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01 Июня 2006 Журнал "FIBA Assist Magazine"

Виды спорта: Баскетбол

Рубрики: Профессиональный спорт

Автор: Corno Aldo, Buccoliero Mario

1-3-1 Zone Trap

1-3-1 Zone Trap

1-3-1 Zone Trap

Aldo Corno is the head coach of Taranto, the Italian Serie A1 women's team. He was the head coach of many Serie A1 women teams: Viterbo, Vicenza (where he won 4 Italian titles and 4 European Championships), Como (where he won 8 Italian titles, 5 Italian Cups, 1 Italian Supercup, 1 World Cup for clubs and 2 European Championships), and Schio (2 Ronchetti Cups). As the head coach of the Italian Women's National team, his team won a silver medal at the 2001 Mediterranean Games and at the 2003 University Games.

Mario Buccoliero has been the assistant coach of Taranto since 2000, and his team won a Serie A2 title, the 2003 Italian title, an Italian Cup and an Italian Supercup. He started his career in Taranto as the coach of the men's youth teams.


I am not at all a "defensive" coach, but I am convinced that without a great defense you cannot build a great team. I started to apply my defensive philosophy more than 20 years ago, and I have used this 1-3-1 zone with most of my teams, either with the clubs, as well as with the Italian National team.

There are different types of 1-3-1 zones:

  • Regular: without traps.
  • Half court with the traps only in the deep corners.
  • Three-quarters court, with the traps in the four corners of the defensive half court.

In this article, I will focus on the last two types.


Here which are the advantages this defense can offer:

1. The most important advantage is that this defense is unique in "influencing" the movement of the offense, forcing them to play an unconventional offense, a style of play that is risky and moves them out of their usual offensive spots.
2. It can quickly change the direction of the game and offer decisive breaks for the defense.
3. It's a spectacular defense, that creates excitement with its aggressive traps.
4. It "pumps up" the defense, when wellmade stops and steals occur and "shakes" the defense, when players are lazy and not playing aggressive basketball.
5. It creates great problems for the offense to move the ball, forcing them to use lob and bounce passes, slow passes that can easily be stolen.
6. It creates extreme pressure on the offensive perimeter players.
7. It will often create a "paralyzing" effect on the opponents, causing them to make bad passes and force their shots.


This is a very risky defense (wide spaces to cover, traps), and a little mistake will allow the offense to easily beat you.

There is no balance when blocking-out on defense and on the help-side rebounding. It requires a lot of energy, so this zone cannot be used throughout the game. In addition, it's a very technical defense and requires players with specific skills in order to play it well.


  • This defense requires players, who are able to sacrifice themselves and, from my experience, I find that women will often guarantee that this happens most of the time.
  • Players must totally believe that what they are doing is the best for the team. A coach must be able to sell this defense to the team in order to make it work.
  • Players have to be quick and have excellent athletics skills.
  • Very important aspect: players must be skilled in aggressive man-to-man defensive tactics.
  • You will need months of practice and plenty of patience to build this defense so it can be regularly applied.


There are not fixed rules for where the players should play. Each coach knows his players best and will have to make individual decisions when assigning positions. Here, for example, is how I set the players when I coached the Italian National team (diagr. 1):

  • X1, Zimerle, the point guard: quick, strong, with quick hands.
  • X4, Balleggi, the power forward: fast, with a great arm span, very agile.
  • X3, Macchi, the small forward: similar to X4, with a good elevation.
  • X5, Paparazzo, the center: tough, good on the passing lanes, intelligent.
  • X2, Masciadri, the guard: quick and powerful, the "playmaker" of the defense, who is positioned in the last row of the defense, sees the entire court, constantly talks with his teammates and alerts them to movements. She is the key for the 1-3-1 defense.


If we decide to use the three-quarters 1- 3-1 trap, we will double team on the four corners of the defensive half court (diagr. 2).


For teaching this defense, I show how this defense works for all the players (global method), and then I divide the defense into the five parts, so each player will know her role (analytical method), and then go back again to all total defense (global method).

After a free-throw, we run the defense high and we trap right after the half court line (diagr. 3).

Here the individual tasks:

  • X1 forces the ball handler on one side of the court, and does not let any dribble penetration in the middle of the court.
  • X4 slides down and double teams only behind the mid-court line.
  • X5 always plays behind the ball and fronts the offensive player, keeping her from receiving the ball.
  • X2 covers the player in the corner or the low post.
  • X3 slides down to steal the potential diagonal pass.

If the double team is successful, we will be in the situation described in diagr. 4. We will try to intercept the pass with X3 or X2, leaving 2 open, who is the least dangerous of all the offensive players.

If we decide to continue with the high traps (diagr. 5): if 1 passes the ball to 2, X3 runs to cover 2, X1 double teams 2, X5 follows the movement of the ball, and fronts 5. X2 covers 3 on the opposite corner, and X4 slides down, looking to steal a possible pass to 4 and to protect the basket.


When and how to run it (diagr. 6): If there are no "desperate" situations and we do not want to run too many risks. After the first trap, we double team only in the corners. The main aspect of this defense is to "cover" the passing lanes.

This defense then "invites" penetrations in the middle of the lane. This forces the offense to make slow (lob or bounce) passes. It's very important that the defense relies on their arms and hands.

Sometimes, we let the defenders jump to put more pressure on the offense. X5 must always be behind the ball, and in front on the high post. In addition, he must be ready to slide down and front the low post (diagr. 7).


These moves are fine when you play defense that double teams in all four corners of the half court.

X4 and X1 jam the lane if an opponent is in shooting range or tries to drive (diagr. 8). X4 must be aggressive on the ball. The player must not slide on the pass fake. X2 covers the low post and goes outside only when a pass is made.

If the ball reaches the player in the corner, we run the double team and rotate as in diagr. 9.

First option: if 3 has both feet facing towards the basket, X2 and X4 aggressively double team. X5 runs down to cover 5 in the low post, X1 guards the high post, and X3 jams in the middle of the lane, covering the basket and all lob passes. Second option: if 3 is with his shoulders towards the basket (diagr. 10): X1 goes in the passing lane nearest the ball, X3 comes high to anticipate 4 at the high post. We only leave a passing choice to 2 on the other side of the court. This forces the offense to make a long and slow (lob or bounce) pass to this player, who is the most distant and least dangerous offensive player.

Important tips:

  • Convince the players - and coach them with the appropriate drills - that, while they are trapping, they must force a mistake or cause a bad pass to be made while applying pressure on the trapped opponent.
  • Do not ever let the ball enter on the high post area, which is the most dangerous spot on the floor. Once it makes it to the high post, the ball can be passed on both sides of the floor.


If the ball is passed from one guard to the other, the defenders, who are always covering the passing lane, rotate as shown in diagr. 11.


Skip Pass

If there is a skip pass from 3 to 2, the defense is placed in a very difficult situation (diagr. 12):

  • X3 must run to aggressively guard 2 with his arms up.
  • X1 must go around the high post 4, until X5 recovers on him.
  • X5 goes on 5 and X2 runs in the lane, ready to cover 5. At the same time, X4 moves towards the ball.

The following moves are then made (diagr. 13):

  • X1 recovers on the passing lanes.
  • X4 guards 5 in the low post.
  • X5 recovers on the high post.

Blocking Out

If the shot is taken from the corner before the double team, we have great problems because X5 is facing 5, who is now free to go in for the rebound (diagr. 14).

We will react in this way:

  • X3 goes on 3.
  • X1 is of a basic importance on the helpside and blocks out on 4 or on 2.
  • X4 recovers on 4 or 2, who is on the wing.

We will always be with one less defender, but quickness and collaboration between the players should erase this problem.

Double Posts

The most difficult offense to face is one with two high posts (we also use this offense versus the 1-3-1 trap).

We move in this way (diagr. 15):

  • X5 anticipates 5, who is the "inside" post.
  • X3 anticipates 4, who is the "outside" post. 2 is the most dangerous player, and can hardly be trapped.

If the ball is dribbled in our defensive half court by 2, we will move in this way (diagr. 16): X3 will close and go on the passing line. X5 must recover on 4. X2 will stay behind, ready to guard a post if this player moves down low. X4 closes on 5 or 3 under the basket. If 4 goes low, he will be guarded by X2. Naturally, when we are in this situation, we do not make the first high trap. We will only make the traps in the corners.


Now we start to teach in an analytical way to build up the 1-3-1 trap (diagr. 17).

One-on-One Drill

This drill is run for X1, who plays in the first row of the zone, and must force 1 towards one side of the court. The defender must absolutely prevent the ball being returned to the right side, in this case, of the diagram.

Two-on-Two Drill

We increase the difficulty for the defender, playing two-on-one, and two-on-two (diagr. 18).

X1 must push the ball handler on one side of the court, and also force 1 to make a lob pass to 2.

X3 helps, closing on 2, letting X1 recover.

Contesting the Post Drill

Contesting the pass for low post is basic work (diagr. 19).

The perimeter players pass the ball to each other, and X5 runs to contest the post, always staying between the ball and basket.


One-on-two Trap Drill

Drills for teaching the proper double teams: 2 vs 1 at three-quarters court (diagr. 20).

At the beginning, we facilitate the defense by playing two defenders against one offensive player, giving two or three seconds for getting over the mid-court line. X1 and X4 must force the ball handler towards the sideline and then double team. The defenders must use their legs and arms without making a foul, covering the ball, and trying to force a 5-seconds violation.

Two-on-Two Trap

We now work two-on-two on different situations, aggressively contesting the pass to the second offensive player (diagr. 21).

Three-on-Three Trap

We work three-on-three to improve the timing of the traps (diagr. 22).

We put limitations on the offense, which now cannot use the post in the middle of the court. Besides, the offense must get over the mid-court line by having one of the guards dribble the ball.


This is for the defensive forwards X4 and X3. After a trap and a skip pass, they must "dive" behind and recover, possibly stealing the "diagonal" pass. Although this is a very dangerous move for the defense, it is a key moment in our 1-3-1 zone trap.


At the end of the session, we work four-on-four, and finally we play five-on-five.

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