By Coach Dave Stricklin at HoopSkills.com
Take a minute and form a mental picture of these three players:
• The third grade player who takes two quick dribbles (often times with both hands at the same time)picks up the ball, glances quickly at the rim to see if he happens to be any closer than he was two dribbles ago, then puts his head back down and repeats the whole process.
• The eighth grade player who has always played on the low block on his school team and now struggles when he is asked to play out on the perimeter on his club team.
• The high school junior who hit 50 three pointers as a sophomore but now finds defenders playing him so tight that he can’t come close to getting a shot off.
What do these three players have in common?
The thing that immediately comes to mind is the fact that if their ballhandling skills were better, these players would have a lot more fun and would make a much bigger impact on their teams. Therefore, if any of the above scenarios describes you here are several tips you can use to improve your ball handling/dribbling skills.
Use your fingertips. Dribbling is all about controlling the ball; the better you can control the ball while it is bouncing the better ball handler you’ll become. Now the best way to control the ball is to spread your fingers a little wider than normal and then bounce the ball off of your fingertips and never off of your palm.
Spreading your fingers is especially important for younger players with smaller hands since it allows you to cover more of the balls surface. If you use your palms instead of your fingertips you’ll find that you’re constantly slapping at the ball and won’t be able to change directions or change speeds.
Pound the ball into the floor. You only really have complete control of the ball when it is in your hands so the quicker you can get the ball down to the floor and back up to your fingertips the better. The only way to accomplish this is to dribble the ball as hard and as low as possible.
Try this drill: Get a ball and assume a stance with your feet shoulder width. Using your fingertips, try to dribble the ball 100 times in 30 seconds.
Develop and use both hands. You might be able to get away with using only one hand in elementary school but the older you get the more important it is to be able to effectively use either hand. If you can’t defenders are going to drastically overplay your “strong” hand and render all your hard earned dribbling skills useless.
A good way to start working on developing both hands is to take the drill mentioned above and dribble two balls at the same time. Eventually you’ll be able to incorporate other two ball drills into your practice routine and will then be much more comfortable using your “weak” hand in actual game situations.
Go somewhere. This dribbling fundamental is often overlooked but is crucial to becoming an improved ball handler. I know a lot of players who handle the ball like it’s surgically attached to the fingertips and who know every dribbling trick and drill ever invented but they never go anywhere! Unless you’re perfecting the skills necessary to put on a ball handling show at halftime you need to be able to advance the ball from point A to point B. Whether you are attempting to balance the floor, get the ball down the court under defensive pressure, or attacking the rim, you need to handle the ball on the move.
Set up cones or chairs in a variety of patterns and dribble through them and around them first with your right hand and then with your left. Time yourself and keep trying to get a faster time than you had previously recorded. As you become better skilled start playing more one on one in both half court and full court situations.
These are by no means the only dribbling fundamentals you need to master but they are a great place to start for the beginning ball handler. Once these basic four are perfected you’ll be ready to improve even more by using the next four fundamentals.