The Significance of Ball Handling and Dribbling Drills

Ball Handling and Dribbling Drills, Not Circus Tricks

This summer we are bringing back our popular Elite Ball Handling and Finishing program. I have always found ball handling an important part of basketball. However, I have heard many basketball skill development coaches make the case otherwise, saying that ball handling and dribbling drills are for show and do not directly correlate to the game of basketball. To some extent, I agree with these basketball trainers. There is a line that many basketball skills trainers cross when it comes to their ball handling and dribbling drills. In their efforts to stand out, they turn their drills into circus tricks that relate little to the actual game of basketball. However, if done correctly and if they relate to actual basketball, ball handling and dribbling drills are extremely important to your development as a basketball player.

It is important to note that ball handling drills and dribbling drills, although similar and related, are different skills and serve different purposes. Ball handling drills are done to develop hand strength, coordination, and hand quickness. Dribbling drills, on the other hand, focus on developing changes of direction or moves to get by a defender and create space. Either way, both ball handling and dribbling are fundamental to your development as a basketball player, building skills while developing the confidence you need to be successful on the court.

The Importance of Ball Handling Drills

When it comes to our ball handling drills at Elite Basketball Training in NJ we focus mainly on two key components: hand strength and coordination. To develop hand strength, we encourage our players to dribble the ball hard and pound it close to your body. I always mention to the players that I train, that when I coached and we saw a player who dribbled softly, we immediately trapped, often times cause a turnover. Consequently, we encourage them to put “dents in the floor” when they dribble and extend their elbows and wrists through the floor. Dribble hard enough to take yourself out of your comfort zone. Doing so will help your hand strength grow and the stronger your hands are the quicker and more controlled and coordinated your ball handling and eventually dribbling will be. I often encourage my players to use two ball drills for this in order to train both hands. Never neglect your weak hand, no matter how hard it is for you, it will ultimately make you a weak player.

The Importance of Dribbling Drills

Dribbling drills, although similar to ball handling drills focus more on change of direction moves that will separate you from your defender. However, it is important to see the correlation between the two since the stronger your hands are and the more coordinated you are the quicker your dribble moves will be. When it comes to dribbling drills we often start stationary and then work our way up to moving. Either way, our players are encouraged to keep the ball low and move it quickly while using your off hand to protect the ball. Once again, move the ball so quickly that you take yourself out of your comfort zone. Training a crossover slowly will only make you really good at having a slow crossover. Train quick and you will be quick. Finally, be sure to add movement to your drills. Learning to make your dribble moves stationary is one thing but eventually, you will need to make them on the move at game speed and that is how you need to train.

Tips for Successful Ball Handling and Dribbling

  1. Dribble hard and extend your elbow and wrist through the floor.
  2. Dribble quickly in order to develop quick moves.
  3. Keep your eyes up at all times.
  4. Stay in a low, athletic stance.
  5. Practice with both hands. Use two balls at once for this.

Interested in developing your ball handling and dribbling drills? Elevate your game and become Elite. Register today for the Elite Ball Handling and Finishing at our Training page today.

The Four Stages of Basketball Skill Development

Basketball Skill Development is NOT Just Skills and Drills

I feel like sometimes basketball skill development is viewed simply as skills and drills. A workout where players go out on the court see a drill and do it with little rhyme or reason.  In many poorly orchestrated basketball training situations this is definitely and unfortunately the case. However, if you are looking for a New Jersey based basketball training program that offers a progressive, well-designed approach to basketball skill development, then you need to understand how basketball training should happen. As a long time teacher (15 years) I have always seen myself as a teacher of the game of basketball. When I step on the court with an individual or group at Elite Basketball Training for a basketball skill development workout my classroom changes from a room with desks to a court with lines and a couple of hoops however, the approach does not. My role as a skill development coach is to teach the game and therefore, I follow a four step approach to basketball skill development. This systematic approach insures that basketball players in New Jersey who are training with us are learning the skill, developing the skill, and practicing with a purpose.

The Four Stages of Basketball Skill Development

Our four step approach to basketball skill development includes:

  1. Introducing the skill
  2. Practicing the skill
  3. Practicing the skill against softer defense
  4. Practicing the skill in game-like situations.

Each stage has its own purpose and needs to be perfected prior to moving onto the next stage. It makes very little sense to introduce a skill and then immediately use it in a game like situation. Please understand that when you see Steph Curry make a dribble move and then pull up from three point range, that is something that he has practiced thousands of times on his own and against dummy defense. It wasn’t learned and then right away executed live.

The Significance of Each Stage

Each stage of basketball skill development has its own purpose in the progressive approach to developing and training skills. The first part of basketball skill development is introducing the skill. I use a whole-part-whole approach when it comes to introducing a skill. That is to say that I explain the skills role in the overall game first. It is important for the players to understand why this skill is important and how it can be used in different situations. Then I break down the skill separately, explaining how to properly execute the move. These explanations should be short and to the point. Don’t drag on for long periods of time, you’ll lose the players’ attention. Finally, restate the role of the specific skill in the nature of the game as a quick review and allow the players to practice at their own speed in order to obtain the motor skills to perform the skill at game speed.

Practicing the skill at game speed is a crucial component of basketball skill development. This stage of practice is most often done on your own and is the stage in which players practice at game speed. I have stated time and time again at my basketball workouts that training slow will only get you good at playing slow. Learning skills at game speed is imperative to your development and can be done with cones, chairs, the lines on the court, etc. Once, you have mastered the skill at game speed, it is time to add guided defense. This stage is where players begin to put it all together. Guided or as I like to say, “dummy defense” can be done in a couple of ways, such as playing up on the offensive player, moving into space as a help defender, or at a higher level, two defenders on one. Either way, guided defense forces the offensive player to use their newly learned skill in a situation that requires them to make decisions. They must read the defense and react to it.

Reading and reacting is vital to the final stage of skill development, where players are asked to execute the skills in game-like situations. This is done live in either 3 on 3, 4 on 4, or 5 on 5. My preferred method is 3 on 3 particularly when it comes to younger players. In short, 3 on 3 offers a situation where there is more space on the court for the players to feel comfortable trying the skill. 3 on 3 also gives the the players more touches and more touches allows for more opportunities to try the skill. Nonetheless, practicing skills is a game like situation goes back to the very beginning and is the final component of the whole-part-whole method of teaching the skill.

Tips for Each Stage of Skill Development

  • Be short and to the point when introducing the skill.
  • Practicing at game speed gets you ready for game speed. Practicing slow makes you ready for slow.
  • Dummy Defense teaches you to read and react. Learn how to make decisions on the court based on reads.
  • Refine your skills in live situations. 3 on 3 is preferred early on for a variety of reasons.

Finishing Off Two Feet

Finishing at the Basket

This summer, I am bringing back one of Elite Basketball Training’s most popular programs, The Elite Ball Handling and Finishing program. This program focuses on exactly what it says it does, ball handling and finishing, by teaching players to use moves and counter moves off the dribble to attack the rim and finish appropriately. I have spoken in the past about how the game is not a layup line and therefore players need to practice different types of layups based on how the defense is playing you.  One type of layup series that is highly effective and we will be teaching at the Elite Ball Handling and Finishing summer program is the two foot finish.

The Two Foot Finishing Series

There are a few varieties to the two foot finishing series that include the 1,2 step, the jump stop, the pro hop, and the drag foot finish. Each one has it’s own purpose based on how the defense is guarding you.

  1. The 1, 2 step finish can be used when you have a defender on your hip going to the same location that you are going. The 1,2 step will allow you to initiate contact and power up to the rim.
  2. The jump stop can also be used with a defender on your hip in order to initiate contact and separate from them. In this situation though, the defender is slightly behind you and you use the jump stop to cover ground and cut the defender off. This will force the defender to either let you go as you separate or foul you.
  3. The Pro Hop is similar to the jump stop in that you are trying to cover ground and get to an open space. However, instead of hopping straight past the defender, you hop across the defender to where the open space is.  As you do this, you turn  your shoulders to protect the ball and finishing on the opposite side.
  4. With the drag foot finish, the defender is playing you tight and physical while going to the same spot you are. You would step and drag your back foot to maintain contact with the defender to help you separate.

These are the four ways you can finish using our two foot series that we teach at Elite Basketball. All are highly effective but once again it requires the offensive player to understand how a defender is guarding them and then reacting appropriately.

Get a Piece of the Paint

Why Driving The Basketball is Important

With the return of the Elite Ball Handling and Finishing program coming this summer, I will continue to discuss some of the key points that will be covered over the course of this six week program. As I stated in my previous blog post, Two Foot Finishes, this program will focus on attacking the basket and finishing at the rim. As a former successful head basketball coach at the high school level, our offense was based on attacking the defense off the dribble. We ran variations of the dribble drive as well as a spread pick and roll offense. As a team, we shot the ball fairly well from the perimeter, but our goal was to get the the rim first and free throw line second. Driving the basketball effectively puts a ton of pressure on the defense. It forces the team to help and recover, often leaving them scrambling to closeouts and leaving you with open shots or drives. Attacking the rim and the defense vertically (rather than horizontally) also puts individual players on their heels forcing them to guard the basketball well or foul.

Driving the Basketball Puts Pressure on the Defense

Simply stated, attacking your opponent off the dribble vertically will put pressure on the defense and give you advantages on offense. To do so correctly, you must get a piece of the paint on each drive. This will insure that you are forcing the defense to retreat, collapse, and help. Getting piece of the paint requires you to drive into the areas that Ganon Baker refers to as kill boxes. These kill boxes are at the following locations:

  1. Both Elbows
  2. The Low Block on both sides
  3. The Midline – the area in the center of the lane that runs from the rim to the dotted line

Attacking the “Kill Boxes” on the Basketball Court

Driving into these “kill boxes” and getting a piece of the paint force creates a retreating and collapsing defense while leaving you with more open shots. Learn how to be this type of driving player this summer at the Elite Ball Handling and Finishing program, available for registration today at

Four Ways a Defense Can Guard You and How You Counter


The Four Ways a Defense Can Guard You

As you know, at every Elite Basketball Training skill development workout, I strive to develop your basketball skills as well as teach the game of basketball. Learning the game will help basketball players build up their basketball IQ. They will know more about how defenses are playing them, where and how they should cut based on this, and how they can counter the defense once they have caught the ball. Knowing this information will ultimately make for a much more efficient and effective basketball player on the court. That being said, there are really only four ways a defense can guard you.  They are:

  1. Play in your face, guarding you tight.
  2. Play an arm’s length away.
  3. Force you to your right.
  4. Force you to your left.

Knowing this information will give you an understanding of not only how the defense is guarding you but also how you can counter that defense with specific offensive moves.

Offensive Moves That Counter the Defense

Knowing how to and being able to counter a defense as an individual player will make your own personal offense and the team offense click. You, as a player, will be able to break free of defenders and create space for yourself to get your own shot. Furthermore, getting into space with the basketball will put pressure on the team defense, forcing them to rotate and ultimately leaving one or more of your teammates open.  Looking at each example of how a defense can guard you, we can break down the best and most efficient counter moves to use. If a defense is playing up and pressuring you (ie. guarding you tight) there are a few ways you can create space. First, a player should rip over or through and step across the defender leading with the hips. This will force the defender to back off and once you step back to triple threat you will have space for yourself. It should be noted, that when you step across your defender, if your knee is outside theirs then you should drive by them. Finally, as you step across, instead of coming back to triple threat, you can spin back and drive the opposite direction.

The second way a defense can play you is an arm’s length away. If the defense is guarding you with an arm’s length distance, you have space there already for you to do one of three options: shoot, pass, or drive. In the third and fourth ways a defense can play you basically counter by going the opposite direction the defense is forcing you. In other words, if they are playing you to go right, then drive left and if they are playing you to drive right, then attack left. Doing so, will require you as an offensive player to attack the defender’s front leg putting pressure on the defense by forcing them to drop step and or backpedal. As an offensive player this is exactly what you want to make the defense do. It will help you cut the defender off and get them on your hip, rather than having them slide with you which is exactly what will happen if you have attacked the basket in the same direction they are forcing you.

Tips on How the Defense is Playing You and Your Options

  • Tight Defense = Step across and rip through series
  • Arm’s length away = shoot, pass, or drive
  • Forcing you right = drive left
  • Forcing you left = drive right.