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How Great Basketball Players Train

October 13, 2017



I've written it several times before but nothing drives me crazier than a player who shows up to the gym at 6 am to work on his game but doesn't do anything to really improve.


For me, I love my sleep and I need my sleep so if I'm going to get up for basketball then I'm going to do something about it to actually improve. What I am talking about is the player who shoots a shot and walks after the ball and then takes 3-5 lazy dribbles out to where he wants to shoot next and the pattern continues.


That player isn't working on his game and he isn't getting any better. He may get points with a coach telling him that he gets up every day at 6 or even with his parents but in reality no progress is made. Unless of course he's training to win a stuffed animal at the local carnival for making an uncontested, lazy, set-shot - in that case he's probably making real progress with this type of practice!


Recently at a youth basketball game I saw some instances that got me in the mood to write about them. I watched a player get the ball with a clear path to the basket from mid-court. Instead of getting an easy layup that player was caught from behind and the ball was knocked away. It never should've happened.


The player was simply in a situation that he wasn't used to being in and had never practiced to prepare for it. When the player got the ball he started dribbling and took short choppy dribbles.

Those short dribbles made it impossible for him to go full-speed because he was waiting for the ball the entire time. Then the player had to look down to make sure he still had the ball because he wasn't pushing it in front of him.


Next, the player did not attack the basket in a straight line. The quickest way to the basket is the straightest path and he chose an 'alternative' route that proved to be his demise. These were all things that could simply be worked on in no time and by this age should've been learned by now.

Later in the same game a player received a pass and was wide open for a 15 foot shot. The player wasn't ready to receive the pass and therefore had to rush to get the shot off. He didn't get the shot off actually and it was knocked out of his hands as he went to adjust the ball to shoot it.


This was a player who clearly wasn't prepared for this situation and wasn't working on his game at game speed when practicing. In basketball when a shot presents itself or a play presents itself you have to go get it and you have to move fast. If you aren't then someone else will and your chances are limited.


To work on these things you have to practice them at game speed. To work on your ball handling against pressure then work on it focusing on the speed and concentration that you would in a game.


This doesn't mean you walk the ball from side to side but you explode and go quick. When you crossover you do it quickly because in a game you do it quickly. I tell all my players that they need to work out so hard that the game seems like the break.


For me, being alone in a gym for an hour is one of my favorite things. I document my routine beforehand and I commit to what I'm going to do. I don't allow the drill to be done anyway but perfect. If it isn't perfect I do it again and If I can't do something game speed then I work on it until I can.


When I do my shooting drills I chase the ball down and run to the next spot or spin the ball to my next spot and go again. It's about really focusing on what you want to do and then get better. It's crazy to think to yourself that you are going to shoot well in a game if you don't practice the same types of shots you'll get during a game.


How many wide open shots will you get where you have all the time in the world to shoot? Maybe one or two if you're lucky would be my guess. And that's great if your goal is to score 4 points per game.


When you work out next by yourself, really take the time to write out what drills you are going to do. Write some goals down. Keep track of makes and misses and document it all. I

In one hour in a gym by myself I can work on nearly every part of my game so while some other kid is walking after his ball I've already made 5 shots and I'm on to my next drill. If I'm a coach that's the kid I want on my team.

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