Trap In-the-Corners 1-3-1 Zone Defense

This half-court defense is different than the conventional 1-3-1 Zone and much more efficient in my view. Most coaches have player #4 cover both corners on the baseline. That means that #4 must be tall, quick and alert. Even if you are fortunate enough to have such a player possessing these qualities, the defense will become more ineffective as the game progresses. Weariness takes its toll.

That is not the case with this this version of the 1-3-1 because player #5 covers the ball in the left corner and player #4 covers the right corner. This is a ball defense. That is to say, whenever the ball is on the perimeter, 3 defensive players are between the player with the ball and basket. If you can get all five players to  keep their arms extended and waving, this defense looks impossible to penetrate. The key is to keep the hands up and all players move with the flight of the ball. That’s why it’s called a ball defense.

A good way to impress your players on the importance of keeping the arms extended is to have 5 defensive players in their respective positions with the rest of the team in an arc about mid-court. Out loud, tell the 5 defensive players stand still with their arms hanging at their sides. Point out to the rest how easy it looks to a ball handler. Frankly the gaps look big enough to drive a Mack truck in there. Next, have the 5 defensive players fully extend and wave their arms. There appears no place to go and if #5 is a kid with long arms….. you don’t.

Another word of caution, never allow your players to slap, or grab, at the ball once the trap is sprung. The fact the player is in the corner, he already is half-way surrounded by the side and base lines. Your players should be taught to close up on the opposite sides with hands up. Try to make the opponent lob a pass out of the corner. Meanwhile, the other 3 defensive players look for the interception. Players who can’t keep their hands up or follow your rules need to be on the bench. They sure couldn’t keep there, either.

Easily taught to players at any level, this is a tried and true defense.  It should be part of every defensive strategy. I always liked to use several defenses in a game and this eventually became the principle defense. You can show it early in the game and for those teams without much player movement, you can switch to man-to-man and some teams never realize you made the switch.

1-3-1 Diagrams – continued

Diagram 1

In this 1-3-1 defense it is very important that all five players extend both arms at all times; otherwise, this defense will fail.

This 1-3-1 Zone is a ball defense whereby 3 players are always between the ball and goal. All players move with the ball.

Players 5 & 4 are the two tallest and best rebounders on the team. Player 3 should be your your next best rebounder.

Players 1 & 2 are the two quicker players on your team


1-3-1 Diagrams – continued

Diagram 2

In this sequence all players have shifted positions as the ball was either dribbled, or passed. The trick to this defense is to allow the ball into the corner, where the trap is sprung.

Notice that 3 players are aligned between ball and basket. Weakside player 3 has moved up and into the role as interceptor and defender against the high post area.

Remember that all players must keep their arms extended from their sides. This helps create the illusion there is no place to go with a penetrating drive.


1-3-1 Diagrams – continued

Diagram 3

The trap is sprung! 5 has moved out to the corner to initiate the trap with 2.

It is most important that 2 & 5 do not slap at the ball, nor let the offensive player split their defense. They should keep both arms up hoping the player will have to lob a pass which 1, 4 or 3 could intercept, or deflect.

Notice the rebounding positions of 1, 4 and 3 shot the offensive player be able to get a shot off from the corner.


1-3-1 Diagrams – continued

Diagram 4

A skip pass was made to weakside and all defensive players adjusted positions with the flight of the ball.

Keep in mind we want to allow the ball to get to the corner, where the trap can be sprung.

You can change the look of this defense by trap, or no trap. Sometimes the no trap defense makes the opponent become complacent and more susceptible to the trap defense.

Be sure every player understands the importance of keeping the arms up and extended from the sides. If they want a rest, they can do that on the bench, not on the floor.


1-3-1 Diagrams – continued

Diagram 5

Again, players have shifted with movement of the ball and 3 players stand between the ball and the basket.


1-3-1 Diagrams – continued

Diagram 6

On this side of the floor 4 & 3 initiate the trap and 5, who was one of the initiators on the opposite side of the floor is between the ball and the basket.

Remember: 3 & 4 must not slap at the ball, but keep their arms up. The objective here is an interception of a high lob pass by 1, 2 or 5.



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