Key concepts

The key concepts of the 1-1-3 defence are:

  1. Deny all penetrating passes;
  2. Influence the ball to one side of the court and keep it there;
  3. Deny passes to the post – “front” low post players;
  4. Keep hands up and active to stop passes;
  5. Never let a cutter on the “strong side” get in front of a defender.

Initial Alignment

Initially one guard (x1) defends the ball – the “up” guard. The second guard (x2) denies the high post area. The guards have responsibility to guard the ball above the free throw line.

The “frontline” (x3, x4 and x5) take position in the back of the zone, staying in front of any low post player.

The “Up guard” forces the play to one side of the floor. The frontline also “hedge” in that direction, in anticipation of the ball moving to the wing.

When the ball is passed to the wing, the front line moves to defend the ball. The frontline and the guards adjust to form a “box” with two defenders at the high and low post (in front of any offensive players) and two defenders in the “help” position.

The players in the “help” position are positioned the same as “split line” in “man to man”.

x2 and x5 deny any pass to the post positions. x4 and x1 are in the help position.

When the ball is passed to the strong side wing, the front line defender in the low post “fronts”. The help defender becomes particularly important in order to stop any lob passes into the post.

Pressure on the wing player (so that they cannot make the lob pass) is also very important.

Defending the dribbler

Where the ball is dribbled from the point, the up guard defends that. On any reversal pass, the up guard and the back guard switch (this is shown in red.)

“Defending the Corner”

When the ball is passed to the corner, it is defended by the nearest “frontline” player. The preferred rotation is for the help player to move into the post position, and the wing defender to sprint back to the help position.

Alternatively, the wing player can rotate back into the low post position. This can be effective when the low post is not occupied by an offensive player.

However, it can also be used to get into a “fronting” position where there is an offensive low post player

The defender “fronts” the low post. Even if the offensive player moved toward the high post, the frontline defender (x3) stays between the player with the ball and the post player.

The on ball defender must not allow any baseline penetration.

When the ball is passed out of the corner, the wing is now taken by the high post defender. And the three front line players rotate across.

This is different to a penetrating pass (from the point to the wing) where the wing would be defended by a front line player.

If the ball is then reversed to the point, the “back” guard moves to defend the ball. They should hesitate before moving, to give the other guard time to recover to the high post position.

The middle player in the frontline can also hedge toward the foul line to provide additional protection.

This restores the initial alignment.

If the ball is dribbled out of the corner, it is initially defended by the frontline player (x4), and is then handed off to the “up guard” (x2).

This is also an opportunity to trap if desired.

When the up guard is defending at the wing, should the ball be passed to the point, the guard must sprint to the middle of the high post area. They will not be guarding either wing on the next pass and must focus on defending the high post area.

Defending the High Post

When the ball is at the point, the back guard must front any offensive player in the high post. To do this, they must at least have their arms and hands in front of the post player.

Defenders may opt to stand directly in front of the post player.

If the ball is passed to the high post player, the two guards drop to the foul line, and may “crowd” the player. Their responsibility will be to guard the wing player if they receive a pass.

x5 hedges toward the high post player, and x3 and x4 take responsibility for any low post players.

If the high post player turns to face the basket, x5 steps up to defend them.

Defending Passes from High Post

Any pass to the wing from the high post player is defended by whichever guard is on that side of the floor. This means it is important that the guards keep vision of wing perimeter players.

Whenever the ball is passed all players must move.

As the high post passes to the wing, the nearest guard moves to defend the ball and the other guard moves to defend the high post.

The front line players adjust towards the ball.

The defence is now in the same alignment as when the ball is passed from the corner to the wing.

On a pass to the corner, the nearest front line player defends the corner player and the opposite front line player moves across the baseline to front any low post player. They should move on the baseline side of a post player.

The front line player that was defending the high post, rotates down to the help position. They do not move to the low post (although they may be closer) as they have a poor angle and could be easily sealed by the post player.

Practising the 1-1-3 Match Up Zone

An effective way of developing any match up zone defence is to play it against 6, 7 or even 8 offensive players. Initially, limiting the offensive players to passing the ball and then allowing them freedom to dribble and ultimately cut.

When a team is initially learning the “slides” or movements within the match up zone, it can be useful to work separately with the guards and the frontline.

Guard Slides

As the ball is passed around by offensive players, the two guards move as they would in response to the movement of the ball.

If the up guard is guarding the ball, they call “ball”. If the ball would be defended by a player from the frontline, then both guards call “frontline”.

Sometimes the movement of the players will be minimal, however, every time the ball is passed, both guards should adjust position.

Whilst initially the offensive players will be slow, allowing time for the guards to adjust position, they should quickly work to a game like speed.

The activity can be made “live” with players that a guard has direct responsibility to defend, being able to shoot or penetrate.

This will also help the offensive players understand the defensive movements as they anticipate whether or not they can shoot or drive when they receive the ball.

In this sequence of diagrams, all of the basic movements that the guards may be required to do on defence are shown.

As in any defence, it is important that the defenders “fly with the ball”, moving while a pass is in the air so that they are in their next defensive position when the pass is caught.

The high post must be denied by the guards at all times, but once the player has the ball, it is a player from the frontline who has responsibility to defend the post player.

Frontline Slides

Similarly, the slides of the Frontline players can be isolated, with passers initially slow but building to fully contested.

As the ball is passed to the corner, the front line players adjust.

It is critical that the help defender (x4) move under (baseline side) of the low post to get to a fronted position.

Again, the frontline players call “ball” if they are defending the ball and all players call “guard” if the person who has the ball would normally be defended by one of the guards.

Sprinting to the next position is crucial, as is denying the pass to all post players.

When the ball comes from the corner to the wing, the frontline crowd any low post player.

When the high post receives the ball, the middle player in the front line (x4) hedges towards them. If the high post turns to face the basket, it is x4’s responsibility to defend the player as closely as possible.

Rebounding in the 1-1-3 Match Up

If the shot is taken from either the corner or the wing, the frontline defender who is in front of the low post player has no “blocking out” responsibilities (as they are in a poor position). They should drop step past the post player into the key to contest for the rebound.

Other players rotate away from where the shot was taken and “find a body” to box out.

However, if there is a player in the corner, x5 (who was fronting low post) is responsible to box out the corner player.

Trapping in the 1-1-3

Trapping in the 1-1-3 is mostly done in the corner, with the wing defender following the pass to act as a “trapper”.

The frontline defender and guard still front any low or high post players, being active to intercept any pass.

The back guard must move down to be in a help position behind any low post player.


Many offences will screen the outside of the zone, and then throw a skip pass or send a cutter along the baseline. The frontline player being screened should adjust their position so that they have “foot advantage” and can get past the screener.

However, if the screen is effective, the guard may need to rotate to defend the ball.

The simple rule is that whoever can get there quicker is the player that defends the ball.

1-1-3 Against Two High Posts

Where there are two high post players, the up guard attempts to influence the ball to one side and the back guard denies the high post on that side.

The frontline player (x3) hedges towards the other high post.