Basketball is one of the most popular team sports in the world, but for players to improve individually, there are plenty of drills to work on without anyone else around. Many of today’s great players will look back on the time they spent working on the craft alone as a reason why they are thriving today.
With so many resources online, there are plenty of drills and exercises worth considering if a player is trying to improve their game overall. Not all of them are created equally, but the 11 listed below are a great starting point for any caliber of player. No matter what skill it focuses on, a player can always improve their overall ability in some way.
1. Form Shooting
Every basketball player should start a shooting workout pretty much the same way. It might be enticing to go back and shoot jump shots right away, but even the pros will start with form shooting to get into a bit of a rhythm.
This drill is pretty easy, as a player will set their feet, get in the right shooting position, and take short shots about 5 feet away from the basket. This might seem like a pretty easy drill for people who have played for a while, and it is meant to be exactly that. The goal is to not only make the shots, but swish as many as possible.
Not only does this help with form, but it helps to build confidence as a player moves out away from the basket. Just by seeing the ball go in, it can develop a bit of confidence for a player the rest of the day. Really focus on excellent form, balance, and knee bend with each shot.
2. Wall Passes
Passing might seem like a challenge without anyone else around, but a wall or rebounding net can work for a lot of different drills. Think about making passes against the wall like a teammate is there, focusing on hitting the right spot and utilizing different passes to hit those spots.
Stationary wall passes are only going to help so much. Even players who have not played for a while will begin to hit the same spot over and over again passing against the wall in a stationary position. Trying to combine these passing drills with dribbling drills can mimic actual play. Work on passing with both hands, making bounce passes and overhead passes, and just other challenging strategies as well. A wall or rebounder will return the ball to a player, so it makes practice go pretty easily.
Sprinting might be the ultimate self-discipline drill for people who are trying to get better. No one wants to do sprints in the first place, so forcing sprints might seem a bit challenging. The good news is that sprinting will help build up stamina, which could be the difference between playing well in the final few minutes of a game, and struggling.
The two most common types of sprints include running the length of the floor and back, and the suicide drill. With suicides, a player starts with a short sprint to the free-throw line, then back to the baseline. That person then goes to the half-court line, the opposite free-throw line, and the opposite baseline to complete one suicide.
4. Pull Up Jumpers off The Dribble
Being able to shoot off the dribble requires a different type of balance than catch and shooting. A player does not necessarily need a defender to work on this, as they can get great conditioning while also working on muscle memory with shots.
Start around the three-point line, and create off the dribble with one or two dribbles in a certain direction. Make sure that it is done at close to game speed to mimic this type of play.
Try not to be predictable with each move. Players can start to see improvement by working on pull up jumpers off the dribble in either direction. The footwork, the gather, and the lift with the jump shot all matters.
This works a lot in the same way as shooting pull-up jumpers. Starts around the three-point line, drive to the basket, and work on floaters in different ways. This can be one-handed floaters, off-hand floaters, floaters off the backboard, and more.
The skill is particularly important for players who are guards, because they need a way to get a shot off quickly over the defender. It requires a specific type of training to get the right push on these floaters so that they go on the rim softly.
A properly shot floater will hit the basket so softly and with the right spin that there is an increased chance of it going in. If the shot is missed, it will hang on the rim for a pretty easy rebound and put back for a teammate.
6. Mikan Drill
Use this as a great warm-up, or a way to develop touch around the basket. Named after the NBA great George Mikan himself, a player starts underneath the basket and alternates making layups on either side. It is meant to be a pretty fast drill, working on muscle memory as well as developing strong coordination.
All positions can benefit from having great touch around the basket. Being able to spin the ball off the backboard and make the shot consistently will build up confidence. It is also a great workout to get a sweat going and feel like conditioning is starting to kick in. Even though it is a very old drill, coaches still recommend this all the time.
7. Two Ball Dribbling
If a person has access to two basketballs, it can help build up even more coordination by doing certain drills with them. It also helps people develop feel, especially in their weak hand.
The same type of drills used for one-handed dribbling can also be used for two-handed workouts. Players can work on the crossovers where they take one ball to the other hand, and other more advanced moves, so people get a good feel for the ball in general.
Make sure to do any drill as close to game speed as possible, as it is about building up strength and confidence with the dribble. It also makes sense for players to do all the drills with their head up, practicing seeing the floor. Dribbling while staring down is a bad habit to develop.
8. Dribble Drive Layups From Half-Court
It is a skill that is rarely worked on, but hard drives to the basket while laying the ball in is more challenging than some people think. Being able to do it with both hands consistently, and shooting layups in different ways as well, helps tremendously. Even things such as footing can be worked on by the simple drill.
Getting the strides down when driving hard to the basket can make or break a successful attempt. Most players will not have a clear path to the hoop like this for a layup, but proper steps and footwork will come in handy when the shot needs to be altered.
9. Free Throws
Is there a better drill for people to do by themselves other than free throws? Known as the most straightforward shot in basketball that stays constant throughout all levels, practice is going to build up muscle memory if done properly. Shooting hundreds of free throws in a row is going to provide some value, but a lot of people will focus more on putting themselves in more game-time situations.
For an added challenge, shoot free throws as a way to rest from other workouts. Free throws in a game come in the flow of things, and a person might not always have their legs underneath them when they go to the line. By being able to shoot under pressure and in increments of two or three shots at a time, it more closely relates to actual play.
10. Catch & Shoot Three-Pointers
Working on catch and shoot three-pointers might seem like a drill good for two people, but they can work for an individual as well. All a person needs is a rebounder net, a wall, or just their hands spinning the ball to themselves to catch and fire from three-point land. With a three-pointer becoming such an essential part of today’s game, it is crucial to practice as many shots as possible.
Being able to catch and shoot quickly comes down to having confidence and finding the positioning with the hands right away. The faster person can get a shot off, the deadlier they can be from deep. There is always a need for shooting on any team.
11. Defensive Slides
No one enjoys getting into a defensive position and sliding around, but it is an important part of the game. For a bit of conditioning that is different than just going on sprints, defensive slides are a great overall workout. The legs will start to feel the burn pretty quickly, and having quick movements to cut a defender off helps tremendously.
The challenge with defensive slides is finding the motivation to move in different directions. With no one to guard, a person needs to be a bit creative to make it all work. The good news is that a person can map out a sliding workout before taking off. For example, sliding to different parts of the paint can be one way to work on quick defensive slides. For a longer challenge, sliding within the half-court in different directions helps.
Make sure to focus on every different direction to be well-rounded. Too many people will slide in specific directions that they favor, not building up well-rounded legs to cover more extended areas.