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Youth Basketball Coaching - Understanding the 1-3-1 Zone Defense


Areas of Strength
The 1-3-1 zone is strong against the inside game and teams that have good shooters at the wing. The 1-3-1 offers the best defense for trapping.

Your best defensive rebounders are kept near the basket. Two tall forwards, played at the wings, can contest vertical penetration. A quick baseline defender can intercept many inside passes.

Point guards have trouble getting shots against this zone. Frequently, teams that ordinarily attack with a point will switch to a two guard front. Teams that attack by driving and screening find it difficult against the 1-3-1 zone.

Big centers find it difficult to operate inside against the 1-3-1 zone. The power of the defense is in the middle which makes it difficult to pass inside. The big center can be fronted and played behind.

The 1-3-1 defense neutralizes the popular triangular overloads. Because of the positioning of the perimeter defenders, three defensive players can always match the offensive overload.

Areas of Weakness
Good corner shooters and good guards can destroy the 1-3-1 zone. A good rebounding team can get many extra shots against this zone. Many coaches will send three offensive rebounders to the weakside to overload the lone weakside defensive rebounder.

The 1-3-1 is also the weakest zone for the fast break minded team The other zone defenses provide a better set from which a team can launch the outlet pass and fill the lanes.

Selecting and Positioning of Personnel
Selection and placement of your personnel will either make or break your match-up. Your point defender X1, will also be your point guard, your ball handler and fast break leader. (Figure 1-2) This player will rec/the wing this defender must not allow the wing to drive to middle. This defender now protects the high post area by playing the passing lane to the high post. Should the ball go inside, this defender must double team the post.

The left wing, X2, is usually the other guard. This player must be a decent rebounder as this will be your weak side rebounder. This defender must be the better defender of X2 and X3. This defender will usually have the other teams 2 guard or shooting guard. This defender also has the responsibility of helping the corner defender stop the drives to the middle.

X3, the defender on the first attacker to the right of X1, is a position for your weakest defender. The player also must be a good weak side rebounder. This a good place to put a stronger scorer who does not play great defense.

X4 is the reason you are playing the 1-3-1 match-up. This player must be able to defend the inside. This defender will be the second attacker on the right or left perimeter from X1 unless there is a double high post, in which case this player would defend the left high post. This player ideally will be second tallest player. This player needs to be one of your better rebounders. This player will help protect the insider from drives from the corners. This is your defensive cornerback as this defender can see the whole court.

X5, is your offensive and defensive center. This should be your largest player or best jumper. X5'2 primary defensive responsibility is the opposition's center. If there are two low post attackers, X5 takes the right side. This player should be your best rebounder. This defender must also stop any penitration by the guards to the middle.


Youth Basketball Instructional Videos

The Championship Feeder System - Youth Basketball Practice for Grades 5-8

AAU Coaching Boys Basketball Series: Motion Offense

AAU Coaching Girls Basketball Series: Building a Championship Program

AAU Coaching Girls Basketball Series: Offensive Fundamentals


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