I’ve had the opportunity to work with and observe a bunch of great basketball coaches over the years, and it’s always fun to learn new drills and new ways to teach and run old drills as well. Today, I wanted to share 5 unusual drills that I’ve personally only seen a very small number of coaches use but that seem to be highly effective at helping players to improve.
In 1994, my family moved to San Antonio, and I had a chance to play for Charlie Boggess, a legendary coach and a great mentor and friend. He borrowed and tweaked and developed a lot of great drills, and 16 3-2-1 was probably my favorite.
In this drill, all players are spread out on the different baskets shooting a 1 and 1. If the player misses the first free throw, he must run 3 down and back sprints. If he misses the second free throw, then he must run 2 down and back sprints. And if he makes both free throws, he only has to run 1 down and back sprint. The goal is to make 16 free throws in less than 8 minutes, and players must do 10 pushups for each free throw they fall short of 16.
This drill is great because the kids are shooting free throws under pressure while winded, which is of course quite similar to an actual game. Not coincidentally, Coach Boggess’s teams led the state of Texas in FT% a bunch of times, and his teams regularly shot 75%+ as a team, which is an incredible feat for a high school team.
In the early 2000’s, I had a chance to watch a Yugoslavian coach run a practice in The Netherlands, and 2 things stuck out. One, he chain smoked cigarettes in the gym throughout the duration of practice. And two, he ran a very unique transition drill that I haven’t seen before or since.
Many coaches in the US run the transition drill where 4 players line up on the baseline facing 4 opposing players lined up at the free throw line extended. When the coach throws the ball to 1 of the 4 baseline players, they attack in transition and the defensive player aligned across from the offensive player who receives the pass must touch the baseline before sprinting to try to get in the play. I really like this drill, although it’s not at all uncommon.
“Yugoslavia” is a similar drill, but includes a few tweaks that make the drill even more challenging and beneficial. First, it’s a 3 on 3 drill, not a 4 on 4 drill Second, the defensive players are lined up at the top of the key extended, not the 3 point line extended. Third, the offensive players are not allowed to dribble. Fourth, the offensive team has only 7 seconds to get a shot on the other end. And finally, the defensive team attacks back in transition with dribbling allowed and 10 seconds to get a shot.
This drill works on footwork, making quick decisions, seeing more than pass ahead, transition offense and defense, communication, passing, late clock situations, rebounding, and really every other aspect of basketball. Plus, it’s a drill the kids really enjoy once they get the hang of it.
My 8th grade coach was a gentleman named Garin Brockman (Rest in Peace, Coach). Coach Brockman was the first coach to teach me the importance of practicing finishing through contact, and he devised a variety of drills to teach and develop this essential skill. “Brockman” combines a variety of Coach Brockman’s drills into 1 drill that works on finishing, footwork, helpside defense, and rebounding.
Brockman starts with a player between the elbow and the 3 point line facing the baseline, a player on the opposite block facing toward half court, and a player with a ball on the baseline facing the player a step beyond the elbow. The other players are in line behind the player with the ball (with more than about 5 players, it’s best to do this drill on multiple baskets).
The player with the ball on the baseline passes to the player outside the elbow, who meets the pass to land at the elbow. The player on the opposite block is chopping his feet in a good defensive stance and is starting his defensive “chatter.” After passing the ball, the baseline player chases his own pass and takes a dribble hand off, at which point the elbow player crowds his space as a “dummy defender.” The player who now has the ball again (the same player who originally had the ball on the baseline) executes a straight line drive (body to body) to the rim. The second the first dribble hits the floor, the defensive player on the opposite block is now live in the play trying to stop the driver from scoring. The rep isn’t over until the offensive player scores or the defensive player gets the rebound. Offense goes to defense, defense goes to elbow, elbow goes to the end of the line on the baseline.
Here’s the progression:
Starting with the left elbow (the left elbow in this case means the left of the player on the baseline who is facing toward half court), the player first chases his pass to take the handoff going to the inside of the player at the elbow and uses his left pivot foot to take the handoff and execute a front pivot to get square to the rim, then attacks the rim with a right foot direct drive step and a right handed dribble drive. Next is a left foot front pivot followed by a right foot crossover drive step and a left handed dribble drive. Next is a left foot reverse pivot followed by a right foot direct drive step and a right handed dribble drive. And last is a left foot reverse pivot followed by a right foot crossover drive step and a left handed dribble drive.
Now, instead of going on the inside of the player at the left elbow, players will go to the outside and use their right pivot foot. The progression is exactly the same, except that the pivot foot and drive foot are reversed. First, right foot front pivot, left foot direct drive step, left hand dribble drive. Next, right foot front pivot, left foot crossover step, right handed dribble drive. Next, right foot reverse pivot, left foot direct drive step, left handed dribble drive. And finally, right foot reverse pivot, left foot crossover drive step, right handed dribble drive.
Once the players have finished the progression from the left elbow, everyone changes sides to work on it from the right elbow, with the same progressions.
Brockman works on the 8 most essential pieces of stationary offensive basketball footwork (left front pivot, left reverse pivot, right front pivot, right reverse pivot, right foot direct drive step, right foot crossover drive step, left foot direct drive step, left foot crossover drive step). However, it also teaches the importance of driving in as straight a line as possible (go THROUGH the defender, not around him- shoulder through the ribs- body to body). Plus, it works on helpside defense, defensive communication, reading the helpside defense, finishing through the helpside defense, passing, meeting the pass, and rebounding. In short, Brockman is one of my favorite basketball developmental drills, because it incorporates so many critical aspects of the game.
“The Finish Drill”
Like Brockman, The Finish Drill works on finishing through live contact, as well as several other key areas of the game. When I worked with Coach JD Mayo at Dallas Skyline High School in 02-03, we did this drill almost every day, and you could really see the difference it made over the course of the season.
The finish drill starts with an offensive player in the paint with the defensive player “chested up.” The offensive player is trying to score but isn’t allowed to dribble. The defensive player is of course trying to prevent the score, but is only allowed to foul with his chest (no hacking allowed). Once the shot goes up, the drill is live, and The Finish Drill is a continuous game of 1 on 1.
Here are the basic ground rules:
1. As long as the ball stays inside the “mini-lane” (lane line to lane line, baseline to the bottom of the dotted circle), there is no dribbling allowed at all.
2. If the ball goes outside the mini-lane but in bounds and inside the 3 point line, the offensive player is allowed 1 dribble.
3. If the ball goes outside the 3 point line or out of bounds on the baseline, the offensive player is allowed 2 dribbles.
4. This is not a jump shooting drill- all shots must be layups or dunks.
5. The defensive player is only allowed to foul with his chest, and is not allowed to initiate contact on a box out until after the shooter lands.
6. The offensive player is only allowed to foul with his shoulder and body- no push offs, free arms, etc.
7. The Finish Drill is not make it take it, nor is it about taking turns. The ball is always live, make or miss, and both players have the opportunity to gather the rebound/loose ball and try to score.
8. The Finish Drill can be run to a certain score (first to 5, first to 7, etc) or on the clock (at Skyline, we did sets of 1 minute where the kids kept score).
The finish drill was hugely beneficial to us in terms of finishing, defending in the paint, and rebounding, but it is also an incredible drill in terms of toughness and basketball-specific strength and conditioning.
“The Channel Drill”
The Channel Drill was a normal part of our guard workouts when I worked at Georgia Tech under Coach Hewitt (assistant coach Charlton “CY” Young used to tell some hilarious stories about the battles Moochie Norris and Marquis Daniels had in the Channel Drill during CY’s time at Auburn).
Here are the rules:
1. Set up cones (or any other object you have handy- could be sticks, rocks, coins, anything) to extend the lane lines all the way out to half court. The lane lines extended are the boundaries of the Channel Drill.
2. The offensive player starts with the ball at half court facing the rim with the dribble unused and the defensive player hacking and bodying the offensive player to death- the offensive player must withstand the fouling and the contact by pivoting and staying low with his eyes on the game for 3-5 seconds before the drill becomes live- if the offensive player fumbles or loses the ball or travels, it’s a turnover and the offensive player loses his turn.
3. After the 3-5 seconds, the coach says “go” or “live” and then the offensive player is attacking in the “channel” versus the live defender trying to score.
4. The offensive player can use unlimited dribbles, but he can not “back the defender down” and he must stay in bounds.
5. If the offensive player scores, he goes on offense again.
6. Each rep doesn’t end until the offensive player scores or the defensive players gets a stop AND a rebound.
The Channel Drill is a very simple drill, but it helps develop ball handling, footwork, defense, finishing, conditioning, toughness, balance, ball security, attacking downhill in as straight a line as possible- in other words, it less of a drill to work on 1 or 2 skills and more of a drill to work on basketball.
Thanks very much for reading. Hopefully, you’ll find at least 1 of these drills to be helpful. This is the first time I have tried to explain basketball drills strictly through the written word with no diagrams, and I am not sure these drills will be clear. If you need clarifications, please email firstname.lastname@example.org. Anyway, thanks again for reading, and thanks to Coach Rav for providing this awesome platform to share.