How To Develop A Team Full Of Stephen Curry's - Skilled Shooters & Ball Handlers

2 on 2, 3 on 3, 4 on 4, 5 on 5, and disadvantage drills are an important part of our team practices. Each one has a purpose and can be tweaked to improve different aspects of game performance.

However, when it comes to improving individual ball skills, there is nothing better than structured 1 on 1 drills.

You don't have anybody to bail you out.

Against a good player, your weaknesses are exposed in ball handling, shooting, footwork, and finishing.

There is nowhere to hide. You have to get better.

1 on 1 games also fix two big issues for skill development workouts.

  • You don't have enough players to do anything besides 1 on 1.

  • You have enough players but varying skill levels leads to poor games of 2-on-2, 3-on-3, etc.

Use These 6 Tips To Improve Your Game Play With 1 on 1

But simply playing 1 on 1 can also lead to terrible habits such as over-dribbling, dribbling with your head down, bad shots, long possessions, etc.

You need to tweak your 1 on 1 drills so that they are game-like.

Here are 6 tips that you can use to improve your 1 on 1 drills.

  1. Use dribble limits - There isn't a better way to make players be more effective with your dribble than using dribble limits. You can limit particular drills to 2-to-3 dribbles. You can even do some post drills with no dribble to improve footwork.

  2. Use shot clock of 5 to 10 seconds - This will ensure there isn't dancing or dribbling around. You have to go! Just like you would during a game.

  3. Play mini-games - To keep games intense. Play short games. If you go by 1's, play to 3. If you go by 2's and 3's, play to 9. Then go onto the next drill.

  4. 1 shot and done - To ensure that the player takes a quality shot, only allow one shot. You can always tweak this if you want to work on blocking out.

  5. Adjust the playing area available - A couple of simple ways to do this is to confine the space or make the space wider. Depending on your objective, both can be very effective.

    For confining the space, you can use cones to create a narrow lane. The more you confine the space, the more challenging it is for the offense. It also makes it more game-like as you have to be efficient with your dribble and move in straight lines.

    If you want to make it more challenging for the defense, you could use the entire court. If you can defend an offensive player over the entire court, this makes defense much easier when you have 4 other defenders on the court. It is also a great tool to improve athleticism and conditioning.

  6. Mimic game-like situations - Use situations that happen most often during games. You could probably come up with 1,000 effective 1 on 1 drills just by being a little creative.

To save yourself time, you can always take a look at our 30 Competitive Skill Development Drills. 23 of the drills are specifically 1 on 1 drills.

It will probably also spur some ideas of different drills that you can do.

Recommended DVD's & eBook:

The Attack & Counter Skill Development System
This eBook & DVD's will improve your shooting, ballhandling, footwork, perimeter moves, post moves, finishing, aggressiveness, quickness, confidence, mentality, and your all-around game!

Designed by NBA skills coach Don Kelbick, this unique and comprehensive system is incredibly simple when compared to other skill development programs. Yet it works with NBA and pro players at the highest level... (more info)

Do you have any ideas or tips for 1 on 1 drills?

What do you think? Let us know by leaving your comments, suggestions, and questions...


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dan poyner says:
5/4/2015 at 6:53:29 PM

I agree with Joe Haefner regarding the dribbling limits in practice.

I believe they are very helpful in that they teach players to not over dribble in a game. As a HS coach for 26 years, I have never had a problem with a player dribbling too little but have had problems with too much dribbling.

I have even used a ball that is deflated so it can not be dribbled at all and this makes the other players set screens, v cut, etc... to get open before the time expires. It helps get players to be aware that they need to move with a purpose within the offense.

That's my 2 cents worth.

  1 person liked this.  

Alan C. says:
5/4/2015 at 11:22:54 AM

Great advice! One of my favorite 1 on 1 drills is to have the players line up on the baseline while the coach stands between them with the ball. The coach then lobs the ball so it takes a high bounce a bit before center court. At the same time, the coach yells "go." The first player to the ball, provided the player controls it, becomes offense on a fast break to the basket on the far end of the court, and has to finish with a layup. The player who didn't get the ball becomes defense on the play. Note, with an assistant coach on far end, the same two players run the drill back the other direction. Several of these in a row not only improves dribbling, finishing layups, and aggressiveness, but also physicality. My middle schoolers love this drill, and gain a lot of individual confidence to finish the play on a fast break, and they always want to continue the drill.
Ok, I know many of you probably already do this drill, but it is my favorite and hopefully someone new to coaching younger players, and not familiar with this drill, will give it a try.

  1 person liked this. 1 reply  

Joe Haefner says:
5/5/2015 at 8:02:23 AM

Thanks for sharing, Alan! I will definitely add that to the repertoire.


Joe Haefner says:
7/7/2014 at 11:27:07 AM

Thanks for the explanation, Stepan. I appreciate it!

"Do what you're good at." Some of the best advice a player could ever use.


Stepan says:
7/7/2014 at 10:47:11 AM

Joe, I agree with your points. What I tried to get across was just some slightly different angle at the problem. I'm for changing starting conditions of a drill rather than imposing conditions on the players. I mean, you might use 15 dribbles to score from the paint while ALREADY having your opponent on your back (because that's what we have constructed as a pre-condition, that an offender has this advantage), but will you? Even the slowest-thinking, mega abusive dribbler will take one or two to score an easy bucket. Or not so easy, it depends on the drill.
Anyway, the nature of the drill guides you, not some rules that you have to remember. And then in a real-game situation you might ask your player: have you had that kind of advantage seconds ago when you started dribbling against three defenders with your back to the basket, 30 feet away? You haven't? Then next time don't dribble at all. When do I dribble? When you have an advantage. How do I get one? By working your defender the way you did in practice and then using the situation the way you did in practice.

I'm pretty sure we're talking about the same thing, and there is a lot of great drills of "my" type on your wonderful site. I just tried to emphasize the point that sometimes it's better to construct a situation and let players do whatever they like in that situation—without having to remember any extra rules.

To give yet another angle: some guys are more of a catch and shoot type, some others need to nurse the ball a little to feel confident. They might overdribble at times... they might somewhat hinder the progress of the offense. But that's what they need to feel involved in a game. And you as a coach might want to encourage them to do that because, eventually, it will help your team.


Joe Haefner says:
7/7/2014 at 9:31:51 AM

Thank you for your input, Stepan & JC!

The dribble limits are not a hard & fast rule. They are too be used for certain drills and not for other drills.

For example, we use drills like 30-second guard war and 1v2 full court. These drills will have more dribbling.

Of the teams and players that I've coached, I've never had an under-dribbling problem, but I've had plenty of over-dribbling problems. Hence, the dribble limits.

Here are why these rules are important to our teams:

1. Catch and dribble. Too many players have the habit of catching and immediately dribbling. They instantaneously lose the advantage maintaining their pivot foot. This allows the help defense to get set. It also stalls ball movement. The more the ball moves via the pass or the dribble, the more likely the defense will break down.

2. Extra dribbling allows help defense to get set. If you are taking more dribbles, this is taking more time. This enables the defense to get set.

Taking the extra dribbles gives the advantage back to the defense.

Also, due to human error, the more you dribble, the more likely you are to make a dribbling error which can result in a turnover.

3. The dribble limits teach you to be efficient with your dribble and attack the goal immediately. You are quicker to the basket. The defense is more likely to be out of position which often leads to a scoring opportunity or the defense committing a foul.

As for the taking a bad shot due to dribble limits, I can not think of one time that we took a bad shot because of a dribble limit. It doesn't mean that it didn't happen, but I'm sure it's rare.

To me, that's a teaching error. If you don't have a good shot, quick stop, pivot and find the open player. We teach you to take a high-percentage shot that you know your coach would expect from you.

These are just a few reasons that popped into my head... we appreciate your thoughts as it causes us to really study our concepts effectively. Sometimes, us coaches, forget to analyze why we do things.


Stepan says:
7/7/2014 at 8:21:40 AM

I agree with JC on the dribble limit. Though I understand the objective of the limit, we can see on all levels how beneficial it is for a team to have players able to handle the ball for prolonged periods under pressure. Coupled with good decision-making, this ability might arguably be the most important skill for a star backcourt player.

I would say p. 6 on the list above sums the whole thing up nicely and includes everything else. In a real game you''re not very often limited to a certain number of dribbles or seconds. Instead, what you have to deal with is constant help, attempts to direct you where you don''t want to go, etc.

One thing that makes most of the 1-on-1 drills inefficient is when both parties are stationary at the beginning of the drill. "Give me the ball", all that stuff.
On the other hand, any drill that would include catching the ball on the go (after a screen, curl, etc.), quick help in case of any hesitation (double teaming the offender should she turn her back to the defender, for example) and somewhat unbalanced starting conditions for participants (for they''re always unequal in a game, and I don''t think many coaches like it when their players, however talented, try to force the thing without having any situational advantage over their opponent) should be very useful for development of all players involved.

So, to me, the task really divides into two parts: how to find or create advantage over your opponent; and then how to use this advantage. It''s not like you play 1 on 1 plain and simple; there should be some additional components to a drill allowing even a relatively weaker player come out on top if she is able to use situational benefits to her advantage. Becoming better in using such situations, in my opinion, is a more reliable way to success than trying to do too much.

For example: if a guy can''t beat anybody with 10 dribbles, I wouldn''t have him try to beat them with 3; instead, I''d create a somewhat beneficial situation for this weaker player and challenge him to use it. Before, it was too hard for him and too easy for his opponent; now, they both have to work hard with equal chance of success.


JC says:
7/6/2014 at 3:26:42 PM

Good suggestions. the only one I question is the dribble limit. not due to it being bad but in a real game you will not have such a limitation. some situations may occur off certain moves where a player may be able to beat a player on that last dribble but remembers that he or she remembers the restriction and may take a uncomfortable shot(internal rhythm disrupted).

other restrictions to limit bad habits are

no back downs from outside the post(can call for limited post play unless game is strictly post or perimeter 1 on 1)


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