge KEY to this defense
- Call ‘ball’ when you are the on-ball defender
- Call ‘zone’ when you are the one man zone
- Call ‘cutters’ as they move into the lane
- Call ‘top’ when you are forced to switch and take the point position
Partner: When one partner calls ball the other must become the zone
- 2 and 3
- 1 and 4 or 5 (according to which is on the weak or back side)
Next: When a defender calls ‘ball’, the next defender to the right and the left must match immediately to the next person in their direction. (Post will not leave the post area until the ball is in flight to their man)
Closeouts: When first guarding the ball, the defender should take a position with his nose aligned on the top shoulder. This action puts him ½ step ahead of any penetration into the middle of the floor.
Hand Position: The defender should always keep a hand mirroring the ball to slow down any possible passing. He should also keep his trail hand low to prevent crossover dribbling as much as possible.
Guarding the Ball: Once the player has called ball, he should defend the ball as long as the same offensive player keeps the ball — Unless he is called off by the next proper defender. If this handoff of the dribbler occurs, you must quickly rotate to the next opponent in the direction of your default position.
- A wing should NOT leave a player in their guarding zone to take the ball from another defender – he should take the ball when there is no one left to match to in their designated guarding area.
- Play the ball with the maximum amount of pressure without fouling or allowing dribble penetration into the lane.
The defensive intensity is set by this defender – this should be your best on the ball defender. The 1 position is unique in several ways but each perimeter player should learn the rules because at some point they will be forced to interchange positions.
- Never allow penetration into the lane
- Help on the high post when the ball is on the wing
- Deny the high post when the ball is guarded by a post.
- Double down on all successful post passes high or low.
- Do not allow an offensive post to turn into the lane. (This option is taught as an automatic action but can be turned on or off after the basic principles are learned.)
- Deny all post passes (unless coming from the top of the key to the high post)
- Work to keep a foot and a hand in the passing lane on ball side. (Play the bottom or baseline side of the opponent when the ball is in the corner)
- Trap any dribbler on the baseline.
- The post can follow a cutter to the corner or hand off cutters.
- If one post guards the ball, the other post MUST be on the ball side low post.
- Deny the wing pass until the opponent is one step past the three point line or out of normal shooting range.
- DO NOT double down on the post.
- Help on the penetrating dribbler if you are one step away but quickly recover to your assigned man when the dribbler stops.
This is the area where each position should quickly go if you do not have a player in your normal defending area.
- Wings to a spot one step above the low block
- Point to the FT line
- Post to a position in the lane directly in front of the basket
- Double Downs on the Post: If a post entry pass is successful, the defensive post should not allow a drop step and the point guard should not allow the post to turn into the lane. If the offensive player dribbles away from the lane a hard double team should occur.
FIRE – Point doubles down on the post and on the pass out rotates to the open perimeter position
THUMBS DOWN – The point and the wing trap the 1st pass and on the pass across the top, the trapper goes to the FT line and the bottom trapper goes to the block. (The top trapper will then proceed to the open perimeter spot).
WING GUARDS CORNER – On the pass out, the wing rotates to the opposite side of the floor.
Learning these basic principles allows for not only adjustments for each opponent but for defensive concepts like trapping, denying the wing, and influencing the dribbler into a trap.
TEACHING THE TRAPPING CONCEPTS
Trapping concepts: This patterned trapping is to give opportunities for a steal on the strong side of the floor (the 1st side that the ball is entered) and stop easy baskets on the back side.
- The first trap is made as a hard trap which means there will be two interceptors and a safety.
- In the event of a pass out of the trap across the floor, the top trapper goes immediately to the free throw line and the bottom trapper goes to the block.
- In the event of a pass to the strong side, a re-trap will occur.
- In the event of the ball crossing the floor a soft trap will occur which means there will be two trappers and a defender on the free throw line and one on each block. (This soft trap effect is to slow down the attacking of the basket and prevent points in the paint.)
- Once a soft trap has occurred the team will shift immediately back to the base 3 defense and stay in the base unless the point guard resets the trapping by calling reset when he is on the ball.
Steps to Teaching: Each will begin with a hard trap on the wing.
Drill progression from 3 lines (offense to defense and out)
- Steal the pass to the point
- Allow the pass to the point and steal the pass to the back side
- Allow the skip and reset as the ball goes to the point then hard trap and steal the pass to the point.
- Allow pass to the corner and re-trap steal the pass to the wing (must use extra post for re-trap)
5 on 5 drills – begin with a hard trap
- Re-trap ball side corner
- Allow ball reversal (point to wing) and soft trap
- Allow skip and soft trap
- Allow skip and next pass to the corner – go into base 3 defense
- Allow skip and soft trap then return ball to the point and reset
FUSION MATCH-UP ZONE TEACHING STEPS
- Guard next from my friend
- Become a zone when my partner guards the ball
- Default position – go to the block when there is no one to match with
- Stay with your man until something changes
- A new man enters your area
- Your man leaves your area
- Your partner guards the ball
- 5 out
- 5 out penetrate from the baseline
- vs 1-2-2
- vs 1-3-1
- cut out – ball stays at the point
- dribble out – wing stays in the corner
- dribble out with cut out – wing cuts through to the corner
- post trail – post will guard and go in immediately when ball is passes
- post step up – post will guard unless guard call for the ball
- Closeout to each spot
- Wing deny – open and closed
3 guards with 3 offensive players
- penetrate and kick
- follow the curl — communicate
- dribble out with cut out
Post 2 on 2:
- 1 on 1 low post on pass to the corner
- double low post with pass to the corner
- double low post with cut from opposite block to the corner
- high low set
As you can see, the Fusion Match-Up Zone Defense helps to create chaos in the opposing players and coaches because it creates confusion in their decision-making process.