Mastering Fundamentals

Sound Fundamentals

What to Discover or Recall:

Discover that to be successful, players must have a complete mastery of the fundamentals of the game.
Realize that mastering basketball skills and techniques involves both physical and mental fundamentals.
Learn that that the only way to develop sound fundamentals and footwork is through repetitive practice.
Comprehend that keeping your hands up is paramount in basketball.

To create sound habits of play, basketball players must possess a thorough working knowledge of the fundamentals of the game, not just a general understanding of them, but a complete mastery of their details.  Sound individual fundamentals are synonymous with sound habits of team play. There is only one way to develop these sound habits, and that is through rigorous, repetitive work in daily practice sessions.

| Hands Up | Offensive Fundamentals | Defensive Fundamentals | Offense Things to Remember | Defense Things to Remember |


5 stars

Body Balance / Hands Up

Basketball players should first attempt to learn how to handle themselves before they learn how to handle the ball properly. When the body control phase of basketball is learned, the participants can more readily master the other fundamentals of offensive play. Sound body balance is related to every phase of basketball. Proper body balance demands an equal distribution of weight. To be effective players must establish a low base of operation with the knees must be flexed or bent with the center of weight carried on an imaginary line through the hips. The feet should be active and comfortably spread. The positions of the arms and hands are up.

It is the utmost importance of having hands up. Often over looked, but a vital part of basketball, is that the game is played with your hands up. You shoot, pass, dribble, receive, rebound, and play defense all with the hands up. In fact, the only times a player's hands are down is on a mistake such as a loose ball or when receiving a very low pass. Therefore, it is imperative that players, on every level, of the game create a habit of having their hands up at all times.


Both hands are up when shooting the basketball

All types of shots, including lay ups, are shot with the hands up. Since underhand lay ups are very susceptible to being blocked, it is highly recommend that players develop the habit of shooting lay ups overhand. Even with the two hand underhand free throw, the shooter finishes with both hands up. Note: the off hand plays a very important role in shooting the ball accurately.


Both hands are up when passing the basketball

Two hand chest pass, finish with thumbs down and palms out position follow through position. When executing a one-handed push pass the off arm is used to protect the ball from the defense. In throwing a baseball pass the off hand guides and protects the pass in the same matter as in shooting the ball. With the exception of an under hand flip pass, which most of the time is a dangerous and careless pass, all passes are executed with both hands up.

In passing the basketball, players should always pass to receivers that have both hands up and call for the ball. Therefore, to eliminate unforced turnovers, it is a good rule for players not to pass to any player with their hands down no matter how open. On the NBA level, players learn quickly to keep the hands up on offense; otherwise, their noses will be bloodied with sharp, crisp passes from great passers, such as former players John Stockton, Michael Jordan, and Magic Johnson.


Both hands are up when dribbling the basketball.

By rule the dribbling hand must remain on the top of the ball. In fact, it is a violation (carrying or palming the ball) and automatic turnover any time the ball is dribbled with the hand on the side or under the ball. The off hand is held in an elbow high position to protect the ball from the defender.


Both hands are up on defense

When guarding the player with the ball, it is important to have both hands up in order to take away the shot and pass options and forcing the ballhandler out of a triple threat position. When guarding a player without the ball, having hands up allows for deflections and interceptions. It also discourages passers in throwing the ball to the defender's opponent. When playing zone defense having the hands up is mandatory.

Statistically, having both hands up on the shooter has approximately 10% effect on a shooter's shooting percentages. As a result, if your opponent is a great shooter (50%) having hands up makes them a good shooter. A good shooter (45%) becomes an average shooter, and an average shooter (40%) becomes a poor shooter.


Both hands are up when rebounding.

Both offensive and defensive rebounding positioning requires having both hands up ready to react to the ball. Rebounders must assume every shot is going to be missed. If they watch the flight of the ball with their hands down, they become easy targets to be boxed out.

Therefore, improving hand quickness and playing skills in becoming a better basketball player, starts by creating a habit of holding both hands up any time you are on a basketball court.

Coaching Tip

Caution: "Basketball is a game of habits."
Make sure that all players keep their hands up any time they are on the basketball court!

During practices, have the players hold their hands up any time a coach is talking. This accomplishes two things: first and foremost, it is a good way to remind players to pay attention and listen. As a player, before you can learn any basketball skills you have to learn to listen and see. Secondly, holding your hands up through out practice, helps to condition and strengthen all the muscles that are required to keep the hands up.

When players hold their hands down, it is called the "Push Up" position and indicates that the player wants to do push ups. Coaches should be happy to oblige them in instituting an automatic 10 push up rule for any player not holding their hands up during the course of the practice. Players will quickly get the message and learn the importance of keep their hands up. In enforcing the hands up rule, players can do over 100 push ups during a practice without even thinking about it; and, in the process, gain upper body strength. Some players can even progress into doing finger tip push ups.

Practicing and playing with your hands up will definitely make a substantial impact on team performance. Once players learn to keep their hands up, it will eliminate many of the unforced turnovers along with increasing their scoring and passing abilities. By having their hands up, it also creates a positive attitude of wanting and calling for the ball which in turn develops and increases player confidence.


5 stars


Offensive Fundamentals

Offensive Skills & Techniques - Physical & Mental Aspects

Basketball is not a game of offenses and defenses, but a game of effort and execution. Before any offense or defense can be implemented, players must possess basic basketball skills. Offensive fundamentals can be broken down into two categories: with and without the ball. With the ball or ball handling skills include shooting, pivoting, passing, and dribbling. In playing without ball, players must move with a purpose. These techniques include creating leads (getting open to receive the ball), setting & using screens, post flashes and basket cuts and rebounding missed shots. Developing and mastering basketball skills is not easy task. It is a never ending process requiring countless hours of practice and refinement.

| Shooting | Dribbling | Passing | Without Ball | Things to Remember |

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Shooting Techniques

Physical Fundamentals

Shooters are made, not born. Good shooting requires consent practice.

Keep the ball close to chest in a triple threat position ready to pass, dribble or shoot.

Gather yourself and be on balance before shooting.

Take off on the proper foot, which is the opposite foot from the shooting hand.

Hold the ball high with wrist back and elbow pointing at the basket.

Use fingertip control shooting a soft shot. Use medium arch with natural backspin for most shots.

Use the center of the rim as a target area.

Correct follow through is essential for accuracy. As the ball is released, the wrist should snap down and slightly outward with the arm fully extended. Keep arm extend until ball is in the basket.

Use of legs is important in shooting. The longer the shot, the more knee bend is required.

Mental Fundamentals

The secret to good shooting is countless hours of hard work and determination.

Shoot with confidence. Passing up a good shot is just as bad as shooting a bad shot.

Practice the shots which you expect to get during a game.

Know your shooting range. No wild or hope shots.

Don't keep experimenting. Practice and develop your own natural shot.

Shoot with rhythm and coordination.

Follow your shot. Rebound.

Acknowledge and compliment the passer. Complimenting the passer will result in receiving more and better passes.

Dribbling Techniques

Physical Fundamentals

In open court, use a head up, speed dribble pushing the ball ahead using a waist high dribble.

When closely guarded use a low, controlled dribble.

Assume a low bent knee stance with head and eyes up at all times.

Use a spread hard, low dribble using finger tip control.

Always dribble with the hand away from the defender.

Protect the ball by keeping the body between the ball and the opponent.

Employ changes of pace and direction to get past a defender.

Front Crossover – switching from one hand to the other in front of the body.

In and Out – this is a fake front crossover dribble. A front crossover dribble is started with a strong head and shoulder fake, but instead of switching hands the ball is retained in the same hand continuing dribbling in the same direction.

Behind Back – switching from one hand to the other behind the back.

Spin – switching hands by turning back to the defender using a reverse pivot.

Between Legs – switching hands by bouncing the ball between the legs.

CAUTION: Always end the dribble with a shot or pass.

Mental Fundamentals

Develop the ability to dribble and change directions with either hand.

When used properly, the dribble is a real asset to a team. However, used improperly it can wreck a team from both a morally and technically.

Never dribble when it is possible to pass. Too much dribbling ruins team play.

Dribble with a purpose. To advance the ball, drive to the basket or to avoid trouble.

Never trap or one bounce dribble.

The dribble is the slowest means of advancing the ball down the court on a fast break.

Stay away from the corner trap zones.

Avoid dribbling violations such as double dribble, palming the ball and traveling.

On long passes always lead the receiver to the basket. Never pass directly to them.

Passing Techniques

Levels of passing:

Level One. Throws the ball to an area just to get rid of it. Common among beginning players.

Level Two. Just throws the ball toward a teammate no matter if they are ready to receive it or not. This is why players get hit by the ball during practice when just standing around.

Level Three. Surgeon. Passes to a specific target (hand or finger). Leads receivers into good shots. Rarely throws the ball away.

Level Four. Magician. A rare individual that can create open shots for teammates. Makes no look passes. Never throws the ball away.

Physical Fundamentals

Take pride in your passing and work hard to perfect all types of passes.

Chest – two handed pass thrown from chest level.

Bounce – a pass that bounces off the floor to a receiver.

Baseball – a long distance, one hand over arm pass.

Push Pass – a one handed pass thrown from the shoulder usually off a dribble.

Two Hand Overhead – a two handed pass thrown from directly overhead.

Behind Back – a one handed pass thrown behind the back.

Lob Pass – over the top pass, leading the post or receiver to the basket.

Passes should be sharp and accurate. Do not "float" the ball to the receiver.

Eliminate all unnecessary movements like winding-up.

Close the distance and pass through or by the defender not over.

Do not telegraph or stare down you receivers, use split vision and fake in the opposite direction of the intended pass.

Pass to a specific target such as a hand or finger not to the person. Target is usually on the side opposite the defender.

Move with a purpose after making a pass. Cut, screen, rebound, etc. do not stand still.

Mental Fundamentals

A great passer is a valuable asset to a team.

Maintain proper spacing. Most passes should be made within the 12' to 15' range.

Never pass or save the ball under the opponent's basket.

Move the ball. The ability to anticipate and make good, quick passes cannot be over emphasized.

Be clever, not fancy. Clever passes will receive praise while fancy ones will bring ridicule.

Don't just pass to get rid of the ball. Always have a definite purpose in mind.

Do not pass to anyone who does not verbally or with body language call for the ball.

The ability to move the basketball and hit the open man is a characteristic found in all great players and teams.

Offense Without the Ball Techniques

Physical Fundamentals

Move with a specific purpose. Each movement should result in a pass reception, screen, good rebounding position or a chance to score.

Work for the ball, do not stand and call for it. Use fakes, change of pace and direction to get open.

Meet all passes. Receive the ball with the inside foot forward for protection. Catch the ball with finger tips and pivot into a triple threat position.

Set and use proper screens. Run your defender into the screen. When setting a screen be stationary and maintain vision on the ball.

Be alert to execute the pick and roll against defensive switches.

Back cut to the basket when the defender overplays or takes their eyes off you.

In executing a back cut, cut all the way to the basket. Do not head fake and fake out the passer.

Run wide lanes on fast breaks.

Offensive rebounding is mainly an individual effort requiring agility and movement.

Assume every shot will be missed, and gain inside position.

Step in Front – technique of gaining inside position by simply stepping around a defender who does not box out.

Arm-over – move that can be use to step around a defender who boxes out.

Spin Move – technique used to combat and gain inside position against a strong defensive rebounder.

Want the ball! Hustle and determination play important roles in rebounding offensively.

Mental Fundamentals

Ability to fake direction of movement is as important as faking a shot or pass.

It is a must to keep your defender occupied to prevent sagging and double teaming.

When setting screens be stationary. It is up to the receiver to run their defender into the screen.

Be alert for situations in regard to out-of-bounds, jump balls, free throws, sudden presses or executing any maneuver that can help the team.

Study the moves of your defender and the habits of other defensive players who might guard you in order to decoy them or set them up for your own moves.

When rebounding offensively, you must be aggressive and develop an attitude as well as an instinct for the ball.

When a shot is taken establish good rebounding position or maintain defensive balance if assigned.

On offensive rebounds, timing is just as important and height or jumping ability.

Never get caught too far under the basket where you are only in position to catch the ball if it goes through the basket.

Five Stars


Defensive Fundamentals

The success of any defense is totally dependent on individual player defensive skills and techniques.

Obviously, in the game of basketball, the offensive player has a superior advantage over a defensive player. However, sound defensive fundamentals and teamwork can neutralize this advantage. Basic defensive fundamentals include: Proper footwork, hand position, and vision, techniques for playing the offensive player with the ball, influencing and containing dribblers, techniques of playing offensive players without the ball, Helpside defense, and defensive rebounding techniques. To be successful, players must possess a working knowledge of the basic defensive fundamentals:

| Ball Pressure | Dribbler | Pass Denial | Cutters | Helpside Defense | Post |

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Pressuring the Player with the Ball

  1. Ball pressure is the single most important element of team defense.

  2. "On Ball" defensive fundamentals are comprised of three basic components: Pressuring and attacking the player with the ball, containing a dribbler and attacking the picked up dribble.

  3. Pressuring the ballhandler makes dribbling and passing more difficult, and increases the chances of an offensive mistake.

  4. When guarding a player with the ball, the defender should attack, rather than react to offensive actions.

  5. The defenders should influence ball handlers to the closest sideline or baseline pushpoint. In keeping the ball out of the middle of the court (“Red Zone”), it not only reduces the offensive operating area, but it also creates helpside defense.

  6. Defenders should constantly anticipate and immediately attack any player that picks up their dribble.

  7. Defenders must have a hand up and contest every shot. Since shooters know where the ball is going as soon as it leaves their hand, they must be boxed out.

  8. Taking a charge is a really big play in basketball. However, in taking a charge, players need to be taught to absorb contact by tucking their chin in and sitting down.

Containing a Dribbler

  1. One of the most important principles of defense is to keep the ball out of the middle of the court. Defensively, nothing good ever happens on middle penetration.

  2. In keeping the ball out of the middle it not only minimizes the offensive operating area, but it also establishes helpside defensive support.

  3. Defend the dribbler with your legs. Do not reach. Move your feet!.

  4. On drives to the basket, hold both hands up above the shoulders to contest the shot or pass. "Showing" or holding both hands high also eliminates referees calling fouls..

  5. On dribble penetration, it is important that the defender protect the "Elbows" and "Blocks". Do not allow the dribbler penetration into the three second area. .

  6. In the open court, do not ever attack a dribbler from the side. Sprint ahead.

  7. When the defender is unable to maintain leverage and force the ball handler to a desired pushpoint, just continue to force to the next pushpoint.

  8. Do NOT foul a shooter. When the defender is beaten badly, cede the shot..

  9. Team defense does not only eliminate one-on-one isolations and player mismatches that may occur during a game, but it also provides defenders with strong, helpside support and quick hitting double teams which, in turn, allows defenders to exert more pressure on the ballhander without any fear of getting beat.

Strong First Pass Denials

  1. Off ball defensive efforts should be focused on obtaining the basketball, not just protecting the basket. Therefore, to achieve this, Off Ball defenders must constantly attack the passing lanes.

  2. Defenders must be alert and anticipate all passes. They must watch the passer's eyes since almost all passers will telegraph their passes.

  3. Strong first pass denials require that any pass to the opponent should go through the defender.

  4. To accomplish this, the defender must assume a position, up the passing lane, between the ball handler and the person they are guarding at all times.

  5. In attacking the passing lanes, defenders should deflect most passes rather than trying to catch them.

  6. For first pass denials to be successful, defenders do not have to deflect or get a hand on every pass.

  7. By constantly attacking the passing lanes, it will disrupt offensive spacing and timing by forcing the offensive players further away from the basket in order to receive the ball.

  8. Forcing the receivers out away from the basket increases the opponent's shot distance along with the drive distance to the basket and pass distance into the low post.

Defending Cutters

Rule: Do NOT allow the cutter to make an uncontested cut or trail a cutter to the basket.

  1. How to defend cutters is another phase of the game that is often times over looked by coaches.

  2. Basket cuts, back cuts and flash cuts have been around since the birth of basketball and are an integral part of every offense today.

  3. Players must not only possess a working knowledge how to defend these basic cuts, but also need to develop an attitude and aptitude of anticipating and preventing them.

  4. The "Give and Go" basket cut is one of the oldest, yet most admired plays in basketball. When executed successfully, it draws raves from the spectators and coaches alike.

  5. However, this simple basket cut should never be allowed. It is a result of careless or lazy defense.

  6. When a ball handler passes the ball and makes a cut to the basket, the defender must jump in the direction of the pass and assume a shoulder to shoulder pass denial position

  7. The back cut or "Back Door" cut is the tactic of choice used to counter strong first pass denials. Therefore, defenders should be aware of this tactic and alert to defend it.

  8. Defending back cuts requires a team effort. In addition to disrupting the actual back cut, it is also imperative for the "On Ball" defender to pressure the passer and for the helpside defenders to be alert and give support by intercepting or deflecting the pass or by taking a charge.

Helpside Support

  1. In providing helpside support, it allows the On Ball defenders to be more aggressive and eliminates the fear of getting beat. Helpside support also eliminates one-on-one isolations.

  2. Helpside defenders should assume a low, bent knee stance between the opponent and the ball handler.

  3. Players in the Helpside I position should recognize when a big player is in a "High I" position and a smaller player is in a "Low I" position, and INVERT whenever possible.

  4. Helpside defenders should be ready to execute five different actions: Show & Recover, Double Team, Double Team Early, Block Cutters, and Box Out on shots.

  5. When a defender is located 1 1/2 passes away from the ball or half way between a full pass denial and a helpside I support position, they should assume a "Strike" position one step up and one step off the passing lane.

  6. "Help the Helper" - A vital part to successful defensive help is the rotation of a third defender.

  7. The ability to close out quickly and effectively is a real key to Helpside defense success.

  8. Helpside defenders must close out to the nearest opponent as the ball leaves the passer’s hands.

  9. In closing out to a player with the ball, never leave your feet or run pass the shooter.

  10. Anytime a dribbler picks up their dribble, off ball defenders should immediately close out and take away all of the passing lanes.

Post Defense

  1. Being able to defend the post area is crucial in basketball. Post defense is not just limited to the tallest players on a team.

  2. Post defense is played before the post receives the ball, not after. All attempts should be made to prevent the offensive post from receiving the ball.

  3. There are three basic post areas to defend: Low post, Medium post and High Post.

  4. The defender should beat the offensive post to the "spot" and force the opponent to adjust and set up out of their normal set up position.

  5. Defend with agility and quickness rather than strength.

  6. Pressure all passers so that they are unable to make a good post feed.

  7. Strong post defense requires a team effort.

  8. How best to defend the post will vary from player to player and game to game.

Defending Low Post

  1. The defender must be determined to aggressively contest all post passes.

  2. Post defenders should assume an aggressive pass denial position on ball side keeping their back foot 12" behind opponent's foot.

  3. When changing defensive post position, the defender must move while the ball is in the air.

  4. Influence ball away from an outstanding post player.

  5. Sound individual post defense can be augment with post traps at times to insure total disrupt of the inside post up game.

  6. When the post sets up on the weakside, post defender assumes a Helpside "Strike" position alert to deny any flash cuts to the ball.

  7. Do NOT rotate off a low post to help out on a drive since it is much more difficult to score on a driving shot the down middle than it is off a drop pass.

  8. When defending the high post area, defenders should assume an aggressive 3/4 pass denial position on ball side forcing the high post to step out to receive the ball.

  9. When the high post receives the ball with their back to the basket, the defender should step off (arms length) and play the passing lane.

  10. When the high post turns and drives to the basket, the defensive player should force to a corner pushpoint.



5 Stars


Things to Consider About Offense

  1. Winning basketball is a team effort with all five teammates receiving help from one another.

  2. Offensive fundamentals must be mastered before any offense can be run. A play, no matter how good, will never be successful unless it is executed properly.

  3. Move the ball with sharp, accurate passing. Pass to the open man. You will be surprised how many times that's you.

  4. Get open for shots before you receive the ball. Work for the ball, do not stand and call for it.

  5. Meet all passes assuming a triple threat stance (shot, drive, & pass) upon receiving it.

  6. When over-played by a defender, back cut to the basket and shoot over any defender that sags off.

  7. Avoid the trap or one bounce dribble. Always stop your dribble with a shot or pass.

  8. Never dribble when it is possible to pass. Too much dribbling ruins team play.

  9. Develop pride in your passing and work hard to perfect all types of passes.

  10. Take good shots. Make sure no teammate is open for a better shot.

  11. Assume every shot will be missed and rebound. Getting second and third efforts are imperative.

  12. Without the ball, move with a purpose. Each movement should result in a screen, pass reception, rebounding position, or a good shot.

  13. Free throw shooting is a repetitive, neuromuscular skill, the more you practice, the more accurate you will become.

  14. Use the change of pace and direction effectively to get open. Make sharp cuts and avoid moving in arcs.

  15. Acknowledge and compliment every assist, save, clutch rebound or other valuable play by a teammate.

  16. Back cut to the basket or clear out when a teammate dribbles towards you.

  17. Posting up is not limited to just big players, look for all teams to exploit size mismatches at any position. On mismatches is much better to take your defender inside than to go one on one outside.

  18. It is better to be a second late than a second early on offense.

  19. Always know how much time and how many time outs are left in a game.

  20. Bill Russell, one of the most dominant players ever to play the game, is a reminder how great you can become without being a high scorer.

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5 Stars

Things to Remember About Defense

  1. Poor defense is the number one cause of defeat.

  2. Good defensive teams are the ones that win big games and championships.

  3. Defense is stable, and seldom has bad nights. Good defense beats good shooting.

  4. Team defense cannot be better than the defense of each individual.

  5. Tenacious defensive players will never let up during the entire game. They challenge every shot, pass, dribble and cut.

  6. Ball Pressure is the single most important element of team defense.

  7. Pressuring the player with the ball makes passing and dribbling more difficult, and increases the chances of an offensive mistake.

  8. Good defense promotes the majority of best scoring opportunities.

  9. Good defensive effort usually results in more playing time.

  10. Play every play with the same intensity as the last play of the game.

  11. You are never too late on defense - always hustle back.

  12. Attack on defense and don't react. Be aggressive and prevent the opponent from playing their normal game.

  13. Be alert and anticipate. Have active feet and never be caught standing flat footed or watching.

  14. Communicating on defense is a must. Use quick descriptive words such as “Ball”, “Push”, “Shot”, etc.

  15. Pressure all shots with both hands up. Stay down and box out.

  16. Assume all shots will be missed. Box out and rebound.

  17. Close out to outside shooters quickly on balance. NEVER run past a shooter or leave your feet.

  18. Develop individual and team pride on defense. To be successful players must work together and help each other out.

  19. Defend with your legs feet and don't reach. Fight for good position and eliminate the defensive foul.

  20. Force the ball handler toward a sideline. In keeping the ball out of the middle, it not only reduces the offensive operating area, but it also establishes helpside defense.

  21. Never give up the three point play. If you must foul, do so before the player shoots.

  22. See the ball. Maintain vision on the ball handler. Most passers telegraph their passes.

  23. Post defense is not just limited to the tallest players on a team. On the contrary, smaller players can definitely expect to be posted up.

  24. Anticipate and take offensive charges. They are “Really Big Plays” (RBP) in basketball.

  25. The “best defense” is an offensive rebound.

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