Contributed by Brett Ayers. Email the author at

Both college and high school basketball tend to be cyclical in terms of use of different offensive and defensive strategies by coaches. Back in the day it was the shuffle offense. Then it was Wooden’s high post offense. Then you saw the introduction of Dean’s passing game. In the late seventies early 80’s there was the introduction of the match-up or amoeba zone. The three point line brought the trapping, full court pressing styles of Pitino and his disciples. Through all of these things you see a certain amount of recycling that is done every few years as coaches either sort of re-invent something and or simply adept it as their own.

Like junk defenses, I think with the shot clock and today’s more athletic, leaner college players you are going to see a lot more half court trapping by teams. Couple those things with the lack of what I would call college-ready point guards today and trapping, especially in the half court is bound to be back in vogue sooner than later. Half court trapping allows for a team to put on some definitive defense pressure but unlike full court presses it cuts down the space that defenders who have been beaten have to cover to recover defensively. In a full court pressing situation when you get beat or the trap is beat if the offensive team is smart and attacks they will always have numbers of some variety for a good two to four seconds on the other end. It is a simple mater of space.

In the half court trap traps and defenders can get beat but with natural athletic ability and tenacious mentalities recover and perhaps deflect a pass or come from the weakside and block a shot. In the college game today you have a lot more small forwards who are athletic enough to swat a five man’s attempt at a lay in.

There are six primary trapping spots on the floor in either the 1-3-1 or 1-2-2 half court traps. They are along either sideline on either side of the half court line and in each corner of the half court. The first thing to realize when facing a half court trap is that is where they want you to go with the ball either via the dribble or via the pass. So, my suggestion is to keep it out of such places or if you do go there with it that person receiving the ball had better have an immediate outlet pass he can make before the trap gets there. One of the things I see a lot of players do and it usually gets them into worse trouble is get the ball in those spots and immediately put their heads down and start dribbling, especially when receiving it in corners in the half court. The intent of these presses is to get you spread out, and keep you spread out. You want to collapse these presses.

Here are some basic concepts to keep in mind when facing these half court traps.

Facing the 1-3-1 half court trap- Usually you use an alternating form such as a 2-1-2 against this trap. I like to use two guards up top, two baseline guys and what I call a floater who starts down low essentially flooding the baseline and often having the affect of flattening out the 1-3-1 which is the key to beating it. Those wing guys become very aware of this flooding affect and tend to forget about trapping up top and fall further back to protect against any three point shots from the baseline area.

1.) This is a trap that has weak spots along the baseline and is very susceptible to quick passes from a player right before he approaches a trap spot. The point guy, his job is to bring the trap to him and right as they are about to trap him pass out of it.

2.) Once a player draws in the two trapping defenders and makes that pass out of the trap, most usually to the guy across from him or to the middle guy of the 3 guys along the baseline cutting up into the middle area, who ever receives the ball needs to immediately turn and face the basket and look towards the hoop for open guys or look to dribble and attack the basket.

3.) The guys in the corner spots need to not get themselves buried deep into the corners but instead be up about five to six feet off of the baseline corner but outside the three point arc. I like putting my 2 and 5 in these spots with my four being the middle guy and having my 1 and 3 up top against the 1-3-1.

Like any press you face getting the ball into the middle then attacking is key. If the ball is passed from guard to guard I like to have the 4 man come from the low block, does not matter which one, up looking for a seam around the elbow area or a bit higher ball side so that the guard up top with the ball can get it into him so he can turn and face. When that happens I want my 5 man to bust from the wing to the low block area and whichever side the 5 man was on, that top man breaks down outside the three point arc spotting up. Collapse that 1-3-1, that is the key.

Beating the 1-2-2 half court press- Here once again it is good to use a contrary form against this press. You have your 1 and 2 men up top, but with this half court trap I like to put my 3 man stacked down low with either the 4 or 5 man but on the same side as the point guard bringing the ball . Putting these three guys down low has the affect once again of collapsing those two low guys on the press instead of allowing them to spread out and spread your offense out which is their intent.

1.) Just like against the 1-3-1 you want your point guard to invite that trap and right before it gets there pass out of it.

2.) Also like when facing the 1-3-1 you want to break a guy into that high post area around the free throw line. As the point guard approaches that initial trap the 3 man breaks out from behind whichever big guy he is behind out to that spot about five or six feet straight up along the three point arc from the corner ball side. This gives your point guard the option to throw the ball back over across the court to the 2 man or down the sideline to the 3 man.

3.) As your point guard approaches the initial trap once again you bust your 4 or 5 man, who ever is on the opposite side as the 1 up into the high post area looking for that open seam as the defense reacts to movement of players and the ball. Getting the ball into that high post area is tantamount and once it gets there the remaining low post player gets big down low, the 3 man fades down a bit along the three point arc towards the corner and the 2 man who is opposite dives to the corner area outside the three point area and you look to make the defense pay for trying to trap.

Above all the most important thing to remember is that you need to make them pay for trying to trap. You fail to do this and you will find yourself getting trapped until you do.