Lute Olson 1-1-3 Zone Defense
During the 2010-2011 season at the varsity level, we ran mostly man to man defense, but we occasionally ran some zone defense. And when we did run zone defense, we ran the 1-1-3 Lute Olson Zone Defense.

Even though we did not run the zone defense often, our defense was actually better when we ran zone from a statistical standpoint. It was 0.88 ppp (points per possession) with man to man defense and 0.72 ppp with zone defense during the season.

I like the Lute Olson zone defense because it provides a different look that confuses the offense and makes them hesitant.

We also used a variation of the Lute Olson defense in the state championship game that almost helped us pull out a huge upset.

Basic Set

x1 applies pressure on the basketball. x1 will not leave x1 until a pass is made.

Top Passes To Wing

1 passes to 2.

x3 applies a hard closeout to take away the shot.

x2 slides over to deny a pass into the high post via a post or a cut and help out on dribble penetration.

(Note: You can also have x1 slide down to deny the ball-side high post. I prefer to have x2 deny in this situation.)

x1 slides to the weakside.

x5 slides to ball side. x5 will full front any offensive players on the block.

x4 slides towards the middle of the lane.

Top Dribbles To Wing

1 dribbles to wing.

When the guard dribbles from the top to the wing, x1 stays on the guard. This is similar to positions on the pass from the corner to the wing diagrammed below.

x2 slides over and defends the high post. x5 defends the low post.

x4 protects the basket.

x3 is ready to defend a pass to the corner.

Wing Passes To Top

2 passes to 1

x2 defends 1.

x1 slides to high post.

x3, x4, x5 slide back to original positions.

1 passes to 3.

x4 takes away shot (hands high!) and forces ball to sideline or corner.

x5 slides over to take away any passes to the post and help on baseline drive.

x3 protects the basket.

x1 takes away entries to high post area.

x2 goes to weakside.

Pass To The Corner

3 passes to 4.

x5 sprints defends 4 and takes away the shot.

x4 sprints to protect the basket and weakside block.

x3 rotates over to defend the low post.

x1 drops to mid post.

x2 slides over to help.

Pass From The Corner To The Wing

4 passes to 3.

x1 defends the wing. The guard always takes the pass out of the corner to the wing.

x2 defends the high post.

x3 defends the low post and fronts if an offensive player is there.

x5 slides down to help.

x4 protects the basket and weakside.

Ball Is Dribbled Out Of Corner

4 dribbles out of the corner.

x5 stays with the ball until x1 slides over to defend the ball and calls him off.

x5 slides down to help.

x2 slides over to defend the ball.

Wing To Wing Skip Pass

3 passes to 2.

x4 defends wing.

x2 slides to ballside high post.

x1 defends weakside.

x3 fronts the low post.

x5 protects the basket and weakside.

Entry To High Post

2 passes to 5.

x1 and x2 defend 5. The guards collapse and have active hands.

x4 slides down, but is still close enough to close out on the wing.

x3 protects the basket area.

x5 is positioned to closeout on a pass to the corner or wing.

Pass To Short Corner

2 passes to 4.

x3 and x5 trap the ball.

x4 slides over to protect the basket.

x2 and x1 drop down a couple of steps to defend any cutters.

Related Pages and Helpful Resources

Zone Defense Concepts & Tips
2-3 Zone Defense Basic Rotations
1-3-1 "Lob Pass" Zone Defense
Thoughts on Rebounding in the Zone

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

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Blake says:
10/4/2011 at 5:09:54 AM

How did you choose to defend ballside and weakside cuts? And you switched all screens?


Coach Tom says:
10/4/2011 at 10:26:26 AM

I'm looking for a 2-3/matchup zone. This has concepts that I may borrow, but my team has been running a (too passive) 2-3 zone ... I don't want to change the alignment, but want to add more aggressive on-ball and/or trapping elements to it (i.e., on the wing pass, the 2/3 can trap the wing, with 1 denying the pass back out top, 5 moving up to deny the high post and 4 sliding over to deny/front the low post). I'm not looking to run a "trap" everytime, but maybe stay relatively passive and then spring a trap once in a while to keep the offense off-balanced. Any thoughts/leads/ideas would be appreciated. Thanks.


Jeff Haefner says:
10/4/2011 at 10:34:56 AM

Sounds to me like Al Marshall's 2-3 Zone is almost exactly what you're looking for:

They are aggressive, but they don't give up lay ups. They trap at the right time, cause turn overs, yet they are smart and don't give up easy shots or lay ups. It's a smart, aggressive, and tough 2-3 defense. With that said, he does not have 1 deny on the reversal when trapped. I think you'll find the way they trap and use high hands, they get turnovers without getting out of position. In my opinion, it's a better way to trap and cause turnovers.

By the way, how old are the players you are working with?

Hope this helps.


J.A. young says:
10/4/2011 at 10:50:04 AM

Great concept. I like this as an alternative to the typical 2-3 zone or 1-2-2. It looks like an excellent change of pace.


Coach Tom says:
10/4/2011 at 10:53:31 AM

Jeff: thanks! I looked at your link to the DVD this morning (it came in the same email as the 1-1-3 zone), and based on the description (and your recommendation) I will definitely order it. (I have practice tonight - we practice just once/week during the fall - and was at this point just hoping to introduce the concepts. So I''ll try to find something else to drill them with tonight, and will take a look at Coach Marshall''s DVD as soon as I get it). BTW - I have a 7th grade boys and 5th grade girls team (they''re an advanced AAU team ... we were exclusively man2man until this summer when I introduced a zone to deal with foul/short bench situations). Thanks again.


Joe Haefner says:
10/4/2011 at 11:06:55 AM

Blake, when the cut was to the ball side inside of the 3-point line, we just had our defender that was already there step in front of the offensive player and deny the pass. If the offensive player bounced out to the 3-point line, we let them go.

For weakside cuts, we just had our team talk and let each other know where the cutter was going. As long as our weakside was aware of where the offense was, it didn't seem to pose any problems.

However, you may have to make adjustments based on what the offense is doing.


Rudi Gomez says:
10/11/2011 at 9:36:52 PM

I like this zone because I can quickly go from the 2-3 to this one and back in a flash. I also will throw in a trap in the corners as well, instead of having my wing player try to sprint back to their zone, cuz I can see some players getting confused with having to run away from the ball at the middle school level.


IVAN says:
10/11/2011 at 10:45:13 PM

Jeff, is this the amoeba defense?

What variations do you have for full court using the same formation?

How would you drill your players to master this zone?



Joe Haefner says:
10/13/2011 at 3:50:58 PM

Ivan, this is not the Amoeba defense. I have never extended this defense full court, but let me know if you try it and how it works.

As for the drills, we just separated the guards and forwards on different sides of the court and passed the ball along the perimeter to get them rotating to their spots.


leonard says:
5/5/2012 at 12:18:23 AM

hey coach, first time to ask a ?
what do you recommend against a 1high (guard)-4 low (across baseline) offense.
I have been using a m2m defense but would like to try something different and thought of the 1-1-3.
Can I have your opinion.
Thanking you in advance
High School Varsity


Ken says:
5/5/2012 at 10:38:41 AM

Leonard -

I always felt like the biggest key was to get the ball off the MIDDLE LINE... once you get the ball to one side, your help defense is established. That solves a lot of problems....

Here is something that we did when I was the sophomore coach before moving up as head varsity coach.... again, forcing the ball to one side... one team loved to do this and once we got them off the middle they wanted to take the ball towards one corner - our rules were simple then... if they dribbled towards another player who stayed there, we trapped the ball.... that stopped any continuity that they wanted to do. They stopped running the 1-4 low after we did that.

I never ran the 1-1-3 vs this set so I couldn't tell you IF it would work or not... I used this D vs a team that had 2 good baseline shooters and a good post player with some good results. We stopped the 3 point shooters but had a hard time keeping the ball out of the post because our players were not big... tallest was 6' - so you can see that problem.

When you play the team that uses the 1-4 low, look at what they want to do, or do best with it.... then take that away from them - force them to do something else, make some other player beat you.... like I always said, " Pick your own poison. "

I hope this helps.


Coach Webb says:
6/23/2012 at 12:32:25 PM

You can run Ameoba in the 1/4 court as well, not always extended. The main difference is trapping the wings & rotation on corner passes. On corner passes, the ball side wing drops to front post instead of running to the backside. The backside defender defends lob & skip instead of rotating to ballside block. I think the Ameoba rotation is better for corner passes. It gets more deflections & steals and ensures you get a defender fronting the post. Just my opinion though.


Coach Hayes says:
11/13/2012 at 12:44:25 PM

Coach, what does the defense look like against an overload?


Coach Asturi says:
11/29/2012 at 12:39:07 PM

this is a great defense to run to try and confuse people you can make it look like a lot of things there really isnt a hole in it and also the trap in the corners is deadily when you run it right.


Ken Sartini says:
8/29/2014 at 6:38:53 PM

Run what you are comfortable with just like other coaches will run what they do best.....just try to be positive.


CDS says:
5/28/2015 at 7:13:54 PM

At the freshmen girls level we taught the 2-3 zone. First time ever I went we any zone as my main defense. After teaching the 2-3 zone I then set them in what we called a 1-1 high and 1-1 low.

On the 1-1 high we placed our fastest defender at the top, she picked up the ball at half court and then pushed the other team's ball handler to the off hand side (usually the left). The second defender was on the three point line. Basically, the 1-1 low was this same set as pictured here..

To simplify we told our girls all the same rules applied for these sets as in the 2-3 zone. It was our 2-3 zone but with these looks. Sometimes the top defender would release the ball-handler once they crossed one side but we wanted them to stay and the other guard take the other zone as in the 2-3.

I was amazed at how many coaches and teams had no idea what we were playing for a defense and how easy it was to change up during a game with limited practice time. I had several coaches ask us "what is that defense called" and I thought it's just a simply 2-3 zone principle with a little change on the guard positioning. Of course I said it's called "Black" which is one of our school colors.


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