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Basketball Defense - 3-1-1 Zone Press

By James Gels, from the Coach’s Clipboard Basketball Playbook, @ http://www.coachesclipboard.net

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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 (try to deny a center pass). The middle and outside defender on the ball-side immediately trap the ball-handler, while the other three defenders cover the gaps between the other four offensive players, trying to deny or intercept the pass (see Diagram B). In covering the gaps, the defenders should stagger, or position themselves halfway between two passing lanes. They should watch the ball-hander'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.

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

The defenders must stay ahead of 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. There are 4 passing lanes to the offensive players. The 3 defenders not involved in the trap (X3, X4 and X5), stagger themselves between those lanes, and look for the interception.

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.

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.

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



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
Buy Now from the Coach's Clipboard Basketball DVD - Video Store!


Simplified Run & 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 from the Coach's Clipboard Basketball DVD - Video Store!


Coach Pitino teaches the matchup press and much more!
Rick Pitino 4-Pack (including the Matchup Press)
with Rick Pitino, University of Louisville Head Coach; former University of Kentucky Head Coach, NCAA Championship and three Final Four appearances; former NBA Head Coach (Boston Celtics and New York Knicks)
This is a two-disk set with four sections, including the Press Defense, Offense (Ball Handling), Offense (Shooting Skills + Fast Breaks), and Man-to-Man Defense. Coach Pitino explains how the press works at all levels of basketball, how pressing basketball can force turnovers, and confuse and fatigue opponents. Also shown are how to create shots with pressure basketball and when to use the press. A variety of teaching progressions explain how fouling negates hustle, the 1-2-1-1 all out steal press, and the match up press. Included among the several drills are 1-on-1 full court, 2-on-2, 3-on-3, 4-on-4, and much more... (more info)

Price: $79.99
Buy Now from the Coach's Clipboard Basketball DVD - Video Store!


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 from the Coach's Clipboard Basketball DVD - Video Store!


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 from the Coach's Clipboard Basketball DVD - Video Store!