A Different Approach to the Triple Threat - Discover How to Develop Great Scorers by Learning the Secrets of Great Basketball Moves and Individual Offense

Individual offense is often called one-on-one basketball moves. I prefer to call it individual offense due to the fact that basketball is a team game. In teaching players individual basketball moves, often the wrong message can be sent. Players get mixed messages when they come to practice after a summer of working on individual skills and we ask them to integrate those skills into a team concept.

Do we just teach the skills or do we want them to learn the mentality as well?  Terminology and context that we use to teach can put things into perspective. We like fancy names for drills and the things we come up with, but on this subject, simplicity might be the best way to present it. How about calling this section, "Here are the things you can do to score when you have the ball." Then, you can take those things and teach players where to use each skill and, most importantly, what it creates, not only for him but for his teammates.

The Myth of the Triple Threat

Ever since I was young, I have heard about triple threat, triple threat position, be in position to shoot, pass, or dribble. While it is true that you have to be prepared, the reality is only one of those actions is a threat. When was the last time that your defensive game plan was to leave the shooter alone and guard the dribbler? How about, "this guy can really pass, make sure you play him and if you have to leave a shooter to do it, then leave the shooter"? That would, and should, never happen. For that reason, I believe that the 3 threats of a triple threat position are SHOOT, SHOOT, SHOOT!

New Triple Threat:  SHOOT, SHOOT, SHOOT

First and foremost, nothing happens on offense without the threat of a score. When your defense thinks that you can score on every touch, it forces him into very uncomfortable positions. Attacking and constantly putting pressure on your defense will force him to break down over the course of a game. It will destroy his help intentions, making additional opportunities for your teammates, and have a negative impact on his offense.

Shoot, Shoot, Shoot means every time you catch the ball, it immediately goes into shooting position. The ball goes right into your shooting pocket, your knees are bent and you are in an athletic position. Shoot, Shoot, Shoot means every time you catch the ball, you face the basket. It sounds elementary (of course you face the basket!) but how many times have you seen players turn their back to the basket? How many times do you see players face the corner or the top, cutting off large portions of the court from their vision?

Shoot, Shoot, Shoot means every time you catch the ball, your eyes go to the rim. By looking at the rim, from any position, allows you to see everything that happens on the floor.

Shoot, Shoot, Shoot means every time you catch the ball, your feet get in position and your footwork improves. You get quicker because you are in better position. Your pivoting violations (like traveling) go away because your feet have more of a purpose.

Lastly, shooting is a skill that can't be a second thought.  You might be able to recover FROM a shot, but YOU CANNOT RECOVER TO A SHOT.  You can think shot and recover to a pass, you can think shot and recover to a dribble, but you can't go the other way. How many times do you see a player get a pass in the corner and start looking for someone to pass to? Everyone on his team, every one in the stands starts yelling, "Shoot, Shoot!" While he is looking for some one to pass to, he didn't notice that he is wide open. Eventually, he gets around to shooting the ball and it NEVER goes in. That is because you can't recover TO a shot.

So, every time you catch the ball, your first thought is SHOT, your second thought is SHOT and your third thought is SHOT! Now that is really a triple threat.

Addendum by Joe Haefner

When you first read the "Shoot. Shoot. Shoot." mentality, you might think it sounds a bit crazy. I know that I did.

But after I saw Don teach it and incorporate it, I thought it was genius.

After using it for over a decade, I would not teach any other way now. My player's are just better. They're more confident and more assertive.

This is an example of how you can introduce it to your players and it also helps clear up some misunderstandings if you have any:

After introducing the new triple threat, you can ask them, "What happens to your feet when you think shot?"

After a few player responses, you can say, "Yeah. You aggressively face the basket. You turn as fast as you can under control."

After that, you can ask "Now, why is this important?"

This is usually where you might lose them. If you're lucky, you might have a few bright players that figure it out. So if they don't answer in a 5 seconds, you can say to them, "If you turn slowly, it allows the defense to get set and you lose your initial advantage."

"If you aggressively turn and face the basket like you're going to shoot the ball, it puts pressure on the defense. If they do NOT sprint out to defend and it is a good shot for you, you can shoot the ball."

"Now by thinking 'Shot. Shot. Shot' and getting into your shooting position as quickly as possible, the defense has to cover more ground to contest your shot. Now the defense has to rush out and defend you. If the defense is flying at you at a fast speed, you have the advantage because their momentum is coming towards you and it will make it difficult for them to guard the drive."

Next, I'll ask them, "If you Think Shot, what happens to your eyes?"

Most groups usually get this one right away, "Your eyes are looking at the hoop."

"Yes. And when they're looking at the hoop, this does a couple of things for you. Eyes are one of the greatest weapons for fakes and the defense might jump and create a driving or passing lane for you."

"Two, if your eyes are up, you can see what?"

"Yeah. You can see the whole floor. You can see the defense. You can see your teammates."

"Now should you still think 'Shot. Shot. Shot' if you are outside of your shooting range?"

"Absolutely! Even if you would never shoot the ball because it is a poor shot for you, just by looking like you are going to shoot the ball will put more pressure on the defense and pull them out of position. Defenders instinctually will fly out of position if you look like you're going to shoot the ball… even if you're a terrible shooter from that spot."

As you can see, this mentality can be a great tool to instantly make your team better at offense.

How to Use the Dribble

The most overused, needlessly exercised and mismanaged skill in basketball is the dribble. It has become something to do while you have the ball. It doesn't need to have a purpose; it doesn't need to have a direction. Just catch it and put it on the floor. That is why the American game has become so ugly and why our kids don't have a firm concept of quality offense.

I believe the purpose for putting the ball on the floor is to get closer to the basket. Just like the "Shoot, Shoot Shoot," mentality that helps you be aggressive on the catch, when you put the ball on the floor you should think one thought, "LAYUP!"

By thinking lay-up, your dribble becomes aggressive and purposeful. Never do in 2 dribbles what you can do in 1. When you put the ball on the floor, your dribble should be long, hard and to the basket. Separation from your defense is accomplished with the ball and if you can't separate with the first dribble you won't separate at all. Your line should be straight at the basket. Getting your defense to step backward is key to any offensive move.

And, just like shooting, you can't recover to a shot. How many turnovers have you seen created because your player goes on the dribble, looks to pass, and the defender plays the pass? If it is not a turnover it becomes an off balance, poor attempt at the basket. If your player intended to take a lay-up and the lay-up is defended, he can always pass off. However, it doesn't work the other way.

Improve Quickness by Playing the Angles

The shortest distance between two points is a straight line. If you can get your footwork to go in a straight line to the basket, your player instantly become quicker, due to more efficient footwork, faster (definition of speed is mass/distance) and more aggressive. The more he deviates from a straight line, the more of an advantage the defense gains. If "North" and "South" indicate direct lines to the basket, then it stands to reason that any time you make an "East – West" move, you should recapture "North – South" as quickly as possible. That is a very obvious concept in football. A running back runs parallel to the line of scrimmage looking for a hole. Once he finds the hole, he turns his shoulders and hips up the field and goes. In other words, if you make a crossover move, get pointed directly back to the front of the rim as quickly as possible.

Teaching players that you beat the defense with your feet and you separate with the ball will help keep your dribble efficient and effective.

Get the Ball Where You Can Score

Putting yourself in position to score means starting and finishing your move to get the ball in your range. Whether you V cut, L cut, come off a screen, etc., you have to receive the ball in a scoring area. Players must mentally condition themselves that they are working to get the ball in their scoring area, not just get the ball. By getting the ball in your scoring area you immediately put your defense at risk. He must now react to what you do. If you are aggressive, he will always be a count behind your move.

On your catch think "Shot!" If his hands are down, if he has stepped off and you are in your range, let it go. The next time you get the ball, think "Shot!" If your defense is not sensitized to your shot, he will step up, play a little more upright to stop your shot (if not, let it go again). As he comes up, put the ball on the floor think, "Lay-up!" and beat him straight line to the basket.

The effectiveness of any basketball move starts and ends with the immediate possibility of a score. If you are not in a position to score or don't have the mentality that makes you strong and aggressive, any offensive moves will not create what you want.

The Secret to Shot Fakes

A shot fake is a shot not taken. Everything is the same as a shot, the ball is in your shooting pocket, your body is in a shooting crouch, and you are square and facing the basket. You just don't let it go. Shot fakes are very effective in the realm of individual offense. One of the aspects of effective offense is controlling the defense, putting the defense at risk and forcing it to react to your offense. Within your "Shot, Shot, Shot" mentality, shot fakes do a great job of forcing the defense to play in an uncertain manner and as a reactor, thereby putting the defender a step behind the offense. This is another reason why whenever you catch the ball, it immediately goes into shooting position. When you are a threat to score, and do it immediately on the catch, your defense must play the shot right away leaves him vulnerable to anything else that you throw at him.

This is not to be confused with a pump fake. I am not a fan of pump fakes. First, I don't believe that you can fool a defense (at least a good one). Unless your pump is exactly the same as your shot, in form and rhythm, the defense is not going to bite. But more importantly, a pump fake takes you out of your good shooting position. As you move the ball and your body through the pump fake, you add moving parts to your shot that will hurt its consistency. It also forces you to take more time, due to the recovery from the pump, to get your shot off. These things will have a negative effect the quality of your attempt.

I have found it much more effective to sell your defender that you will shoot if he gives you the chance and then let him try to adjust to stopping your shot. This, again, is done by your "Shot, Shot, Shot" mentality and the appropriate attack when you get the ball.

Individual Offense Drills

  1. Pivot Shooting
  2. Wing One-on-One
  3. Top One-on-One

More Basketball Drills

Coaches, go here for more Basketball Drills

Players, go here for more Basketball Drills

Recommended Videos & 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)

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


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Alejandro says:
11/5/2023 at 6:32:17 AM

This sounds great, and I think this is the right way to play but how do you teach it at a youth level without offense becoming little more than five kids taking turns playing one on one?

I tried an approach like this with a team of 4th graders last year using ideas from Brian McCormick’s Blitz Basketball and it devolved into chaos. There was very little team basketball going on. I get that some of that is just the age I was working with, but even by this standards we killed our selves with over-dribbling and little passing.


Agyo James says:
12/5/2020 at 1:44:21 AM

This is a nice article, for more fun Basketball tips, visit https://thetermbasketball.blogspot.com


Zk says:
2/22/2017 at 10:47:09 AM

Thank you, I have practice 2morrow so I am researching how 2 get my shot together.


Ron says:
2/15/2017 at 1:08:43 PM

guess i don't understand the difference between shot fake and pump fake. Can you explain


Rob says:
1/24/2017 at 12:30:44 PM

Brilliant! Never thought of it this way. In hindsight, yes, backing down to a shot NEVER works. This will change my entire approach.


Steve says:
12/27/2016 at 8:47:26 PM

"definition of speed is mass/distance"

I'm just a basketball coach, but I don't think this statement is correct.


Akaci says:
10/30/2016 at 3:32:40 PM

Can someone explain this : You might be able to recover FROM a shot, but YOU CANNOT RECOVER TO A SHOT. ?


DHF says:
9/10/2016 at 9:45:08 AM



killer crossover maker says:
3/10/2016 at 1:19:27 AM

nice article


aris says:
1/6/2016 at 10:03:35 AM

I like this article very much but I missed something...What's the difference between Shot fake and Pump Fake?Aren't the same thing?


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