Four Tips to Improve Basketball Skills in Your Own Backyard

1 years ago

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The NCAA Men’s and Women’s Basketball Tournaments are in full swing and Sport Court wants to help you improve your basketball game! We’ve looked at four crucial aspects of basketball – shooting, free throws, ball handling and rebounds – that can be improved on your Sport Court backyard court

1. Shooting

Shooting is an essential part of basketball. It’s hard to win a game if you can’t score baskets. Shooting can easily be practiced in your own backyard. Use the catch and shoot drill outlined below to get a step up on your competition and improve your shooting percentage.

Catch and Shoot Drill 

You will need two players for this drill. Player one will make a chest pass to player two. Player two catches the ball and immediately takes a shot without dribbling. As player two shoots, player one will close out on player two but wont attempt to block the shot. After shooting, player two will rebound his or her ball and pass it to player one, who is now the shooter.

After each player shoots move positions on the court to practice shooting from different angles and distances.

2. Free Throws  

The free throw is a critical element of every game. Game winners can make free throws no matter how stressful the situation. The key to being an effective free throw shooter is creating a consistent free throw routine and repeating that routine until it is second nature. By practicing the two free throw fundamentals below and running the 100 in 7 drill, your free throw routine will be come more consistent and efficient.

How to Properly Shoot Free Throws 

Every player has his or her own free throw routine. However, there are a few fundamentals that should be followed regardless of your ritual.

Fundamental 1: Align the foot of your shooting hand with the nail in the center of the free throw line. Doing so will allow you to line up directly in front of the rim, allowing you to shoot from the same angle every time. If you’re shooting outside and don’t have a nail in the center of the free throw line, use your best estimate or place a small marker in the center of the line for guidance.  

Fundamental 2: Focus on the front of the rim. Never use the back of the rim or the white square on the backboard as your focus point. Focusing on the front of the rim allows your shot to follow a trajectory that will cause the ball to bounce or roll in if it hits the front rim of the basket.

Outside of these two fundamentals the best way to become an excellent free throw shooter is repetition.  Use the following 100 in 7 drill to get in your free throw reps.

Watch this video by PCG Basketball for more tips on developing a free throw routine.


100 in 7 Free Throw Drill 

Make sure you have a timer and rebounder prior to starting this drill. The purpose of the drill is to build your muscle memory by using the same routine and shot for every free throw.

To being the drill, take a free throw shot following your normal routine. After you shoot return directly to the starting free throw position. Your rebounder will pass you the ball while you remain in your starting position.

Continuously shoot and return to your starting position where you will receive the ball. This process should not be rushed, as the drill is meant to work on mechanics, not speed. You want to start building a tempo and concentrate on correct form and follow though. Attempt to make 100 shots in the seven minute time period. If you don’t, no problem! Again, the main goal is to focus on your free throw form and routine.

3. Ball Handling

Good ball handling might be the most important skill in basketball. When you can handle the ball well passing and shooting become second nature. Once you learn to handle the ball without thinking, you’ll be able to concentrate on other important elements of the game, such as reading the defense. 

The following drills will help you improve your ball handling skills in your own back yard.

Backyard Ball Handling Drills 

Drill 1: Tipping. Starting with your hands raised straight above your head, tip the ball back and forth between your hands. Slowly, move the ball down your body while continuously tipping the ball back and forth. Go from your head down to your ankles and back up again. Make sure your elbows stay straight and only let the ball touch your fingertips, keep it away from your palms.

Drill 2: Circles. Start by putting your feet together and make circles with the ball around your legs. Then move to circling around your back. Next, make circles around your head. Finally, combined all three movements to move the ball in circles around your head, down your body, around your knees and then around your ankles. Only let the ball touch your fingertips, keep it away from your palms.

Drill 3: Circle Dribbles. With your right hand, dribble circles around your right foot. Do ten clockwise dribbles then switch directions. Do the same using your left hand and left leg. Keep the dribbles about five inches high during the entire drill.

Drill 4: Power Dribble. Do 50 power dribbles with your right hand. Make sure your off hand is protecting the ball. Follow the 50 power dribbles with 50 low dribbles. Switch to the left hand and complete 50 power dribbles and 50 low dribbles.

Watch the following videos by Premier Hoops for a demo of these, and other, ball handling drills.

4. Rebounding

Controlling the board means controlling the game. Rebounding the ball decreases the number of shots taken by your opponent and increases your opportunities to score. The ability to rebound can depend on your size, but size alone doesn’t dictate your rebounding skills. With diligent practice you can improve your rebounding techniques.

Here are 14 tips to become a better rebounder in your own backyard.

Rebounding Tips  

  1. Play with the assumption that every shot will miss.
  2. Go up aggressively on rebounds. Desire will trump ability the majority of the time.
  3. Know when and where on the court shots are being taken.
  4. Study the rebounding characteristics of your opponent and both rims of the baskets.
  5. Have good balance and leverage. Make sure to keep your back straight when rebounding.
  6. Position your hands in front of you and above your shoulders.
  7. Fight your opponent for a good rebounding position.
  8. Try to box out your opponent and the shooter. The shooter is typically the only player with foreknowledge of where the rebound will go.
  9. If you are boxed out, break contact with your opponent and move to a position where you can aggressively and freely grab the rebound.
  10. Rebound on the “help side”. Over half of all missed shots will fall to the opposite side of the basket.
  11. Typically, the longer the shot, the longer the rebound.
  12. Timing is more important than height when jumping.
  13. If you can’t grab the ball yourself, tip it to a teammate or an open area on the court.
  14. Once you have the rebound, protect the ball! Don’t stand still or bring it low, where your opponent can easily steal it.

To learn more about the fundamentals of rebounding, watch this video by USA Basketball.


All of these drills and tips can be used in your own backyard. During breaks in NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament, get outside and start improving your game with Sport Court!


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