We’ll start off with one of the most common presses that you have – the 1-3-1 trap [tag]press[/tag].  This press can be used [tag]full court[/tag], three-quarter court and at half court – and can be successful at each place.

But, the success lies with the players that execute the press, not with the set press itself.  Players need to be aware of where the ball is on the court, and while they need to pressure, they cannot be over-aggressive or the press can easily be broken.

Not all presses employ a trap, but most do.  Like a defensive zone trap, the best way to do it is by surprise.  Only the team doing the press should know when it is going to be sprung, because the element of surprise is extremely important.

1 man

This is the most important player on the press.  The success of the press lies in the success of the 1 man doing his or her job.  This person is the front man for the press and they will influence the dribbler in the direction they want them to go to set up the trap.

Tip:“  Try to force the dribbler to use their weaker dribbling hand to get away from the press – for most players this is the left hand side.

2 and 4 man

These players set the bottom side of the trap (as you will see in the diagrams).  It is imperative that these players are quick enough to get into position to set the trap.  I have seen hundreds of presses broken because the 2 and 4 men could not get into position.

When the trap goes to one side, the opposite side man acts as an interceptor of the return pass to the player who in-bounded the ball.  It is important to pick this player up immediately, because the easiest way to break a press is to give and go down the court. 

3 man

This is the centerfielder of the bunch.  This player guards the center of the court with their life.  They mustn’t let any ball or player pass them uncontested, because then it leaves the 5 man to possible defend against a 3-on-1.  This is not going to work in your favor.

5 man

This is the last line of defense.  In most cases the 5 man will be looking at 2 defenders down low.  It will be very tempting for this player to want to try and intercept a long ball, but you should instruct them to defend first and intercept second.  If the interception is missed, it is a sure 2-points for the opposition.

If the 5 man is certain he or she can intercept a pass, they should go for it, otherwise, they should be instructed to stay at home and defend the basket. 
Here’s how this press works:

-“ The 1 man will not pressure the inbounds player, but they play a sagging defense on the player receiving the inbounds pass.  The intent is not to disrupt the pass, but rather to create the opportunity to trap and then intercept the pass.

The one man will attempt to influence the ball handler in one direction or the other (usually his weak hand), and once he or she drives this player to the sidelines, the 2 or 4 man should be there to set the trap. 

If this player gets beat on the trap and a pass is made up the middle, then they need to scurry back to recover on defense. 

-“ The 2 and 4 men have one of two responsibilities:

-“ Set the trap
-“ Intercept passes

Which side the trap is set determines the player who will trap and who will steal.  In the diagram on the previous page, the trapper is the 2 man, and the 4 man should be lurking in the opposition’s backcourt waiting for a steal.

-“ The 3 man, as you can see by the diagram, essentially plays the field and waits for an errant pass.  In many cases, the opposing player being trapped will have no idea the 3 man is waiting to pounce on a poor pass in the middle, and they will be the benefactor of many interceptions.

It is important that the 3 man also be able to recognize if the trap is being broken, so he or she can get back on defense.

-“ The 5 man just sits back and waits as the press develops.  They need to make defense their number one priority.  They can move any direction, usually favoring the side that the trap is being executed. 

This is not a difficult press to teach your players, but it is one of the most effective.  Practice it in slow motion at first, so each of the players knows their responsibilities, and then run it against a full speed backcourt to do any fine tuning.