As much as you might want to start flexing on your foes as soon as you step onto the courts, the likelihood is that a lot of your time in the game is going to be spent fumbling around unless you’ve practiced your fundamentals. One of the beauties of basketball is that those fundamentals, like dribbling and shooting, are really easy to pick up, but actually getting good at them takes skill. Here, we’re going to look at the drills you should master if you’re really looking to improve your game.
Figure 8 drills
Spread your legs out far. Starting from the front, bounce the ball diagonally through your legs, catching it with your opposite hand. Bring the hand around to the front and continue the motion in the opposite direction, keeping the motion going in a figure 8. Switch it up, moving from bouncing the ball to instead passing it directly from one hand to the other. Effectively, this helps you learn how to maneuver and dribble ball in and out of tight spaces, which is essential when you’re trying to create space and bypass defense.
One anyone can do, provided you’re in a space where it’s easy to catch the ball if it gets out control. Simply spread your legs slightly wider than your shoulders and lock your knees. Bounce the ball at a slight angle between your legs, catching it with the other hand and then bounce it back. The aim is to get comfortable and start increasing your speed, which improves your control of the ball, especially for dribbling at speed.
Place three cones in a line, five yards apart from each other. The first drill you can do with this is running figure eights from one end to the other, looping past the middle and around the ends. The other is to stand over the middle, run to one side, touching the cone with your forward hand, then back to the other end to touch that cone with your other hand. These drills improve your agility, helping you turn on a dime, and increase your flexibility to reduce your chances of injuring yourself on the court.
Sprint and free throw
This is another one you can do alone, providing that you have your own basketball hoop or a court you can visit easily enough. Rather than simply standing at the free throw line, sprint from one end of the space you have to the other, taking a free throw shot when you get back to the line immediately. It practices you free throw ability but, most importantly, emulates the kind of condition you’re likely to be in when it’s actually time to take a throw in game. You’re probably not going to be at 100%, since you’ve been playing ball up until that point.
Jump shot from dribble
If you have your own hoop, practice dribbling the ball at different angles and taking jump shots. You want to take shots from both left and right, at 8 feet, 12 feet, and 18 feet. Practice it from different dribbling speeds, as well. It will give you a good sense of where you’re at your strongest, and help you better gauge the distance and angle to shoot from when in place, helping you avoid some of the situations where you’re least likely to succeed, while continuously improving. With free throw and jump shot drills, make sure to keep score of how many you miss and how many you take.
Interval sprints and jogs
Basketball is a game played at two speeds, but one that involves near continual movement for around 50 minutes. If you’re not able to match that pace, then working on your cardio is essential. The best way to do this is to sprint for 2 minutes at a time, hard enough to get you breathing hard but not out of breath, then to lightly jog for a minute. Do this for 30-50 minutes, working your way up to the latter mark. It will help you stay in the game and be able to tap into that extra speed and energy when you need it most.
Two ball dribbles
Sure, you can dribble just fine under the conditions of practicing alone in your back yard or the court. However, the best dribblers can do it at any time, position, and place. You need to be as comfortable as you can with the ball in either hand and you need to be able to do it under pressure. Two ball dribbles are the best way to do that, but you need access to a court. Start from the baseline, dribbling to half court with both balls hitting the floor at the same time. Speed up as you go and, as you get more comfortable, add cones to navigate around.
Passing is a skill that, of course, requires two players to be a success, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t practice it on your own. Mark a target on the wall, whether it’s sticking a bullseye there or marking an “X” with tape. You want it to be around your own mid-chest height. Practice passing hard at the X, with enough power to bounce it back to yourself. If you can’t catch it, you’re bouncing it too hard. Start out at five feet, until you can repeatedly succeed, then step back and do it again. If it gets to the point that you can’t possibly catch it, then start taking steps closer to the X instead. You want to get to the stage where you can consistently move in and out without missing a pass.
Mastering your drills is essential, allowing you to progress to the next stage in your game. Once everything is muscle memory, that’s when you stop focusing on it mid-game, instead of getting into the mind games. Anticipating your opponents, planning the next three moves, and being able to react is where the game really starts to heat up. But first, you have to work on the drills mentioned above.