Full-Court Pressure: Complete Roles, Set-Up, and Tips for the “1-2-1-1”

The 1-2-1-1 Diamond Press is an effective full-court pressure system geared towards disrupting your opponent’s offense no matter the personnel on the floor. Follow along as renowned head basketball coach Don Showalter walks through player set-up, movements, and tips for the press. Then, learn about Coach Showalter’s 10 Rules of Pressure Defense so you can begin implementing this tremendous system right away with your own squad. 

Overview of the 1-2-1-1 “Diamond Press”

Coach Showalter’s teams start out every game through this “Diamond Press”, though they may adjust it a little bit along the way.

Player Set-up

The 4-man on the ball needs to be the most aggressive big guy. Simply, player 4 is the key to the press. Whoever is on the ball must be effective, meaning his hands are straight up and he’s being overall active. Don’t jump up and down, but shade the inside of the floor. You don’t want that pass to go across the lane if you can help it. Look for this player to get into an open position and be facing the ball to start.

Next, the two guys together in the formation are up around the middle of the lane. The player behind them can start anywhere between the top of the key to the half-court line. Meanwhile, the 5-man starts just behind the half-court line.

Initial Player Movements

As soon as the ball comes out of the net, player 4 (at the top of the formation) runs right over and is immediately on the ball. If he’s late, that’s tough, because the offense can get into their press break easier. This player must be aggressive and have his hands up right away to shade to the inside.

As for the 5-man, he should back up if the inbounder starts up with a baseball pass motion. Otherwise, he should move up a bit into the half-court area. He’s got to adjust to the pass so he can now cover any pass thrown in far.

Next, player 1 (who’s in the middle of this formation) must read the eyes of the inbounder. Most of the time, the inbounder will tell you exactly where he’s going to pass the ball. Therefore, your 1 man should be pretty quick, have good anticipation, and excellent awareness of what’s going on.


Half-Speed Against the Offense

When the offense has all five players on the near side of the court, this is great for you. It’s really the best thing that can happen. Therefore, encourage that first pass to the corner. It’s kind of an interception technique.

You are not going to trap if the ball is thrown behind the volleyball line unless a special call is on. So look to force that pass above the volleyball line and into the corner. In the two-man formation, the right player is playing in the middle of the lane, taking that cross pass away.

This is also called our “Read Defense.” We will find out exactly how the opposition will break. If the pass goes to the man in the near corner, that nearest defender in the two-man formation MUST take the sideline away. The man on the inbounder now sprints over and traps. Remember to sprint to the trap and crowd this guy with your hands straight up.

Next, the 3-man comes across on the ballside of the lane-line. Here he must read the ballcarrier’s eyes and shoulders.

In review, read and trap that first pass. From here, many teams will try to skip the ball across court. But if your hands are up, it will be hard to skip it. So what makes it so effective? The hands of the defenders are ALWAYS up. Also, be sure to get the middle-of-lane player moving up to prevent that cross-lane pass.


*Stay tuned in the coming weeks for Part II of our Full-Court Pressure feature as we go further into the 1-2-1-1 Diamond Press and highlight some key drills to run in practice.* 

10 Rules of Pressure Defense

Coach Showalter’s teams start out and press regardless of personnel. Here are some ideas, rules, and tips for how you can implement this system effectively with your team.

Deflections Are Huge – Chart deflections in practices and games. It doesn’t have to be a steal, just a deflection (even if it’s with a fingernail). Aim for 20 deflections or more in a game. This number will tell you whether or not the press is working pretty well. For Coach Showalter, deflections are more important than steals. While your team may not have a ton of steals one game, they may get a lot of deflections. This tells you that the other team has been thrown off a bit.

Ball Pressure is Crucial – “Press” means ball pressure.

Be Patient – The press may work for long or short spurts, but it will work. You must be patient with it and if you are, kids will understand that they won’t get out of it. If your team thinks they will be getting out of a press as soon as a basket is given up, then they are done. You can’t press with that team. Coach Showalter’s teams are going to press regardless of what happens. Overall, they will play harder and adjust.

Stay With It – If ball pressure is constant all game long, you’ll have many intangibles in your favor if you stick with it. For instance, the constant pressure forces your kids to play hard. So how exactly do you get them to play hard? Well, they are pressing, and if they don’t play hard, they will get embarrassed.

Set Good Traps and Don’t Reach – Remember, you aren’t going to steal the ball on the trap, but rather out of your trap. The players who are trapping are often not the ones going to steal it. Also, keep in mind that fouling negates hustle. Therefore, keep your hands up and don’t reach. Always run to your teammate when trapping and sprint to the trap (hands up, hands off).

You Must Sprint Out of Traps – Turn the shoulders and hips to the area where you want to run to. It’s not as simple as it sounds, so coaches must watch their players to ensure they are doing this effectively.

Look to Tip From Behind – You can get 3 or 4 baskets a game just from doing this.

Anticipate the Next Move of the Opponent – Don’t let the offensive team break the press the same way two times in a row. This should be your mindset. Keep the opposition off balance and uncomfortable.

Be Aware – This is said a ton in practice. Be aware of where your man is and what’s going to happen.

Make Opponents Take Jump Shots – Be there when they shoot it and be there when they miss it.

Stay tuned in the coming weeks for Part II of our Full-Court Pressure feature highlighting the 1-2-1-1 Diamond Press. To check out more videos in our basketball library focusing on pressure systems and defensive strategies, click here. Go any press tips to share with fellow coaches? Tell us below or e-mail us at info@championshipproductions.com.

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