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01 Сентября 2008 Журнал "FIBA Assist Magazine"

Виды спорта: Баскетбол

Рубрики: Профессиональный спорт

Автор: Scariolo Sergio

1-3-1 Zone Defense

1-3-1 Zone Defense

1-3-1 Zone Defense

In my career I’ve almost never used full court zone press defense, and, although I have worked with 1-3-1 half court zone defense, I believe more in man-to-man defense with individual press. However, at high basketball level, sending two defenders against the ball may create too much spaces, and this is a delicate situation. The possibility of three-point shooting is an important factor that forces us to calculate well the risk that we’re going to take. Moreover, when the ball-possession rule changed by passing from 30 seconds to 24 seconds, on one hand it stimulates pressing defenses, that will look for slowing down offense in order to limit even more the opponents’ offensive time to shoot. On the other hand, it produces a more aggressive mentality in the offenses that have no more much time, compromising therefore the possibility for the defense to press. To realize this kind of defense we must say that the players shall have some important characteristics.


The 1-3-1 defense needs to have defenders with good body size. We can afford to have a small player, but in this case our defender at the point of the zone, X1, must be very smart. However, if we have two small defenders on the court, a 1 and a 2, we will find great difficulties to get the rebound against bigger opponents, because our 2 always will suffer mismatches. In this case we can also use a 3 and, even, a 4. The 3 and 4 must have good body size and be athletic players, because they have the responsibility to block out, almost always to the offensive post player on the weak side. The 5 must also be an athletic and aggressive player (diagr. 1).


Playing this defense we take risks. The team must have confidence and strong mentality in order to overcome situations in where the opponents score easy baskets. This aspect is very important in the first defenses.


Let’s start from the concept that we do not wish that the offense get used to be always double-teamed in the same situations and in the same spots of the court. We must remember that when the ball goes out the double-team, our defense will be in trouble.

We establish a rule to make the defensive task easier: when the offense have two players in line before passing the half court, we guess that they want to draw the double-team and change the ball side. For this reason we avoid to make the trap. If they are not lined, we do it.

X1 must force the ball as much as possible near the sideline. We do not double-team before the point guard passes the mid court line. As just as he passes the line, we jump to the trap. The trap has to be smart. The defender, who jumps to doubleteam -X4 or X3- goes out in a strong defensive position (low side-bottom, knees bent) so he can defend the point guard, who’s dribbling the ball, and with his arms high, over the shoulders, not with his hands down, to avoid any easy pass. X1 also brings up one of his hands to steal the ball, touch it, or make the pass harder (diagr. 2).

The rest of the defenders do not set on the passing lines. X2 tries to invite to pass the ball in order then to touch it. On the weak side X4 sets in diagonal line with the ball. He must calculate the risk and keep one eye on stealing the pass to 2 and the other one on 4 which has not go behind his back. 5 anticipates strongly the pass to the high post, taking the contact with his forearm. We think it will be harder for 5 to make a back door cut behind our X5, athletic and aggressive player.

If there are two point guards lined up, we don’t trap high. X1 defends by faking in order to create doubts in the offense. He can fake and go back, fake and attack, anyway without double-teaming. His job is to avoid horizontal direct passes. To do this, he puts his body on the passing line. He tries to make the offense spend seconds. X3 and X4 set on the passing line with their arms high, giving the idea that they are jumping to trap although they don’t.

They fake, recover and boost the pass to the corner. X5 works for not letting the ball go to the mid court. X2 always has to stay on the ballside, but never on the passing line, and he keeps an eye on stealing the ball, if X3 or X4 manage to touch it. We only risk at most to steal when we double-team.

If the ball goes to the low corner, X3 or X4 trap with X2, who will come first and will have the mission to cover the offensive player with the ball until X3 or X4’s arrival. They will close the center with their feet (close the feet) taking a lot of space.

The double team gives advantages whenever it is possible to do it without fouls. We want to force a bad exit of the ball from the trap, with the four arms of the defenders, following up and down the ball. X5 sets himself a step outside the zone, between the ball and the basket. X1 does not anticipate the pass back to 2 unless the team want to force the pass to 5. He closes the high post and then tries to steal the ball when it comes out. X3 checks the weak side from the baseline. If the ball goes to the other corner, unless he is short to get it, it’s better if he faces the ball one-on-one (diagr. 4). The movements have to be done with the body on the passing line and the arms high.

If the offense change the ballside, X3 goes out to search for it, unless the ball receiver has a very high position. In this case X1 would take him and X3 would go back to the corner on the passing line in order to avoid a direct pass.

If the ball arrives to the corner, we double- team. If there’s no double-team, we defend the ball one-on-one, helping and recovering – only double teaming with the help of the court lines. Being the player with the ball not in a good shooting range, we don’t need to face him on defense. If he wants to penetrate, X1 first will stop him, taking him the mid lane, X5 second will guard him (diagr. 5, 6 and 7).

X5 is a very important defender in charge of the penetrations along the borders of lane. I don’t want that the perimeter defender gives first helps to the penetrations. X5 helps and the other players set where the ball may go (diagr. 8).


X5 defends by anticipating until the three-point line. We don’t face the player until the ball arrives to a shooting spot. If the ball goes to the corner, X5 goes down and the high post is covered by X1. If the high post cuts, the weak side defender will be responsible to guard him. If the ball enters to the high post area, we guard him one-on-one. In this case, our defender at the point will not double team the high post. If the high post puts the ball on the floor, X1 will try to get the ball from behind (diagr. 9, 10 and 11).

The low post defender does not defend outside the painted area. If this player gets the ball, X5 faces him one-on-one, with his teammates helping him, but not double-teaming. I think that against zone offense the opposite post players have more passing than scoring mentality. I want the defenders on the perimeters to be very active (diagr. 12 and 13).

There is an exception to this rule when our defender on the baseline, X2 (small), is the one who has to defend the low post. He will try to guard him in front, but if he does not manage to do it, we send X5 to double team and X1 will replace him on the high post. There are not outside helps when we do the trap, so the trap must be extremely aggressive. (diagr. 14).

If the opponents drive to the basket from the perimeter in one of the spots in which we do not want to double-teaming, we defend one-on-one and X5 must help. For this reason X5 must be a dynamic and active player (diagr. 15).


The blocking out is a very delicate issue, because it may happen that one of our guards is forced to block out an offensive post. To this point, there is a critical moment for the defense when the ball goes out the double-team. If the opponents shoot while the defense is catching up, we will be in a bad situation for the defensive rebound (diagr. 16).


Four-on-four with no posts.
Correcting the positions and working on the details of the two-on-one on the corner. Moving outside until the shooting signal from the coach and block out how the players can. (diagr. 17).

Same drill, but without two point guards to the backwards.
See the diagram number 18.

Playing with the four offensive outside players against X5.
There’s no offensive post. It is important to teach the defensive high post how he has to run. The drill ends with a shot and the players run to the opposite basket to play five-on-zero (diagr. 19).

Five offensive players against X5.
There can be a 1 on 1 situation in the low post; otherwise, the offensive post passes the ball out for a shot: X5 must block out the offensive post (diagr. 20).

Six players on offense against the central ace of the 1-3-1 zone.
We bring the ball to low post to force the two-on-one. The drill ends with a shot and blocking out of the players, who are in the high post and low post. We continue in playing 3 on 2 to the opposite basket: attacking the three defenders and guarding the two posts who went into the area for the rebound (diagr. 21 and 22).

Four offensive players against five defenders. Initially we just move the ball.
Then, it will be possible to steal the ball and driving to the basket with two dribbles. If the offense drives not aggressively and the player with the ball pick the ball up, we double-team. In general, I think that if the player with the ball dribbles keeping his head low we can force a little more the double-team. After the shot, we run five-on-four to the opposite basket.

Five-on-five with high post and the offensive guards in line.
This is a more real drill. We play five-on-five in the opposite basket too. Defensive transition is always played man-to-man. I only set my 1-3-1 defense when the ball is out of bounds.

Five-on-five with the offensive guards in line and the high post who goes down after the first pass.
We work for X5 not covering this cut. He has to stay up to help the penetrations, not to jump to steal the ball. Usually, doing that is a mistake (diagr. 23).

Five-on-five with the offensive guards not in line.
First, we just let passing the ball. Then, we let two dribbles. Finally, we play at real game pace.

Free-throw of the team on offense, and the set on 1-3-1.
If we manage to steal the ball or grab the rebound, we run the fastbreak against the man-to-man defense of the former attacking team.

Five-on-six with a high and a low post.
When we we are able to master this defense -after practicing these simple situations- we play in practice against any offensive system and we create a more difficult situation for the defense, practicing five-on-six, with a high and a low post.

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