Want to Learn Basic of 1-3-1 Zone Defense? Take a Look at Steve Klaas's Tips About 1-3-1 Zone, Traps and Adjustments

Scritto da: Chris Hungerford



Tempo di lettura 5 min

About 1-3-1 Zone Defense

The idea of 1-3-1 Zone Defense is to force long shots, risky lob passes, and players to use their fundamental skills to attack the basket instead of running plays. To be effective in playing 1-3-1 Zone Defense players have to be very disciplined and play with high intensity, which should cause a lot of improvisation from the offense and long shots, and that should reflect to the rebounds or ball stolen.

Protecting the space instead of a player, the zone makes the penetration much more difficult than the perimeter shot, which is why this kind of defense is highly recommended against the teams with poor shooting skills. 

Spacing and Numbering System

It's very important to put the right defender in the right place, especially when you play this type of defense.

The top of the 1-3-1 Zone should be one of the taller guards, and Coach Steve Klaas marked him as a Position 1. He should make side-to-side pass difficult by closing the middle of the court. Therefore, the player with the ball is forced to make a lob pass, which gives a higher chance for turnover and stealing.

Position 2 is a strong side defender, the player who can press the ball and come out a bit higher than  Position 3, who is waiting for a risky pass on the opposite side of the court. Position 3 is also a little bit better rebounder, since 70 percent of missed shots are going to the opposite side.

Position 5 is the middle man of the zone and his job is to be always between the ball and the basket. In this way, we will always have one man to stop penetration or pass inside the key.

Position 4 is our baseline player and he is in charge of covering the ball-side corner. That's why Position 4 has to be someone fast and athletic to move fast with the ball from side to side.

1-3-1  zone defense

Once we define the positions of all players, we can move forward to other rules from Steve Klaas.

5 Rules in Playing 1-3-1 Zone

Coach Steve Klaas states that it is mandatory to know all 5 basic rules in playing 1-3-1 Zone Defense. You have to make sure that every player in your team knows these rules at any moment. Team rules are:

  1. Stance- Every player must stay in the stance position all the time. This means that all players are alert and ready to react. Very often you can see just the player on the ball in the stance position, which is wrong. Don't let your players relax on the court. 
  2. Eyes of the passer- every defender has to be aware of where the ball is, so he can move with it. So keep your eyes on the ball all the time.
  3. Move when the ball is in the air five players on the court should move with the ball while it's in the air. Once the ball reaches from passer to catcher, all defensive players should already be at their positions, in the stance, and with their eyes on the ball.  
  4. Look for deflections- this could be the most crucial rule in playing 1-3-1 zone. It's not very often that the person who deflected the ball gets the steal, but since all the players are with their eyes on the ball and ready to react, somebody else could steal it.
  5. Go to boards mad- After a great defense, a missed shot is something expected, so we have to rebound the ball. It is mandatory that all players participate in the rebounding of the ball.
1-3-1  zone defense

Steve Klaas's Adjustments in 1-3-1 Zone

There are some moments during the game where you can use the lack of attention to the offense, by making adjustments in your defense.

The first one is a half-curt trap, which one you can use if you need a quick steal, or you are facing a poor ball handler. 


The next adjustment would be trapping in the corner of the court. Once the ball gets to the corner it's very hard to create a play or organize something, so the reason for the ball getting there is to stretch the defense or take a shot. The most common case is that a passer wants to pass it back to the wing so play can continue. That's why the trapping in the corner could be very powerful because if the ball gets stock there you will most likely get a steal. Trapping in the corner makes passing extremely hard and this is a perfect chance for a deflection. 

"Mark 27:41-28:45"

The third adjustment is to protect the high post with your top player. You can use this adjustment in case that you play against a dominant high post player. This will also allow your middle player to step back closer to the basket so he can help better during potential penetration or a lob pass.   

"Mark 28:55-31:28"

One more adjustment that Coach Steve Klaas mentioned as important is definitely a low post coverage. In this case, your guards would step back to help your middleman in protecting a low post. This kind of defense works perfectly against the dominant low-post team. 

Drill to improve your 1-3-1 Zone Defense

Practicing your individual defense is can drastically improve your team's defense. Since you are playing zone defense, in this drill make sure that your players are in the stance, marring the ball, and communicating. Practice one-on-one on and off the ball to improve these things.

The player should turn his thumb down and turn his hand to the ball so he can react on time for a potential deflection.  

Ball marring- if player with the ball is holding the ball high, your hands must be up. 

In case that a player holds the ball on his hip, he cannot take a shot from that position,and he is more prone to the penetration, so you have to protect that by your hands down. Also, call "Ball,Ball, Ball" when you are defending a ball. 

Advantages of playing 1-3-1 Zone Defense

1-3-1 Zone Defense is a perfect solution against the teams that are not great shooting teams. 

This type of defense perfectly closes the key and minimizes penetration.

With using Steve Klaas's advice and tips, you can easily trap the ball, get a steal, or completely destroy your opponent in organizing the offense.

Weakness of playing 1-3-1 Zone Defense

This zone defense is not recommended against good shooting teams. The weak point could be a corner, It happens very often that during a good ball movement, this spot is open for a shot.

Also, it takes time to learn to play on the high-level 1-3-1 zone. Before mastering it you should not use it as a primary defense.

Who Might Use 1-3-1 Zone Defense

The 1-3-1 Zone Defense is a defense for any basketball level, high school, college, or professional team. If your team is disciplined, patient, and well-organized, this could be your primary defense. There are many international professional teams that use this type of defense as a primary protection. Also, coaches who don't have a dominant big man(or big man in a foul trouble) use the 1-3-1 zone, because it makes everybody involved and key closed. 

 Learn More About The 1-3-1 Zone Defense from Steve Klaas by renting DVD.Just click below.


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1-3-1 zone defense

1-3-1 zone defense