Top 5 Ways to Improve Your Basketball Speed and Agility

The basketball off season is virtually upon us here in New Jersey. With most middle school basketball teams finished up and the majority of the high school basketball teams finishing within the next week or two, many basketball players are looking for ways to improve. Satisfied or not with your season, there is always room to grow as a basketball player and that is what we are all about at Elite Basketball Training. One such way is to make yourself into a quicker and more agile basketball player. The old adage, speed kills, is not a lie. Quicker players are very difficult to guard and can reke havoc on a defense, forcing them into help situations while creating open opportunities for other players. With some help this off season, you can become one of those players that other teams fear because of your quickness. That is why we put together our top five basketball training tips for improving your speed and agility.

  1. Strengthen your body: There is no substitute, when it comes to basketball speed and agility, for being in great shape. Get in the weight room and develop you overall body. Focus on big lifts like squats, deadlifts and presses while adding in complimentary movements such as lunges, pullups and dips. Increase your overall power by training with bands and incorporating implements that force you to hit triple extension such as medicine ball throws, kettlebell swings and plyometrics. All of this will increase your overall athleticism, allow you to exert more force on the ground and become more powerful, a deadly combination that will lead to more speed. However, strength and power can only get you to a point. That is where the rest comes in.
  2. Incorporate Speed, Agility and Quickness training into your basketball skill development: With limited time due to multiple commitments such as school activities, other sports and AAU basketball, during the off season it is a must that your training regimen be as efficient as possible. Combining your speed and agility training with your basketball skill development will not only solve your time issue but also ensure that you are training in a way that is game like. Being fast while running a straight line is one thing. However, having the ability to be quick with or without the ball in your hands while changing directions in ways that mimic those on a basketball court is another. To achieve these skills, you need to develop them through training which should be done on the court while merging skill development drills with speed and agility drills.  
  3. Improve your footwork: Building on the topic of basketball efficiency, improved footwork on the court will absolutely translate into becoming a quicker player. Proper footwork is the difference between being a good player or a great player. There are basketball players that are naturally gifted, athletic and physically quick but their poor footwork makes them look average. There are also basketball players out there that are not as naturally athletically gifted who make up for this with great footwork. Having efficient footwork puts your body in the correct positions no matter what the situation, shooting the ball, driving, defending. As a result of this, they can appear quicker than they actually are because these players are always in the right positions at the right time.
  4. Improve your basketball IQ: Another simple way to make yourself quicker on the basketball court is to have a higher understanding of the game. The more you understand the game, the better you will be at reading situations as they emerge. Reading the defense and being able to make the right cuts, the right moves, the right finishes based on what the defense presents is the sign of a great player. It can also make up for a lack of physical speed by once again increasing your efficiency on the court. Study the game by watching it, reading about it and playing it and you will be sure to increase your basketball IQ and your basketball speed as well. 
  5. Improve your jump shot:  A Better jump shot will most certainly translate into improved overall quickness. If you can shoot the lights out, you’ll appear even quicker because it will force defenders to have to guard you tighter and once they do, it is easier to go by them. Take Klay Thompson for example. He’s a good athlete that is made to look like a great athlete because of his phenomenal jump shot. Being able to shoot like he does, forces defenders to have to guard him closer, and the closer the defender gets to him, the harder he becomes to guard. Using this crowding defense to his advantage, Thompson appears quicker going by players than he actually is all thanks to his superior jump shot.  

Five Basketball Jump Shooting Tips

I have to thank Steph Curry and the Golden State Warriors for making jump shooting relevant again. There was a period of time prior to their resurgence that many players and coaches seemed to have forgotten about the importance of jump shooting and where it fit into the game of basketball. Clouded by the glitz and the glam of the dunk the jump shot became overlooked. Young players favored NBA guys who could posterize their opponents with air defying slams rather than those who could light it up from deep. The times they are a changing though and that is all thanks to players like Steph Curry, Klay Thompson and Kevin Durant who can shoot the basketball. 

In their efforts to shoot like these guys, youth basketball players are working more on their jump shot than ever. This can and should be a good thing, but it does have its detriments. Practicing your jump shot is obviously a positive. However, practicing your jump shot with incorrect form from ranges that you cannot shoot from is a negative. Doing so will only build bad habits and make you a worse jump shooter. I have always maintained that jump shooting is about learning to shoot the ball correctly and then shooting the ball correctly a lot. So with that in mind, I decided to give a list of my top five jump shooting tips. 

  1. Shoot the ball straight. There is no replacement for shooting the basketball straight and our Elite Shooting System addresses this with three components: release the ball off your middle and index finger, keep your guide hand in tight on the finish and align your shooting shoulder and shooting hip with your target. 
  2. Use your body efficiently. The body is like a machine. Machines work significantly better when the parts are all working together in a certain way. For your jump shot, your hips and shoulders need to work together to produce an effortless jump shot. 
  3. Dip the ball. In order to add rhythm and power to your jump shot, dip the ball slightly on the catch doing so will get you into your shooting motion and NO it will not slow down your jumper. Just look at the previously mentioned players, they all do it.
  4. Incorporate forward momentum. Do not wait for the ball to come to you. Step or hop towards the ball. Doing so will put you in rhythm to shoot the ball and also add and element of quickness to your jump shot.
  5. Warm up progressively. Too many players walk on to the court and begin by shooting from 20 feet away. Instead start your warm up close to the rim, maybe three or four feet away. Make a prescribed number of shots from that distance and then slowly progress backwards. At every Elite Basketball Training session my players must make a total of 80 shots from no further than the foul line before beginning their live game shooting drills. This gives them the opportunity to groove their form and get into a flow.

If you are interested in learning more about these five jump shooting tips and our Elite Shooting System, contact me today or visit the Elite Basketball Training page for details. 

Are You, “Allergic to Mediocrity?”

This week while riding into work I was once again listening to Mike and Mike as I always do. With the college football playoffs recently released, that was a hot button topic on the show, particularly, Nick Saban and the Alabama Crimson  Tide who appear to be a lock to win their second consecutive championship. Nick Saban, the iconic head coach of the Tide is on quite a run with them and did not do to shabby when he was the coach of their now rival, LSU, winning a BCS national championship there. Former pro football player turned analyst was a guest on the show and, having been an all SEC player for Saban while at LSU was asked what one thing makes Nick Saban such an incredible coach. Without hesitation, Clark responded, “He’s allergic to mediocrity.” Clark further explained that Saban demanded that you play with fire on every play and if you didn’t he’d just get rid of you. There was no in between.

Are you a player or coach who is allergic to mediocrity? One that will accept nothing less than the best on every play of every practice or game? The great players and coaches in any sport are like this. That is what makes them who they are. When they are alone in a dark, lonely gym working on their game, the perform just as hard as they would when the lights are on and the house is packed. As I alluded to last week, great players are great all the time. They do not have a switch that they turn on and off. There is no middle ground with these players. They are not allergic to mediocrity.

Let me know your thoughts on mediocrity and how hard you practice to develop your basketball skills.


Great Players Compete to Win, Not Tie

Day in an day out for about the past 10 years, for better or for worse, I have listened to Mike and Mike on my morning drive into work. They annoy me, or at least Greenie does, but yet I still listen. This week was no different…Greenberg continued to anger me with his dopy analogies and over-analytical thought process. For the past four days, I have listened to him ask anyone who would listen why the Denver Broncos would have kicked a 62 yard field goal at the end of the game on Sunday night when a miss would seal the deal for them to lose. In case you were wondering, they missed and they lost. Greenberg’s feelings were that they should have punted the ball and played for the tie. The tie! I believe it was the great Paul “Bear” Bryant who once said, “A tie is like kissing your sister.” Who the heck goes out and practices day in and day out to play for a tie? No one, because true competitors play to win the game.

This brings up the notion of a player’s ability to compete. Great players compete all the time…every day, every drill, every play. Good players will only compete some of the time. And, bad players, well, there is a reason they are bad, they almost never compete. I once coached a player who scored 1500 career points in high school, was looked at by many Division 1 schools for basketball but chose to play football at Oklahoma where he started as a wide receiver for a brief period of time. He was, arguably, the most competitive player that I ever coached, to the point where I truly believed that he believed he should make every shot that he took. Seriously, there were times that I could remember sitting him down to explain that making every shot was just not possible and that he needed to relax and continue to play. None of those conversations ever took away his competitive drive though, and that is what made him great. He would never be satisfied with playing for the tie because that is not competing, that is not what great players do.

Great players compete all day every day and even in their sleep. Their ability to compete all the time is what makes them great and they know that this is a skill that you cannot just turn on and off. So if you have a desire to achieve greatness on the court, now is the time to start competing. Get after it and train hard.

To Turn or Not to Turn

Basketball Shooting Form Debate

Turning Your Feet or Square Up

Last week I was having a conversation with a parent about jump shooting and we got on the subject of what you should do with your feet. In other words, should you square them to the basket or turn them on a 45 degree angle to the side. The parent was saying that as a young athlete he turned his feet and that he sees great jump shooters nowadays turn their feet but that many jump shooting coaches that he taken his son to in NJ teach the players to point all ten toes to the rim.  Asking, “why do these coaches continue to teach jump shooting this way? As a jump shooting coach in New Jersey, I am of the mindset that players should turn their feet on their jump shot slightly on the set up but even more so on the finish. With that in mind, the only answers that I can come up with is that they just have not as coaches evolved with the game of basketball or they are unclear about what they mean when they use the phrase square up.

Why Basketball Players Should Turn Their Feet

It is hard to watch a basketball game that feature great jump shooters like Steph Curry, Klay Thompson and Kevin Durant and walk away from that game saying that those players square up to the rim on their jump shot. In fact, not only do they turn their feet when setting up to shooting, they finish with their feet even more turned at the end. Turning you feet has a number of advantages for a jump shooter. In a game where players are more physically developed and actually have lat muscles, squaring to the basket can put your shooting shoulder and elbow roughly three or more inches outside your target. This being the case, players are also taught to tuck their elbow in as a way to compensate for the offset. If you have ever shot this way, it is highly uncomfortable. Anyone who has ever shot a basketball knows that discomfort in your jumper can and will produce misses. To avoid this discomfort and line your shooting shoulder and hip with the basket, all you need to do is turn on an angle. This position is far more comfortable, accurately in line with the rim and, by the way, your elbow is now in by virtue of the turn. From this point, all you have to do is shoot the basketball straight.

Why Coaches Use the Phrase “Square Up”

So why do coaches still teach their players to square themselves to the rim? Answers vary, but my only guess is that they were taught this way and as a result continue to teach these antiquated methods. The other thought is that maybe the coaches are unclear on what they mean by squaring up. I have come across many basketball players who believe they are squaring themselves to the basket and are actually turned slightly to start and even more so to finish. That being said, maybe the phrase itself needs a little bit of explaining, especially when it comes to teaching the jump shot properly.

Are you interested in learning more about our Elite Jump Shooting System? If so, visit our training page today for more details on how we can help you turn misses into swishes.