Grasping the Fundamentals of College Hoops

Sue Bird dishes the ball to Lauren Jackson who awaits the pass in the post. Jackson connects the pass, turns to the left with a drop step and finishes with a simple lay-up. Bird and Jackson, teammates on the Seattle Storm, are dominant in the WNBA- and their mastery is credited to their ability to perform the basic skills of basketball.

The basic skills of basketball are not glamorous. They are as straightforward as knowing how to get the ball to a center posted up close to the basket, how to make an accurate bounce pass and knowing how to box out an opponent to control a rebound. Normally, players learn these skills at a young age, but these days, coaches, scouts and fans say the basic skills appear to have been forgotten.

Former prep coach William Dawson of Philadelphia has had most of his experience coaching female basketball players between 14 and 16 years old. “The girls stick to the basics a whole lot better than boys,” Dawson said.

The female game is more fundamentally sound because they can pick up on things a lot quicker, according to Dawson. Dawson says that men’s professional basketball seems to have lost its emphasis on team play and is more focused on just the individual. In the professional league, it’s all about the individual and what you bring to the table when you get that far, Dawson said.

Creativity and flash are expected in the pro league, and each is elevated when a player also is sound fundamentally.

Sean Washington, power forward at Columbia College in Missouri, said that players in the professional league lack the basic skills because at that level fans just want something to see. Now people are beginning to think that showboating is what basketball is all about, he said. Washington said that the college level is more intense because the players always have something to prove. There is no time to show off. You have small room for error, he said.

Dawson believes that everyone needs a foundation to build upon and that if fundamentals are not grasped at a young age, then the player will not perform them well. As the player matures, the skills will mature right along with them, he said.

Most basketball players develop their skills by participating at youth basketball camps and recreation centers where players are provided one-on-one training by coaches. The basic methods taught by these coaches vary depending on the position of the athlete.

For guards, the techniques range from figure 8s (where the athlete dribbles the ball in a figure eight motion around and between the legs) to quick hands.

For post players, techniques include box out drills, the Superman drill (where the athlete throws the ball off the backboard above the rim at an angle and grabs the “rebound” from the opposite side of the lane without letting the ball touch the ground) and the Mikan drill (where the athlete starts on the right side of the basket within lay-up range, goes off of two feet and shoots a right handed lay-up. As the ball comes down, the athlete keeps both hands up, takes two steps to the left side of the basket and repeats the same motion only shooting a left handed lay-up). This drill was named after former NBA big man, George Mikan.

Although some analysts criticize the NBA for not exemplifying the basic skills of basketball, the league has made efforts to build interest in the fundamentals by adding the PlayStation Skills Challenge to the annual All-Star Weekend. This event challenges the guards in the league on their ability to successfully complete an obstacle course that includes dribbling, passing and shooting. The league also teaches the basics to aspiring basketball players through the Jr. NBA and Jr. WNBA leagues worldwide.

Power Basketball‘s Fundamentals Drills:

Figure 8’s – with dribble: Spread legs dribble the ball in a figure eight motion around and between the legs. Do this with a lot of dribbles and then with as few as possible.

Figure 8’s – without dribble:Hand the ball from hand to hand as you go around and through legs.

Quick hands:With legs spread, hold the ball between legs with one hand in front and one hand reaching behind you, drop the ball and switch hands catching the ball before it hits the ground. Repeat as quickly as possible. You can also do this with both hands in front then catch it with both hands behind.

Tom-Tom dribble:Spread legs, dribble ball with right hand passing it to the left hand, dribble ball with left hand between legs and to the right hand, dribble ball with right hand now behind you to the left hand that should also be behind you, then dribble the ball back to the right hand now in front of the body, repeat.

Drum dribble:Either standing or on one knee have players dribble ball changing hands with each touch. Start with a steady dribble then work down to super fast low dribbles. Then have players dribble with one finger on each hand and with their balled up fist.

Box Out Drill:Partner group up, one player practices boxing out for 10 seconds while the other attempts to get to the ball which is placed on the floor in front of them. Players trade spots and repeat.

Dribble Tag: Everyone dribbles a ball and they play tag, must be in control of ball when tagging someone, you may want to limit the area of play.

Knock Away:Everyone is in a confined area of the gym, everyone has a ball ready to dribble, when coach says “Go,”, everyone must dribble while at the same time trying to knock the ball out of the other players hand. Players who go outside the zone, have their ball knocked away or are not aggressive enough are pulled out of the game.

Races:Divide into two groups for full court races. Dribble down right handed and back left hand. Dribble down backwards, and back facing forward. Dribble down and shoot till you make a basket, or shoot once and keep track of points.