Training for Basketball: What You Need to Know as a Player

Basketball Drills for Coaches and Players


Whether you’re a seasoned athlete or just stepping onto the hardwood for the first time, this guide will equip you with the essential knowledge and techniques to elevate your game to new heights. From dribbling and shooting to defensive strategies and conditioning, join us as we explore the key fundamentals and advanced tactics that will empower you to excel on the basketball court.


Becoming a Better Basketball Player


Becoming a Better Basketball Player


Becoming a better basketball player requires you to analyzing yourself and understanding both athletic and basketball skill development. This requires hard work in combination with understanding what to focus your time on. Give your game direction, and instead of just working hard, learn to work smart. Use these basketball training tips to help elevate your game and to become a better basketball player.


Understand Your Position and Role

When each person contributes, maximizing their best skills, great things can be accomplished in basketball. Each player is important to a team’s success. Each position has specific, related skills and athleticism. The better you can understand what your role is on the team and how to maximize it, the more value you will add to your team.

This list of skills by position will help you come up with a foundation of what you should be working on. From here, you can build it out and better personalize it to what you need to do for your team.


Guards and Wings


Basketball Intangibles

  • Vocal/Communication/Leadership.
    • Great point guards in basketball are great leaders.
    • Guards are an extension of the coach and must get everyone else to buy into what is best for the team.


Passing the Basketball

  • Chest pass, two-hand overhead, bounce, etc.
    • As a passer, you need to be proficient in every type of pass.
    • Different types of passes will be required throughout the course of a game.


Dribbling the Basketball

  • Be able to handle the basketball with both hands equally well.
  • Be comfortable executing different dribble moves during a game.
    • Crossover move.
    • Between the legs move.
    • Combo dribble moves.
    • Etc.


Shooting the Basketball

  • Must be able to consistently shoot the basketball and knock down open shots.
  • You don’t have to shoot the ball every time, but you need to be at least able to make the defense pay if they leave you open.


Basketball Athleticism

  • Develop quickness, footwork, balance, joint mobility.
    • This all translates into playing defense, rebounding the basketball, etc.
  • Must be willing to spend time doing basketball drills to work on this regularly.


Basketball Game IQ:

  • The better your basketball IQ is, the easier the game will be for you.
  • You will be able to anticipate, read the defense, etc.



Basketball Post Players


Basketball Post Moves

  • Master the basketball fundamentals of post moves and then counters to those moves.
    • Hook shot.
    • Drop step move.
    • Pick and roll, space, etc.


Passing the Basketball

  • Being able to outlet pass can get the offense started and in transition.
  • Pass out of the post to hit shooters and make the defense pay for doubling or over helping.


Shooting the Basketball

  • Be able to hit open shots within your shooting range.


Rebounding the Basketball

  • Have good rebounding fundamentals on defense and finish plays.
  • Create extra scoring opportunities with offensive rebounds.


Basketball Athleticism

  • Develop your strength, power, footwork, joint mobility, etc.
    • The more you can develop these areas, the better you will be able to post up, rebound, finish at the basket, etc.


Basketball Game IQ:

  • Learn to think the game so that you can anticipate and exploit the other team.



Understand Your Basketball Strengths and Weaknesses

“Your weakest area will limit your ability to take advantage of your strongest area.” – Steve Pavlina.

After reading through the above list, you now need to create a list of strengths and weaknesses. These weaknesses are based on the requirements for your position and role. If your weaknesses are detrimental to your performance, add basketball drills that will work on these different areas. You need to come up with a game plan to develop these weaknesses into strengths.

However, understand that you can’t be good at everything; you will only be great at a few things. To determine which drills and exercises to perform, first determine if your weakness is due to any of the following:


Incorrect Understanding of the Particular Skill

  • If this is the case, use feedback from coaches and videos to better understand what’s needed to obtain/enhance the skill.


Poor Physical Strength and Coordination

  • If this is the case, adding basketball exercises to your program to increase your motor control and coordination is necessary.


Understand Your Strengths By:

  • Acknowledging what you are good at.
  • Thinking back on multiple occasions where you have performed your strengths.
  • Ask your coach for confirmation/feedback.



Short vs. Long-Term Basketball Training Goals

Short-term goals are something that you can achieve in the near future. Long-term goals are hard to keep due to the inability to focus and sometimes negative energy. Many skills require a significant amount of time to develop. Focus on perfecting your strengths. However, understand that your weaknesses will take longer to develop. Remember that some skills will take years to develop, so be consistent.

  • Create a ritual (when, where, and how to improve).
  • Make a plan for improvement.



Improve Your Basketball Skills

What skills are necessary for your position? For example, a point guard in basketball has to dribble and pass effectively with both hands.


  • Learn Skills through Observation (Video, YouTube, Live).
  • Perform the skill regularly.
  • Reflect and learn from flaws.
  • Utilize videos to capture and analyze your strengths and weaknesses.



Improve Your Basketball Athleticism (Strength and Conditioning)

Improving your athleticism prepares your body for the demands of basketball. As you improve strength, power, mobility, strength, agility, and speed, you will also expand your court skills and performance. Add these general guidelines for athletic improvement:

  • Add resistance training 2-4 times per week.
  • Concentrate more on functional training and less bodybuilding.
  • Research the basics about lifting weights before starting; if available, ask for an experienced gym-goers helps.
  • Balance push vs. pulls and hip vs. knee exercises.

**3:2 Back to Chest exercise ratio **3:2 Hamstring/Butt to Quad ratio



Why Does a Player Not Make It in Basketball?


Why Does a Player Not Make It in Basketball?

Dustin Kerns contributed to this portion of the article.


We all read about how players succeed and the characteristics that make up a great player, but we rarely illustrate why a player “does not make it” or “live up to the hype.” So here are some attributes and contributions as to why players fail when it comes to playing college basketball.


They do Not Understand Everyone is on Their Own SEPARATE Race

Each summer, on average, 3 or 4 freshmen arrive on a college campus ready to begin their careers. Everyone can play at this level, everyone is bigger, everyone is stronger, but the one key most don’t understand is that everyone is running separate races. For example, Frank Kaminsky averaged 1.8 points per game as a freshman at Wisconsin.

Three years later, he was named the National Player of the Year. If Frank thought he was running the same race that Ben Simmons is currently on, he would have set himself up for failure through misunderstanding. Kaminsky understood his own race and continued to run it, not comparing himself to others.

Coach K once shared the example of Shane Battier and Elton Brand. Shane Battier was the National High School Player of the Year. Elton Brand became a dominant player in his freshman year and declared for the NBA Draft, while Shane Battier did not. Being the High School Player of the Year, a player that did not understand the concept of running their separate race could have had animosity, blamed the coaches, or even transferred.

Instead, Battier ran his own race and was eventually drafted in the NBA after his senior year, three years later than his classmate Elton Brand. Shane Battier succeeded because he understood his race was longer, but continued to run it and stuck with it instead of comparing his race and situation to others.

Every player has their own journey. You may not be one of the top players right now, but that doesn’t mean one day you can’t get to that level if you trust the process. It is about finding your path, making adjustments, and then maximizing the talent that you have.

Parents, Peers, and Press

Parents love you, unconditionally, but their job does not depend on winning. Peers are your friends and will be your friends, whether you win or lose. Press is there to praise and possibly criticize, but they are certainly not at practice every day. The point is this, players that “do not make it” value what their parents, peers, or the press say more than their coaches and teammates.

Contrastingly, players that “make it” want to be coached, motivated, and challenged to be great. Every player has “rainy days,” and it is their choice to either believe or tune out the noise. There will ALWAYS be noise coming from outside influences, but the critical part within one’s success relies on how the player handles the “noise.”

Does it motivate him? Does it make him believe his or her coach’s message more? Players that “don’t make it” only believe in this noise.

Players Fall out of Love with the “Process” of Being Great.

Being a great player is very hard. It is a process, and as mentioned before, it can sometimes take longer than players are willing to understand. Not everyone is a great player when they step foot on campus as freshmen. However, if the work is consistently put in, the light comes on, and the game slows down.

Everyone wants the results, but not the work that comes with it. Some have a relentless attitude, fight, and eventually become great. Some start making excuses, blame others, and even quit. The great ones fall in love with the process of being great.

More distractions in college can take a player away from the game he or she once loved. The ones that don’t make it fall in love with the distractions.

CHOICES are Determined by VOICES

As the Hall of Famer George Raveling once said, the “choices you make in life are determined by the voices in your life.” The company you keep around you is a huge deal. Ask yourself, do you surround yourself with “gym rats” and other players who love the process? Or do you surround yourself with distracted players and don’t have the passion and willingness to work hard every day? Players that “don’t make it” oftentimes have their choices made for them by the voices around them.


In recruiting, all coaches are turning over rocks, searching for the next great player. The player that can shoot, the 7-footer, the guy who grabs fifteen rebounds, etc. Often, we find the player we are looking for, but it’s important to dig deep to find what makes him or her “tick.”

We have all seen players that have it all, except the “heart” and “ticker.” In the end, a player’s will and their ticker are far more valuable and greater than another’s size and talent. The players that “don’t make it” are not made up of those ingredients inside.



Taking Advantage of the Sideline in Basketball


Taking Advantage of the Sideline in Basketball

I walked into a packed gym the other day with games being run on both courts and plenty of players waiting on the sidelines to get their chance to play. As I looked around the gym, I realized that most of the kids waiting to play were sitting with their friends and talking or maybe shooting a quick shot while the game was on the other end of the court.

As I continued to watch, one thought stood out in my mind, “what are the players on the sidelines doing to get better while they are waiting?” You could literally wait an hour or two to play in some good gyms, and then if you lose, you are back to waiting again.

In a good situation, maybe you win two, three, or maybe even four games in a row, but even then, what have you done to really develop your individual skill level? Don’t get me wrong, playing pick up at a high level is great, but it can’t be the only thing you do in the gym.

If you have plenty of gym space/time and can find a gym that is empty to work on your game, then great, this basketball article isn’t for you. However, if you share a gym that is consistently filled with other players or spend a lot of time waiting to get on for a pickup game, I will give you some great basketball drills to maximize your time and take advantage of the sideline.


One Ball Basketball Dribbling Drills

One ball basketball dribbling drills are great because they allow you to develop your ball-handling skills, but they also allow you to practice specific moves. When doing these basketball dribbling drills really lock in on details, visualize a defender in front of you, and really sell the move each time.



Two-Ball Basketball Dribbling Drills

The goal of two ball basketball dribbling drills is to add an extra level of difficulty to the drill,  force the player to use their weak hand, and maximize time by working on both hands simultaneously.




Tennis Ball Basketball Dribbling Drills

Tennis ball basketball dribbling drills are great for developing quick hands and hand-eye coordination. By having to toss and catch a tennis ball, the player forces themselves to complete the move quicker. The tennis ball also adds an extra level of difficulty to the drill.




Taking Advantage of the Sideline in Basketball Conclusion

I remember reading a basketball article about Jason Williams, aka White Chocolate, and he said that he used to turn down playing pick up games just so he could spend time working on his handles on the sideline, and he was arguably one of the best ball handlers ever to play the game.

So don’t for a second think it is a waste of time to get on the sideline and put in work. Be hungry to get better and value your gym time.



When Opportunity Knocks


When Opportunity Knocks in Basketball

Frank Davis contributed to this portion of the article.


As a former basketball player from Gainesville, GA, I can vividly remember the desire to play college basketball at the highest basketball level that I could reach. I would have given anything for Georgia Tech, Georgia, or any power conference to have called my name.

Human nature wants us to set high goals and strive for the ultimate successes. However, it is important to keep in mind the right program fit, relationships, and opportunity are all vital in the recruiting process as well. Too often, players and coaches will eliminate quality non-division I programs, although they have not done enough thorough research.

I have not been coaching as long as some, but have been a part of NAIA, Division I, Division II, and Division III basketball. In that time period, one thing I have learned is that there are good players everywhere. Some of the best players I ever coached or competed against were at the NAIA and Division II levels. Many teams, in fact, have several players that have already or could compete on NCAA tournament teams.

My advice to athletes aspiring to play at the next level is to know how you are being recruited and who is actually recruiting you. Do your research. Only 3.3% of high school athletes play NCAA (Divisions I, II, and III) Men’s Basketball, so the selection is small. Be grateful for the opportunity and that you are being recognized as a player who can compete on the collegiate stage.

This leads me to my point that you need to consider how you are being recruited, regardless of level. Most importantly, never forget how fortunate you are to have the opportunity to play in college.

Through a tight selection process, Division I, some Division II, and NAIA programs are allowing you the opportunity to get a college education “free of charge” by playing the game of basketball. Graduates worldwide spend approximately 10 years paying off what is being recorded as an average of $30,000 in student loans.

I like to think of it as buying a house for the first time. You need somewhere to live and have a list of needs that will make the location comfortable for you. Not flashy or excessive, but you are taken care of. On top of that, your mortgage will be completely paid off at this particular house. We all have our personal opinions, but I find it extremely difficult to tell a person no and pay for a different home over the next part of my life.

In my opinion, it seems self-explanatory to find a home you will be comfortable in for 4 years and not stuck paying rent.

Players and coaches should take the initiative in learning about the programs showing a sincere interest in them. It means something substantial to have a coach give consistent attention throughout a student’s recruitment and can increase your report when you take the time to research them. My goal is not to downplay Division I athletics but remind you that it is a blessing to set up your future by playing a game you are so passionate about.

As a basketball coach, one of the most fulfilling things is having a student-athlete buy into you and your program and wanting to be a part of something bigger than themselves. 20 years from now, it will not matter how many points you scored or the level of your conference. It will be the relationships and memories you made with a group of young men playing the game you love. Regardless of level, when opportunity knocks, you answer it!



Basketball Specific Training


Basketball Specific Training


As a basketball player or a coach that is in charge of developing basketball players, you want to make sure that you are getting the most out of your training and also that you are training sport-specific. Your goal in the weight room should be to become faster, quicker, stronger, etc., as related to basketball and the movements that you are going to be making on the floor. This is called basketball-specific training, and it makes all the difference in developing a basketball player’s athleticism.

So what goes into basketball-specific training? As I mentioned before, you want to work on the different movements you will use in a game. For example, an exercise like the front squat will work on being more explosive when jumping to rebound, finish at the basket, or block a shot. You can even get more basketball-specific by doing exercises like the resistance band medicine ball chest pass exercise (see video). These basketball exercises will translate over to the court and help you become better at specific basketball skills and movements.



Basketball Specific Training Tips

Now that we have talked about the importance of basketball-specific training, let’s talk about some tips that you can use in the weight room to maximize your time and physical gains. Here are four tips that you can use in the gym.


Lifting Form: Don’t sacrifice your form to go with a heavier weight on an exercise. You always want to make sure that you are executing an exercise with the correct form. This will help maximize your gains, but it will also help to potentially reduce injuries. Start with a lighter weight that allows you to have the correct form, and then build up from there.


Explosiveness: Your goal on the court is to be more explosive and athletic, so you need to train like that in the weight room. So when you do exercises like the hang clean, squat and press, etc., make sure that you are training your body to be explosive. Always keep good form, but challenge yourself to shoot the weight up as quickly as possible (while still under control). This will translate over to the court and make you more athletic.


Conditioning: Basketball players need to have muscles that are conditioned differently than a bodybuilder. That means that you shouldn’t be taking 2-3 minutes rest in between each set, and you should also be doing some supersets in your workout. This will keep your body working hard and will help develop good muscle endurance as well.

*Supersets are two or more exercises done in a row without a break in between.


Compound Movements: Many younger basketball players get in the weight room and want to spend all their time doing exercises like curls or calf raises, but they should be spending the majority of their time doing compound exercises. By doing compound exercises, you will work multiple muscle groups simultaneously and work on simulating movements that you will use on the court. These types of exercises are a big part of basketball-specific training.


5 Great Basketball Specific Training Exercises

List of basketball exercises




So you think you are a Basketball Gym Rat?


So you Think you are a Basketball Gym Rat?

Trevor Quinn contributed to this portion of the article.


This term gym rat is circulating as descriptive verbiage for every young basketball player being recruited today. It may be a corny or ‘old school’ expression recently replaced by “grinding,” but at one time, it was the ultimate compliment. As college coaches, we recruit basketball players with basketball talent.

A player has to have talent first, but a basketball player separates himself from the talent like he doesn’t have it at all. If we call a High School coach, AAU coach, local workout guy, or parent, more times than not, a potential recruit is referred to as a “gym rat.” It is an easy thing to say, and of course, the person has a vested interest in his/her pupil – but is the player really a gym rat?

To put it simply: the lights come on, and there’s the rat…Lights go off, and there’s the rat. It is looking for whatever it can to eat or survive. The gym rat is hungry, and no one is feeding it — more often than not, it is trying to be exterminated. In the case of a gym rat, it is attempting to find any little piece of basketball knowledge or competitive advantage that can increase their survival rate.

These little guys are starving, and they don’t need someone to set out some food for them. For instance, they don’t need a coach to get them a gym (Go find a game?), give them some basketball drills (Figure it out?), or get the perfect equipment (just go hoop!). That’s what the best players do! They understand that action takes precedence over plan…While you’re waiting for the perfect setting to work on your game, they are already out there doing what you’re planning to do!

Extermination of the Gym Rat in Basketball

The gym rat species is on the brink of extermination these days, no matter what reports we get to the contrary. A recruit may have all the necessary responsibilities such as school, church, homework, the SAT, anything, even chores, but guess what? Every 1st team all-NBA player probably encountered these same obligations while they were trying to make it. They most likely attacked them with the notion that these would be the building blocks to their future success.

These are not excuses; they are necessities. Then there are the biggest hindrances to living your life as a gym rat.  These are the unnecessary evils attempting to exterminate the population. A gym rat can encounter people setting traps or constantly trying to feed them poison. Traps decimating the gym rat population can be anything from girls to Twitter; they will keep you from where you need to be…IN THE GYM!!! It’s up to you if that’s what you want to be. My guess is if you respect the local basketball community, I bet you all that stuff will come along with it.

Poison can be anything that alters the mindset. It could be a simple as a peer telling you, “you’re not any good; you should quit.” That is poison to a budding gym rat, but you don’t have to be duped into swallowing that. There’s a lot of other crap that can derail any athlete from striving for greatness. You can find stories for days about college/pro athletes who get caught up by the police doing something, but I’ve never heard of any of them getting caught while in a gym.



What a Gym Rat Looks Like

In my basketball coaching career, I feel like I have been around just two guys who, without a doubt, during our time together, could be considered gym rats. One was Al Thornton, who at Florida State went from unheralded recruit (Ranked #217) to NBA lottery pick. This was my interaction with Al Thornton. I knew he was working out every day at 10:00 AM, but then some days, Coach Hamilton may ask me to go find Al? He was typically at one of 3 places in Tallahassee and sometimes all three in a day.

After he worked out, he would either go from playing pick up at FAMU to playing pick up at TCC or just going straight back to our basketball training center. This was a typical day for Al. He would be in the gym for 8 hours a day, trying to see what he could add/try to do in a game that day. He didn’t know anything else!!! All I know is that was normal for him, and that is what helped him go from redshirt freshmen to 1st team All-ACC and a Lottery pick (Just look at the improvement of his season stats over 4 years).

The other was Ben Smith, a four-year starting Point Guard at Jacksonville University. Ben Was 5’10” – if that – and only had one Division I offer coming out of high school. He became a 1st team All-Atlantic Sun player for three straight seasons, won two conference titles, and his name is all over the school record book.

Every night usually around 10:00 PM, he got shots up. After lifting weights, class, individuals, pick up, and study hall, he got shots up. I’m not talking about a shoot, then talk for 20 seconds…I’m saying this man GOT SHOTS UP! He shot 28% from the three-point line his freshmen year. In his mind, he wouldn’t ever let that happen again, so for the next 3 years, he shot over 35%. One league opponent would make it easily apparent that their belief was he couldn’t go left.

So the following off-season, his sole purpose in life was to become equally adept with both hands. He would go into the gym a lot of days and refuse to use his right hand (HE HAD PURPOSE). Ben just came back from averaging more than 25 ppg overseas. Because of his dedication to his craft, his name is mentioned next to Artis Gilmore, Dee Brown, Rex Morgan, and Otis Smith as one of the best players to play at Jacksonville University.




These gym rats are a rare and dying breed. The term is thrown around so loosely that it is losing its grit. If I call a player and he picks up on the first ring or tweets every hour on the hour, he probably isn’t going to be in the gym the number of hours necessary to make it to the next level (Varsity, college, Pro). If enrolled in a weight training class…LIFT THE WEIGHT more times than you look in the mirror.

If you’re going to the gym, then go with a purpose (To make _______ # of shots or work on ______). You know you may encounter a gym rat when your phone rings at 10:00 PM, and a recruit says… “Coach, sorry I missed your call. I went and lifted after school, then our high school team had workouts, and then we had AAU practice. I just finished my homework and went for a jog. I wanted to call you back before I ate dinner.”

If you’re returning a call at 10:00 PM because this is your first free moment, then maybe a college coach, who really knows what it means, will be proud to justify anointing you as a Gym rat.



The Beginners Guide to Playing Defense in Basketball


The Beginners Guide to Playing Defense in Basketball

As a defender in basketball, you want to keep your man from scoring and then also be able to help your teammate if they are having trouble guarding their man. There are different types of defense, but in this basketball basics article, we will focus on two primary areas of defense, on the ball defense and off the ball defense.

Like shooting a basketball or dribbling a basketball, there is a proper technique and form to be a good defender. Here are some tips that you can use to become a good on the ball and off the ball defender in basketball.


On the Ball Defense in Basketball

When you are guarding the basketball, you are going to be in what is called a defensive stance. To do this, you will bend at the knees and drop your butt like you are sitting in a chair. You will hold this position with your legs slightly spread, chest straight up and down, arms out to the side, and on the balls of your feet.

By being in this position, you can move quickly laterally and cut your man off if they try and drive past you with the dribble. When you cut them off, you don’t want to use your hands to stop them because this will be a hand-checking foul.

You must square them up with your body, cut them off with your chest, and beat them to the spot. If they continue to drive and you have positioning, plant your feet and let them run you over. This will be an offensive foul on the player driving, and your team will get the basketball.

If the player goes to shoot the basketball, don’t jump in the air because they could shot fake you and then go by you or draw a foul. Put your hand up and contest the shot. Once they have already left their feet on the shot, you may jump as well. Just but be careful and jump under control.

Off the Ball Defense in Basketball

This can be a little more tricky, but a big key is knowing what is going on around you and then being able to anticipate where the ball will go. You should remain in a defensive stance even when your man doesn’t have the ball. Depending on where the ball goes on the floor and what your team defense calls for, you will adjust accordingly with every pass.

Make sure that you always keep your eyes on two things, the person you are guarding and the basketball. If you lose sight of the ball, you won’t be able to help your teammates. On the other hand, if you lose sight of your man, they will move and cut for a finish at the basket or an open shot. A good way to do this is by keeping your body between your man and the basket and then pointing at your man with one hand and the ball with the other hand.

Becoming good at playing defense in basketball is not easy, but you have already taken the first step by learning the basics with this basketball article. Learning these tips will help you become a better defender. There are several basketball drills that you can use to work on your defensive skills, but here is a video breaking down a good one. Also, you can view our other defensive basketball drills for even more great defensive resources.







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