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Joe Gallo: Using a Zone as Your Primary Defense

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Item Number: BD-05762

Joe Gallo: Using a Zone as Your Primary Defense

Joe Gallo: Using a Zone as Your Primary Defense

Run a stifling zone defense that forces your opponents to run their second best offense and take shots they don't work on consistently!

  • Understand why Coach Gallo prefers using zone defense and why he chose to run it full-time in the first place
  • Get a blueprint for working on zone defense in practice and how to make your practices more competitive
  • Deep-dive into how to make a zone defense more effective with practice footage and game film breakdowns

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with Joe Gallo,
Merrimack College Head Coach;
2020 NEC Coach of the Year;
2020 ECAC Coach of the Year;
2020 John McLendon Award recipient;
2020 HoopDirt.com NCAA D1 Coach of the Year;
NCAA record for most wins by a program in its first year post-reclassifying to Division I;
3x Division II NCAA Tournament appearances ('17, '18, '19);
2019 Northeast-10 Conference & Tournament Champions;
Has been top 5 in the country in turnover percentage and has led the nation in steal percentage

While many teams that play a zone defense rely on packing inside the 3-point line, Coach Joe Gallo utilizes a zone defense that takes a different approach. Gallo's pressure zone defense is designed to contest 3-point shots and to create turnovers.

In this video that combines multiple highly rated webinar sessions from Coach Gallo, you'll learn how to utilize this unique and unconventional approach to playing zone as your primary defense.

The Defensive Mindset

One of the features of Coach Gallo's pressure zone defense is the way in which they limit the opposition's 3-point shooting attempts. While Syracuse, a well-known zone team, allowed 28 3-point attempts a game during the 2019-20 college basketball season, Gallo's Merrimack Warriors permitted just 15.6 attempts per game. Despite playing with relatively little size or quickness, the defense was successful, as Merrimack won their conference championship during their first season as an NCAA Division I program. The key, as Gallo explains, is to develop the right defensive mindset. With an emphasis on taking away the basketball, preventing 3-pointers and layups, and forcing tough 2-point shots, Coach Gallo's teams were able to rank as one of the best defensive units in the Northeast Conference.

Gallo begins by introducing the rules of his zone defense that supersede everything else during a defensive possession. The two most important rules are "see the next play" and "nobody shoots where they catch." To emphasize taking away shots on the catch, players are constantly reminded that, "There is a difference between contesting a shot and taking a shot away."

To generate steals on defense, Coach Gallo takes the approach of keeping the game simple and sticking to the basics. He preaches the fundamentals of good footwork and knowing responsibilities within the defense.

Teaching Slides

Using film from the first week of practice, Gallo breaks down the different slides in the Merrimack zone defense. The first drill used is Perfect Defense, which covers all of the basic slides in the zone and requires players to communicate, play with effort, and execute the slides correctly.

In working on preventing the 3-point shot, the correct slides require defenders to closeout correctly on passes made on the perimeter. Also covered are penetrating passes and dribbles. Additionally, Coach Gallo addresses ways to defend passes to the short corner as well as passes to the high post.

Breakdown Drills for the Zone

In teaching his pressure zone defense, Gallo breaks down the responsibilities of his guards, forwards, and "goalie." The guards work on dropping to take away drives and closing out to bump the forwards as well as fronting the high post. The forwards work on taking away the shot before being bumped back into the post. Finally, the "goalie" works on becoming a better 1-on-1 defender on entries into the high post.

To teach players to "see the next play" and to play the zone with maximum effort, the "5 vs. 8" drill is used to teach slides and how to move quickly. With offensive players stationary at the point, wings, corners, high post, and both short corners, the defense works on sliding quickly and getting deflections. "Zone PC" is used as a form of Shell Drill by working 5-on-5 against a variety of alignments. Coach Gallo also throws in different maneuvers used b

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