How to Run the 1-2-1-1 Diamond Press Defense - Drills and Tips

The Diamond press (also called the 3-1-1 or the 1-2-1-1 press) is suited for all levels of play. The press is designed to force turnovers by speeding up the decision making process of the offense. Your team must have quick players with good instincts for this press defense to be effective. Do not run this press if you are not willing to occasionally give up easy baskets.

Quickly transitioning from offense to defense is crucial to prevent miscommunications that result in those easy baskets. Communication in games and practices is vital to make this press effective. Be sure to constantly remind your players that the offense's goal is to get the ball in the middle of the diamond. Getting the ball in the middle of the diamond breaks the press.

Note: Breakthrough Basketball strongly believes all youth level teams should only play man-to-man defense.

X4 is for the post player closest to the basket. X2 and X3 are for the two guards closest to the basket. X1 is for the guard furthest from the basket. X5 is for the post player furthest away from the basket.

The Diamond press can also be run directly out of a made free throw. The free-throw shooter is up top. X2 and X3 are positioned on the wings. X1 and X5 are at their usual positions.

The offense will likely set up in this press break. Line X1 directly behind 5 and parallel to 3 and 4 to intercept any long passes. X4 denies any inbounds pass to the middle. X2 and X3 look to force the inbounds pass to go into the corners. X5 is the safety in case of a long pass.

As soon as the ball is inbounded to the corner, X2 and X4 must trap immediately. X2 must not give up the sideline.

If the pass is made to 5 or 1, reset to the initial formation.

If the pass is made to 4, X1 looks to cut off the sideline. X3 and X4 sprint back. X2 looks to prevent any passes to the middle by forcing 4 to dribble up the sideline. X1 and X4 trap once the ball crosses half-court.

If the pass is made to 3, the press is broken. Your team must fall back to your base half-court defense. You can still force a turnover if X4 can tip the ball from behind.

1-2-1-1 Diamond Press Tips

Here are five concepts to emphasize when working on this press in practice. A breakdown in any of these areas will lead to the press being broken.

1. Sprint to the nearest spot after a made basket. Get your players to think about pressing as soon as they transition from offense to defense. The press is almost always broken when one or two players fail to remember that their team is running a full-court press.

2. Only trap on the sides. Trapping in the middle is counterproductive because the offense has four directions to escape the trap via the dribble or the pass.

3. Do not allow the ball to go in the middle of the diamond. This will put the defense in an unfavorable position because there is only one player to cover three spots.

4. Keep the ball behind the first line of defense for as long as possible. Move your defense back depending on where the offense is initially set up. Always remind your players that the offense has ten seconds to get the ball across half-court.

5. Have their hands up when trapping the ball. Do not give your opponent an easy target to break the press. Remember that short passes to the middle are the best way to break the Diamond press.

6. Get hands up when closing out to guard a player or trap. By simply getting your hands up, you′ll get numerous deflections and turnovers.

Drills for the 1-2-1-1 Diamond Press

To reinforce these five concepts, here are two simple drills to work on in practice.

Drill 1 - Free Throw Situations
Drill 2 - Half Court Overload

Related Pages and Helpful Resources

Zone Defense Concepts & Tips
Man to Man Defense
Does Your Defense Match Your Purpose? A Look at Defensive Alignments

What do you think? Let us know by leaving your comments, suggestions, and questions...


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Coach B says:
1/13/2020 at 9:23:30 AM

How do you handle a 4 across press breaker when running this press?

  1 reply  

Jeff Haefner says:
1/16/2020 at 2:28:37 PM

I would delay the first trap... maybe back up the press a little bit. Keep the ball out of the middle, taking away the first cutting options. Then when ball is near sideline look to trap.


markus says:
2/10/2016 at 3:57:12 PM

can you guys do something for beginners to understand


Tyler says:
8/5/2015 at 4:35:10 AM

It works good for me


Ken Sartini says:
11/3/2013 at 9:11:21 AM

I have seen teams do that Mike.... and catching them off guard is a way to get a quick turnover and score. I'm not so sure that I would do that all the time.

I coached boys varsity ball.... and in one summer league a team did that to us and we lost by 55 points. I talked to them after the game and promised them that we would beat them during the season... they asked me if I thought I was that good. Of course I said yes and then explained that the middle of the floor was wide open and that I was surprised that NO ONE saw that.

We did win by 13 during the season. So, be careful how much you use that. The element of surprise can get you some quick baskets... but any team that knows how to break presses will handle that, JMO


Kevin Germany says:
11/2/2013 at 10:29:43 PM


It depends on your opponent. As a rule of thumb, don''t press if your opponent has 2 decent dribblers. Your idea should work as long as 1 denies the strong side area. If 5 cheats up, the whole right side of the court will be open to a fast break for the other team. 1 has to cut off that passing lane. Otherwise you run the risk of giving up a layup. You can certainly fall back into man-to-man in the half court if this press is broken.


Mike says:
10/17/2013 at 10:27:15 PM


I do not believe in zone defense in the half court and I will be coaching 7th grade girls this year (the same group I have had since 4th grade-mostly). However, though maybe I shouldn't, I am still going to try and institute this press full court. My question is this, knowing that 7th grade girls are somewhat limited in their ability to make the long or cross court pass, do you think we can get away with having the 3 (in the 3rd diagram) cover the pass back to the inbounder, the 1 cover the sideline (like you have it shown) and the 5 cheat up to the middle? Thanks for all you guys do for youth basketball.


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