Smothering 1-3-1 zone defense From Kathy McGee Powers, Catholic High School, Flint, Michigan

The 1-3-1 defense has been very effective for our team for the following reasons:

  • Normal zone offenses won’t work against a 1-3-1 defense, and it causes opponents to adjust from offensive comfort zones.
  • Your team can utilize a 1-3-1 defense conservatively (by playing the passing lanes) or trap very aggressively.
  • You can use slow players at certain defensive spots and not get hurt.
  • It’s an up-tempo defense that mirrors the aggressiveness of a man-to-man defense.
  • The players love this defense. If they anticipate well, they get a lot of tips and steals.

1-3-1 breakdown

The following shows rules and responsibilities for each position.


DIAGRAM 1 Shows the basic lineup of the 1-3-1.



DIAGRAMS 2-3: Entry pass rotation. Once the entry pass is made to either wing, have your players rotate.



DIAGRAM 4 shows rotation vs. a 1-guard front.


DIAGRAM 5 shows rotation vs. a 2-guard front.

The top defender (X1) must:

  • Keep the ball out of the middle.
  • Against a 1-guard front, try to push the ball to the side.

If the ball is below X1, he or she plays between the ball and the middle of the free-throw line.


DIAGRAM 6 shows 4’s positioning.


DIAGRAM 7 shows 3’s positioning.

The wing defenders (X3 and X4) should:

  • Be fully responsible for the guards in front of them.
  • Play between the ball and the baseline.
  • Stop penetration at the top of the key extended.
  • Not allow baseline drives.
  • Trap in the corner with X2 at the baseline.
  • Trap the best opposing guard at the top with X1.

When the ball is away from the wing defenders, they play between the ball and the opposite corner.



DIAGRAMS 8-9. The baseline defender (X2) must:

  • Cover corner-to-corner.
  • Trap with X3 and X4 in the corner.
  • Stay in the lane until the ball is on its way to the player in the corner.
  • Front the post.

When the ball is high, stay as high as possible to avoid the screen on the baseline.


DIAGRAM 10. The center (X5) should:

  • Play between the ball and the basket.
  • Defend the high post when the ball is on top.
  • Front the post at all times when the ball is in the corner.

75 Applewood Dr. Ste. A
P.O. Box 128
Sparta, MI 49345
Interested in the print edition of Coach & Athletic Director?

Subscribe Today »

website development by deyo designs