Playing pickup basketball at the gym or park can be a challenge and sometimes frustrating if you do not have a background in basketball. This is because other players have had team experience and coaching, they have been taught the the game and are fundamentally sound.
So you may be wondering, how do I get better at pickup basketball? A mistake that you may make is to think that playing more will make you a good player. The truth is that playing more basketball does not make you a better player. The reason players are better than you is because they have invested time practicing the fundamentals, specifically ball handling.
The reason that you are not a sound player is poor ball handling skills. Good players always have the ball where they want it, are not frantic or rushed, and have no problem running an offense, shooting, driving, or even posting up. With good ball handling skills, everything else comes naturally because you are no longer fumbling with the ball or looking at your dribble, instead you have the ball right where you want it and are focusing on getting into your shot, finding a teammate, driving the lane, or posting up. And the great news is that improving ball handling is easy!
So how do you improve ball handling? It’s not by playing in a game where there is ten people and one ball, it’s by doing drills by yourself at home. Ball handling is easy to practice because you can do it in your house, just a few minutes a day makes a huge difference on the court.
Below are two drills that are easy to practice at home:
Tipping. 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 and only let the the ball touch fingertips, not the palms.
Circles. 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. Try to only touch with the fingertips, not the palms.