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Basketball Defense – 1-2-1-1 Diamond Full-Court Zone Press Defense

By James Gels, from the Coach’s Clipboard Basketball Playbook, @

The 1-2-1-1 zone press pressures the in-bounds passer, and attempts to trap the first pass receiver. You can call either "one fist" or "two fist" options from the bench to change your strategy a little, and confuse the opponent.

1-2-1-1 full-court zone press

With one-fist and two-fist, always try to deny a center in-bounds pass... force (allow) the pass to the corner. O4 overplays the inbounder toward the middle to help deny the center pass.

To trap the offensive player in the corner, or along the sideline, the first defender (X1) moves over quickly to stop the ball and seals off the sideline so the offensive player cannot dribble up the sideline. The other defenders must play in the gaps between the passing lanes, and try to deny or intercept the pass.


X4 and X1 (or X3) immediately trap the first pass.

"Two Fist"

X4 and X1 (or X3) wait until the first pass receiver puts the ball on the floor and starts the dribble, and then quickly close in and trap. In this situation, you are waiting for the pass receiver to first commit with the dribble. Once you set the trap, he/she has lost the option to dribble.

"Side Fist"

Call "side fist" to signal your players to trap the ball handler along the sideline, either in the back-court, or the front-court.

basketball press defense

Adjustment, changing to a 1-2-2 zone press.

The 1-2-1-1 diamond press is vulnerable up the sidelines. If the opponent is beating your press up the sidelines, then you can adjust your defense to a 1-2-2 zone press. X2 and X5 stop the sideline passing and dribble penetration.

1-2-2 full-court zone press

Of course, this press is a gamble and makes you more susceptible to getting beat long for a lay-up. Have a rule that if one offensive player goes long, then the mid-court weak-side defender (opposite the ball) will move back to prevent the long pass. For example, if the ball is on the offense's right side (X1's side), or in the center, and a player goes long, then X5 should drop back. If the ball is on the offense's left side (X3's side), then X2 drops back.

Some basic principles apply to all presses

1. Always have one player back in prevent mode to prevent the easy lay-up.

2. Sprint back to the paint when you are beaten.

3. When trapping, or trying to stop the dribbler, don't reach in!  Rather, you must move your feet to get into position and deny the sideline. The referee is watching closely for the reach-in foul. Back-court fouls are usually "stupid" fouls, created when the opponent was not even in position to score. It's especially "stupid" if the opponent is in the two-shot bonus, or if it is committed with only seconds remaining in a period.

4. Trapping
In trapping, one defender should first stop the dribbler, often along the sideline or baseline, or in one of the "trapping zones" (see below). Trapping zones are those areas where the offensive player definitely does not want to get caught losing the dribble. It's like getting caught in a corner.

Once the ball is stopped, the second defender sprints over and double-teams the ball. They cut off the ball-handler's view, and get into the passing lane. The position of their hands should be at the same height as the ball. If the offensive player holds the ball high to "throw over the top", the hands should be high. If the ball is low, the hands should be low to prevent the bounce pass.

Do not reach in! This only transforms a good situation into a bad one (now the player goes to the free throw line). Instead, the defenders should deny the offensive player from getting the pass off and get the 5-second call, or try to tip the pass, or force her to make a bad pass, which is intercepted by one of your teammates.

5. Gapping (zone press)
The other defenders who are not actively trapping, try to get into the gaps between the ball-handler and his teammates. They play the passing lanes and deny and intercept passes from the trapped player.

6. If the opponent is successful in running a fast-break, your "prevent" guard may have a 2-on-1, or 3-on-1 situation, being the only defender back. In this situation, the prevent defender should be taught to first prevent the lay-up. If the opponent chooses to shoot the outside jumper, give it to them, as it is a lower percentage shot than the lay-up, you avoid getting a foul, and you may get the rebound, or delay the offense long enough for your teammates to arrive on defense.

Often I see high school players make the mistake of coming up away from the basket and challenging the ball, only to get beaten by an easy pass to another player under the basket for a lay-up. Again, the defender must stay back and "gap" the offensive players, that is, try to straddle and cut off the passing lanes to the easy lay-up.

Trapping Zones

The yellow zones catch the player in the corner.

The red zones are excellent trapping zones, since the offensive player cannot retreat across the 10 second line.

The blue zones are good trapping zones because the offense has to worry about the 10-second count.

trapping zones

Helpful DVDs:

Cliff Ellis: Pressing Options Out of a 1-2-1-1

Cliff Ellis: Pressing Options Out of a 1-2-1-1
with Cliff Ellis, Coastal Carolina Head Coach; 2009-10 Big South Coach of the Year; Over 600 career NCAA Division I wins; Won conference championships with 4 different teams in 4 different conferences, including ACC (with Clemson) and SEC (with Auburn); named conference Coach of the Year six times in his career; National Coach of the Year in 1999
All teams at some point during the season will need to press. Are you ready to effectively pressure your opponent? In this on court demonstration DVD, Cliff Ellis teaches you his patented 1-2-1-1 Full Court Press. Coach Ellis does a great job of describing each individual responsibility and role within the 1-2-1-1 press and the intricate details that make the press defense a successful strategy... (more info)

Price: $39.99
Buy Now

Coach Donovan teaches the matchup press

Billy Donovan: Mastering the Full-Court Match-Up Press
with Billy Donovan, University of Florida Head Coach; 2007 & 2006 NCAA Champions, 2000 NCAA Runner-up; One of only two people ever to serve as head coach, assistant coach, and player in a Final Four
This defense has been the cornerstone of one of the most successful coaches and programs in the country. Coach Donovan walks you through his 2-2-1 full-court man press with stunting, and the 1-2-1-1 pressure defense. Using on-court demonstration and game film Donovan details each player's responsibilities, when and how to trap, and transitional coverage once the press has been broken. Included are basic coverages for all press breaks and breakdown drills... (more info)

Price: $39.99
Buy Now

Simplified Run and Jump Press

Simplified Run & Jump Press
with Forrest Larson, Lake Geneva Badger HS varsity coach
Coach Forrest Larson teaches the run and jump press with 10 drills that make the defense easy to teach. The basis of the run and jump is traping the ball down the sideline and jump-switching in the middle. Coach Larson emphasizes the teamwork involved in executing this man-to-man press. The defense is taught with drill work for the different methods of defending and attacking the inbounds pass to the techniques, strategies, and rules used to defend the ball all the way down the floor. The defense will force your opponent to play at an uncomfortable tempo... (more info)

Price: $39.99
Buy Now

Coach Gonzalez teaches the matchup press.

The White/Black Full-Court Match-Up Press Defense
with Bobby Gonzalez, Seton Hall University Head Coach; former Manhattan College Head Coach
Coach Gonzalez teaches how to force turnovers, confuse and fatigue the defense, and how to create and capitalize on scoring opportunities using a relentless full-court man press. Using markerboard presentation and extensive practice and game footage, Gonzalez details the match-up principles, alignments, and trap options for the White press (run out of a 1-2-1-1 set) and the Black press which emphasizes all out ball denial. Gonzalez discusses how to use the White and Black presses to speed up the offense, get them off-balance, and force non-ball-handlers to bring the ball up the court. He also covers... (more info)

Price: $39.99
Buy Now

Coach Williams teaches the press.

Gary Williams: The Complete Guide to Full-Court Pressure Defense
with Gary Williams, University of Maryland Head Coach, 2002 NCAA Champions, Seven "Sweet Sixteen" appearances

"Full court pressure is the ultimate weapon in basketball." - Gary Williams

A game-tested, baseline-to-baseline method for trapping and applying pressure defensively! Coach Williams gives you an insider's look into one of the most potent and aggressive full-court defensive systems. A large part of Williams' success has come from his aggressive and intense style of play, which includes the full court pressure defense... (more info)

Price: $39.99
Buy Now


Copyright © 2001 - 2016, James A. Gels, all rights reserved.

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