By: Jeff Haefner

You can be an extremely effective ball handler by knowing and practicing 5 things. Most players and coaches make things too complicated. But dribbling effectively is simple. You don’t need lots of moves. You just need EFFECTIVE moves.

Here’s all you need to know to be effective at any level.

1 – You need to develop a feel for the basketball.

Developing a feel for the ball consists of drills that are stationary and slow moving. You will improve your hand-eye coordination, hand quickness, ambidexterity, throwing, catching and other important aspects of ball handling.

These drills consists of the Maravich series, one-ball dribbling, one-ball dribbling through cones, two-ball dribbling, two-ball dribbling through cones, tennis ball dribbling, and the Steve Nash passing series.

These drills are also great to put at the beginning of your warm up as a stepping stone to more intense drills.

A huge mistake that many players and coaches make is that they spend too much time on this. While it is important, especially for beginners, limit yourself to 5 to 6 minutes of each practice. The reasoning is that you can get very good at these drills, but you neglect the components below, you won’t have the ability to handle game situations. If you can dribble 3 basketballs while juggling 5 tennis balls at the same time, it looks cool and it is a neat circus trick that is great for marketing, but it is a circus trick. It is not going to make you a better basketball player. The majority of your ball handling should be functional which means that they simulate game-like situations. Can you get down the court in 3 to 4 dribbles with either hand? Can you stop on a dime? Can you change speed and change directions like Chris Paul?

If you are able to dribble 3 balls and juggle 5 tennis balls at the same time, I would say that your hand-eye coordination, dexterity, and hand quickness are extremely good and you probably don’t need to focus on them any more. You probably should spend more time on shooting, footwork, athleticism, and functional ball handling.

2 – You must be able to dribble the ball down the court at any speed (all the way from walking up to sprinting) with both hands with your head up.

Pretty simple, right? You can simply dribble up and down the court at different speeds.

3 – You must be able to change your pace.

It’s good to incorporate change of pace in your dribbling drills. Chris Paul is the expert at changing speeds (pace). That allows him to get the defender off balance.

Practice changing the pace from walking, slow, medium, fast, and full speed. You can change the pace from slow to fast, medium to full speed, and any other combinations you can imagine.

4 – You must be able to dribble while moving backwards.

So now instead of going forward, you need to be able to back out of traffic and so on. That’s where the back up dribble comes into play. Simply, get in a position where you are protecting the ball and shuffle forwards and backwards up and down the court.

Next, you can practice running forward at a faster speed, come to hockey stop, and shuffle a couple of steps backwards.

Mix it up so you can handle any situation.

5 – You must have a primary dribble move and a counter dribble move.

If you perfect a go-to move that’s very difficult to stop, good defenders will adjust to stop it. That’s when you add your counter move to completely keep the defender guessing.

I prefer the cross over as the primary move and the inside out as the counter move. You might use the hesitation move and the crossover.

That’s it! Perfect those five things and when it comes to dribbling, you’ll have the dribbling ability to handle almost any situation. Should you also practice other things for ball handling? Sure. Now do you need apply the technical skills to practice competitive drills to handle game situations like transition, ball screens, handling traps, etc.? Yes. Do you need to improve your athleticism to make you a better player in every aspect of your game? Yes. But I’m telling you, that these are five extremely effective methods to give you the technical skill to handle any situation.

You can use the back up dribble all the time — you use it when approaching a trap, when approaching defensive traffic, when getting cut off in the lane, when breaking the press, when breaking a player down one on one, etc.

You can then incorporate the cross over in lots of situations. If you advance the ball and get cut off you can back up dribble and then cross over to break down your man and blow by him. You can cross over to change directions and bring the ball to the other side of the court. You can cross over to the passing angle to your teammate. You can cross over to split a ball screen. You can cross over on the fast break to get by the defender. You can cross over to eventually set up your counter move (the inside out). So next time instead of crossing over, fake out the defender by giving the inside out move and then blow by the defender.

You still need to practice a lot, but I think this will simplify your life greatly by focusing on really effective dribbling techniques instead of trying to practice all kinds of moves and techniques that don’t really help. The techniques above are the the most effective dribbling moves that I know.



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