We have all seen the high level basketball players that make the game look so easy. All the way from the NBA down to your local organized league with your buddies. It seems some players just have it, that skill set or natural born ability that you feel you will just never reach. No matter the level or age group you participate in there is always a way to up your game. Of course, there are the athletes where ball handling and shooting comes more natural and easier for. Even the most gifted player had to put in the work to develop their game. Believe it or not practice does indeed make perfect when it comes to your on court performance. Having the physical attributes like size, speed and agility does give you an advantage, but a fundamental approach to the game is where it all begins.
The most basic skills of basketball are shooting and dribbling, without these two skills you will not get very far. There are many more elements to the game of basketball for a player to be complete and well-rounded but we all know without good ball handling and a consistent shot you really are limited in what you can contribute to your team.
Let’s go ahead and review three drills for both shooting and dribbling for new players first being introduced to basketball and for those players who have been in the game for a while but want to keep their abilities at the top of their game. Everyone from weekend warriors playing at the neighborhood court to those aspiring to go as far as possible can learn from these drills.
Dribbling at Different Levels
Depending on the situation you are in on the court will determine how you are dribbling the ball. You will dribble differently if a defender is playing way off of you because you are bringing the ball up across mid-court versus if you are driving in the lane looking to dish or finish. Practicing your dribble height or level depending on the situation will help program your eye hand coordination to the point that it is almost automatic, like second nature. Practice changing levels as if bringing up the ball where you can dribble more relaxed at about chest high standing more upright. Then lean over a little as if you are entering the top of the key now dribbling about waist high. Finally go low as if you have defenders reaching in on you but keep your eyes up so you can recognize team mates who are open. Run through these progressions on a regular basis so you can use them during an actual game.
Weak Side Dribbling
To bring your game to the new heights you must become strong with both sides of your body in particular using your weaker hand when dribbling the ball. It is very important to be able to use your body as a way to keep a defender away from the ball. If you are driving down the left side but dribbling with your right hand or the inside of your body, it is almost a guarantee you could get the ball poked away or even stolen.
High level basketball players spent time perfecting dribbling with their offhand so they can crossover in an instant and keep the play alive in pursuit of finding an open teammate or finishing with a shot. If you favor one side the other team can try to trap you and force an error or turnover. Start slowly by spending time paying attention to how you use your strong hand to dribble the ball. You may even want to record it on your phone for reviewing. First stand in one spot and just work your weak hand for 10 bounces then crossover to the strong side for 10 bounces. Pay attention to the differences in both sides and repeat for a set time. Once that becomes more natural try moving around slowly using your weak hand to dribble. As you become more comfortable you can pick up the pace and even practice game situations where using the less dominant hand will be of importance. Using your “other” hand to dribble really adds a dimension to your game that will always pay off.
Basketball players are some of the most agile athletes in all of sports. To be able to stop on a dime and change direction in a split second is one of the most vital skills to have on the court. It makes you hard to defend and even harder to predict which way you may go. Keeping the defender on their heels makes you a problem for the other team. This is why having a killer crossover comes in clutch during a game. To incorporate a quick change of direction involves great athleticism and being one step ahead of the opposition. Having the ability to move quickly from side to side means nothing if you can’t take the ball with you. This is where the term “having handles” really comes into play.
Start by passing the ball between both hands slowly at chest height all while walking slowly. Once you are good with that then go ahead and once again imagine entering the top of the key where the court gets tighter and dribble the ball lower now and switch hands even quicker. Lastly, to complete all levels of your capabilities go even lower around the height of your knees and practice flicking the ball back and forth while changing direction as if faking out an opponent trying to keep up with you. Using head movement and other subtle moves is beneficial but having lightning quick reflexes with the ball is the most useful of skills for dribbling.
Having an all-around game eliminates weakness and is always everyone’s goal. For those players who are willing to put in the work when nobody is looking is what will separate them from the rest. Practicing the same drills over and over can seem boring but it is valuable for the next time you step on the court. With everyday hard work and practice you will feel your skills develop and improve plus your confidence will grow. Knowing you put in the time is a reward by itself and seeing that hard work payoff in a game let’s everyone else know you are a player to be respected out on the court.