Fundamentals

Improving your game is actually very simple. What you want to do is practice the fundamentals of basketball daily. Michael Jordan was able to great things on the basketball court because he mastered the fundamentals of basketball.

Doing simple ball handling, shooting, and defensive drills make a big difference when done on a consistent basis.

When you master the fundamentals, your understanding of the game of basketball increases dramatically.

For example, think about when you first learned how to walk. At first, you had to crawl, then you started walking, then you could jog, and then you could run. Eventually you started dancing and now you can play the game of basketball.

The reason you were able to accomplish all those feats is because you mastered the fundamental of walking. You mastered it because you practiced every day without fail. What if you decided to practice the fundamentals of basketball every day without fail?

Target And Eliminate Weakness

Be honest with yourself.

What are your weaknesses?

Identify those weaknesses and attack them daily.

Can you handle the basketball with both hands?

Can you finish at the rim with both hands?

Can you hit the wide open three?

Get rid of your weaknesses and your performance on the basketball court will be noticeably better.

Mental Toughness

One of the fastest ways to improve your game is to change or improve your mentality. Believe that you’re unstoppable on the basketball court, and act as if you’re unstoppable.

In order to increase your self-belief, you have to act as if you really are the best. Take control of the things you can control. Out-hustle, out-think, and out-perform your opponent(s) in every situation possible.

Don’t just attempt to do your best, instead aim to go above and beyond what you thought you were capable of. Most basketball players are contempt with doing the best they can, but what you want to do is set yourself apart from the rest.

Decide that you will go above and beyond. When you mind is telling you that you’re tired and lazy, it’s just a test. You’re not actually tired or lazy, unless you decide to be. Everything in life is a choice. There is always a way to get what you want. And if there is no way to get what you want, it’s up to you to find a way to get what you want.

Don’t be a victim of your circumstances. Strive to be the best and then go beyond that. Even if you come up short, you will be happy with the results.


Let’s begin by looking at the man-to-man defensive techniques. One of the first determinations is the dominant hand of your opponent; either right-handed or left-handed. This is the shooting hand, and it determines how you guard your man and obstructing the shooting path. The next determination is which foot is the pivot foot. This can change with possessions and determines the drive side tendency, frequently to the non-pivot foot side. Another tell is the hand position on the ball. Shooting hand behind the ball indicates preparing for a shot. Hands to the side of the ball indicate preparing to pass. Hand on the upper part of the ball indicates preparing to dribble and which hand indicates going left or right.

Another indicator is dribble patterns. Players who dribble between the legs or behind the back do so in repeated patterns prior to shooting or driving to the basket. Knowing that tendency gives the defensive player a slight edge, a fraction of a second to contest the shot or dribble drive. Contested shots or drives decreases the scoring percentage and by how much depends on the agility and quickness of the defensive player. It also depends on the player’s ability to read and react to indicators.

Reading tendencies can likewise assist in making steals. By watching dribble rhythms and patterns, the defensive player can predict where the ball is going to be and can poke at that spot deflecting the ball. Such a move requires knowing at what point to attack and with practice become instinctive instead of mental. Targeting too early allows the opponent to redirect the dribble and too late leaves the defender out of position. The attack point is usually as the dribbled ball is ascending to the opponent’s hand where a dribble follows the predetermined pattern. Stealing the ball in this way not only wreaks the opponent’s confidence, but it also adds two points to the scoring differential. It stops a scoring attempt averaging one point per possession and allows a scoring opportunity by the defense averaging one-point per.

Team defense combines the aforementioned techniques but adds coordinated moves of helping out. This could be impending or cutting off passing lanes or even trapping a stationary player and obstructing passing or shooting lanes. Other times it’s correcting a mismatch such as a short player guarding a tall one, or an exceptional shooter facing a mediocre defender. Helping out is a constant risk-reward choice as double-teaming can have positive results or it can leave an opponent completely open. Thus, helping out requires all five defensive players working as a team. This means when one player moves to help out, the defensive responsibilities of the other three changes.

How it changes depends on the skill set of your opponents. For instance, a low-percentage outside shooter requires less attention than an inside center who dominates the paint scoring and rebounding. Such a player would require special treatment including double-teaming, sagging defense, and/or denying him the ball.

A major defensive problem is dealing with screens, the peel-off, and resulting mismatches. This is where analysis of tendencies can become a big advantage. Do they use the screen to set up an open shot or a drive to the basket? Or do they use it as a slip screen where the screener peels off toward the basket? How you defend it depends on their tendencies and the scoring threat of the players involved. Good defense requires making calculated choices that result in the best outcome.

Any defensive team is not going to be able to shut down an offense. Instead, the objective should be to limit points per possession. Defensive rebounding plays into this scenario as limiting second chances greatly reduces points per possession. While the defense has an advantage by being closer to the basket, it can up this advantage by solid rebounding techniques. Blocking out your opponent is basic, but defending likely landing spots is just as important. For instance, missed mid-range jumpers fall closer to the basket versus long three-pointers. Layups and put-backs are closer yet. Using this information can increase the rebounding percentages.

In addition, rebounding position is more important when facing taller, more athletic players. Blocking out is not enough, one must keep one’s opponent off balance by maintaining contact and restricting their jumping ability.

Switching is another defensive ploy where players pass off guarding responsibility to another player. This could be a verbal or non-verbal exchange and is commonly employed in high-screen pick and roll situations. Most of the trouble in this area is that the switch is not definitive and one or both offensive players have an advantage. Players get caught in that area of indecision and offensive players are left uncontested. Communication is a must remedy for such situations. Likewise, going to a mini-zone defense helps correct such mismatches and allows players to regroup.

In a zone defense, players are assigned an area to guard instead of a player. Usually, players move in a formation angling toward the ball with little separation between them. This spacing reduces dribbling or drives to the basket. Thus, the offense is relegated to passing the ball to an open man and taking mostly long shots. One strategy in this defense is to encourage shooting by low percentage shooters and play for the rebounds. Another strategy is to contest shots by likely shooters thereby reducing percentages.

Zone defense requires discipline in maintaining spacing and moving to the ball in a decisive and confronting manner. Here again, passing patterns soon emerge that predict scoring chances and which players are likely to shoot and when. This information allows the defense to increase confrontations at those moments. Such an intense defense can be exhausting and requires recovery moments. These can be taken on offense walking the ball up the court, taking time off the clock and shooting later during the shot clock. Keeping up a high-paced game can be regressive and detrimental to a winning cause. Thus, attention to recovery is a must.

On defense, you have several allies, namely the sidelines, the five-second rule, and the shot clock. When opponents get next to the sideline, it’s like you have another defender on them as they can only go sideways. And if they have used their dribble, it’s a tense moment which could lead to a turnover. Likewise, when pressed they may step back out of bounds. So, steering your opponent to the sidelines is a good thing and creates more chaotic moments for the offense.

Taking advantage of the five-second rule on out-of-bounds throw-ins can be instrumental in tight games. Taking over five seconds results in a turnover. When the offense has to go the length of the court, one can take risks and go for a quick turnover. As such, the defensive alignment that smothers the throw-in should be a rapid accumulation of defenders. First one, then two, and quickly three all blocking every possible passing lane create a chaotic challenge for the passer. Does the passer chance an interception or does he have time to call a time out?

In college, the five-second rule also applies to an offensive player being closely guarded by a defender and not advancing the ball toward the basket. This rule eliminates a dribbler running out the clock with no attempt to score. Here again, when defenders smother the dribbler and obstruct passing lanes, such action can result in a violation and turnover.

Being cognizant of the shot clock can also produce positive results, for when there are five to seven seconds remaining, the offense is compelled to get a shot off. This is the time to disrupt the flow and step of the defensive attack. By inhibiting passing to primary shooters, more time is run off thereby rushing poorer shooters to take bad shots. Such a strategy requires the defense knowing the skill set of offensive players and their shooting percentage, then defending accordingly.

While scouting strategies are common in football, awareness, and application of them in basketball can be a game changer. These strategies could emerge through studying opponent’s stats and videos, or by in-person observations and scouting reports. By countering the tendencies, the skill sets of the opposition, a team can gain an advantage against formable opponents. Knowing what your opposition is likely to do is smart basketball. However, you need to know which tendencies to look for and how to incorporate appropriate countermeasures into your game plan. That’s not only smart basketball, but it’s also brilliant.


There are a few factors to consider when training/learning how to hit a volleyball, also known as an attack or spike. One of those factors is the approach, the “run” towards the ball after it is released from the setter’s hands. First, make sure you are standing behind the ten-foot line with your right foot slightly in front of your left foot and arms down beside you. Next, take a step with your left foot and then another with your right foot. You will then want to plant or hop quickly with your left foot. You can think of it as well as left- right, left. You will want to practice this by starting out slowly and as you get the hang of it, speed it up to a quick “run”. Bend your knees and jump bringing your arms up in the air.

The next factor to consider when hitting a ball is your positioning. Having the correct positioning will make a huge impact on the way you make contact with the ball and hit the ball. The most important detail to having proper positioning is, always, always; keep the ball in front of you. By doing this, you will be able to place the ball where you’d like. This is once you have gained some experience.

Your arm swing also plays a big role in being able to properly hit the ball. One rule of thumb to keep in mind is to always put your entire body behind the hit/attack, not just your arm. Keep your arm straight in the air and open your hand. Make sure you strike the ball on top and in a downward motion.

Timing is the most difficult part of hitting. The best advice I can offer to you in order for you to master your timing is to practice, practice, and practice as timing is dependent on many variables coming together such as the height of your vertical jump and the speed of your approach.


The Magnificent Warrior

In the bleak, murderous North St. Louis neighborhood where Chris Carrawell grew up, he recalls three drive-by shootings in one summer-a setting he said he wouldn’t dare wish on many people. “Learning to stand up for mine” was his 11th Commandment. “My basketball was my thing; I had to fight older guys not to have it taken,” Carrawell says. Carrawell had no one else to stand up for him as a kid. His dad was non-existent, he was the man of the house, and most of the time it seemed as if no one cared whether he would ever enjoy a shred of success doing anything anywhere.

He claims that the only reason he and his siblings were able to make it was his Mom’s toughness. “She kept us in church, she was really religious,” he says. “Seeing her be there for us each day and keeping us away from the things that you can counter growing up in the neighborhood we grew up in. She was the strongest person I know to this day.” And because of her Carrawell became great at the one thing he could excel at above all others: basketball.

He had a few serious injuries-one might even have questioned why Mike Krzyewski pursued Carrawell for Duke, knowing that he may be chronically hampered. Maybe it was the kid’s fighting spirit, his refusal to ever back down. Well, in any case, Coach K’s bet paid off and Carrawell became a giant killer. At only 6’6″ and 215 he was assigned to Tim Duncan in college and defended him well. Yet he was also the alternate point guard and was usually assigned the other team’s best perimeter shooter. In the end, Coach K called Carrawell “the magnificent warrior,” and it was a fitting title for a young man who never gave up, who gave you his last ounce of effort every game, who had learned to stay cool in even the most pressured game conditions.

When Daniel Stopped Crying

A native of Missouri City, Texas, Daniel Ewing happened to grow up in a large competitive family with some heartless older brothers. When they played family basketball games, you’d think Daniel’s brothers would cut him some slack, give him a break-a free shot or two. But no way. Ewing was tortured, beaten down, pushed and shoved until he ran to his dad in tears looking for some sympathy. Nonchalantly, his dad usually just said, “Go back out there, and cut out the cryin’… ” So Daniel learned to fight his heart out for every rebound, every possession, every shot, and, in the process, he became one of the top high school players in America. As both a shooting and point guard at Duke, Ewing took part in more wins than any other player in the nation. He seemed mild-mannered but that belied the extreme effort he expended every game and as team captain for two years.

Competitive as They Come

At first glance Bobby Hurley looked like a pale, short 15-year-old with a petulant pout. But woe to the basketball coaches and players who underestimated him on the court. Hurley’s dad was a successful high school basketball coach and he and his son were both super competitive. This resulted in some cutthroat one-on-one games between the two while Bobby was still in elementary and junior high. Hurley Sr. was almost inhumane in the little things he did to rattle Bobby or get him off his game, to undermine his confidence. Eventually, he could no longer get inside his son’s head and Bobby graduated to rough and tumble, inner city courts. Sometimes he was the only white kid on the courts. If you lost a game, you were likely to stand waiting for at least an hour before you got another shot. Eventually, Bobby’s teams almost always won. He became arguably the best point guard ever to play for Duke and he still owns the NCAA career assist record at 1076. He was good for two national championships.


The average rating for National Basketball Association players is 15.0. NBA superstars frequently have a rating in the upper 20’s. Collegiate and high school ratings will be significantly lower than the NBA, but I’ll get in to that in a moment.

The formula that Hollinger uses is complex, but I believe it’s a highly accurate view of how a player is performing while on the floor. Because of this, during my days as an assistant coach at the collegiate level, I wanted to determine if I could come up with a way to assess a player’s performance a little quicker than using the formula that Hollinger uses.

Fortunately, I was able to find a much simpler way to rate players. While this method was easier to compute, I found it to be highly effective and accurate when it came to determining player’s playing time and predicting who would receive end of the year honors. The version of the PER that I frequently used determined which players were more effective in certain line-ups, against certain teams, and their overall positive contribution to their team.

If you’re a coach, you may know that you receive a box score between quarters, or at half time. This was a time that I diligently scribbled down notes to determine the player’s PER.

Let me explain.

Instead of using Hollinger’s formula. I simplified it by taking a look at the positive contributions that a player makes such as points, rebounds, steals, assists and blocks and totaling those things. Each positive contribution counts as one point towards the rating. So, if a player has 15 points, 7 rebounds, 3 assists, 1 steal and 1 block, that would add up to a total of 27… so far.

I subtract the number of negative things that happen in a game. So turnovers (TOs), missed field goals (FGs), missed 3-pointers (3pts) and missed free throws (FTs) all count as -1. I do not count fouls as negative points, because fouls can be either good or bad, depending on the situation. So, let’s say the same player above shot 3-10 on FGs, 3-5 on FTs, 2-4 on 3pts and also had 3 TOs, this would equate to a total of negative 14 (-7 for FGs, -2 for FTs, -2 for 3pts, -3 for TOs = 14).

Now, remember, this same player had netted 27 positive points. But because of the missed shots and turnovers, we must take away 14 of those points, which leaves this player with an adjusted PER of 13. Players who are inefficient will certainly suffer in this rating.

This quick version of the PER I found extremely helpful because I could do the math for each player while in the locker room or on the bench. If you do this rating consistently for at least a season, you can determine what an average PER would be for your types of players. You can also determine who will likely be up for an award at the end of the season. You can also determine who deserves more playing time.

That’s where I found this most helpful. If a player was only playing a few minutes per game, but had a high PER, I would advocate for more playing time for that player.

You might think that a PER is always obvious. It is not, my friend. Sometimes, you’ll be able to see that, according to the PER, some players are helping you much more than they’re hurting you or vice-versa.

This quick PER was so helpful for me during my time as an assistant coach, that I required my assistants to utilize it when I became a head coach. We did not have an abundance of advanced metrics available to us during my days as a coach, but this PER enabled our team to win a divisional championship.

As with any statistic, it has to be taken in the context of the game. It’s not a tell all, just like a box score is not always an accurate reflection of the game. But, this rating can certainly be helpful.