Reggie Kohn has been the head coach of the Orlando Christian Prep High School in Florida since 2008. He was also head coach of Lake Howell High School for four years. In 2009, his team won the National Private High School Championship, and he was elected National Coach of the Year. He also won 2 Florida state championships as well as being named Florida Coach of the Year in 2005 and 2009. Two of his former players, Pat and Nick Calathes, are playing professionaly in Greece.
For the last six years my teams have played 1-3-1 "Blue" defense 80% of the time. The success of the defense starts by taking away direct passing lanes for the offense. By preventing direct passes, we force the offense to lob the ball, which allows us to get deflections and time to rotate. All positions in our defense have the following general rules:
Keep hands straight.
• Force passes over your head or around your body.
• Try to kick any ball passed around you.
• Line up on the outside shoulder of the man with the ball.
• One player is always jabbing at the ball handler.
• Push the ball out towards half court.
If you take away direct passes, your team will have the time needed to rotate to the correct spots. I constantly remind my teams that we do not have to go for steals and get out of position. The offense will turn it over and we will get steals by being in the right positions, forcing lob passes, and by the offensive over penetrating.
• X1, X2, X3: Wing or trail man, long and active.
• X4: Center or biggest/slowest player.
• X5: Point guard, or smallest player.
Basic alignment as the ball is dribbled up the court
The defender X1 picks up the ball handler 1 one to two steps beyond the center circle. He must get the ball out of the middle of the court, so the rest of the team can get to the correct spots on the floor, based on the position of the ball. After forcing the ball to one side of the court, X1 should continually jab and bounce back at the ball handler with his hands straight up making him uncomfortable (diagr. 1). The X1's body should be positioned in the passing lane of 1 and 2, by facing 1 and lining the middle of his body with the high shoulder of 1.
The ball crosses half court
X1: Facing 1 keeping the middle of his body lined with 1's high shoulder (the shoulder closer to half court); this positions X1 between 1 and 2, preventing a direct pass. He must jab and bounce back with hands straight up.
X2: Touches 1 and begins to jab and bounce back, with hands straight up. He lines the middle of his body up with the outside shoulder of 1.
X3: Covers the weak side block, and he can cheat out to the wing, as much as his quickness will allow him to still protect the basket.
X4: Moves to ball side elbow and covers any middle offensive player. He fronts the high post up to 22-23 feet (about 7 metres). If the offensive player is higher than 22-23 feet, then X4 plays ball side three-quarter stance. It is also an option to have the middle man always play three-quarter stance and not front at anytime. The defender X4 should communicate to X1 the location of the offensive player 2, so he can stay in the passing lane (diagr.2).
X5: Sits on ball side block and fronts any offensive player, and he must not cheat out to the corner.
The ball is passed guard to guard out front
X1: Turns body towards half court, sprints to 2 with his hands up and continues to jab and bounce back. It is important for X1 to turn towards half court, this keeps him on the high shoulder of 2 and again keeps the middle of his body between 2 and 1.
X2: Sprints on a direct line to cover the block and basket.
X3: Sprints to the sideline at a free-throw line extended angle with his out side hand out taking away the pass to 4. After sprinting out, he moves up to 2 with his hands up, making sure the middle of his body is on the outside shoulder of 2. He touches 2 and starts to jab and bounce back (diagr. 3).
X4: Moves to ball side elbow and continues to front any middle offensive player. X5: Slides to ball side block and fronts.
The ball is passed to the corner
X1: Sprints to cover and front the ball side elbow. He MUST keep his hands up to help prevent a good skip pass.
X2: Sits on the weak side block ready to block off and rebound.
X3: Turns his body to the outside (towards the sideline), keeps hands up, sprints to a "soft" trap in the corner, and starts to jab and bounce back at 4. He will stay 5 to 6 about feet (1,50-2 metres) away from 4 (diagr. 4).
X4: Quick sprint to the block to front or plays high side three-quarter stance.
X5: Once the ball is in the air, X5 sprints out to 4 on the baseline side, discouraging any baseline penetration; he covers 4 straight up man not allowing him to go baseline (diagr. 5). If the 4 is a non-shooter, we will have X5 only run out to 15 feet (about 4,5 metres).
The ball is passed back out top
X1: Sprints straight up towards half court with his left hand out to discourage the ball reversal to 1, he then moves toward 2 with his hands straight up and starts to jab and bounce back.
X2: Continues to protect the block.
X3: Turns towards the sideline, keeps hands up, sprints to 2 and starts to jab and bounce back.
X4: Moves back up to the ball side elbow to front the middle.
X5: Returns to fronting position on the ball side block (diagr. 6). It is really important when the ball is passed back out top that X3 pushes the ball handler out towards half court to keep the offense at 27/28 feet (about 8 meters).
Rotations on Dribble Penetration
Most dribble penetration comes from one of the two guards out top. Any penetration from out top should be met by X4 outside of the three-point line, and X1
and X3 should collapse to triple team the ball. The guards love to try and dribble through this defense and that is exactly what you want them to try: X4 should be
able to take one or two charges a game on out of control guards who try to get to the middle and split X1 and X3 (diagr. 7).
Two Gua rd Front Moves In
If player 2 moves to a lower position, then X1 should adjust his angle to keep his body in the passing lane from 1 to 2. The defender X4 should help communicate
2’s movement (diagr. 8).
Oppos ite High Post
If the offenive player 3 looks for the ball on the opposite high post area, X4 should turn his body sideways and stay in the passing lane from 1 to 3 (diagr. 9).
If you take away direct passes your team will have the time needed to rotate to the correct spots and contest shots. I constantly remind my teams that we do not
have to go for steals and get out of position. Teams will turn it over and we will get steals by being in the right positions, forcing lob passes, and by the offense
over penetrating. Also, this defense is great to play against teams with a great scorer, because they can never really get comfortable and in a rhythm.