The lay-up is the easiest shot and the first shot you should learn. It's not as easy as it looks at first, as a lot of kids have difficulty getting the correct footwork, and shooting off the correct foot. Then you must also learn to use either hand, and eventually do the reverse lay-up.
When dribbling toward the basket, move slightly to one side of the hoop to create the proper angle. If you're on the right side, dribble right-handed, and plant your left (inside) foot and jump off that foot, and finally shoot with your right hand.
As you raise your right hand, your right knee should also elevate. Pretend there is a string attached to your right hand and your right knee. Reverse this form if shooting from the left side.
As you approach the hoop, take a half step with your outside foot, then take a full stride with your inside foot pushing off the court. When jumping your outside knee should be bent. Go directly toward the basket, with your head up and eyes focused on the backboard. Go up strong and straight to the hoop. Don't shy away if there is a defender, just go strong to the hoop. You may get fouled and get a three point chance.
Always use the backboard ("use the glass") when shooting lay-ups from either side. Aim for the top corner of the box on the backboard. Focus in on this area; don't watch the ball. Keep your head up.
The Push Release
Younger players who are not yet strong enough for the underhand release should use the push release. Release the ball with the back of your hands facing you. Extend your shooting arm, as you push the ball to the hoop off your fingertips. You should go up with two hands, then release the ball with your outside hand. A very young player may need to shoot the ball with two hands.
As you get stronger, you should develop the underhand shot. This release results in a softer shot, and more control when you are moving at high speed. Release the ball with your palm up and arm extended. Let the ball roll off your palm and then your fingertips, and lay the ball softly off the backboard. Use two hands going up, but then release the ball with your outside hand at the top of your jump. Be strong and concentrate... "finish"!
Simple drill for teaching the footwork
Have the players get into a line near the right side of the basket (to shoot the right-handed lay-up). Each player takes a turn. You can use more than one basket if you have enough assistants to watch each player's technique. This drill works on correct footwork.
Have the player (with a ball) face the right side of the backboard with both feet together. Then have her take one step forward with the inside (left) foot, plant that foot and jump off of it and shoot the right-handed lay-up. When jumping, the right thigh comes up with the knee bent. Have each player work on this technique.
Then try it on the run (without dribbling), and then with dribbling. Do the left side also... on this side you step forward and plant the right (inside) foot, and raise the left thigh and leg.
The reverse lay-up is another important fundamental that needs to be mastered. With the reverse lay-up, you finish the shot on the opposite side of the basket from where you started. So, if you dribble in from the right wing or corner, you actually go beyond the hoop and lay-up it up from the left side of the hoop.
And from the left wing or corner, you shoot the ball from the right side of the hoop, using the right corner of the backboard. The reverse lay-up gives you another weapon to use against your defender, and by using this technique you can help prevent the blocked shot by keeping your back to the defender when you shoot, and by using the basket itself as a shield from the defender.
As for footwork, it goes like this. If you are coming in from the right side, you will essentially be shooting a left-handed lay-up on the left side using the same footwork you would use for any left-handed lay-up... plant and jump off your right foot and your left knee and leg come up (see above).
Coming in from the left wing, instead of shooting the normal left-handed lay-up, you go under (or beyond) the hoop and shoot a right-handed lay-up using the standard footwork for a right-handed lay-up (plant and jump off the left foot, right leg comes up).
This takes some practice. You have to learn to have an awareness of where you are under the basket. You don't want to get caught short where you can't reach the opposite side of the rim.
You will need to learn how to spin the ball off the backboard, and be able to do it when you draw contact and get bumped inside. Coaches love the "and-1", a made lay-up followed by a free-throw. Coaches, when doing lay-up drills, also add some reps of reverse lay-ups from both sides. See this nice YouTube video from iSports.com.
Grassroots Basketball: Finishing School
with Ganon Baker, Nike Basketball Training Specialist, Ambidextrous Shooting Coach, World-renowned Instructor and Clinician; and with Boo Williams, Legendary Coach, Clinician, and AAU Boys Basketball National Chairman.
Ganon Baker proves once again that scoring is the name of the game, and he shows you exactly how. Baker uses an incredible teaching method called "Dance Steps," which helps players develop the skills of finishing from the very beginning. An important feature of Baker's six teaching points is to start low, finish high and shoot in one motion. Baker focuses on the lay-up and breaks down the move like never before... (more info)
According to Coach Smith, three things lead to missed shots: improper footwork, poor release point and a weak finish. To help strengthen those areas, Smith presents more than 20 drills for individual and team workouts. Smith preaches the importance of practicing lay-ups from game-like angles. His first drill is the five spot lay-up drill. He then demonstrates the Intensity Lay-up Drill, which is a conditioning drill that demands concentration. A set of individual shooting drills... (more info)