Are You A Good Ballhandler?
One of the most basic, yet most important aspects of basketball is the ability to effectively handle the ball. Some of the most prolific masters of this art were the great Magic Johnson, and of course, the Harlem Globetrotters! To be a top-flight ballhandler (which is key to being a great point guard) one must be able to survey the floor while handling the ball.
The ballhandler cannot afford to be concerned with whether he/she is going to be able to control the ball at high speeds especially while running a break. Everyone on the team relies on the ballhandler to get the ball down the floor and be the catalyst toward making something happen for the team. If you cannot handle the rock, then go back to the drawing board because the better you are, the more effective you are, the bigger asset you are to the team, and the more your teammates are going to want the ball in your hands!
A classic rule of life applies here: if you can handle two of something, then mastering one thing will be much easier. In other words, if you can handle two balls at high speeds while keeping your eyes looking ahead, handling one will be a piece of cake.
Stand at one end of the court. Hold one basketball in each hand. Begin to walk forward toward the opposite baseline, bouncing the ball in your right hand first. In the fraction of a second after the ball in your right hand has hit the floor, bounce the left ball. In the fraction of a second after the left ball hits the floor, bounce the right ball. Continue in this fashion down the court. As you begin to feel more comfortable doing the drill, start to pick up your pace.
Ideally, you will eventually be able to sprint down the floor, bouncing both balls with equal skill. Don't underestimate the importance of this drill! I have seen NBA and WNBA players STILL performing this drill at the on-set of a practice. It sounds simple, and it is, so make sure to master ballhandling and you're on your way to a great basketball career!
To be a top-flight ballhandler (which is key to being a great pointguard) one must be able to survey the floor while handling the ball. He cannot afford to be concerned with whether he is going to be able to control the ball at high speeds. A classic rule of life applies here: if you can handle two of something, then mastering one thing will be much easier. In other words, if you can handle two balls at high speeds while keeping your eyes looking ahead, handling one will be a piece of cake.
Stand at one end of the court. Have a basketball in each hand. Begin to walk, bouncing the ball in your right hand first. In the fraction of a second after the right ball has hit the floor, bounce the left ball. In the fraction of a second after the left ball hits the floor, bounce the right ball. Continue in this fashion down the court. As you begin to feel more comfortable doing the drill, start to pick up your pace. Ideally, you will eventually be able to sprint down the floor, bouncing both balls with equal skill.
Ballhandling: The Behind-The-Back Dribble
The behind the back dribble is what Magic Johnson made his living on during his days leading the Lakers' fastbreak. It is one of the most effective tools to get by a defender in the open floor, because it does not require you to slow your body down in order to complete the move. It is especially useful when a defender reaches for the ball.
One good behind-the-back dribble and the defender is out of the play for good, and you haven't missed a step. It, like the between-the-legs, also has the advantage of using your body as a natural shield against the defense. If the move is executed correctly, the ball is the farthest thing from the defender, which allows you to move confidently down the floor.
Stand at one end of the court. Begin with the ball in your right hand. Step forward with your left foot, simultaneously dribbling the ball once with your right hand. As you begin to step with your right foot, lift the ball in your right hand and, rather than dribbling it on your right side as you did on your first dribble, slightly cup the ball, and move it behind your back in a circular, descending angle.
Do this in such a way that the ball will touch the floor directly outside your left thigh. As the ball is about to hit the floor, you should be stepping forward with your left foot and preparing to move the ball behind your back again. In essence, one dribble to your right, behind the back, one dribble to your left, behind the back, etc. This drill is predicated on your body achieving a fluency of motion allowing you to comfortably move the ball back and forth.
Keys To Effectiveness
Make sure not to place your palm directly beneath the ball when moving the ball behind you, because this is an illegal infraction, and the referee will whistle you for carrying the ball. Make sure your hand remains on the outside of the ball as you move it, ensuring that you do not illegally "lift" or carry the ball.
Ballhandling: The Stutter-Step
Perhaps the simplest, but, most effective move there is in basketball. Requires only a minimal amount of ballhandling ability, given that the ball remains in the same hand during the move. The beauty of the stutter-step is that a good defensive player must honor the move by momentarily freezing his body. He does not want to risk making the wrong guess and, by extension, getting burned by the man with the ball. In essence, you are penalizing the defender for playing good defense, a rare opportunity to take advantage of somebody who is responding just as he should be.
Stand at one end of the court. Place the ball in your right hand. Begin to jog down the floor, dribbling the ball in your right hand. After four dribbles, step down harder than usual with your left foot. If done correctly, your shoe should squeak on the gym floor, bringing your upper body to a momentary stop. Quickly follow this hard step with two or three more hard steps (i.e. right, left, right, left) which will successfully give your defender the illusion that your next move could go either right or left.
Then, re-start your dribble in your right hand, without changing your direction to even the slightest degree. If heard on tape, the stutter would sound like: rat-a-tat-tat-tat, and then the defender uttering some unprintable expletive at realizing he's just been beaten.
Keys To Effectiveness
- Keep your back straight during the stutter; balance is key in this move. If you lean forward, the defender will realize you are planning on continuing straight toward the rim, and your stutter step will be rendered ineffective.
- Do not stutter step for too long, if you do, the defender will be able to regain his bearings, and will be prepared for your next move.
The Between-The-Legs Dribble
Dribbling between the legs, though seemingly nothing more than a stylish variation on the crossover, is an effective, and often necessary tool when facing extreme pressure from a defender. Though this move can work wonderfully for any perimeter player, the point guard needs to master this move. Often the defensive player is playing in such close proximity to you, that the crossover dribble would allow the defender to easily get a hand on the ball.
With the between-the-legs move, you use your body as a natural shield against the defender allowing you to change both direction and speed - while ensuring that the ball is protected. This is also an excellent move to use when operating within a halfcourt situation, and a change of pace move is necessary to get by your man and into the lane.
Stand at one end of the court. Begin with the ball in your right hand (whether you are right or left handed does not matter; from this point on, only when specified, will it become important). Place the ball in your right hand. At the same time that you begin to dribble, step with your left foot, moving your leg at a 45-degree angle toward the left sideline (in other words, step in the direction of your left).
As your foot is about to touch the floor, guide the ball through the space that you've created between your feet. While this is happening, place your left hand behind you (your palm facing your back) ready to catch the ball after it's passed through. The difficulty of this drill comes here: As you've caught the ball in your left hand, your right foot needs to be stepping simultaneously at a 45-degree angle toward your right, in preparation to keep the ball moving smoothly between your feet. Though the timing and body movement on this move may seem a bit awkward and unnatural at first, you will soon adjust.
Keys To Effectiveness
- Again, practice this drill at a speed with which you are comfortable. Do not be sloppy. Your speed with the ball will increase the more you practice.
- Your knees must be bent, the bend in your knees is what will provide you with both your quickness and ability to successfully change directions; make sure you do this.
The Crossover Dribble
The crossover dribble is one of the most effective ways to maintain control of the ball against heavy pressure, or, while attempting to go by your man. It is the primary tool used by the point guard while travelling up the court under defensive pressure. However, it is also a great way to free oneself up for a scoring opportunity. It can be used to get to the basket and to create space between you and your defender, the crossover dribble will assist to set up your jump shot (a move we will go into later).
Begin at one end of the court. Place the ball in your right hand (For purposes of this drill, whether you are right or left handed is not important, given that you need to be able to perform this move with equal effectiveness using either hand).Then, while stepping forward with your right foot, move the ball (in one dribble) from your right to your left hand. If done properly, your left foot should be hitting the floor just as the ball has reached your hand.
Repeat this movement, beginning with the ball in your left hand. Do this drill at a walking pace until you feel confident enough with both your footwork and control over the ball, to the point when you can do it while moving at a joggers' pace. Ideally, after a few weeks, you will be able to do this at a full sprint, up and down the floor. This drill should be done for ten minutes, with the player stopping at 1-minute intervals for a 30-second rest.
Keys To Effectiveness
- The purpose of this drill is to improve the quality of one's ability to shield the ball from his defender, be it against pressure or, in the open floor. Therefore, it is of prime importance that YOU DO NOT LOOK DOWN AT THE BALL DURING THIS DRILL! A good ballhandler is confident enough in his abilities to be able to channel his focus to the events surrounding him, rather than whether he is going to be able to maintain control of the ball.
- Make sure the drill is done in a speed in which the player feels comfortable doing the crossover; no improvement is made if one is moving at a high speed, but is wildly out of control with the ball.
- The footwork needs to be done properly. Michael Jordan, when he was playing, did not have the best crossover in the league because of his hand speed. It was, however, his perfected footwork, which made this move so useful for him. He beat his defenders with his legs, rather than hoping his moves with the ball would do that for him.
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