Ball handling drills focus on improving the player's ability to
dribble with control, to pass and receive the ball confidently, to use
the ball in any situation comfortably - i.e., to effectively control the
ball in any game situation. The drills on this page are basic but effective in developing players' abilities to handle the ball.
Every coach has at some time or other looked out from the bench, saw their big man crossing the key alone, his defensive man trailing far behind. Watched as the guard with the ball whipped a pass in to him, right where he needed it, chest level and turning him toward the basket. And watched as the ball bounced off the big man's palm and to another defensive player five or ten feet away.
The coach isn't happy, and the big man isn't either - it's a terrible thing to have "hands of stone" that the ball seems to bounce away from on every other pass, or fumble away from on every other dribble.
The purpose of ball handling drills is to develop "soft hands" - i.e., the ability to control the ball on the pass and on the dribble, in contrast to having "hands of stone." To develop "soft hands", players need to focus on the ball, to "see" the ball into their hands before doing anything with it. And they need to feel the ball, to know how the ball will react in their hands, to reach out and bring the ball in to them.
Here are some simple ball handling drills that will improve your players' ball control and their fingertip touch.
Circle the ball around one leg, then the other leg. Then circle around the back. Then circle around the head. Then move downward, circling first around the head, then around the body, then around the knees, then around the ankles. Then come back up again.
All the while, players do not watch the ball but rather keep their eyes forward, feeling the ball movement with their hands.
With legs spread wide, players crouch comfortably and hold the ball in one hand. They then pass the ball between their legs, bring it around one leg, and pass it through their legs again and bring it around the other leg - moving the ball in a figure eight motion.
Players keep their eyes forward throughout and do not let the ball touch the floor. Players should strive to develop rhythm and speed.
This can also be done dribbling the ball in a figure eight fashion around the legs, keeping eyes forward and the dribble low and controlled.
Using fingertips only, players tip the ball from one hand to the other. Start with hands straight up over the head, tip for about 5 seconds, then move the ball down so that hands are extended out directly in front of face.
Continue tipping the ball from one hand to the next. After 5 seconds, move down to chest level, then waist, knees, and ankles. Then back up again.
Players should strive for fluid movement, rhythm and good fingertip control.
With legs spread wide, players hold the ball between their legs using both hands. The left hand is behind the left leg, with the right hand in front of the right leg. The player releases the ball and lets it bounce.
Immediately upon releasing the ball, the player moves hands to the opposite positions - left hand in front of left leg, right hand behind right leg. Before the ball is able to bounce a second time, the player catches it.
Then the player drops the ball again, switching hands back into their original positions and catching the ball after the first bounce.
In the beginning, players watch the ball, but once they are more comfortable with the drill, they keep their eyes forward. Once they are able to accomplish this drill consistently without the ball bouncing a second time, they try to catch the ball before it bounces the first time - i.e., the ball never touches the floor.
These ball handling drills don't even need a basketball court to dribble on - players can do these drills while at home, in their bedroom. Encourage that - make them become more comfortable with the basketball by doing these ball handling tricks whenever they can.
Perhaps the most obvious example of good ball control is the ability to dribble the ball. If you haven't done so already, take a look at these basic dribbling fundamentals, and then some basic control dribble drills and speed dribble drills. Incorporate them all into your training sessions.
"I played six to 10 hours a day, every day, 90 days during the summer, and I'd do incredible things. I would dribble blindfolded in the house. I would take my basketball to bed with me, I'd lay there after my mother kissed and tucked me in, and I'd shoot the ball up in the air and say, 'Finger tip control, backspin, follow through.'"
- Pete Maravich
Great program to help players become sensational ballhandlers