Hello there! I'm Jack Hughes and I'm a junior over at Woodgrove High school in northern Virginia. I've been playing basketball for a good while now (since about 3rd grade) and I like to think I've picked up a few things in that time. Hopefully I can help you improve your game if that's what you're looking for. If for whatever reason you want to contact me, here are my social media handles:

 

Instagram: hughes2_1548            Twitter: @hughes2_1548             Snapchat: jack5hughes 

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Drills You Can Do to Get Comfortable With the Basketball


 

Ball handling is an important aspect of basketball and it's crucial to know the proper way to do it. Here are a ton of drills to help you get comfortable with a basketball in your hands.

 

Before I get started listing these drills, there are a few things to keep in mind while you’re doing these drills to get the most out of them:

 

  • You’re going to mess up a lot at first and that’s okay! While you’re doing these drills you should always try to be right around or just outside of your comfort zone. You can spend a little time getting the hang of the drill, but after that try to go quickly. This does mean you will mess up a little bit, but that shouldn’t discourage you since it also means you’re going to improve a lot quicker than if you were always in your comfort zone. Give yourself space, both physically and mentally, to make mistakes. 

  • Whatever you do with one hand, do with the other! Using your non dominant hand is something people generally don’t like to do on a consistent basis. However, you need to have a good off hand if you want to be an effective player. Defenders might try and force you to dribble with your non-dominant hand so be ready.

  • Keep your head up! Pretty self explanatory, just try not to look down at the ball the whole time. You should be able to keep your eyes up when you’re in the game so practice that way too. Once again, you can do it a little bit while you’re still getting the hang of the drills; however, once you’ve progressed a bit you shouldn’t be looking down much, if at all. You can also just close your eyes if you’re more comfortable with that.

 

Now with all that out of the way we can get to the actual drills themselves.

 

No Dribbling Drills Part 1: Circle Drills

 

  • Waist/head/double leg circles: Not much to say here, you simply rotate the ball around your waist/head/both legs. I would recommend doing about 10 of all three types in both directions.

  • Corkscrew: Pass the ball in a circle around your head (head circle), then around your waist (waist circle), then in a figure 8 around your legs (a double leg circle), followed by another waist circle and a head circle to reset the pattern. I would do about 5 of these in both directions.

  • Single leg circles: Rotate the ball around a single leg. I would do about 10 of these in both directions and both legs.

  • Step outs: A double leg circle, followed by a left leg circle, then another double leg circle, then a right leg circle. I would do about 5 of these in both directions.


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

No Dribbling Drills Part 2: “Novelties”

 

  • Pockets: Place the ball in front of your waist. Drop it, then attempt to tap your front pockets with both hands (or where your front pockets would be if your pair doesn’t have pockets) and catch the ball before it hits the ground. Once that eventually becomes easy, you can advance to doing “side pockets” where you tap your hips and even “back pockets” where you tap your butt right where the back set of pockets would be on a pair of jeans. 

    • If those become easy you can even do “double front pockets” where you tap your front pockets twice before going for the ball, then “double side pockets” and so on and so forth. 

    • Even as you progress I would still highly recommend doing at least one of each variation you are capable of, even if some of them become pretty easy.

  • Catch behind your back: Throw the ball over your head, clap as many times as you can, then catch it behind your back. I would recommend doing this as a progression. Do it while clapping once, again while clapping twice, then three times, and keep going until you get to a number of claps that are difficult for you, but doable.

  • Electric Boogaloo: Throw the ball as high as you can into the air (while making sure it is still going to land safely on your playing surface), then clap as many times as you can while the ball is coming down and catch the ball as soon as it bounces off the ground. Your goal should be to cleanly sandwich the ball between the ground and your hands.

  • Confidence Pass: Spread your feet a little wider than shoulder width apart, then rocket the ball between your legs as hard as you can while still being able to catch the ball behind your back. As you progress you can either add velocity to your pass or you can attempt to do multiple confidence passes in quick succession.

  • Socks: Bend over so that you can hold the ball right behind your knees, then drop the ball and attempt to touch your hands together in front of you while still being able to catch the ball before it hits the ground. 

 

Dribbling Drills

 

  • Dribble pounds: Pretty much just basic dribbling, but with a couple of things done differently than usual.

    • Gravity isn’t doing much: when most people dribble a basketball, they don’t exert that much energy with their wrist or hand instead letting gravity do most of the work. In most situations that’s fine, however for the sake of this drill you’re going to want to push the ball into the ground as hard as you can. 

      • This is because the more force you exert on the ball going down, the faster it's going to come back up, which means it’s going to be more difficult to control the ball and that will make controlling the ball while dribbling normally seem way easier in comparison. As a bonus, this drill also gives a pretty decent workout for your forearms, so if they aren’t tired by the time you’ve finished this drill, that’s probably a sign you need to be going harder. Either that or you have forearms of steel.

    • Knees are bent: Pretty simple, bending your knees will help you be more explosive and is an absolute necessity if you want to keep your dribble low.

      • I would recommend doing 10 dribble pounds at ankle height, knee height, waist height and finally shoulder height on both hands. 

  • M dribble: Sit on your butt with your legs spread and your back perpendicular to the ground. Dribble once beside your left leg, once in the space between your legs, then once beside your right leg followed by another dribble between your legs and then back to beside your left leg to complete the cycle. If you have trouble transitioning between the spots in one dribble, you can do multiple dribbles before moving to the next spot. I’d recommend doing about 5 of these with both hands.Sidenote: If your playing surface is wet or rough, I’d still recommend you do this drill. The only time you should probably skip this drill is when the surface has absorbed a bunch of heat and sitting down on it would mean burning your butt.


 

The Mikan Drill: Simple Yet Effective

 

Hitting a layup may be one of the easiest things in all of sports, however there is a massive difference between making your layups when you’re by yourself with all the time you need and hitting them while you’re tired in a game situation with a defender quickly closing in on you. As such practicing layups is actually very important, with the best way to do so easily being the Mikan drill. Named after George Mikan, the Mikan drill is incredibly easy to grasp, consisting only of alternating between the left and right sides of the basket shooting layups, either off of two feet or one foot. 

 

While it is incredibly easy to perform the most basic aspects of the Mikan drill, there are a number of little things that you can do to make sure the drill actually helps you become a better finisher in game, such as:

 

  • Use your off hand: If you’re on the left side of the basket, shoot with your left hand, and if you’re on the right side, shoot with your right hand. While it may be difficult at first, you’re going to be so much better off in the long run if you can make layups with both hands. 

  • Go Game Speed: When you first start doing Mikans, it's alright to not go as fast as possible. However, once you get comfortable with the drill, you’re only going to improve if you speed up. If you’re not tired after doing Mikans for a few minutes, that’s a sign you need to be going harder. Your ultimate goal is to be able to make about 25-30 layups in a minute consistently. You should be able to do this using both one and two foot takeoffs, however going off of one foot does allow you to go significantly faster.

  • When alternating sides, step with your inside foot: After you shoot a layup on either side of the basket, make or miss you should collect the ball and step with your inside foot to the other side of the basket. Going right-to-left you should step with your right foot and going left-to-right you should step with your left foot. This is for the sake of maintaining fluidity as you speed up.

  • Use the square: Most baskets have a square on the backboard right above the basket. When you’re doing Mikans, try to hit the top corner of that square every time, as it will provide you with the highest amount of consistency. 

 

Best of luck! Practice makes perfect.

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The On-Ball Lockdown Defense Strategy Coaches Don’t Teach

 

When a coach tells you to get in your stance, what do you do? Without thinking, most players bend their knees, keep their feet about shoulders width apart, and have their back and hips slightly bent so that your back is nearly perpendicular to the ground. That’s exactly what the vast majority of coaches will tell you is a good defensive stance. While it is certainly possible to play lockdown defense with the traditional stance, if you look closely at many of the greatest on-ball defenders in the pros, their stance differs pretty noticeably in a few key ways. 

 

Don’t know what I’m talking about? Here’s an example:

If you don’t already know who this is, allow me to introduce Gary “The Glove” Payton. Why do they call him “The Glove”? Well, he’s universally known as one of the greatest defenders in the history of basketball as he made nine all NBA defensive first teams, and in 1996 he became the only point guard ever to win the NBA defensive player of the year award. That being said, as you can see from the photo, Payton’s stance differs immensely from the stance often taught by coaches. His knees aren’t bent much at all, his feet are significantly wider than shoulder-width apart, and his massive amount of hip hinge makes it so that his back is closer to being parallel to the floor.  These differences aren’t just for show, as they combine to have numerous advantages over the more commonly taught method.

  • Back parallel: with the back nearly parallel, the defender has significantly more reach since his arms are always physically closer to the ball handler. This allows for the defender to more comfortably poke and swipe at the ball while still staying in front of the ball handler, possibly causing a few turnovers in the process. The position of the back also means that the defender’s eyes are naturally looking right at their opponent’s chest, making the defender harder to cross up.

  • Wider base: While the defender is in this stance, the wider base means they take up much more space, which makes dribble penetration way harder. On top of that, the wider base also does wonders for keeping the defender balanced. The more distributed your weight is, the easier it is to keep your ground.

  • Balls of your feet: The combination of the wide base and the hip hinge makes it so that just getting in the stance will almost naturally put you on the balls of your feet (the area between your toes and the arch). If you try this stance out for yourself, you may find that if you’re in the stance and you pick up a foot, your weight will automatically push you in that direction(picking up your right foot will make you go right, picking up your left foot will make you go left).

 

A disadvantage this stance has compared to the traditional stance is that the wider base can cause the defender to be a bit slower.  There are a few techniques that defenders can use to help mitigate the loss in quickness, including but by no means limited to:

 

  • Constant feet movement: Instead of pushing off one foot or the other to move laterally, defenders using the wider stance may do something more akin to hopping around, bouncing off the balls of their feet so that they can more easily adjust their position.

  • Getting out of the stance when needed: If a defender in this wider stance gets beat off the dribble (or a defender in any stance for that matter) they don’t bother with any dropsteps or pivots, they break their stance to get up and run, beating their opponent to a spot so they can get between them and the basket.

 

So far, I’ve only talked about the physical things you can do to gain an edge on defense; however, there is a mental aspect to this strategy that is just as, if not more important than any physical attribute. 

 

Most people think of defense as inherently reactionary. If the ball handler goes left, so do you. If the ball handler goes right, so do you. The hallmark of great defense, however, is the ability to dictate to the offense consistently. Instances of this type of defense are pretty common, but mostly occur when the person on offense has a clear deficiency in their offensive skill set. 

 

Has a coach ever yelled at you to force someone left? I’m going to assume you answered yes to that question, because along with “use the glass” and “keep your head up,” “force him/her left” is one of the most common pieces of advice given by youth basketball coaches across the nation. 

 

Most kids can’t dribble much with their off-hand and most kids are also right-handed. It follows that forcing an opponent to go left would be harder for them. Most people generally stick to this type of defense only when there is a clear and obvious way to force the ball handler into a poor situation. That being said, nothing is stopping you from always dictating to the offensive player all the time. 

 

The ways you can dictate to the offensive player’s movement won’t be as easy as putting your left foot way up and barely moving. Consistently dictating to the offense requires a bit more forethought. For example, you can move up a little bit like you’re going to advance, then immediately back off. Once your opponent sees you start to advance, they’re likely going to try and drive by you, and then because you’ve backed off, they’re dribbling right into your pressure. The example I just gave applies to most situations; however, there are many other ways to dictate the offense depending on your specific matchup. You can also try angling your body to force them left but don’t angle too much that you make it easy for them.

 

Instead of thinking your job on defense is not to get scored on, think of defense as another opportunity to generate easy buckets for you and your team.


 

 

 

 

 

The On-Ball Lockdown Defense Strategy Coaches Don’t Teach

 

When a coach tells you to get in your stance, what do you do? Without thinking, most players bend their knees, keep their feet about shoulders width apart, and have their back and hips slightly bent so that your back is nearly perpendicular to the ground. That’s exactly what the vast majority of coaches will tell you is a good defensive stance. While it is certainly possible to play lockdown defense with the traditional stance, if you look closely at many of the greatest on-ball defenders in the pros, their stance differs pretty noticeably in a few key ways. 

 

Don’t know what I’m talking about? Here’s an example:

If you don’t already know who this is, allow me to introduce Gary “The Glove” Payton. Why do they call him “The Glove”? Well, he’s universally known as one of the greatest defenders in the history of basketball as he made nine all NBA defensive first teams, and in 1996 he became the only point guard ever to win the NBA defensive player of the year award. That being said, as you can see from the photo, Payton’s stance differs immensely from the stance often taught by coaches. His knees aren’t bent much at all, his feet are significantly wider than shoulder-width apart, and his massive amount of hip hinge makes it so that his back is closer to being parallel to the floor.  These differences aren’t just for show, as they combine to have numerous advantages over the more commonly taught method.

  • Back parallel: with the back nearly parallel, the defender has significantly more reach since his arms are always physically closer to the ball handler. This allows for the defender to more comfortably poke and swipe at the ball while still staying in front of the ball handler, possibly causing a few turnovers in the process. The position of the back also means that the defender’s eyes are naturally looking right at their opponent’s chest, making the defender harder to cross up.

  • Wider base: While the defender is in this stance, the wider base means they take up much more space, which makes dribble penetration way harder. On top of that, the wider base also does wonders for keeping the defender balanced. The more distributed your weight is, the easier it is to keep your ground.

  • Balls of your feet: The combination of the wide base and the hip hinge makes it so that just getting in the stance will almost naturally put you on the balls of your feet (the area between your toes and the arch). If you try this stance out for yourself, you may find that if you’re in the stance and you pick up a foot, your weight will automatically push you in that direction(picking up your right foot will make you go right, picking up your left foot will make you go left).

 

A disadvantage this stance has compared to the traditional stance is that the wider base can cause the defender to be a bit slower.  There are a few techniques that defenders can use to help mitigate the loss in quickness, including but by no means limited to:

 

  • Constant feet movement: Instead of pushing off one foot or the other to move laterally, defenders using the wider stance may do something more akin to hopping around, bouncing off the balls of their feet so that they can more easily adjust their position.

  • Getting out of the stance when needed: If a defender in this wider stance gets beat off the dribble (or a defender in any stance for that matter) they don’t bother with any dropsteps or pivots, they break their stance to get up and run, beating their opponent to a spot so they can get between them and the basket.

 

So far, I’ve only talked about the physical things you can do to gain an edge on defense; however, there is a mental aspect to this strategy that is just as, if not more important than any physical attribute. 

 

Most people think of defense as inherently reactionary. If the ball handler goes left, so do you. If the ball handler goes right, so do you. The hallmark of great defense, however, is the ability to dictate to the offense consistently. Instances of this type of defense are pretty common, but mostly occur when the person on offense has a clear deficiency in their offensive skill set. 

 

Has a coach ever yelled at you to force someone left? I’m going to assume you answered yes to that question, because along with “use the glass” and “keep your head up,” “force him/her left” is one of the most common pieces of advice given by youth basketball coaches across the nation. 

 

Most kids can’t dribble much with their off-hand and most kids are also right-handed. It follows that forcing an opponent to go left would be harder for them. Most people generally stick to this type of defense only when there is a clear and obvious way to force the ball handler into a poor situation. That being said, nothing is stopping you from always dictating to the offensive player all the time. 

 

The ways you can dictate to the offensive player’s movement won’t be as easy as putting your left foot way up and barely moving. Consistently dictating to the offense requires a bit more forethought. For example, you can move up a little bit like you’re going to advance, then immediately back off. Once your opponent sees you start to advance, they’re likely going to try and drive by you, and then because you’ve backed off, they’re dribbling right into your pressure. The example I just gave applies to most situations; however, there are many other ways to dictate the offense depending on your specific matchup. You can also try angling your body to force them left but don’t angle too much that you make it easy for them.

 

Instead of thinking your job on defense is not to get scored on, think of defense as another opportunity to generate easy buckets for you and your team.


 

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