Using the 1-3-1 Zone Defense

The following is from the July issue of The Real AAU Basketball Magazine and Coach Matt Monroe:

The 1-3-1 Half Court Zone Defense is a great way to disrupt opposing offenses. It can effectively be utilized as your base defense or for special situations.
Benefits of Implementing the 1-3-1 Zone:

1. Teams have to prepare for you.
The majority of coaches spend most of their time in practice working against or on man-to-man defense. Although the use of zone defense has become more popular in recent years, man-to-man is still the most common defense teams face. Even if you do see a lot of zone teams, they more commonly play variations of the 2-3 or 3-2 zone. The 1-3-1 half court zone is a defensive look that teams do not have to see on a regular basis. Because of their unfamiliarity playing against the 1-3-1, your opponents will have to spend a considerable amount of time preparing to face you, while limited the amount of work they can delegate to other facets of the game.

2. There are a limited number of ways to attack the 1-3-1 zone.
There are two major reasons why there are a limited number of ways to attack the 1-3-1: there are a limited amount of variables when it comes to defensive rotations and since coaches don’t play against it frequently, a lot less time is spent at figuring out how to break it. Since there are a lot less ways to attack the 1-3-1, you don’t have to spend as much time prepping your defense from game to game, allowing you to focus on other parts of your game plan.

3. The 1-3-1 alignment makes it easy for your team to fill your fast break lanes and run in transition.
If you run a numbered fast break (#2 and #3 run wide, #5 rim runs, etc.), the 1-3-1 allows you to get into your primary break lanes a lot quicker since you’re already in set areas within your zone defense.

4. Your rotations and alignment can be modified easily based on the strengths of your individual personnel or the scouting report of your opponent.
There are many different alignments and adjustments that you can make to your 1-3-1 to get the most out of your defense. Different alignments and rotations can be effective to maximize the strengths and hide the weaknesses of your team. Changing the look of your 1-3-1 is even better for taking away the strengths and exploiting the weaknesses of your opponent. Several ideas for adjustments to your 1-3-1 are detailed later in this article.

5. The 1-3-1 zone works especially well against:
• Teams that rely heavily on dribble penetration
• Teams that run a lot of different man-to-man offensive sets
• Teams that don’t have a lot of time to prepare to play you (travel tournaments, second game of a Friday/Saturday double header, etc.)
• Teams that have one or two great individual players (flex or trap adjustments)
• Poor shooting teams, as the 1-3-1 forces opponents to take outside shots, thus lowering shooting percentages.
• Many others

To read the full article, please CLICK HERE.

Stan Van Gundy on Defense

The following is from a handout provided by University of Illinois-Chicago assistant men’s basketball coach Al Biancalana:

“There are no easy answers or miracle schemes that will be consistently effective with minimum effort. Great defense results not from great schemes but from the defensive commitment from the players and staff. To be a great defense team, we must trust our system and make it work. We must trust our teammates to do their jobs and make sure that they can trust you to do yours.”

- Stan Van Gundy, Head Coach, Orlando Magic

Miami Heat’s Defense Leaving Imprint on NBA

MIAMI — If this low-scoring Game 1 of the NBA Finals is any indication of how this series will play out, it won’t be the way the Heat Voltronned together to form a superteam that’s a threat to the league — it’ll be the method they’re using to grip the championship trophy that strikes fear into those of us who enjoy basketball in its most free-flowing form.

It turns out the group Joakim Noah instantly labeled a “Hollywood team” is looking less like a J.J. Abrams production and more like a PBS documentary. The Heat are grinding opponents into submission with their defense, not overwhelming them with their offense. They’re more about the shutout than the shootout — as in the 3 1/2 minutes they held the Mavericks without a point in the fourth quarter Tuesday.

When it’s time to take over, they’re not even thinking about the offensive end.

CLICK HERE to read full article.

Defense Key for Bulls

From the Chicago Tribune:

There is little that is pretty about playing defense.

It takes sweat, hustle and commitment. And on the Bulls, you can often add hoarse-voiced screaming from coach Tom Thibodeau to the equation.

Nevertheless, when the Bulls defend like they did in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference finals on Sunday night, sweat equity can be a beautiful thing.



courtesy of “Words on the Bounce,” a great new Blog by Kyle Gilreath (@kylegilreath)


Ask any basketball coach in the world what they think is one of the most important factors to having a GREAT defensive team, and I would bet they will mention “Communication” somewhere in their explanation. While knowing your rotations, knowing personnel, and playing solid fundamental defense are truly key components; Communication is vital in order to become a great defensive Team.

I have been fortunate to coach at all levels of basketball (except professionally) in my young career, and at every level it seems one of the hardest things to teach is the importance of communication on defense. Now I know this is partly due to the fact that young players don’t think it’s “cool” to communicate on defense. However, I also feel that this is due to the lack of habits being formed at young ages.

Websters Dictionary defines habits: an acquired behavior pattern regularly followed until it has become almost involuntary. If coaches began preaching the importance of communication to grade school players and everyone began to do it, would it then become “cool” by the time they reached middle or high school and then college?

Constant communication is enforced at the highest levels of basketball. One of those enforcers is the new head coach at the University of Wyoming, Larry Shyatt. For those very few of you who do not know Coach Shyatt, he is an absolute Defensive Guru (He is the Tom Thibodeau of college basketball). During his time at the University of Florida, he introduced a three letter acronym that was preached almost on a daily basis: E.L.C. This stood for Early, Loud, & Continuous.

Read the rest of the article at

Thoughts for Coaches from Rudy Tomjanovich Pt. III

The following was a handout provided by the staff at Marquette a couple of years ago. It is a compilation of quotes and thoughts from a book penned by Rudy Tomjanovich called A Rocket at Heart:

- It takes time to perfect a defensive system; it must be taught step by step, starting with the stance and footwork of the individual defender. You progressively move to two-man situations… all the way to five men helping each other.

- In order to have a good defense, teamwork is essential. The term teamwork is usually applied to passing the ball on offense, but it’s also the basis for good team defense. All give guys have to help each other. This concept of working together and helping together builds confidence that you can play your man aggressively and feel secure there will always be a teammate there to support you if you happen to get beat.

- The Rockets’ record how many points that they allow on the fast break. Less than 10 points, excellent. 10 to 15, good. 15 to 20, fair. Any more indicates that they are not getting back.