March 31, 2020

Coach's Playbook - Basketball Defense 1-3-1 Zone

A good defense can win championships, so it is important as the leader of your team to diversify your defensive schemes. Teaching different defenses not only gives your team a leg up but also helps gives them options when defending any opponent. Your defensive game plan should be built around the strengths of your team members as well as the opponent you are facing. The 1-3-1 zone press is a useful defense to have in your playbook and one commonly taught at Nike Basketball Camps in Canada. This defensive formation is unique and can be used as a full-court press or as a half-court defense.

For this tip, let’s talk about the 1-3-1 as if we are in the half-court. To set up, there will be one player above the 3-point line know as the chaser, one player on the baseline, and players spread across the center of the court along the free-throw line called the wings and center.

The chaser’s job is to force the offensive players with the ball to go toward either sideline. This player is responsible for applying pressure on the ball and should be good at anticipating the play as they are trying to disrupt passes. The chaser needs to be very active and set the tone for their teammates because all other defenders will be looking at them.

The player in the back of this defense along the baseline is crucial. It is important that you have a player here that sees the game well and can communicate effectively. As the offensive players move, the back-line player will need to communicate with his four teammates what is going on, so everyone is on the same page. They will also need to be mobile because they are responsible for covering corner to corner along the baseline.

The final three defenders are in a line at free throw distance, stretching across the width of the floor. Your defender in the middle, called the center, needs to be ready to protect the lane at all costs. It is their job to not allow the ball to come into the middle. They should work to front the offensive player in the middle from the low post up to the high post. The wings on each side of that player need to be mobile and ready to contest shots on their side of the court while also ready to help with any penetration in the middle.

Everyone in this defense needs to be working together and moving as a unit. There are openings for the offense to take shots, but the defensive mindset should be that you are dictating where the shots are coming from. This starts with communication from everyone and not just the back-line player. An important thing to remember is that you will give up a couple of easy buckets but just keep working hard and you will make stops. Once the offense takes an ill-advised shot and gets burned the other way, they will surely think twice on the next possession.

1-3-1 defense allows your team to control the game and to dictate what happens. It also fuels the transition offense by getting steals and forcing the offense to make bad decisions. Teaching this defense will take time, but your team can be very successful and have a lot of fun running this unique zone press. Check out more coach’s playbook Nike Basketball Camp Tips and help your team get better this summer at Nike Basketball Camp.