login to members site  

Basketball Ball Handling Fundamentals and Drills

By Dr. James Gels, From the Coach’s Clipboard Basketball Playbook
"Helping coaches coach better..."

Learning to become a good ball handler, and developing a feel for the ball are vitally important in becoming an excellent all-around player. All other skills derive from being a good ball-handler, having a good feel for the ball. Using the time-tested, classic video drills below for 20 minutes each day, most players will see marked improvement in their ball handling within a few weeks.

Hold The Ball Correctly

The most difficult skills, including shooting, passing, catching, dribbling, and rebounding, involve holding the ball. Work on these skills every day. Here is how to practice holding the ball:
  • Hold the ball with your fingertips. The palms of your hands should not touch the ball.
  • Make sure your fingers are far apart.
  • Hold the ball as much as possible at home while watching TV or listening to the radio or music. It is said that the great Pete Maravich slept with his basketball and held it during his sleep! While watching TV, you can hold the ball (with both hands) and spin it around in your hands.

These are the drills:

Do each one about 30 to 60 seconds. Keep your eyes forward, without looking at the ball.

Pound or slap the ball hard from hand to hand.

Finger Grabs:

Hold the ball with the fingertips, squeezing it while rotating it back and forth from hand to hand. The ball should not touch the palms of the hands.

Tip the ball back and forth from one hand to the next, starting with your hands straight up over your head. Then gradually move the ball down, while continuing to tip it back and forth. Go down to your chest, then your waist, knees, and ankles, and then back up again. Keep your elbows straight.

Put your feet together and make circles around both legs. Then circle around the back. And then circle around the head. Then combine them and move the ball in circles around your head, then down your body, down around your knees, and then around your ankles ("candy cane"). Then come back up again. Be sure to use your fingertips, not the palms.

Around the Legs

Around the Waist

Candy Cane

Around Each Leg and Figure Eights:
Put one leg forward and move the ball in a circular motion around the leg. Then do the other leg. Finally, spread your legs out wide with the ball in front of you. Move the ball around through your legs in a figure-of-eight motion. Keep your eyes forward and don't let the ball hit the floor. After 30 seconds, reverse the direction.

Around Each Leg

Figure 8

Put the ball between your feet and grab it with both hands. Start with the left hand behind your left leg and your right hand in front of your right leg. Drop the ball and let it bounce once. Quickly, move your left hand in front of your left leg and your right hand behind your right leg, and catch the ball as it bounces up. Drop it again and switch your hands back to the original position (left behind, right in front) and catch it. Repeat this motion continuously. For a more difficult variation, try catching the ball before it actually hits the floor!

Toss Up and Catch Behind:
Here's a fun drill the players like. Toss the ball up over your head. Reverse pivot and catch the ball behind your back.

Crab Walk:
Walk, bent over up the floor and put the ball between the legs, back and forth as you go. The ball is brought over the front of the thigh, then through the legs and then behind the opposite thigh and around and over the thigh.

Stationary Circle Ball-Handling and Dribbling Drills... coaches use/print this list of our standard ball-handling and dribbling circle drills.

Get the Coach's Clipboard Playbook download for many larger, good quality video clips of ball-handling and dribbling drills (and more), along with audio from Coach Gels.