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Ask the Expert: Showalter On Ball Handling and More

  • Date:
    Nov 14, 2014

Don Showalter, who has led USA Basketball junior squads to gold six times in the last six years, is back this week as USA Basketball’s youth development expert. As such, Coach Showalter took some time to answer questions that you submitted via Facebook and Twitter. Here are his responses:

Best advice for 8-year-olds to develop their shot given small hands? Thanks. – Marc Weiner

I would recommend two things. First, use a small basketball -- women’s size or smaller. Secondly, I would recommend shooting at an 8- or 9-foot basket as much as possible to develop the proper arm and elbow placement as well as hand placement on the ball.

Can you give me best drills for basketball? -- SheilaRichard Ochoco

Some of the best drills are drills that develop more than one skill, such as dribbling and pivoting together before shooting, or using two basketballs to dribble, which develops great confidence in ball handling. Drills that involve proper footwork are drills that develop skills are the best.

What is the best way for a 10-year-old to increase speed, explosiveness, and 1st step quickness? -- Carolyn Cookie Ray

I think two of the best ways are to jump rope and run steps to increase explosiveness and a quick first step. Speed and explosiveness deal with the first two or three steps either offensively or defensively, so just being aware of this will be helpful.

With a number of readers asking Coach Don this week about ball handling, here are a few more resources from USA Basketball’s Youth Development section:

Ball Handling: The Behind-the-Back Dribble
The Between-the-Legs Dribble
Ball Handling: The Stutter-Step
Driving Past An Opponent
5 Crossover Dribbling Techniques
Kyrie Irving on the Art of the Layup

What are some good ways for a 13-year-old male to improve dribbling skills and quickness? -- Amar Bukvic

Dribbling is a combination of keeping your head up when you dribble -- using cones or chairs to go through and around as well as dribbling with two basketballs is a great way to improve your ball handling/dribbling skills.

What is the best way for a point guard to get the attention of the defense so that there can be open shooters on the floor? -- Jan Alejandro

I think this is a combination of the point guard keeping his or her head up and te shooter working to get open, so timing is a big thing when you're talking about hitting the open man for a shot. You can certainly get the attention of the defenders with great ball handling skills as well. But dribbling should not be over done -- delivering the basketball at the proper time and place to your teammates is most important.

What are some drills to obtain better ball handling, and what are good workouts to get a higher vertical? -- Malik Olsen

Check with your strength coach if you have one, but we do a lot of box drills to increase vertical as well as working the legs hard during our weight training and using bands.

You get 2 hours per week -- where do you start? Broken down in 2 1-hr sessions. With 3rd and 4th graders who r slightly above rec -- @ncwildcats

I would definitely go two one-hour sessions. Work a lot on footwork drills with pivoting. Using an 8-foot or 9-foot basket would help. Obviously at this age you need to keep them active with various games of dribble tag and keep-away type of games.

I’m lefty and I’m not able to do layup from right hand. -- Ritika Bisht

Using the weak hand, which in your case is your right hand, is always more difficult and takes lots of time and practice. Start with no dribble close to the basket on the right-hand side of the basket -- one step with your left foot and bring the ball up with your right hand to practice the layups.

I am an undersized guard, what can I do to make me better against taller defenders? -- Joshua Manuel

Become very skilled with ball handling and just be a tough mindset player, which means that you will compete against players o matter what the size difference is.

How do you teach girls to play more physical and aggressive? Any drills for that? -- Agnes Sun

I don't think it's any different for girls than for boys -- playing hard and aggressive is a skill that needs to be worked on and taught every day. It must be a point of emphasis for a coach. We always are very positive with our reinforcement when players play aggressive during practice and take a charge or dive on the floor for a loose ball. If you can get your best player to play the hardest, the others seem to follow. I recommend you look at a style of play such as more up-tempo pressing type of play, which increases the aggressive nature of a team and player.

What's the best way to deal with a 2-1-2 zone defense? -- Frederick Reeves

Very similar to a straight 2-3 zone -- attack the gaps. Get the ball swung from side to side and short corner will be difficult for a 2-1-2 zone. The thing to remember is that all zones look alike when the ball is on the baseline.


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