A game of basketball is only won by being better than your opponent. The only way to be better than your opponent is to hone your basketball skills at every chance possible.
Not only are there a significant number of skills to be learned by the individual basketball player, but those talents must find a balance with the player’s team. Basketball, after-all, is a team sport and even the best basketball players in the world don’t become champions without a real team around them.
Dribbling, shooting, defense, passing and finishing at the hoop are all necessary on the road to perfecting your game. Here is your gameplan on the 5 best basketball drills for sharpening your skills and owning the court.
First things first, you gotta be able to dribble the basketball. This is the most common component of the game, and you’ll need it to have any chance playing organized basketball at any level. Hopefully, you’ve got the basic precepts down: dribbling without traveling, carrying the ball or double-dribbling. If not, traveling is taking more than two steps without bouncing the ball on the floor. Carrying the ball is more loosely whistled, but you cannot have the palm of your hand so far under the ball that the majority of the ball’s weight is resting in your hand. Double dribbling can be either, dribbling the ball simultaneously with both hands, or dribbling, picking the ball up with both hands, and then dribbling again.
These are the basic rules of dribbling the basketball, but if you want to improve your ball-handling, here are two basketball ball handling drills to get you started.
The first involves one of the most popular driving moves in the game’s history: the crossover. There’s a fine line between what the best basketball players in the world do and what you can accomplish.
Repetition is the most important aspect here, something you’ll notice with the other drills as well. Practice makes perfect might be a centuries old aphorism, but there’s a reason: it works.
Next, we’ve got the figure eight drill. Watch the progression, from just rotating the ball between hands and in-between your legs, to dribbling between your legs while alternating hands, to the close-to-the-floor dribbling that the true “figure eight” requires. You’re not going to be able to dribble a figure eight right away, especially if you’re still learning the crossover, but you’ll possess a great handle and feel the movements of the ball more and more until you finally have it down.
If you watch the best basketball players in the world, there is a technique to the seemingly simple task of playing great defense.
The basic defensive stance includes keeping your legs shoulder length apart, butt down, poised on the balls of your feet and ready to move laterally in either direction. Some will put one foot forward, but you must be able to shade a player to a specific side when you know identify their weak dribbling hand.
You should also place your hands in a right leg stance. With this, you’ll be forcing a player to the left and your right hand will mirror the basketball in case the player attempts a quick pass. You’ll be able to deflect the pass or intercept the ball. The left hand in this instance is flicking at the ball, trying to get a steal without committing a foul. The same works in the inverse when you’re forcing a player right.
There’s a reason to get the individual defensive position down because the next step involves your teammates and the murkiness of defensive rotations. This is where we have to discuss certain advantages imbued within the very best defenders. Natural athleticism allows certain players to cheat more, when they’re rotating over to help a fellow defender who has been beat.
Brett Brown, who coaches the Australian National team, is shown in the video above giving his cutthroat, team defense drill.
The players are divided into three teams of four and a 4-on-4 drill commences, with points awarded to the team that gets a stop, or the team that gets a score, an offensive rebound or two consecutive defensive fouls. The reason it’s cutthroat is because the drill involves three teams. Once a team has scored or gotten a stop (a steal or a defensive rebound), the next team of 4 comes on the court. It’s team defense with the kicker that you’re constantly playing defense with no let up in sight, until you get a stop. Tenacity is almost as important as a smart defensive stance.
This next element of basketball requires a teammate, but it’s preferable if you have five or, in the case of the video below, at least three. The most basic pass in basketball is the two-handed chest pass, and the two-handed bounce pass. You can practice throwing these to teammates or friends. For the chest pass, you want to snap the ball with your wrists to give it velocity without sacrificing accuracy. The same is true with the bounce pass, but you want it to bounce around 3/4 of the way towards the teammate awaiting the pass.
But stationary passing doesn’t involve the fluidity of basketball. Teammates are moving and so are you during a game, so we need a drill that combines movement from everyone involved, but also basic chest passes. This next drill is practiced in hockey, soccer and other sports, but it’s the perfect basketball drill to practice passing on the run and catching and passing on the run, requisite in high-level, unselfish basketball.
The basic tenet of the three man weave, involves following your pass. Three men line up along the baseline of a court. The man in the middle elects to pass to either of the outside teammates. Once he’s made that pass, he follows along behind, then around, the man he passed the ball too. Once his teammate has caught the ball on the wing, he’ll send another pass to the third teammate on the opposite wing. He’ll do the same thing the man in the center did, and follow his pass to the other wing, so he can run around behind the man he passed the ball to.
If the weave drill is done efficiently and precisely, once the man rounds the corner behind the man he passed the ball too, he should be looking to receive the pass from the opposite wing.
Some space this basketball drill differently (having the three players either closer in or farther apart in a horizontal line), or they’ll have the cut go in front of the man they just passed the ball to in order to make it easier to keep the shape of the original placement of the players. But for the most part, the weave is run rapidly with three different players cutting behind and around the man they just passed the ball too. Plus, the natural momentum of this drill leads all three players down the court as they keep passing until they reach the opposite baseline and the last player finishes with a lay-up.
The basic set shot involves the guiding hand and the shooting hand. The guiding hand should be the weaker of the two. The shooting hand should grasp the ball and leave it resting in the palm. Now move your off-hand next to the ball at a 90 degree angle, almost like you’re boxing the ball in with the shooting hand palm facing away from your body and your off-hand forming an adjacent wall on the ball. When you shoot, you’re going to flick the shooting hand’s wrist towards the basket so that at the end of the flick, the shooting hand palm is facing the ground. While flicking the ball with the shooting hand, guide the ball with the off-hand towards the hoop so it’s not going right or left, but straight in a high arc dead set on the “nest” of the basket.
All of this is extremely hard to explain regardless of your basketball vocabulary. Video tutelage is the best bet, but there are a few helpful things to remember before we get into the drill on the video.
First, when you flick the shooting hand, it should put backspin on the ball. This is by design, and one of the ways you know you’re shooting correctly. If there’s no backspin, or there’s sidespin then you know something is funky with your form. Sometimes it’s the guiding hand, instead of guiding the ball at a right angle to the shooting hand, it interferes with the flick of the wrist. Other times, the ball isn’t shot from the ends of the fingertips, but instead straight from the palm, which is how you get the shot-put affect where there’s no spin on the ball, almost like a knuckleball pitch.
Now, in terms of developing your form and shot, practice, practice, practice. Repetition is the name of the game for shooting. The best players are said to attempt 400-500 jumpers a day. In the below shooting drill with coach Tom of Shot Science Basketball, you’ll see the routine you’ll want to take when developing the muscle memory needed to become a great shooter.
For coach Tom’s drill, start off shooting at the block on each side of the basket, using only the shooting hand. Once you’ve mastered the flick of the wrist on the shooting hand from in close, you can move out to just below the elbows on each side of the lane, and 10 feet in front of the rim.
Focus on following through with the shooting hand, and the gentlest touch with the guiding, off-hand. Bend the legs once you’ve added the guide hand and moved out to 10 feet. Keep remembering to follow through with the shooting hand, so your shot develops backspin.
Repetition is key.
Photo Credit: Josh / Flickr.com
First, start off under the basket and shoot a right-handed lay-up, then rebound the ball with the left hand and go right back up with it careful only to take two steps. Rebound that ball with your right hand go right back up on the right side of the basket.
This drill is ostensibly for the centers and power forwards so they develop the stamina and muscle memory to rebound the ball and quickly go back up with it. It’s one of the best basketball drills because it develops a touch and a feel for the quick lay-up even when under heavy pressure from defenders.
Even some guards practice the drill to develop their finishing skills at the rim though, too.
For guards we suggest dribbling in for a lay-up, but also doing a reverse lay-up with each hand and a cross-over lay-up where you jump across the lane to finish with the hand you’re jumping towards.
Once you find the rhythm in the drill, just like with the weave, the figure eight and cross-over, and the jump shot, the muscle memory you’ve developed from practicing the drills over and over again will make you one of the most skilled basketball players no matter who you’re going against.
Have any other training moves that deserve to be on this list of best basketball drills? Let us know in the comments below or @DegreeMen. Check out ShotScience Basketball for more videos and drills proven to help you master the court.