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Coaches Network: How to Handle Rustiness After Offseason Layoff

  • Date:
    Sep 18, 2015

As we continue with a preseason line of thinking, here is this week’s question for the USA Basketball Coaches Network:

What specific skills are usually the most rusty for players returning from offseason, and what drills do you like to do in order to sharpen those skills?

Sharman White, head coach, Miller Grove High School (Ga.)

 During my years as a coach, when players enter into the preseason they tend to have rustiness in two specific areas that stand out to me. Those areas are ball handling and shooting. Those two skills tend to require the purest development when it comes to fundamentals and are easily detected when we evaluate our players early in the preseason.

To sharpen the skill of ball handling, we like to work on drills that require two-ball ball handling as well as weak hand development drills. These drills help restore muscle memory as well as a keen sense of comfort with the basketball, which is needed as competitive play nears.

Shooting is a skill for which we focus on quantity in the preseason – but there has to be focus on “quality” as well.  Our players are versed on how critical shooting is and it must be done correctly in order to achieve that level of comfort needed that I spoke of earlier as we begin competitive play.

We do a varying amount of shooting drills where they go from stationary to constant movement shooting and we also utilize our “Gun” shooting machine to assist with the development of our shooting. One thing we stress to our players is that it is not just about “taking shots” but it really comes down to the number of shots we make.


Herman Harried, head coach, Lake Clifton Campus High School (Md.)

All of their skills are rusty. Mental drills are very important. It takes time to get them out of an AAU mindset and back to fundamental team mindset. It takes time to get them to think of others first. It also takes time to get them to value games because they play so many in the summer. Passing, complementary, partner and support drills are very important to get them to get back to “we” and not just “me.” 


Don Showalter, head coach, Iowa City High School (Iowa) 

Because our state rules are such that our coaching staff cannot work with our players during the school year until our practice starts in November, we have to come up with workouts posted for the kids to do during the open gym time.

During this time we emphasize footwork and shooting skills as our number one priority. We work on shooting technique and form so we get the muscle memory reflex of shooting where it needs to be before the season starts

We then add footwork to all our shooting drills with the dribble, with catch and shoot, shot fakes as well as driving the ball to the basket and finishing.

We then add shooting games for the players such as making a certain number in a row before they can go to next spot or team shooting drills with two or three on a team.
Ball handling is also worked on extensively with one of our players leading the drill using cones for different ball handling/dribbling drills.

Players have to take leadership in these drills, because as I stated previously, the coaching staff cannot conduct drills for players during these open gym times.

Sue Phillips, head coach, Archbishop Mitty High School (Calif.)

For our players, footwork tends to be the fundamental that develops the most rust in the offseason. “Two-ball circle shooting” is a drill we do to teach and/or streamline our players' footwork. It is a progressive drill of varied shots, while incorporating an array of stationary ball fakes. It is executed with four players and two basketballs, each player taking a turn passing and then shooting. Our progression is as follows: 

1) One-foot lay-up (proper hand).

2) Power slide lay-up (one bounce and finish off two feet).

3) Catch and shoot from low block (inside pivot foot and finish off the glass).

4) Catch and shoot off a two-foot jump stop from the elbow. 

Our progression continues with stationary ball fakes from the elbow. Our players will catch the ball with a two-foot jump stop, and start each move from a triple threat position:

5) Fake shot drive (direct and crossover).

6) Rocker step or jab and go.

7) Fake drive shot. 

8) Step back moves. 

When attacking the basket, our players will alternate their finishes with layups, mid-range jumpers and floaters. “Two-ball circle shooting” will improve your players’ footwork and enhance their scoring versatility.


Brian Robinson, head coach, Bishop McGuinness Catholic High School (N.C.) 

We have a number of players that play multiple sports at our school, so they do lose some of their sharpness when it comes to basketball. We like to work on their footwork when catching the ball, then reinforcing playing low with the ball when making certain moves. If we can get those parts of their game at their highest levels, then we feel other parts begin to fall into place, such as ball handling, shooting off the dribble or off the catch, and passing. 


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  • Author:
    Steve Drumwright, Red Line Editorial
  • Date:
    Mar 17, 2022

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