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Coaching Basketball Defense

The Box and 1 Combination Defense



Coaching basketball defenses can be tricky - choosing man to man defense almost always increases the pressure on the offense, but it makes it more difficult to help out if a man gets beat. Playing a zone allows you to close down driving lanes easier and force a shot, but there's often little pressure on the shooter. So which defense do you use as part of your basketball coaching strategies?


Every basketball coaching book will give you a different answer. Personally, I'm a big fan of man to man. It's more demanding and to play it well your players need to be in excellent physical shape, but it's also more pressure and it makes the offense work for everything they get - if your team can play man to man defense well, they can very often rule the game.

But there are other times that I concede a different defensive strategy may be better. For example, an opponent with a strong outside player but relatively few other strong players: you want to shut down the strong player, but if you have your players play him man to man close up, there's a good chance he'll beat them to the hoop. They lay off, he'll shoot over them.

The solution?


Coaching Basketball Defense: The Box and 1

The Box and 1 pits one defensive player against the strong offensive player, one on one. The rest of the team, however, remains in a zone, in a box formation as the diagram below indicates (the "1" in the diagram is shaded in - player #3)

coaching basketball defense - box and 1 - 1



  • The player in the "1" position picks up his man at the half and plays hard one-on-one defense the entire time, following the man wherever he goes, denying the ball, and generally making life as miserable as possible for this player.

  • If the star opponent player is an outside player, the player in the "1" position will usually be a guard or small forward - someone quick enough to play against a quick opponent.

  • Everybody else sets up in a box formation, with the two guards at either end of the foul line and the two forwards on the blocks. They play the game as a zone, adjusting as they need to as the ball moves from one side of the court to the other.

  • The box should be able to play a solid defensive game against the remaining four players, and be able to help out the "1" if he gets beaten
coaching basketball defense - box and 1 - 2

  • As the ball moves around, the players on the box follow accordingly, closing off passing routes into the key. The defender on the "1" remains always with his man.

  • Be careful not to allow the players on the box to think they can relax - they need to defend the key more than anything else, blocking any cuts through and keeping the ball outside the key.

  • They also need to watch for the star offensive player if he should get the ball and beat the man playing one-on-one defense on him.
coaching basketball defense - box and 1 - 3


Coaching Basketball Defense: Post One-on-One

  • If the star opponent player is a post player, then the defense should match up another post player in the "1" position.

  • If possible, use a power forward instead of a center - forwards are usually faster than centers - just be sure the forward is good at boxing out and playing physical

  • The idea here is that, with a box surrounding the star post player, as well as a man guarding him one-on-one, the offensive player should find it very difficult to execute any inside moves.
coaching basketball defense - box and 1 - 4


The Box and 1 is a great strategy to use when you are coaching basketball defense against a team with a strong player but mediocre support. It isn't a defensive strategy to use all the time, but it is something that you can use on occasion to shake things up and take a key offensive player out of the game.


Additional resources to help you coach basketball defense:

Better Basketball Coaching Pages & Resources
External Resources

Good luck coaching basketball defense, and remember what they say - offense wins games, but defense wins championships!



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