Box and 1 Defense Guide

Posted by Chris Hungerford on 24th Jan 2019

Box and 1 Defense

A junk defense can be exactly what a team needs to neutralize their opponent. A junk defense is a defense that combines man-to-man and zone principles together. Changing from a man-to-man defense or a zone defense to a junk defense would disrupt and confuse your opponent by taking them out of their game plan.

Have you ever played a team who had a dominant, star player? One player that scores the majority of their team’s points because their offense is run through them. If that player can get open looks then they’re most likely going to score and help their team win.

When you match up against a team with a player who can’t be stopped then it may be a prime opportunity to use the Box and 1 Defense. This defense involves one defender playing man-to-man defense on your opponent’s best offensive threat while the other four defender are in a box formation and play zone defense.

In this article, we’re going to focus on the Box and 1 Defense and its strengths and weaknesses, who might use this defense, and go into more detail of positions and rotations. When you’re done reading, you should have a better understanding of the Box and 1 Defense and if it’s a defense to add to your team’s arsenal.

Strengths of the Box and 1 Defense

    • Opponents Aren’t Prepared. Most teams practice against a man-to-man and zone defenses which means they do not give time to practicing their offense against a junk defense. With this in mind, the Box and 1 defense would take them completely out of their game plan and force them to figure out another way to score on offense.
    • Frustrate and Fatigue Star Player. When an unstoppable player goes from dominating and scoring at will to being unable to even get open for pass then it’s probably going to cause some frustration. At the same time, they’re going to have to work even harder to get open which will begin to wear them down. This is a double-win for your Box and 1 Defense because it has done its job to take the star player and the offense out of their game plan.
    • Easy to Learn. The Box and 1 Defense is an easy junk defense to implement into your game strategy. Everyone’s responsibilities are straightforward so you won’t need to use value practice time to teach it because it won’t take your team long to understand it.

Weaknesses of the Box and 1 Defense

    • Middle of the Paint. Like most zones, the middle is the biggest threat to defeat. If the offense is able to exploit the middle of your Box and 1 then your defense is busted. With the middle of the paint being the most vulnerable, it’s essential for your weak side defenders to be in the correct positions to deny any inside passes.
    • Outside Shooters. With only two players guarding the majority of the three-point line, your opponent is going to get some open shots. If you are playing against a team that can shoot the ball then they may take you out of your Box and 1 pretty quickly.
    • Star Player is a Post Player. The Box and 1 Defense is better geared towards shutting down a star player that scores their points from the perimeter or off the dribble. If the star player is in the post looking to score off post ups then this defense will be too crowded and not a practical approach.

Who should use the Box and 1 Defense?

The Box and 1 Defense was constructed to stop dominant players and force secondary players to step up and beat you. It works best against a team where the dominant player is a perimeter player who is trying to score from open shots and dribble penetration. If you’re going against an opponent with one main scorer and no outside shooting threats then this defense has a great chance to be successful.

Your team’s main goal should be to disrupt the offense and take them out of their game plan. By shutting down their best player, you’ll definitely be making them quickly figure out a new plan and adjustments on the offensive end. Some teams may play this defense the entire game while others may implement it for a single possession (or more) to continually cause chaos on the defensive end.

Box and 1 Defense Overview

When you match up against a team with a player who can’t be stopped then it may be a prime opportunity to use the Box and 1 Defense. This defense involves one defender playing man-to-man defense on your opponent’s best offensive threat while the other four defender are in a box formation and play zone defense.

Box and 1 Defense Rules

    1. Limit Star Player’s Touches. This entire defense revolves around keeping the ball out of the star player’s hands. The defender assigned to the star player must be denying the ball the entire time and not worrying about anything else. Is another player dribbling past them to the rim? DO NOT HELP! Instead, stick to defending and denying the star player and trust the rest of the defense in the right position to make a stop or play on the ball.
    2. Rebounding is a MUST. Whenever the offense shoots the ball, there should be one defender contesting the shot while the other THREE defenders are getting position for the rebound.
    3. Defense Collapses when Star Player Gets the Basketball. No matter how hard your defender tries to deny the star player the ball there will be times when they still get touches. When this happens, all of your box defenders must collapse back into their box positions. You want everyone to be in position to help on the star player in hopes they’ll get rid of the ball because they have no scoring opportunities.

Box and 1 Defense Starting Alignment

The Box and 1 Defense set-up in the shape of a box with two players up top and two on the bottom playing a zone defense while your other player is guarding your opponent’s star player with man-to-man coverage.

These players can vary depending on your line-up on the floor, but typically, for your box formation, the two top players are your guards and the two bottom players are your bigs. Your other player in man coverage should be the best defender who can match up with the star player so this will vary depending on your opponent.

Here is an example of the Box and 1 alignment:

    • Player 1 and 2 start at the elbows
    • Player 4 and Player 5 start just above the low blocks
    • Player 3 is matched up with the star player

Box and 1 Defense Roles and Responsibilities

Star Defender

The Star Defender, or Chaser, is given the tough task of guarding your opponent’s star offensive player. Their only role is to make the star player work for everything and not cut them any slack even if the ball is on the other side of the court. Basically, make the game as difficult as possible.

The Chaser does this by being in complete denial at all times - even when the star player doesn’t have the basketball. They don’t worry about being in help position or rotating; their only focus is keeping the ball out of the star player’s hands.

You want your Chaser to be a smart defender who is going to be able to work hard the entire game. With the type of defense they’re playing, the star player is going to get frustrated and the chaser has to keep their cool.

If you have a solid Chaser who can defend do all of these things then this defense has a chance to be successful.

Low Box Defenders

The Low Box Defenders are in charge or defending the low post, the ball when it’s in the corner, and always being ready to help if they’re on the weak side. They also have to be strong rebounders. If a shot goes up, your Low Box Defenders have to be able to get the rebound and not give the offense any easy put-backs or second chance points.

A couple of key points for Low Box Defenders are:

    1. They must front the post whenever they are on ball-side.
    2. They must crash the boards HARD unless they’re contesting a shot.

If you have Low Box Defenders who can do those two things then this defense has a chance to be successful.

High Box Defenders

The High Box Defenders are in charge of keeping the basketball out of the high post and guarding the perimeter whenever the ball is on their side of the court. It’s best if your High Box Defenders are quick and good on-ball defenders because they’re going to be covering a lot of the court.

A couple of key points for High Box Defenders are:

    1. They must sprint whenever they’re going from one position to another.
    2. They must crash the boards HARD unless they’re contesting a shot.

If you have High Box Defenders who can do those two things then this defense has a chance to be successful.

Box and 1 Defense Rotations

The first decision you need to make when it comes to the Box and 1 is which one of your players is going to be the Chaser. Depending on who the star player is will also dictate who is the Chaser, but you do want to make sure the Chaser will be able to keep up with the star player.

The second decision is assigning the other four players to the box defender positions. Generally, your two tallest players will be your Low Box Defenders and your two shortest players will be the High Box Defenders.

Now lets breakdown the Box Defenders rotations because we know what the Chaser should be doing at all times - denying the ball to the star player.

Star Player Has The Ball

When the star player does manage to get the ball (and they will), all box defenders immediately collapse into the original box formation depending on where the ball is on the floor.

With the box formation, you have great help defense if the star player decides to attack with their dribble. As the box defenders help it will leave open players on the perimeter but with this defense that is a good thing. We want the star player to give up the ball and pass out to open teammates on the perimeter!

Basketball at the Top of the Key

When the ball is at the top of the key there will not be a specific player guarding the ball. The two High Box Defenders will be near the high post to discourage a pass to the middle of the zone. We want the offense to pass the basketball around the perimeter.

The two Low Box Defenders will each have a foot in the lane and the Chaser will be in complete denial.

Basketball on the Wing

When the ball is passed to a wing player, the ball-side High Box Defender will close out and guard the ball. The weak-side High Box Defender will slide across to the middle of the lane and deny the high post area.

The ball-side Low Box Defender must be fronting in the low post and the weak-side Low Box Defender should slide across to be in the middle of the lane. This will help prevent any lobs passes being thrown over the top. The ball-side Low Box Defender has to be fronting in the low post because when the ball goes to the corner they have to be able to close out and contest the shot.

The Chaser is in complete denial.

Basketball in the Corner

When the ball is in the corner it’s the ball-side Low Box Defenders responsibility to close out and guard the ball. You don’t want the offense to drive baseline from the corner so make sure you close out forcing the offense back to the middle

The weak-side Low Box Defender now slides across completely and guards the low block. If there’s no offense on the block then they stay in the middle of the lane in help position.

The weak-side High Box Defender drops into the gap to prevent any passes to the middle of the lane.

The ball-side High Box Defender has options for how to defender when the ball is in the corner.

          1. Drop Back - this prevents any pass inside but does allow a pass back out to the wing.
          2. Hard Deny - this prevents any pass back out to the wing and forces the offensive player to make a tough pass which could possibly lead to a turnover
          3. Trap the Corner - this isn’t an option to do all the time, but it would catch the offense off guard

The Chaser is in complete denial.

Basketball in the High Post

When the ball gets to the high post, it’s a pick your poison scenario. You can have your High Box Defenders collapse onto the ball and double team while the Low Box Defenders hold their ground so there isn’t an easy dump pass.

With the double team, it will pressure the high post to make a decision. If your Low Box Defenders stick to their ground down low then there won’t be any passes in the lane and the high post will have to pass out to the perimeter.

If that happens, the High Box Defenders will have to recover quickly.

The Chase is still in complete denial.

Basketball in the Low Post

The Low Box Defenders have to do everything they can to make sure an offensive post player doesn’t get a seal on them in the low post. Your defenders should always be fronting or working to get post players out of their position.

If the offense gets a seal on the ball-side defender, play it straight up because it’s another pick your poison scenario. If the offense takes advantage of the three-point shot in the corner then the ball-side High Box Defender could sprint to challenge it.

Defending Skip Passes in the Box and 1 Defense

If the basketball is skipped across the court, who covers it? Defending the skip pass with this defense is simple, but requires sprinting to close out and contest the shot.

Here are a few common skip passes and how to handle them with the Box and 1 Defense.

Wing to Corner Skip Pass

When the basketball is skipped from the wing to the opposite corner, the weak-side Low Box Defender, who was in the middle of the lane helping, must sprint out to contest the shot and guard the offense.

As they close out on the offense, they must not give up the baseline drive but rather force them towards the middle where the rest of their help is waiting.

Corner to Wing Skip Pass

When the basketball is skipped from the corner to weak-side wing, the weak-side High Box Defender, who was denying the high post, must sprint out to contest the shot and guard the offense.

The High Box Defender can close out evenly without having to direct the offense a certain direction. We would rather give up a contest shot than allow them to put the ball on the floor from this area of the court.

Top to Corner Skip Pass

When the basketball is skipped from the top of the key to the corner, the ball-side Low Box Defender will close out on the ball without giving up the baseline drive.

One way this pass can hurt the Box and 1 Defense is if the Low Box Defenders get screened or sealed by the offense. If this happens and the offense takes advantage of it then there is always going to be an open shot for the perimeter players. To prevent getting screened or sealed, the Low Box Defenders have to always be fighting for the best position and anticipating the offense wanting to get the upper hand.

How to Defeat the Box and 1 Defense

One way to prepare your zone defense is to know what the offense wants to do to beat your zone. Here are a couple of plays that will exploit possible holes in your Box and 1 Defense.

Gut - this play is designed to take advantage of your two Low Box Defenders

Starting Positions

    • 1 at top of the key and 2 on the wing
    • 3 (Star Player) on same side as 2 on low block
    • 4 and 5 on low blocks

Frame 1

    • 1 starts with the ball at the top and passes to 2 on the wing

Frame 2

    • As that pass happens, 3 cuts to opposite elbow
    • 5 cuts to ball-side corner
    • 2 passes to 5 in the corner

Frame 3

    • After passing, 2 makes a basket cut
    • 1 fills 2 spot on the wing
    • 5 can look for a pass back to 2 cutting or to 1 filling the spot

Frame 4

    • 2 isn't open so 5 passes to 1
    • At the same time, 2 screens weak-side Low Box Defender for 4 to cut to the middle of the lane
    • 1 gives a few dribbles towards top of the key
    • As that happens, 5 screens ball-side Low Box Defender for 2 to come off for an open shot in the corner
    • After screening, 5 slips to an open space
    • 1 can pass to 4 in the middle of the lane, 2 for an open shot in the corner, or 5 in an open gap

Gut Again - this play is designed to take advantage of your two Low Box Defenders

Starting Positions

    • 1 at top of the key and 2 on the wing
    • 3 (Star Player) on same side as 2 on low block
    • 4 and 5 on low blocks

Frame 1

    • 1 starts with the ball at the top and passes to 2 on the wing

Frame 2

    • As that pass happens, 3 cuts to opposite elbow
    • 5 cuts to ball-side corner
    • 2 passes to 5 in the corner

Frame 3

    • After passing, 2 makes a basket cut
    • 1 fills 2 spot on the wing
    • 5 takes a few dribbles towards the wing and passes to 1 who takes a couple steps towards the wing

Frame 4

    • After catching the pass, 1 takes two dribbles to the top of the key
    • As that happens, 2 sets a cross screen for 4
    • 4 comes off the screen to set a back screen for 5
    • 5 comes off the back screen to the gap in the middle of the lane created by 2 and 4
    • 3 curls out to the opposite wing
    • 1 looks to 5 in the middle of the zone

Variations of the Box and 1 Defense

The Diamond and 1 Defense is very similar to the Box and 1 Defense except instead of four players in a box formation they line up in a diamond formation. As you can see to the right, the Diamond and 1 Defense starts with one player at the top around top of the key, two players in the middle between the elbow and block, and one player in the back nearly under the rim.

This type of formation allows better protection around the perimeter since it gives mobility to three defenders rather than two like in the Box and 1. However, the downfall is it gives less help on the inside since there’s only one defender in the back.

How Does the Diamond and 1 Defense Work?

    • Top Defender: covers the basketball when it’s at the top of the key and deny the high post when the ball is anywhere else on the court.
    • Middle Defenders: covers the entire wing on their side of the court from the high wing all the way to the corner
    • Bottom Defender: covers both blocks; essentially everything around the rim

If you’re playing against a team with a star player and great outside shooters then you may consider using the Diamond and 1 for the perimeter protection. Or if you have a very strong post player this defense could work better for you. It all depends on your personnel and what will be the most effective against your opponent.

Learn More

This Box and 1 Defense Guide covers a lot about this defense, but there's always room to grow. You can rent the above DVD from a top College Coach to learn all the tricks and tips to run the Box & One Zone Defense.

Want more about Junk Defenses? Jamie Angeli's Junk Defenses That Work DVD is packed with ideas on using the Box (Diamond) & 1, Triangle & 2 as well as unique concepts including the Designated Helper. Angeli also put together the ultimate collection of continuity actions and set plays that will destroy any Box & 1 or Triangle & 2 junk defense in his Attacking Junk Defenses. Get both DVDs today to learn how to utilize a junk defense as well as how offenses will try to beat your defense.

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