In the game of basketball, there are a number of fundamental skills that are necessary to be able to compete. For example, the ability to dribble without getting the ball stolen, to pass the ball around the defense to reach open teammates, or to make a free throw. While the talent of each player and on any given team will differ , these fundamental skills are the backbone of quality basketball and should be practiced daily at every level.
This week we will focus on the fundamental skills (and the drills that reinforce them) of lay-ups and free throws.
***With each of the drills listed below, please be aware that drills might need to be altered to allow for your practice time allotment, players’ skill level, and/or the number of baskets you have in your gym.
3 Minute Lay-Ups:
Put 3 minutes on the clock and assign 2 players to each basket. For the duration of the drill, each player is going to dribble from the 3-point line on one wing to the basket, shoot a lay-up, dribble out to the 3-point line on the other wing, and dribble back in for another lay-up. Players must shoot a different type of lay-up (underhand, overhand, reverse, hook shot, finger roll) each time they attack the basket and can’t do the same variety twice in a row. Make sure players are attacking the basket at a game-like pace and are not slowing down to attempt their lay-up. Tell them they should attack the basket as if they are being tracked down on a fastbreak by LeBron James. Lay-ups are the most basic shot in basketball, but they are also often the most missed shot during games.
“Through the Fire” Lay-ups:
Divide your team into two groups – 6 players are passers and 6 players are going “through the fire” by shooting lay-ups. (See the diagram below for how to set up the drill). The players on the baselines are continuously running from one baseline to the other shooting lay-ups for one minute. The team of lay-up shooters is trying to make 16 lay-ups together as a group without dribbling. This drill helps teach players to sprint into their lay-up and also how to measure up their steps to attack the basket from the wing without dribbling.
Free Throw Drills:
Up and Down the Mountain Free Throws:
Have your team line up on the baseline. Select one player to shoot the first free throw (FT). They are shooting for a down and back sprint. If they make the FT, nobody runs and you select the next shooter…that player is now shooting for 2 down & back sprints. If they miss the FT everyone runs and another FT shooter is selected to start the process over. Players must work their way up the mountain, trying to make a FT while betting 1,2,3,4 down and back sprints, plateau at the top of the mountain and then work their way back down 4,3,2,1. This drill works on converting pressure free throws, as no one wants to be the one to make their teammates run. It can also acts as good conditioning drill if the team isn’t hitting their free throws…as that can result in a whole lot of running!
10 in a Row
This is an exercise that should be done at the end of each practice. Put 4 minutes on the clock and have your players try to make 10 free throws in a row during that time. Each player on your team needs to make the designated number (10 in this case) in a row during that time or the whole team does a down and back sprint. If time expires on the drill while a player is “in a rhythm” (having made at least one free throw), they can continue shooting until they miss. This routine of aiming to make 10 in a row should reduce some of the stress of in-game free throws, knowing that they only aiming to make two or three in a row.
Double Time Passing:
Separate your team into groups of 5-6 players. There will be one “trigger” person and the rest of the group will be return passers. Start with 1 ball with the trigger person and another ball with one of the other 4-5 players in the circle. The trigger person passes it to anyone in the circle who doesn’t have a ball. The person who has the second ball passes their ball immediately to the trigger person. The trigger person catches the ball and immediately passes it to another person in the circle. Have your players speed up their pace once everyone in the group understands the drill. After 15-20 seconds of passing the trigger person rotates to become one of the group and a new trigger person takes over.
This is a full court drill that works on developing strong two handed chest passes. The ball should not touch the ground throughout this entire drill. Players start in three lines on the baseline. Player B passes to either Player A or Player C. The player who receives this initial pass, passes it directly back to Player B. The ball gets passed from the outside lines to the inside line and back to the outside lines as the players make their way up the court. This continues until the far FT line where the player in the outside line that is due up next for a pass from Player B cuts in for a lay-up and receives the ball. The drill can be run for one length of the court, or multiples times up and down the floor while alternating which outside player shoots the lay-up. Be sure to set up cones at both FT lines and at half court that are 3-4 feet inside of the sideline, and require your players to stay on the outside of these cones for the entirety of the drill.
Ball Handling Drills:
Circle Up Ball Handling:
- Each of your players should create/establish a ball handling practice routine that they can do any time they get to a gym. Create a large circle around one “leader”, who will lead the group through any series of dribbling skills (right hand slams, left hand slams, taps, around the legs, around the waist, around the head, around the legs/waist/head together, around each individual leg, figure 8, windshield wipers, crossovers, between the legs, behind the back, 2 ball dribbling) as the group follows. Switch out the “leader” each practice and encourage them to be creative with their ball handling routine. Balls should be pounded and all dribbling should be done with pace and power.
- Circle up all of your players, each with a ball. The goal of this drill is for everyone in the group to dribble in unison. Pick a starting number based on your team’s skill level – higher starting numbers are more difficult. Begin with everyone dribbling the ball in unison in their right hand for 10 dribbles, then doing a crossover and dribbling 9 times in everyone’s left hand, crossover and 8 dribbles in their right hand, etc until the players dribble only once and slam the ball together between their hands, making one simultaneous sound together as a group.