Basketball Dribbling and Ball Handling Fundamentals, Drills, & Tips With Video Clips

Most coaches use dribbling and ball handling interchangeably. Though they are linked, the 2 skills are definitely separate.

Dribbling and controlling the ball is a skill that can be practiced alone and is separate from the other ball skills on the court. Ball handling, however, involves knowledge of the game and integrates dribbling, passing and decision-making.

Practicing and improving your dribbling is a simple task. There are innumerable dribbling drills that are in use today that are challenging and effective. The set of drills that have come to be known as "Maravich Drills," (after the late ball-handling wizard Pete Maravich) are widely known. They include drills such as passing the ball around your body, dribble figure 8s, spider dribbling, drop and catch.

Practicing and improving your ball handling requires imagination, as you have to put yourself in game situations.

One of our favorite series of ballhandling drills that helps develop better ballhandlers is the Maravich series! Watch it below.

9 Tips To Improve Your Dribbling & Ball Handling

Here are 9 tips from pro coach Don Kelbick.

  1. Dribble the ball hard. The more time the ball spends in your hand, the more control you have of the ball. The harder you dribble, the quicker it gets back in your hand.

  2. Head up at all times. Look at the rim or a spot on the wall during all practice.

  3. Use your finger tips to control the ball, not your palm.

  4. Use your imagination. Picture when and how you would use each of the dribbles.

  5. Teach mentality. There is too much dribbling for no reason in our game today. I like to teach that the primary purpose for putting the ball on the floor is to get a lay-up. If you don't have an opportunity, don't put it on the floor.

  6. Basketball is a game of length. Work on lengthening the dribble. Work to get your opportunities with 1 dribble. You don't beat defenses with your dribble. You beat people with your feet; you SEPARATE from your defense with the dribble.

  7. Basketball is also a game of angles. Try to move in straight lines. Whenever you make an "East-West" move (something that takes you toward the sideline), re-capture a "North-South" path (direct line to the basket) as quickly as possible.

  8. Don't do things in 2 dribbles that you can do in 1.

  9. Practice outside your comfort zone. Experiment; go faster than you are used to, use your imagination. When working on new skills, don't be concerned with losing the ball. Just pick it up and do it again. If you practice only things that are comfortable, then you will never improve.

More Ball Handling Tips and Articles

Executing The Basketball Pick and Roll

The Importance of the Back Up Dribble and How It Reduces Turnovers Against Pressure

A Secret to Chris Paul's Success - Change of Pace

Handling Ball Screens Like Steve Nash

Chris Paul Hesitation Move & The Importance of Counter Moves [VIDEO]

Other Blog Posts About Ball Handling

Dribbling Practice

"Maravich Drills" are very good at getting players comfortable with the ball. Below are some examples.

  • Dribble Figure 8's - Spread legs about shoulder width. Dribble the ball through and around legs in a figure 8. Can be done multiple ways - front to back, back to front, low dribbles (as many dribbles as possible with dribble about shoe height), as few dribbles as possible (high dribble about waist high), can even be done walking. For even more of a challenge, try the drill with one hand instead of two.

  • Spider Dribble - Feet spread about shoulder width. Dribble the ball between your legs in the following manner - left hand, right hand in front of your legs; left hand, right hand behind your legs. Work to as fast a possible.

  • Drop and Catch - Hold ball between your legs with right hand in front of your body, left hand behind. Drop the ball and exchange you hand position and re-catch the ball before it hits the ground.

These are just examples. There are too many of these drills to list here. Pete Maravich devised these drills out of his imagination, his need for challenge and his drive to improve. You do not need to be bound by other people's drills; challenge yourself to come up with your own drills.

Dribbling Warm Ups

I prefer to practice skills in combinations that are relevant to multiple aspects of the game. It saves time and instills a great sense of urgency.. It saves time and has a great sense of urgency. One of the ways I do this is to add dribbling into my stretching exercises.

  • Hamstring Stretch - While dribbling with your right hand, cross right leg over left. Bend at the waist, touch the floor with your left hand and bring your dribble down to shoe top level. Hold for an 8 count. Reverse position and switch hands.

  • Lower Body and Achilles Stretch - Dribble waist high while standing up. Step as far forward with your right leg as you can, keeping your back straight and your left heel on the ground. At the same time bring your dribble forward of your right foot, keeping the ball at shoe-top height. Hold for an 8 count and then stand up. Switch legs and dribble hand.

  • Crossover - Same as above except, step forward with left leg. As foot goes to the floor, switch hands, right to left, keeping dribble shoe top height. Cross back when standing up.

  • Through Legs - Same as above except instead of crossing over, put ball through legs at shoe top height.

  • Multiple Through Legs - Same as above except put ball through legs 3 times (left, right, left) on quick, successive dribbles shoe top height.

  • Torso Twist - Spread legs outside of shoulder width, dribble with right hand. Keeping legs straight, bring ball across body to left side, outside left foot and dribble at shoe top height behind left foot.

These are just samples. You can develop a dribble stretch for any part of the body.

Two Ball Dribbling Drills & Videos:

I think the most effective way to improve your dribble, however, is by using 2 balls. Any dribble or drill you can do with 1 ball, you can do with 2. Stationary practice at first will build confidence. Stand on the baseline and try to control both balls. Then start to move. Go half court, then full court. Follow the lines around the court or in any route you can come up with.

To see more DRILLS & VIDEOS Click Here.

Ball Handling

The difference between dribbling and ball handling is intent. Dribbling is the skill of controlling the ball as you bounce it to the floor. Ball handling (at least 1 aspect of ball handling) is what you do with that dribble.

Whether you use it to go to the basket, make a passing angle, escape from pressure or anything else, those situations have to be imagined and practiced.

Here are some situational drills:

  • Full Court Lay-ups - Start on the baseline. Dribble full court with right hand in 5 dribbles and make a lay-up, come back with left hand. Then reduce the number of dribbles to 4 and then to 3.

  • Chair Changes - Place a chair about 21 feet from the basket. It can be on top, on the wing, or in the corner. Start about 8-10 feet beyond the chair. Dribble straight at the chair. At the chair, use a change of direction dribble (crossover, inside out, behind back, etc) to go beyond the chair and make a lay-up. Try to get to the point where you only need one dribble to get to the lay-up. Practice all the changes.

  • Two up - Two back - Set a chair such as in the drill above. Take 2 hard dribbles at the chair. When reaching the chair, take 2 backup dribbles. After the second dribble, push ahead into 1 dribble lay-up or pull-up jumpshot.

  • Dropstep Dribble - (works on footwork and ballhanding)

  • Chair Curl - This is another great multi use drill. It combines shooting, ball handling and speed and high intensity change in direction.

  • Chair Curl Phase 2 (With 2 Chairs)

  • Two Ball Dribbling Drills & Moves - Excellent way to improve one on one moves.

  • Basketball Pick and Roll Drills

Shooting drills can also be adapted to work on ball handling aspects by adding changes of direction and pivoting to create 1 and 2 dribble opportunities for either jumpers or lay-ups.

Once you have developed a feel for the ball, it's very important that you practice your ball handling in competitive, game-like situations with defenders present. In the DVD 30 Competitive Skill Development Drills, you will find 12 drills that are specific to improving your ball handling skills in game-like situations.

More Dribbling and Ball Handling Drills

Coaches, go here for more Dribbling & Ball Handling Drills

Players, go here for more Dribbling & Ball Handling Drills

Recommended Training Resources:

Youth Ball Handling & Workout App - Over 200 ball handling and footwork drills. 24 Different Levels.

Attack & Counter Workout App - Ball Handling, Shooting, Guard Play, & More

Recommended Training Material:

SKLZ Court Vision - Dribble Goggles

SKLZ Court Vision dribble goggles will help you develop better ball control and improved awareness of the whole court. They force players to handle the ball with their head up to survey the court...(more info)