Become More Valuable
Any player that has the ability to handle the basketball is valuable to the team. If you're a guard, you need to value working on your ball handling as much as you do your shooting by training this skill every day.
If you're a forward, you can add a lot of value to your team if you're able to handle the basketball because you can become a playmaker and exploit mismatches against opposing teams regardless of if they have a guard or a forward on you.
I’m going to go over five keys to focus on when working on ball handling that’ll build a good foundation for you whenever you have the rock in your hands.
1) Hips Low, Wide Base
Generally when you’re doing dribbling drills, you want to have a solid athletic posture to be more balanced and explosive. This means you'll drop your hips low, keep your feet a little wider than shoulder width apart and keep your chest up.
In a game when setting up and getting by defenders, you will start in similar low positions. Having a wide base will allow you to create better angles when you're attacking. Generally the lower you are in your moves, the more explosive you’ll be, the harder it will be for the defense to take it from you, and the more control you’ll have of the basketball.
2) Fingers AND palms
We're often taught at a young age that we shouldn't slap the ball with our palms and should always dribble with our fingers. Yes - and no. If you want to be a great ball handler, you need to learn how to dribble with your fingers and your palms.
Use your fingers to push the ball into the ground when you dribble. Use your palms to allow yourself to maintain control of the ball without having to put it back down again so quickly.
By allowing the ball to naturally spin on your hand before placing your next dribble, you're giving yourself more time to make decisions with the ball in your hands.
Also, think about when you are manipulating the basketball with a pocket dribble, for example. You couldn't pocket the basketball if you solely rely on your fingers, you need your palm to help you pull and control the basketball to your pocket.
3) Pound the ball
You want to drive the ball into the ground so that it can get back into your hands as fast as possible. If you apply little force, this increases the amount of time that the ball will be in the air and makes it easier for the defense to steal.
But, when you pound the ball, it increases the amount of time that the ball will be in your control and can be the difference between making the quick move to get by your defender.
There's still a time and place for slower dribbles, so this doesn't mean that every dribble we take needs to be a hard pound.
4) Receiving hand low
Because you want the ball in your hands as much as possible, and not in the air, you want to be aware of keeping your receiving hand low to the ground on a dribble exchange (a dribble move from one hand to the other). As soon as the ball comes off the ground, your hand should be ready to receive the ball. This will help you to build more control and also to make quick combo moves more effectively.
5) Eyes up (enough)
You want to keep your eyes up while you're dribbling to be able to see the play in front of you. How is the defense playing you? Are your teammates open? Is there an open lane to drive to the hoop? These are all the things you need to see, which means you need to dribble the ball with your eyes up enough.
What do you mean enough? Don't we have to have our head all the way up to see what's going on? No!
Even at the highest levels, you'll notice players don't have their head completely up all the time. Why? Because they generally use their peripheral vision to see the floor. So even if their eyes aren't looking up, as long as they're up enough, they can see what's going on around them.
If you are just starting to dribble or are learning a new dribbling skill, look down the whole time. You don't learn how to play the guitar without looking down at the strings, the same concept applies here.
Learn the feel of the move, and work through each failed attempt, but as soon as you become comfortable bring your eyes up and really master it.
Master the basics of ball handling and challenge yourself by pounding the ball harder into the ground and keeping your eyes up the entire time. When you can do high speed, high intensity drills and keep control of the basketball, you’re ready to start practicing more advanced moves and combo moves in your training.
If you have any questions about ball handling, leave a comment below!