Basketball Layups: The Game is NOT a Layup Line

Basketball Layups

Basketball Layups: Are You Making Them?

When you practice basketball, do you practice layups?  If so, do you practice many different kinds of layups from different angles?   Are they done at game speed?  Are they practiced in a competitive atmosphere? Chances are you answered “no” to one or more of these questions.  Probably because we as players, coaches, and trainers take layups for granted as the simplest shot in the game of basketball.  Fact is, though, that layups also happen to be the most missed shot in the game of basketball.  Most likely because we either do not practice layups or we practice them as if we are in a layup line and not under the criteria highlighted in the questions above.  That is to say, we go through layups at about 60% of our top speed, with no defense, and with the same repetitive finish over and over.

Basketball Layups: 3 Keys To High Conversion

I have been using this “layup line” analogy quite a bit lately in our basketball skill development workouts at Elite Basketball Training in order to get my players to understand three key components to practicing layups and becoming proficient at finishing at the rim:

  1. That they must always practice layups at game speed.
  2. That they must practice different kinds of layups.
  3. They must practice layups at different angles of attack.
  4. That they must practice layups against competition.

This is the only way to become better at finishing around the rim and remedy the sickness of missing layups.

Elite Basketball Training For Layup Conversion

In order to develop quality finishers at Elite Basketball Training we have several different series of finishing moves that we teach as part of our basketball skill development curriculum.  These finishing series include, but are not limited to: the single foot series, two foot series, spin series, and the floater series. Each series has a variety of moves and counter moves that the players learn to use to finish in different situations based on how the defense presents itself. For example, if you have beaten your opponent off the dribble, have a step or two on them, and a clear path to the basket you would use a single foot series move in an attempt to out race the defender to the basket. Using a spin series move in this situation would only serve to complicate your finish and potentially cause you to miss.  To learn each one of these series of finishing moves, we break the move down in order to teach the footwork required for each and have them work on the footwork at a slower speed in order to develop muscle memory.  We also explain why they would use this particular finishing move versus another at this point so that they understand which situations to use it in.

Once the players have mastered this step, we have them go at full basketball speed from different angles sometimes using chairs or the Profender to serve as a defensive player that they have to read and react to.  The final step in this process is having the basketball players use the finishing moves in a live, competitive setting like a one-on-one or one-on-two finishing drill.  This final step comes as a shock to some players initially as they get their shot blocked or miss badly for fear of getting their shot blocked or getting hit.  Nonetheless, over time, they adjust to the competition and learn to use the variety of finishing moves they have been taught based on their read of the defense.

The layup is the simplest yet most missed shot in basketball today.  It is for this reason, that players must incorporate practicing layups into their basketball skill development.  However, do not just practice layups like you would take in a layup line, practice layups like you would finish in a real game.  The game presents different scenarios based on the defense and players need to be able to finish in all of these situations.  Consequently, players must practice different types of layups, at game speed, and from different angles in a competitive environment.  Then and only then will players get out of this “basketball layup line” syndrome that is causing them to consistently miss layups during games.

If you are working on actually making speed and agility improvements specific to the game of basketball, you must check out our course on just that topic:

Basketball Agility Training Videos

“It’s a Shoulders Game…”

Last week as I watched the Iowa vs. Michigan State basketball game, a fantastic game in which Michigan St. came back and won, I could not help but be taken by a phrase that Jay Bilas used early in the game after an Iowa player drove by a Michigan St. defender and put the ball in for a layup.  As the Iowa player got a step on his defender and en route to scoring Jay Bilas exclaimed, “It’s a shoulders game, the low man wins.”   I have a lot of respect for Jay Bilas (despite his Duke playing background and my Carolina blue blood) as one of, if not the best college basketball analysts in the game today.  Bilas’ forthright and intelligent manner of breaking down the game always has me thinking and wanting to hear more.  In this case, it is no different as Bilas hit the nail on the head with his comment.   I loved it and thought of it as a must hear phrase for all of the Elite Basketball Training family.

More often that not, young basketball players play the game of basketball erect and in an elevated state.  That is to say that they stand straight up and down when  in a game or while developing their skills with drills.  There are potentially a number of reasons for this, the three most notable being: they are too lazy to even think about dropping down into a low, athletic position, physical weakness (particularly in the core) prevents them from staying in this lower athletic position for a prolonged period of time, and they do not develop their basketball skills in a way that emphasizes the low position and forces muscle memory.

There is not much I can say on the laziness issue other than kids spending the majority of their time sedentary and inactive.  Then to be thrust into a situation that requires them to be athletic is something they are unaccustomed to and therefore it mentally does not click for them unless there is a constant reminder.

Beyond the mental aspect of it though, the physicality of this position is also something they are not used to.  Basketball training should be a combination of skill development and sports performance training or athletic development.  A well designed sports performance program for basketball will mimic the actions and positions players are in on the basketball court and strive to develop them.  All of these low and athletic positions, require the player to have tremendous core strength thereby enabling the player to maintain this position without fatigue.  I remember a player that I trained at Elite Basketball a Training, once he realized that I was going to require him to be low throughout our workouts, tell me that he was constantly working on his core at home in order to maintain that position.  Trust me,  the improved core strength and  his ability to maintain that low position was noticeable, and led to better performance and improved skills.

Players, particularly when working on skill development, need to be continuously required to focus on staying low while developing their skills.  At Elite Basketball Training we use a variety of drills and tools that force the player to stay low. Drills such as handling a ball and touching a series of 10 inch cones while executing change of direction moves is a prime example of this. Furthermore, use of bands in our skill development drills hold players accountable to a standard that they are not held to without the band. It’s very difficult to move effectively in an upright position when you have the tendon of a band pulling back on you. Consequently, the player must consistently stay low in order to be effective when using the band in a drill thereby reinforcing the low position while developing muscle memory and basketball skills.

“It’s a shoulders game. The low man wins. ” A simple yet genius statement made by Jay Bilas while calling a recent Iowa vs. Michigan State basketball game.  Players todayshould hear   this statement and take it to heart. Too many players play the game up right for reasons that include laziness, weak core strength, and/or not developing their skills while maintaining a low position. Whatever the reason, basketball players who want success must become accustomed to this position and develop it because Jay Bilas is 100% correct….the low man will win every time.

“Shooting” is Not Enough

Having seen enough basketball at the lower levels, there is no doubt that  a “bad jump shooting” epidemic has developed  in basketball.  Most of the coaches, parents, and players that I have spoken to have chalked it up to the notion that either their team just does not shoot the ball well or  that their son or daughter is just not a good jump shooter.  This rationale is ridiculous!  Jump shooting is a basketball skill and it can be developed like any other skill through proper technique and hard work.  The problem is not that these players and teams are simple “bad shooters,” it is a lack of devotion to learning the proper technique combined with continued repetition of that poor technique through repetitive drills that further exacerbate this jump shooting problem.

I have made the case over and over that good jump shooting is about learning to shoot properly and then doing it over and over.  Recently, while reading Alan Stein’s article, “14 Things Great Shooters Do” I came across this fantastic quote that lends street cred to my philosophy.  “Great shooters go to the gym to make shots; not take shots. Anyone can take 500 shots. The name of the game is to put the ball in the basket.”  Players need to begin to understand that shooting just to shoot is not going to make you any better especially if you have improper jump shooting form.  In fact, this can actually make you a less effective jump shooter because it is furthering bad habits through repetition.  Similar to a person continuously ramming his head into a wall and expecting his headache to stop.  Repeatedly doing to wrong thing over and over is no way to correct or fix your problem.  Fixing the problem, in this case the inability to shoot the basketball consistently well, requires players to fix their improper technique first.

Correcting improper technique can be a maddening thing for a player who is accustomed to shooting a certain way.  First and foremost, it requires the player to unlearn bad habits that have been developed over a prolonged period of time.  Muscle memory has ingrained these habits into the fabric of their minds, creating strong roots that are very hard to dislodge.  It can, however, be done through concentrated practice.  When fixing your jump shot, it is not good enough to simple go out and shoot. You must learn your jumper and know where you miss your shots on the rim and why, and then make your corrections based on those misses.  For example, if a right handed player continuously misses to the right then chances are they are following through off the outside three fingers.  They must therefore realize this and begin working on reaching their index finger through the center of the rim on their follow through, ultimately keeping the ball straight.

Beyond learning your jumper and the cue to correct your misses, you must also learn to accept that through the course of learning the proper technique and working to correct your jump shot you will experience even more missed shots…at first.  This is your body adjusting to something new and it will take time to make that adjustment.  However, once it has, your makes will begin to increase more than ever before.  Do not let this discourage your quest towards a great jump shot.  Ask yourself, do I shoot more like Kevin Durant or “Little Johnny Down the Block”  (my apologies if you are “Little Johnny Down the Block)?  If you answer is Little Johnny, than you have nothing to lose and you need to fight through the initial period of misses in order to make great gains.

“Great shooters go to the gym to make shots; not take shots. Anyone can take 500 shots. The name of the game is to put the ball in the basket.” Having read this quote on Alan Stein’s blog it further supported my notion that great shooting comes with learning how to shoot the basketball properly and then doing it properly over and over.  In today’s game, this is not always the case as many players and coaches have disregarded learning or teaching proper shooting technique, and have chalked their myriad of misses up to just being a bad shooter or shooters.  The focus of these players is all wrong and they are only making themselves worse at jump shooting because they are not learning their jump shot, how to fix it, and correcting their poor technique.  Instead players are exacerbating the problem by repetitively shooting the same incorrect way over and over thereby building on bad muscle memory and making it even harder to correct their form.  We as coaches, trainers, and players need to stop this madness immediately and start to cure this poor jump shooting epidemic.  Coaches need to take the time to make corrections on players jumpers.  Players need to learn from these corrections and concentrate on fixing their problems.  Then and only then will we as a basketball community solve this poor jump shooting problem and players can go to the gym and focus on making shots, not just taking shots.

For more information on learning the Pro Shot System and how to shoot the way the pros do, contact me today for personal jump shooting workouts.



“I Wish More Parents Saw How Important This is.”

Last Saturday after finishing up my Elite Sports Performance workout in Edison, I was having a conversation with one of my basketball player’s parents about the workout that just ended.  He was very complimentary of the workout and elaborated on how great it is for his son to be a part of the sports performance workouts as well as my basketball skill development program.  As I thanked him for his kudos, he followed it up with, “I wish more parents  saw how important this (sports performance) is.” and he proceeded to tell me that he planned on telling more players and parents about the training and encouraging them to get involved.  I could not be more appreciative of this commendatory praise and that he was willing to spread the word about my training, but his quote on parents seeing the importance of sports performance training really got my attention.  Why don’t parents and in many cases, basketball players see the value in sports performance training and its implementation into game play?  Anyone who has ever watched one NBA or college basketball game has to see that these basketball players are in great shape and cannot possibly think that is an accident.  Nonetheless, sports performance training consistently takes a back burner to game play and skill development (and in that order).

Elite Basketball Training was founded on the principal of creating the most well-rounded and versatile basketball player and it is for this reason we offer a variety of programs that include basketball skill development, sports performance training/athletic development, and nutrition.  We know that the best basketball players are, not only the ones with superior skills,but are also the players who are in the best shape.  Our sports performance programs are designed with the game of basketball in mind and often mimic many of the common movements on the basketball court including power positions like the lunge and jump positions while developing the core strength to maintain balance and coordination and finally conditioning the athlete so that they have enough in the tank to still perform their skills at the end of the game when they are tired.  These are all attributes that the top players in the world have and work to develop yet more often than not, players and parents of players say they cannot find the time for sports performance training.

Time is the biggest determining factor into whether a player supplements their basketball skill development with sports performance training.  However, a case can be made that there is more time than you think there is to train if certain aspects of a player’s development were prioritized and others trimmed down.  Doing so will allow a player to easily find one hour two to three days a week to improve their athleticism.

For whatever reason, game play has almost become the be all end all of player development as young players often find themselves playing an excessive amount of games on a weekly basis. This is a result of them being on three or more teams of varying sports and therefore being constantly shuttled from one game to the next.  As a matter of fact, recently I was having a conversation with one of the parents of two players that I train.  His son and daughter had tried out my sports performance training, loved it, and  were trying to find the time for them to come in and train on a consistent basis.  This may come as a shock, but we couldn’t.  Why?  Each child played on about three basketball teams alone, not to mention the other teams from other sports that they were involved in at the time.   All of this game play had monopolized their time and left them very little time to train.

I am not sure how game play became  so significant to everyone, but I can absolutely, one hundred percent assure you that it should, in no way, be the number one priority in your development as a basketball player or any kind of player, for that matter.  Game play is a way to incorporate your skills and athleticism into a live situation and not a way to develop said skills and athleticism.  As a matter of fact, a case can be made, that if you only play games and do not get the proper repetitions it takes to improve your skills and athleticism  you will only plateau in those two areas and in many cases regress.  There is just not possible way to get in the necessary reps to improve during game play…period.  With that in mind, game play should be the last priority on the list for a basketball player looking to improve.

Obviously players desire to grow and improve all of the time and basketball skill development combined with a well structure sports performance program will produce the desired  results.  Nonetheless, when giving a reason why players cannot get in the weight room and train, time is the most common reason, followed up with an almost braggadocious account of the number of teams their son or daughter plays on.  It’s almost like a badge of honor to play on multiple teams, but one that I simply cannot wrap my mind around if a player is truly looking to develop their game and in this case their athleticism.


Shoes and Socks vs. Basketball Skills and Athleticism

Owning a basketball training business and being a teacher, I am around basketball players and students every day, and I have come to the conclusion that today’s generation of  basketball players have more basketball sneakers and socks than all other generations combined.  I can honestly make a case that I come across at least one player every couple of days with a new pair of Lebrons and/or a fresh pair of Nike Elite socks.  This begs the question, what is the point of spending money on so many pairs of socks shoes?  Maybe I am being a little old school here but is there really a need for a pair of Elite Socks for every day of the month (yes, I actually had a student tell me that he owned a pair of mid calf socks for every day of the month)?  I am as much into looking good on the basketball court as the next basketball player, but this infatuation with new basketball sneakers (most of which are quite ugly) and mid-calf socks is quite ridiculous.  Further compounding the situation and really confusing me is that a large majority of the players I see wearing them cannot pass, dribble, or shoot the basketball effectively.   Just curious, but wouldn’t your money be more well served being spent on basketball skill development and/or sports performance training so that they can actually improve their basketball skills and athleticism?  Last time I checked, shoes and socks do not make a player better, just better looking and at a pretty high cost.

In a recent Google search for Nike Elite socks, the average cost is $15 a pair with some special addition pairs costing as much as $30.  Figuring that the average player has at least five pairs of these types of socks, that’s a total of $75 (even more if one of them is a limited edition pair) or the cost of two group training or one personal training sessions with me.  A similar Google search on Nike Sneakers showed me that the average cost of sneakers today is $160 with the Lebron 11’s costing as much as $200.  If a player has two pairs of shoes totaling the average, that’s around $320 for shoes or the equivalent of 10 group training sessions or four personal basketball training sessions with me.  Combine this with the totals from the Nike Elite Socks research and you are talking quite a large amount of quality basketball training.

Please do not misunderstand me, my issue with all of this is not that basketball players have expensive shoes and socks…that’s fine.  It’s that they have multiple pairs of these expensive shoes and socks and they brag about how many pairs they have but at the same time, there are areas of their basketball game that are deficient.  If their goal is to be the player in the layup line that looks really cool but whose production is limited when they step on the court, then that is okay.  However, if your real goal is to become a better basketball player, then I can assure you that multiple pairs of Lebrons and Nike Elite socks will do very little to help you attain that goal.  The only way to be successful on the court is through hard work and dedicated basketball training devoted to basketball skill development and sports performance.  If this is the success you seek, then it is time to refocus your priorities and maybe lay off the shoes and socks and find someone to help you develop your skills and athleticism.