5 Things You Need To Know To Be
a Great Ball Handler

You can be an extremely effective ball handler by knowing and practicing 5 things. Most players and coaches make things too complicated. But dribbling effectively is simple. You don't need lots of moves. You just need EFFECTIVE moves.

Here's all you need to know to be effective at any level.

1 - You need to develop a feel for the basketball.

Developing a feel for the ball consists of drills that are stationary and slow moving. You will improve your hand-eye coordination, hand quickness, ambidexterity, throwing, catching and other important aspects of ball handling.

These drills consists of the Maravich series, one-ball dribbling, one-ball dribbling through cones, two-ball dribbling, two-ball dribbling through cones, tennis ball dribbling, and the Steve Nash passing series.

These drills are also great to put at the beginning of your warm up as a stepping stone to more intense drills.

A huge mistake that many players and coaches make is that they spend too much time on this. While it is important, especially for beginners, limit yourself to 5 to 6 minutes of each practice. The reasoning is that you can get very good at these drills, but you neglect the components below, you won't have the ability to handle game situations. If you can dribble 3 basketballs while juggling 5 tennis balls at the same time, it looks cool and it is a neat circus trick that is great for marketing, but it is a circus trick. It is not going to make you a better basketball player. The majority of your ball handling should be functional which means that they simulate game-like situations. Can you get down the court in 3 to 4 dribbles with either hand? Can you stop on a dime? Can you change speed and change directions like Chris Paul?

If you are able to dribble 3 balls and juggle 5 tennis balls at the same time, I would say that your hand-eye coordination, dexterity, and hand quickness are extremely good and you probably don't need to focus on them any more. You probably should spend more time on shooting, footwork, athleticism, and functional ball handling.

2 - You must be able to dribble the ball down the court at any speed (all the way from walking up to sprinting) with both hands with your head up.

Pretty simple but important, right? You can simply dribble up and down the court at different speeds.

3 - You must be able to change your pace.

It's good to incorporate change of pace in your dribbling drills. Chris Paul is the expert at changing speeds (pace). That allows him to get the defender off balance.

Practice changing the pace from walking, slow, medium, fast, and full speed. You can change the pace from slow to fast, medium to full speed, and any other combinations you can imagine.

4 - You must be able to dribble while moving backwards.

So now instead of going forward, you need to be able to back out of traffic and so on. That's where the back up dribble comes into play. Simply, get in a position where you are protecting the ball and shuffle forwards and backwards up and down the court.

Next, you can practice running forward at a faster speed, come to hockey stop, and shuffle a couple of steps backwards.

Mix it up so you can handle any situation.

5 - You must have a primary dribble move and a counter dribble move.

If you perfect a go-to move that's very difficult to stop, good defenders will adjust to stop it. That's when you add your counter move to completely keep the defender guessing.

I prefer the cross over as the primary move and the inside out as the counter move. You might use the hesitation move and the crossover.

That's it! Perfect those five things and when it comes to dribbling, you'll have the dribbling ability to handle almost any situation. Should you also practice other things for ball handling? Sure. Now do you need apply the technical skills to competitive drills to handle game situations like transition, ball screens, handling traps, etc.? Yes. Do you need to improve your athleticism to make you a better player in every aspect of your game? Yes. But I'm telling you, that these are five extremely effective methods to give you the technical skill to handle any situation.

You can use the back up dribble all the time -- you use it when approaching a trap, when approaching defensive traffic, when getting cut off in the lane, when breaking the press, when breaking a player down one on one, etc.

You can then incorporate the cross over in lots of situations. If you advance the ball and get cut off you can back up dribble and then cross over to break down your man and blow by him. You can cross over to change directions and bring the ball to the other side of the court. You can cross over to the passing angle to your teammate. You can cross over to split a ball screen. You can cross over on the fast break to get by the defender. You can cross over to eventually set up your counter move (the inside out). So next time instead of crossing over, fake out the defender by giving the inside out move and then blow by the defender.

You still need to practice a lot, but I think this will simplify your life greatly by focusing on a few really effective dribbling techniques instead of trying to practice all kinds of moves and techniques that don't really help. The techniques above are the the most effective dribbling moves that I know.

How To Become A Great Ball Handler

If you'd like to become a great ball handler, check out the Progressive Ball Handling & Footwork Workouts App.

It provides a step-by-step process with professionally designed videos and workouts. It has over 200 drills and 24 levels of workouts.

What do you think? Please leave your thoughts and comments below.


Most Likes First   Oldest First   Newest First

MasterDunk says:
3/10/2021 at 9:40:31 PM

I am a good player, I just need to work on this and shooting the ball from 3.


Mouser says:
10/14/2020 at 3:53:35 PM

After 40 years of playing, well not anymore and watching the game i know with absolute certainty that the rarest skill ability, is to be able to dribble full cort at full speed with your head up and under control. I've seen greats like Dr. J , Jordan, and others dribble the ball off the top of their foot trying to.


Brantley ball says:
10/9/2020 at 10:44:07 AM

I know I am 8 but I will love This website i mean dribble up is BETTER


Brantley ball says:
10/9/2020 at 10:44:05 AM

I know I am 8 but I will love This website i mean dribble up is BETTER


Adrain says:
6/30/2020 at 3:16:00 AM

Would you say before learning how to dribble or ball handle is to first get comfortable with your non dominant hand first? Then try behind the back between crossover etc?

  1 reply  

Jeff Haefner says:
7/1/2020 at 7:18:51 AM

Yes getting comfortable dribbling with left and right hand is the ideal place to start. With that said, when first teaching dribbling to a player we introduce the following:

- left and right hand dribble (along with all the fundamental concepts... pound the ball, use finger pads, start getting eyes up)
- basic cross over dribble

Start out stationary only. Then once comfortable with that we add movement... running forwards, backwards, changing speeds, zig zag, and any random pattern you can think of while applying fundamentals of eyes up, etc

Then continue progressing with concepts from there.


A.J. says:
2/18/2018 at 12:50:46 PM

Hey Joe,
I’m an 13 year old kid that likes to play basketball. My dad is a great basketball player and I want to follow in his footsteps. But we both have different play styles. My dad plays as a PG that get to the rim and if open enough shoots but I play like a PG that tries to shoot more midrange, 3’s and if possible get to the rim. Should I focus on shooting more or other aspects because my handles and passing need a little work. Please reply!

  1 reply  

Joe Haefner says:
3/1/2018 at 8:52:23 AM

AJ, when I first started replying, I was going to create an article with a detailed response. However, it's been difficult for me to find time to do that. My plan is still to do that.

For the short term, here is my advice.

Keep focusing on your strengths! Make your shot even better. Work on developing a quick release. Work on moving without the ball and changing directions, so you can create separation from the defense to shoot. Work on quickly facing the basket, so you need minimal time to get off a shot.

Great shooters can change the game without even scoring the ball. You open lanes for your teammates to score without even shooting the ball because the defense and help defense is focused on you.

At the same time, add some ball handling & passing to your practice. Maybe 10% to 20% of your workout should be spent on that. It's really hard to advise without evaluating a player in person.

I also believe in mixing skills where you practice ball handling and shooting at the same time. That's more game like anyways.

Hope that helps!


Micah G. says:
12/12/2017 at 10:10:08 AM

This is a great site, full of great tips. This won't be my only time visiting this site.


BLank says:
8/31/2016 at 10:06:38 AM

SK player


micah sawgbay says:
6/30/2016 at 7:21:02 AM

I like this video,the ballhanding practical is very good.


Devon says:
5/19/2016 at 10:55:28 AM

Dont get it I''m studying for a test.


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