How to Dribble & Become Better Ball Handler

How to Dribble & Handle the Basketball Better

Good ball handling skills are essential to becoming a good basketball player, especially for perimeter players like guards and forward. The key to successful offense is to keep the defense off balance at all times and to protect the basketball.  Players who have the ability to dribble both directions and don’t turn over the Evolution basketball will consistently find good scoring opportunities and help their teams win games. Great ball-handling is an art that is learned through years of practice and repetition.

[Related article for point guards and playmakers: improve jump shot accuracy]

Here are the keys to becoming a good ball-handler:

Get comfortable with the ball in your hands: The most important aspect for a young player is to become comfortable with the basketball in their hands. Get comfortable handling and dribbling the ball in a variety of situations and settings. Players do not need a game or practice setting to work on their ball-handling. Dribbling can be practiced in driveways, basements, sidewalks and on recreation courts.

The key to effective practice is to replicated game situations, such as dribbling with both hands, stopping and changing directions quickly, and protecting the ball from the prying hands of opposing defenders. It’s all about the development of effective eye-hand coordination.  Years of practice will give the young basketball player true ambidextrous ability to handle the basketball.  When ball-handling is perfected the player learns the ability to not only dribble in both directions, but to dribble with their head up at all times.  A player who can dribble with their head-up is able to see the full court and find their teammates for an open pass.

Learn the basics first:  Top NBA superstars are able to dribble in a variety of creative ways in order to keep the defense off balance and protect the ball. This includes using quick spin moves off the dribble, dribbling behind the back, and dribbling through your legs. The key for a young player is to learn the basic fundamentals of first dribbling well with their dominant hand and then their off hand.

[Related article: How to rebound like a beast]

Once a player learns to dribble in a motionless situation they can slowly build in learning to dribble on the run.  Once a young basketball player has mastered the basics of dribbling and can effectively move the ball with the dribble without looking at it they can slowly build additional components into their game. NBA players use behind the back and between the legs dribbling not to show off, but to make effective offensive moves and protect the ball.  It’s important for young players to realize that a solid dribbling foundation is needed first.

Develop a “go-to” move and a “change of pace” move: Once a young player has mastered the basic fundamentals and has the ability to handle the ball and see the court with their head up they can master individual “go to” moves. If a player has a quick first step to their dominant hand they should utilize that move until the defense can stop it.  Of course many good defensive players will cut off a player’s dominant hand or dominant move.  If this is the case it’s essential to have a variety of ball-handling moves to get past the defense for scoring looks or to draw in the defense so the player can find an open teammate for shot. Over time a player will slowly build an arsenal of effective moves they can rely on in different situations.  The key is to master a handful of moves and then to build your arsenal of moves over time.

Practice, practice, practice: The great hall handlers like Isaiah Thomas, John Stockton and Chris Paul became great through years and years of practice. It’s essential for a young player to consistently work on their ball-handling both through individual practice, in pickup games at local courts or rec leagues, and in competitive scrimmages and games. Real game action, even if it’s a three-on-three game with a group of friends is vitally important.  Learning to use your dribble against an effective defense in a real game situation will bolster the situation awareness that a good ball-handler needs. Being a good ball-handler, someone who doesn’t turn the ball over, occurs when the player not only is adept at dribbling the basketball, but when the develop and understanding of how to maximize the space on the court.

Last thought: One of the best side effects of mastering your ball handling: your jump shot accuracy increases as you arms develop a better feel for the ball.