This week’s player development feature focuses on a pair of drills designed to help guards improve their ball handling skills. Kevin Sutton, Nike Skill Academy Instructor and Montverde Academy Men’s Basketball Coach, leads viewers through the workout sessions.
These simple and effective drills — which work on improving balance, hand-eye coordination, overall dribbling ability and risk-taking — can be done at any level and only require a basketball and a tennis ball.
The pound dribble is a terrific way to begin ball control workouts. Players start by pounding the basketball hard at shoulder height with their right hand. Players should stay stationary and eyes should be looking straight ahead. After about 15-20 seconds, players can proceed to pound dribble at waist level, then followed by knee and ankle levels. Next, players should switch to their opposite hand and repeat the previous steps.
Keys: Remember to keep your opposite hand protecting the ball at all times. Keep your body low and knees bent with the backside down. Also, shoulders should stay square and your body should have proper posture.
Next, players should begin a high-alternating crossover dribble, going back and forth with the ball using just one hand. Begin with shoulder height dribbles before proceeding to the waist, knees and ankles. To finish, when players get to dribble at ankle length, they should touch the floor with their opposite hand.
Keys: This is an effective drill as the dribblers can move the ball side to side very quickly. And it’s okay if mistakes are made and the ball scoots away. The goal here is for players to take risks, too.
Finally, players should commence a rhythm dribble called “Push-Pull.” This is where the player pushes the ball forward and back on one side while in a stationary position. Their feet should be apart during this drill and always maintain good balance. To finish up, players can use their left hand and switch to a push-pull out in front for both right and left hands.
Tennis Ball Toss
This drill is great for hand-eye coordination. Players should remember to stay down on the ball (which forces a low center of gravity) and maintain their dribble at all times during the toss.
In the basic dribble toss, players dribble in place with one hand and use their opposite hand to toss and catch the tennis ball. Players should never surrender their dribble. After this, switch to the opposite hand. Remember, it’s okay to dribble through the legs or behind the back if it means maintaining your dribble.
Another variation of the tennis ball toss is the partner toss. Two players dribble about 10-15 feet from each other and then toss their tennis balls to each other while maintaining their dribble. This drill requires constant communication between teammates and improves one’s hand-eye coordination.