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Basketball Defense - 3-1-1 Zone Press

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

Before reading this page, first see the page on "Transition Defense". Read the information on full court defense.

The 3-1-1 zone press features three defenders across the free throw line area, one just beyond the 3-point line in the center, and one down-court in "prevent" (see Diagram A). This press matches up well against teams that use a three-across, or 3-up, press offense.

There are two ways of playing the in-bounds pass. In the first method, the in-bounds pass is not contested, but allowed to an offensive player near the corner (deny the middle pass). The middle and outside defender on the ball-side immediately trap the ball-handler, while the other three defenders cover the gaps, denying and looking to intercept the pass (see Diagram B).

Interceptors should watch the ball-handler's movements and eyes in order to anticipate where the pass will go. Once they see the commitment in the passer, they should quickly move into that passing lane and get the interception. X5 has the deep safety responsibility.

A second method has one of the three front line defenders guard the passer, and then stay with the passer after the in-bounds pass has been made. This is to prevent the pass back to the offensive player who in-bounded the ball. The other two front line defenders trap the ball, and the other two defenders play the gaps between the offensive players.

3-1-1 full-court zone press 3-1-1 full-court zone press - corner trap

The defenders must stay ahead of (above) the ball. If the ball gets ahead of any defender, he/she must sprint back immediately to stay between the ball and the basket. If the press gets beaten, all defenders must sprint back to the paint and protect the basket. Once the break is stopped, they can fan out into their zone or man-to-man assignments.

Playing the gaps.
Diagram B. The two defenders not involved in the trap (X3 and X4), position themselves in the passing lanes, and look for the interception, while X5 is the deep safety. If the pass goes back to the inbounder O1, it's not a problem as X1 or X2 can recover to pressure O1.

basketball press defense

3-2 Adjustment:

Diagram C. If the offense is successful in passing up the sidelines (on either side of X4), then adjust your zone defense to a 3-2 zone, bringing X5 up, and have X4 and X5 play just inside the mid-court area.

3-1-1 full-court zone press, 3-2 adjustment

This of course is more of a gamble, because no defender is back in "prevent". The weakside mid-court player must have "back" responsibility in preventing the lay-up. For example, is the ball is being advanced up the offense's right side of the floor (X2 and X4 are defending on the ball-side), then X5 has the "back" responsibility.

All defenders must really hustle back any time the press is broken.

Helpful DVDs:

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
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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

Coach Calhoun teaches the 2-2-1 press

Jim Calhoun: The 2-2-1 Press
with Jim Calhoun, 2004 and 1999 NCAA Championship Coach
Coach Jim Calhoun outlines the pressure defense which has led the Huskies to national prominence and an NCAA Championship! Unlike most pressure defenses, Calhoun's 2-2-1 focuses on pressuring the ball down the sideline in the back court, reserving traps until the ball has passed half court. Demonstrations include... (more info)

Price: $39.99
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Teaching the 2-2-1 press at the high school level

2-2-1 Press for High School Basketball
with Kevin Sutton, Montverde Academy Men's Basketball Head Coach, NIKE Skill Academy Instructor
Coach Sutton's concept of defense is to force turnovers and create offense on the other end. The "55" is a 2-1-2 full court zone press and is a defensive cornerstone in this program. While doing this the opponent will become fatigued, leading to more success. Defensive principles are important and include: Ball pressure, containing the dribble, force the ball into trap areas and up the sidelines. Sutton's scramble/recovery mode is based on closet man/closest ball. The first press illustrated by Sutton is the 2-2-1 zone press. The first line of defense... (more info)

Price: $39.99
Buy Now

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

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