The Number One Skill You Should Work On

What is the number one skill that you focus on and why?

I was asked this question a couple weeks ago by someone and I've given it a lot of thought. Even though this situation really applies to each individual player here are some general thoughts on what to focus on this preseason.

The Case for Ball Handling

Ball handling is the simplest skill to work on individually because for the most part, especially for beginners, it is so much more about doing the drill than it is focusing on the technique.

With shooting you can work pretty hard and not really get many results if you aren't specifically focusing on a few things.

I really find it hard to believe that if someone is given 50 stationary and moving ball-handling drills and work extremely hard at them, that they won't see significant improvements.

Here are some dribbling tips:

  • Take pound dribbles and punch your hand through the ball.
  • Every dribble work for ball quickness (A quicker ball will make you quicker).

I would be willing to bet that if you broke down what age groups spend the most time on skill development it would be by players in 8th through 12th grade. Studies show only 3 percent of them will go on to play any type of college basketball. If you can handle the ball, get to the rim and finish, you will play on almost every single high school team. I think this is much easier to teach and work on than shooting.


Shooting to me, is so detailed. If you are correcting your form or tweaking it you pretty much need to have someone there all the time, ESPECIALLY at the beginning to correct each shot. It's not simple. Unless you are shooting thousands and thousands of shots it's going to be really difficult to become a good shooter without some good teaching.

  • Lock your elbow.
  • Follow through straight to the rim releasing off your control fingers.


Passing has to be the hardest skill to work on individually. Passing is not so much about making an accurate pass--the hard part is getting it there on time and under pressure.

Yes, you need to get it there on time on target, but everyone should be able to get the ball there on target. Who can't throw a straight line chest pass and hit someone in their hands? If your players can't, you need to fire your 5th grade coaches! Quit running "North Carolina" to Johnny every time down!

Here are some passing teaching points:

  • Fake a pass before you make a pass
  • Pivot before you pass (there are no straight line passes!)


Footwork is all about knowledge. Do you know both steps off each pivot foot? I would be willing to bet less than 30 percent of high school players know how to make a strong side step and crossover step off of both feet. How can I blame them? I never knew until my senior year in high school (My biggest pet peeve of coaches is when they hold players accountable for something they never adequately taught--it drives me absolutely crazy).

So what is my point with this entire piece? A couple things...

1. If you are just trying to make your high school team or don't have aspirations beyond that, figure out what skill you have right now that you are good at and get GREAT at it. Become the best on your team at that certain skill. If you don't have one that stands out you do need to pick something that could be your biggest asset. I'm not suggesting that everyone becomes a one-dimensional player, but in this situation I think you should spend 80 percent of your time working on your go-to skill. For most people this will be ball handling and getting to the rim. Why? As I stated before, it's simple to work on. You can become really good if you are willing to sweat. If you are clearly the best ball handler or shooter on your team you WILL play.

2. If you want to play in college, first and foremost your position must translate or a position you can play must translate to that level of competition. If you are going to be a one-dimensional player at the college level you better be one of the best in your region at that skill. More often than not you need to be able to do multiple things well at the college level and one thing GREAT.

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