5 Keys to a Successful 1-3-1 Defense

By Rory Hamilton

This is part 2 of a 4 part series on the 1-3-1 zone defense by Coach Rory Hamilton. Read part 1 here: 5 Advantages of Running the 1-3-1 Defense

Once you have decided to incorporate the 1-3-1 defense into your playbook for next season, there are several keys to running it successfully.  Here are our keys to a successful 1-3-1:

  1.  Energy – The 1-3-1 takes a tremendous amount of energy by all five players on the floor to be successful.  It is not a passive zone and must be played with aggressiveness to be effective.  We believe playing an effective zone requires more effort and energy than man to man defense.  Just like any defense, the 1-3-1 has its weaknesses and vulnerable areas but we feel we can effectively limit those with our enthusiasm, energy and aggressiveness.
  2. Bounce – Bounce is the word we use to describe the process of distorting passing lanes and taking up space defensively.  We use the phrase “Big On” the ball and “Wide Off” the ball to help our players play with bounce.  We want the offense to throw over us and around us, but never through us.  If your players play big on the ball with high hands it makes it more difficult for the offense to complete even the easiest pass.  Off the ball we want our players to have their arms extended laterally to take up space and distort seemingly open passing lanes.
  3. Stunting – A huge component of our 1-3-1 is to create indecision by the ball handler by distorting both passing lanes and driving lanes. “Stunting” is the term we use to bluff at the ball handler and then retreat back in the passing lane.  We have found that our defense is more successful when all five players are stunting effectively.
  4. Communication – Stunting and communication go hand in hand in the 1-3-1.  We want all five players communicating effectively to make the defense more effective.  We use the verbal “ball” to help declare who is pointing the ball so players can adjust accordingly.  We feel communication makes our defense stronger and helps us cover for each other.
  5. Rebounding – Rebounding is tough out of any zone but what is unique about the 1-3-1 is that the majority of shots come from the corner and slot areas.  By knowing where the majority of shots will come from allows us to predict and know our rebounding responsibilities.  Unlike M2M, players will sprint to an area and find players to box out.

Check out the rest of the 1-3-1 zone defense series here:

Part 1: 5 Advantages of Running the 1-3-1 Defense

Part 3:  Player Positioning & Rules

Part 4:  1-3-1 Comprehensive Drill Package

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Rory Hamilton

Rory Hamilton has 21 years of basketball coaching experience at the collegiate and high school level. Coach Hamilton is the current girls basketball coach at Norman North High School. In 5 years his team has posted a 85-49 record, won four mid-season tournament titles and appeared in five 6A area tournaments. In 2019, Norman North won the silver ball losing in the 6A state championship game to Norman High School. Coach Hamilton was named Central Oklahoma Conference girls coach of the year along with earning Oklahoma Girls Basketball Coaches Association Large Class All-State coach. Prior to Norman North, he served as the head girls coach at Mount St. Mary Catholic High School in Oklahoma City, OK. In seven years at MSM, he posted a 108-75 record and is the winningest girls coach in school history. Coach Hamilton led the Rockets to three consecutive 4A state tournament appearances. In 2011-2012, the Rockets had a 20-7 record and made it to the state tournament for the first time in school history. The next year in 2012-2013, the Rockets posted a 25-6 record and earned the silver ball, losing in the 4A state championship game to Fort Gibson. In 2013-2014, the Rockets posted a 23-7 record and lost to Anadarko in the 4A state tournament semifinals. Coach Hamilton was named Central Oklahoma Conference coach of the year three times and was selected to coach the Little All-City all-star game three consecutive years from 2012-2014. Coach Hamilton has coached 6 NCAA Division 1 players, 6 NCAA Division II players and several playing at the NAIA and NJCAA levels.

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