In the latest edition of All Access, we return to Palo Alto, California for an exclusive look at a Stanford University women’s basketball practice. Head coach Tara VanDerveer leads her squad through a number of ball handling drills during one of the first practices of the 2010-11 campaign.
VanDerveer’s squad initially warms up with some basic ball handling exercises before getting into the half-court drill “Squeeze.” The team finishes up with Zigzags, a full-court drill that emphasizes key offensive and defensive techniques.
The Cardinal reached its fifth consecutive NCAA Final Four last year before falling to Baylor in the national semifinal.
The team’s ball handling warm-up begins with all players standing in a circle, each with a ball. There’s also one leader in the middle of the circle leading the drill.
Standing in place, players begin with basic ball movement exercises such as circles around the head, waist, and legs. Next, players start dribbling low before getting into pound dribbles. Additional dribbling drills include figure eights, back and forths, opposite hands, and around the legs.
Finally, players get with a partner and make “hot potato” passes. Utilizing a bounce pass, players use one hand to pass the ball quickly back and forth with a partner. The exercises get progressively harder as eventually players must make one dribble and then finish with a behind-the-back pass to their partner.
In “Squeeze”, ball handlers get into one line at half court. Also, two more offensive players set up in the paint area, one on the low block and the other on the wing. There will be one defender on each offensive player.
The goal is to deliver a squeeze pass to the post in a 3-on-3 format. In other words, have the point guard dribble up against pressure and deliver a pass to a flashing low block player around the free throw line area. Meanwhile, the wing player slips backdoor and then the flashing player hits them with a bounce pass for a layup.
Players can also work on different options as well, such as a fake pass to the backdoor and a handoff to the original point guard for a drive and shot. Also, right after the backdoor dish is made, have a coach or manager make a feed to the passer at the free throw line for a turnaround shot to finish the drill.
In “Zigzag”, players go two minutes on each side of the floor. In a 1-on-1 format, players will dribble down the length of the floor at 100 percent trying to beat the defense and score via layup. Keep in mind that defenders can only guard people as tight as they can keep them in front. Use the cones as a guide as you dribble down the floor. Do not give up a layup. Keep the offensive players in front of you. Make them use their weak hand. If you get a steal, it’s your ball.