1-3-1 3/4 Court Trap

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This is an article on an aggressive 1-3-1 3/4 court trap looking to apply ball pressure and utilize traps in the corners. If you're looking for a more "packed in" conservative half court zone, see 1-3-1 Half Court Zone.


D1 - Rear Spot - This is the spot you want filled by your smallest, quickest guard. It's important to have length out front and this position needs quickness more than anything to stay even in line with the basketball. This player is going to look to take away the first pass up the sideline behind the trap on the strong side.

D2/D3 - Wings - An athletic, prefer long guard or forward. They need to be laterally quick enough to keep a man from beating them up the sideline. This position also requires someone able to rotate back when the ball gets reversed away from them as not doing so opens up an easy layup.

D4 - Middle - Primarily responsible for taking care of any flash into the middle of the court even and just below the basketball. This is the best spot for a slower player who may have a difficult time with rotations.

D5 - Front - This should be your center or longest player. You want them to be able to take up space and get wide up front to deter and intimidate the offense.

Initial set of the 1-3-1 Zone in 3/4 court

The Decision: Trap Above or Below Half-Court?

There are two general methods of trapping in the 3/4 court 1-3-1 trap. Trapping whenever an opportunity arises or choosing specificly to trap only once the ball has crossed the timeline. Choosing to trap once the ball is advanced into the front court has a significant advantage. The half court line and the sideline become defenders of their own if you are able to force the ball out of the middle into one of the corners as they come over the line. The second option is to teach your players to read the offense and trap if:

  • They are within 2-3 steps of making the trap.
  • The offensive player is off balance.
  • The offense is not rotating the ball and trying to force the dribble push up the court through the zone.
  • The offensive ball handlers are at a significant height disadvantage against the front of your zone.

Deciding to trap once the ball has crossed means that you need to coach your players to defend on the wing but drift back and make proper rotations with ball movement till the ball is advanced over the half court line on one side of the court or the other.


First rotation of trapping the ball
  • D5 your front man has the job of pushing the ball out of the middle. When the offense chooses a side, he needs to trap guarding east/west and allow the wing on the ball side to step up and complete the trap going north/south. In this case, D5 and D3 trap together looking to force the tempo and ball reversal.
  • D2 on the weak side wing needs to rotate back to protect the basket. One of the weak spots of a 1-3-1 is the weak side back corner if this wing does not rotate back. This can hurt you for a layup if you're not getting pressure on the ball up front and rotation out back.
  • D4 should be a quick and smart player able to make reads. The most important thing for D4 is to prevent any flash through the middle from receiving a pass. This could mean a frontside guard cutting through or often a weak side post player flashing from behind the zone into the middle. If D4 allows a pass through the middle behind them, the zone is broken and you are at a transition disadvantage. In some cases, D4 can make a read to step in front of a reversal pass:
    • D4 should be slightly opened to the weak side to have a peripheral view of all cutters coming from the opposite side but do not lose track of the ball.
    • D4 should read the shoulders of the ball handler, this will give you a clue of where the next pass is likely to go.
    • D4 if they choose to step up and get into the passing lane of reversal, they should gauge their level of commitment to staying up based on the quality of the trap happening on the wing. If the ball handler has gotten into trouble in a trap that's a good opportunity to go for a reversal read.
  • D1 follows the basketball and takes away the first pass up the sideline on the ball side. When guarding the sideline D1 wants to be close enough where they can deter or step in front of the pass up the sideline but leaving enough space where they can make it to the opposite side of the court if the ball is reversed.
Rotation after ball reversal

On Ball Rotation

  • D5 follows the ball and continues to pressure, looking to re-trap if possible particularly as the ball crosses half court.
  • D1 also follows the ball on the back side of the zone, looking to stop the pass up the sideline.
  • As D2 steps up from protecting the basket to trapping as the ball crosses to their side of the court, D3 must rotate back to protect the basket.
  • D4 must adjust with the ball to continue to prevent the ball getting advanced up the middle of the court and be opportunistic in reading if they have a chance to step in front of or deny ball reversal.

Should we run the 1-3-1?

The decision to run the 1-3-1 depends in large part on how much pressure you feel like you can get on the ball with your traps. The rotations of this zone are not easy as teams will look to quickly rotate the ball before advancing. You must be able to force the ball handler into difficult situations through strong trapping fundamentals. When implementing this defense you must expect to give up a few easy baskets while players are learning the rotations. Many coaches try to run the 1-3-1 but quickly give up as they give up layups. Be patient enough to see this through and it can become a weapon once players learn to communicate inside the zone and rotate effectively.