Al Sokaitis is the head coach of the University of Alaska - Fairbanks. He also coached North Adams State and Southern Maine. Expert on teaching one-on-one, he appeared for 14 consecutive times as lecturer at the Coaches Clinic at the NCAA Division I Final Four, and also at clinics in Greece and Lebanon. He works with NBA players and coaches for improving the one-on-one.
“At some point in every game, it’s just you and your opponent, can you score?”
In 1985 while giving a clinic at a high school all-star camp I posed the question you see above. Although I had lectured and demonstrated many times before, the simplicity of what I was asking seemed to strike a chord with the players. Since that time, my clinics and demonstrations have revolved around the theme of how to score.
I start teaching one-on-one play with a simple premise. I tell every player that although basketball is a team game, at some point they will be required to score. They will simply have to beat the man in front of them. One-on-one basketball is all about creating the space you need to take a shot you can make.
Anyone can get a shot off but the key to winning is creating opportunities for high percentage shots.
There are essentially four ways you can create scoring opportunities:
- Dribble Moves
- Live Ball Moves
On this article I will write on dribble moves. I would advise the reader that in order to be a great player, you do not need a hundred different moves. What you do need, however, is a move and a countermove and execution. Do a few things very well and you are on your way to a great career.
The defense is trying to contain the ball. The ball handler is trying to force the defender out of stance and out of balance. You, the ball handler must make the defender lunge, straighten his knees, go back on his heels or cross his feet. You accomplish this goal by using a change of speed, a change of direction or a combination of the two.
I. THE DRIBBLE
You should use the dribble to:
- A. Create space.
- B. To get yourself out of trouble, not into trouble
- C. To change a passing angle.
- D. To get to the hoop.
II. TYPES OF DRIBBLE MOVES
- A. Change of speed moves
- Stutter step
- Stop and go
- Fake crossover
- B. Change of direction moves
- Pullback crossover
- Between the legs
- Around the back
- Spin moves
- Slide dribble into a spin
- C. Combination moves
- Fake crossover to crossover
- Fake crossover to spin
- Stop and go to crossover
- Between the legs to spin
- Stutter to crossover
- One hand cross to crossover
- Spin, between the legs, crossover
III. AN EXPLANATION OF THE DRIBBLE MOVES
A. Change of speed moves.
1. Acceleration. The intent of acceleration is to lull the defender into a false sense of security about your speed of travel and then spring by the defender. The keys to acceleration are:
- a. Act relaxed before exploding to the hoop.
- b. Look up, to further lull the defender into a relaxed state.
- c. Keep the ball protected.
2. Stutter. The stutter is executed by dribbling at a defender and freezing him/her by stopped your forward motion and rapidly moving your feet up and down before exploding to the hoop. The stutter should resemble a foot fire drill. The keys to the stutter are:
- a. Keep your knees bent to make your move to the hoop quicker.
- b. Look up before going to the hoop.
3. The stop and go. The stop and go is actually a stop, back up, look up and go. The first part involves dribbling at the defender and quickly stepping back off your leg opposite the ball.
As you push back off your leg you should either land on two feet or take a second small step and hop back to two feet.
The defender must now react and move forward to close the space created by your back up.
When the defender moves forward you should look up at the hoop before quickly exploding to the basket. The keys to the stop and go are:
- a. Keep the ball low throughout the move.
- b. Make sure your knees are bent as you look up so you can explode to the hoop.
- c. Sell the fake with your eyes, your hand that is not dribbling the ball and your body language.
4. The in and out or fake crossover move. The fake crossover is intended to give the defender the illusion that a crossover move is about to take place.
You begin with the ball in your right hand. As you approach the defender you take a step to the left before pushing back to the right. The best description of this move is to imagine ice skating and pushing off your right foot and then back out to the right. This slight shifting of the hand over the top of the ball is the most significant part of the move. The keys to the fake crossover are:
- a. Allow your body to move left while keeping the ball on your right.
- b. Slide your hand over the top of the ball without carrying the ball.
- c. Keep the ball low so that it is easier to slide your hand over the top.
B. Change of direction moves.
A change of direction move involves changing the ball from one side of the body to the other. It also involves changing the direction of travel in an attempt to make the defender cross his/her legs or come out of stance.
1. The crossover move. The crossover is executed by pulling the ball from one side of your body to the other.
The exchange of the ball should be quick, hard and low. It is common to add a step back to the move before the crossover to eliminate any chance of the defense knocking the ball away. The keys to the crossover are:
- a. Pull the ball as opposed to simply dribble the ball across the middle of your body.
- b. The ball should travel from outside your leg on the right to outside your leg on the left or vice versa.
- c. Keep the crossover low. Bringing your hand down to the floor helps to keep the ball low.
- d. Sell the move with your shoulders.
2. Pull back crossover. The pullback crossover is executed by dribbling the ball (in this example) with your right hand and stepping hard at the defender with your left foot. As your weight transfers over your left or front foot, you lift your back foot off the ground. This allows you to step back (or push back) off your front foot. When your right foot comes down on the floor you lift your left foot off the ground and hop further back off the plant off your right foot. The result of a coordinated well executed move is to create approximately seven feet of space between you and the defender (sequence 1). The ball has stayed in your right hand throughout the move. As the defender scrambles to recover and close the space between the two of you, it is the optimum time to execute a hard crossover (sequence 2). A key teaching point is to remind your players that as your feet are landing in a simultaneous motion on the ground (the end of the step back), cross the ball.
3. The between the legs moves. Dribbling between the legs allows you to change the ball from hand to hand while protecting the exchange with your body. The ball should always travel from front to back away from the defender. You should also allow your body to dip (similar to sitting in a chair) as the ball is passing between your legs. This will set up your body to spring in the opposite direction (sequence 3). The keys to the between the legs, dribble are:
- a. Don’t pound the ball through the legs, dribble the ball through.
- b. Come to a two-footed stop before dribbling between the legs.
- c. Always dribble the ball between your legs from the front to the back so the ball is moving away from the defender.
4. Around the back move. The around the back move is ideal to change the passing angle. The move is actually set up when a defender lunges for a ball that is being dribbled at your side. The object is for you to cross the ball from one hand to the other behind your back. You must learn to get your body in front of the ball before making the exchange from hand to hand to eliminate the possibility of a carry call by the officials (sequence 4). The keys to the around the back dribble are:
- a. The around the back move must change your direction. If you maintain a straight line of travel, even though you changed hands on the ball, a charge will mostly likely occur.
- b. Keep the ball low to avoid a carry call.
5. The spin move. The spin move is a change of direction move that allows you to seal the defender with your body. Similar to the around the back move, the spin move is often set up by the defender. When the defender reaches for the ball, you protect the ball by stepping toward the defender with the foot furthest from the ball. You now execute a reverse pivot away from the other hand. After completing the pivot you change the ball to your other hand (sequence 5). The keys to the spin move are:
- a. Set up the defender by moving in one direction before attempting the pivot.
- b. Seal the defender with the pivot.
- c. Upon completion of the pivot, the toe of your front foot should be pointed at the hoop. This will insure you are moving north to south (hoop to hoop) rather than east to west (sideline to sideline).
- d. Complete the pivot before changing hands on the ball.
6. Slide dribble spin. This move was made popular by Magic Johnson. Magic would execute a slide (similar to a defensive slide) while dribbling the ball. He would stand facing the sideline and bounce the ball near his foot that was located furthest from the defender. If the defender tried to come around his front, he would simply spin away.
C. Combining moves.
An ideal way to beat a defender is to employ two moves in quick succession. The first move should be a slower or setup move to lead the defender in one direction before exploding in a second direction: An example of some of the combination moves you might employ is:
- Fake crossover to crossover
- Fake crossover to spin
- Stop and go to crossover
- Between the legs to spin
- Stutter to crossover
The moves described above have already been explained in terms of hand position, footwork and execution. The following two moves need further examination.
6. One hand cross to crossover. The ball handler takes the ball in his right hand and bounces it across his body. He then uses the same hand to bring the ball back to its original starting point. The ball is bounced in a rhythmic one-two motion. When the ball returns to its original spot, the ball handler now explodes into a crossover. We sometimes call this the bad crossover, good crossover move. The first motion is meant to lull the defender before exploding to the hoop.
7. Spin, between the legs, crossover. This move actually requires three changes of direction in a very short time period. The ball handler starts by spinning away from the defender. He then drops the ball between his legs as the defender is sliding back into position. Once more as the defender fights to recover the ball handler drops his foot closest to the ball and executes a hard crossover.
IV. BALL HANDLING DRILLS
A. Body position.
- Knees bent, feet shoulders width apart.
- Weight should be equally distributed on the balls of your feet.
- Head up. A good teaching point is to hold up fingers while someone is dribbling and have them call out the number of fingers you have up. This teaches the ball handler to look up.
- The ball is controlled on the fingertips.
B. Drills to practice the basics.
- Dribble a ball side to side and front to back while looking up. Repeat the drill with either hand. You can handle two balls at once as the skill level increases.
- Practice running forward at 3/4 speed and then accelerating.
- Use cones or chairs to practice changing directions and going around objects.
- Play “red light” to practice sprinting and stopping with the ball. The coach stands at one end of the gym facing a line of ball handlers. The coach quickly pivots 180 degrees away from the players. When he pivots the ball handlers dribble as fast as they can while the coach counts loudly and quickly to five, yells red light and pivots back to the ball handlers. If he catches them moving they return to the starting point. The object is to be the first to reach the coach. This ‘child’s’ game teaches stop and go and ball control.
- Dribble tag. Place ten players with basketballs in the half court area and designate the player that is poison. The player that is poison must touch another and pass the poison. When the coach calls time, the last player with poison must run sprints.
- Dribble tag versus the group. One member must touch each person in the group in a prescribed time.
- Dribble tag with two people as poison.
C. The Advanced drills.
- One on one full court zig - zag. The ball handler works on pullbacks, change of direction and change of pace moves while working his way down the court versus a defender. The defender does not try to steal the ball.
- The ball handler is face guarded by a defender and must get free for an inbounds pass. As soon as he receives the ball he must play full court one on one against a second defender who is waiting ten feet back.
- One on one half-court. The defender gets in defensive stance with his arm extended. The defenders job is to stay within six feet of the ball handler for five seconds. The ball handler must work to break contact.
- One on two half court. Two defenders try to corner and trap the ball handler. The ball handler tries to keep the ball alive for twenty seconds.
- Play one on one where the ball handler starts ten feet from the defender and dribbles at his opponent trying to execute a quick dribble move.
V. PASS FAKES OFF THE DRIBBLE
Because you are moving when you dribble the ball it makes a pass fake very effective. The following are pass fakes you should master.
A. Hard drive, jump stop and pass fake. The key is to stay low and step in the direction of the pass. You should be able to create space, step back and shoot.
B. Fake one hand pass. As the ball is returning from the floor to your hand you throw your hand over the ball to fake a pass. The heel of your hand should start the ball moving forward like an intended pass only to be pulled back by your fingertips at the last second.
C. Fake around the back pass. As the ball is returning from the floor to your hand you cup the ball and fake passing it around your back and return it to its starting point.
VI. A FINAL NOTE ON BALL HANDLING
Take a ball with you everywhere you go and you will become proficient in no time. Regardless of your size, work with your handles. Make the most of practice. In lay-up lines execute a different dribble move every time you go to the hoop.