Basic Lay-ups

Lay-ups are the backbone of any team offense and every player's offensive repertoire. Without the threat of a lay-up, all other shots would become next to impossible. Just think, how you would defend if you knew that lay-ups were not allowed? What offense, what screens would be set, what dribble or one – on – one move would you make if you could not take a lay-up?

Interesting food for thought. Yet the lay-up is the shot we spend the least time on and the most technically ignored shot of all.

How do we make lay-ups?

I ask you, what part of the body allows you to make lay-ups? Your hand? Your arms? Your legs?

I think you make lay-ups with your eyes. With all that goes on around you during a basketball game, that activity level increases ten-fold as you get closer to the basket. There are more players, more defenders, more hands, and more contact the closer you get to the basket. The demand for your concentration goes up accordingly. No matter what else you do, you must keep your eyes on the prize. Block out all that is going on around you, and keep your eyes on the target until the ball comes through the net.

What is a lay-up

A lay-up is just what it sounds like: a shot where we lay the ball up on the backboard or over the rim and into the basket. It can be done forwards, backwards, or sideways. It is a lay-up just the same.

Teaching lay-ups

I am a big believer in visualization and pantomime when teaching new skills. They are especially effective techniques when teaching lay-ups.

When teaching new concepts of leg drive and follow-through while handling a basketball and trying to throw it through the basket, consider that it might be very difficult for young players to keep track of all the factors involved. You would be well advised to simplify the process by eliminating the ball at first.

Try these techniques without a ball.

  • Line up your team in rows.
  • On the command, ”Set”, have them stand with their left leg forward and their right leg extended straight back. Knees should be bent and hips low in an athletic posture.
  • On the command, “Drive,” have them step forward with their right leg, without taking their left foot off the floor, and drive their right knee in the air. The visualization phrase that I use is "Try to hit your nose with your knee."
  • After driving the right knee, talk a little about the feeling they get when they drive the knee. They should feel their whole body lifting.
  • Next, on the command “Drive,” combine the knee lift with a jump off the left leg. It might take a few reps to co-ordinate the knee drive with the jump but it will come quickly.
  • Next, give the command "Drive," and, at the appropriate time, add the command, "Shoot." Players then go into a right- handed shooting motion. Timing is important, as you want to shoot while the player is in the air. Emphasize holding the follow-through on the shot until after they return to the floor.
  • Next, in cadence, call, "Set, Drive, Shoot." Explain that this, when done with proper timing, is the action involved in taking a lay-up.
  • When you feel that the shooters are comfortable with the right hand, alter their stance and have them practice a left- handed lay-up motion.

Once you are comfortable with that action, go to the next step

  • On the command, ”Set”, have them stand with their left leg forward and their right leg extended straight back. Knees should be bent and hips low in an athletic posture.
  • On the command, “Step Back,” players step back with their left foot so it is extended straight back and the right foot is forward.
  • On the command, “Step,” players step forward with their left leg. Follow the, “Step,” command with, “Drive,” and, “Shot,” in cadence, to create the rhythm for taking an active lay-up.
  • When you feel it is proper, switch to a left handed lay-up.

Once you are comfortable with that action, go to the next step

  • On the command, ”Set”, have them stand with their left leg forward and their right leg extended straight back. Knees should be bent and hips low in an athletic posture.
  • On the command, “Step Back,” players step back with their left foot so it is extended straight back and the right foot is forward.
  • On the command, “Step Back,” players step back with their right foot so it is extended straight back and the left foot is forward.
  • On the command, “Step,” step forward with the right foot.
  • Add the command, "Dribble." Players will then imagine they are taking one dribble with their right hand. (This is a great opportunity to teach them about the rules concerning when the ball must be dribbled in order to move their pivot foot without traveling.)
  • Follow the "Dribble" command with, "Step," "Drive," "Shoot."
  • When said in the proper cadence and with proper timing; "Set," "Step Back," "Step Back," "Step," "Dribble," "Step," "Drive," "Shoot," will give players a basic feeling and rhythm for taking lay-ups, with and without a dribble

After they are good at taking lay-ups without a basket, move to a basket; teach them the proper angle to approach the basket; and go through the same sequences shooting right-handed and left-handed.

Once they are comfortable at the basket, give the players a ball and go through the same sequences.

Teaching Points

  • You make lay-ups with your eyes.
  • Shooting is about rhythm
  • The power to get the ball to the basket comes from your drive leg. Try to touch you nose with our knee.
  • Early in the process, success has to be defined in terms of correct form rather than made baskets.
  • Focus on the process, not the results. Younger kids may have problems with balance and strength. Don’t sacrifice form for made baskets

Here's a Good Video by Lenny Wilkins that Illustrates How to Use the Backboard and Finish More Lay Ups

Related Pages and Helpful Resources:

The Attack & Counter Skill Development System - DVDs & eBook
5 Pro Finishing Moves for Guards
Improve Your Ability To Finish At The Rim With The Corner Finishing Drill
The Missing Link To Player Development
Competitive One on One Fast Break Drills - 1v1 Attack

In the DVD below, you will find 12 competitive, game-like drills that will dramatically improve your ability to make lay ups and finish near the basket...

Recommended DVDs:

30 Competitive Game-Like Skill Development Drills
In the 30 Competitive Game-Like Skill Development Drills, you will find a great variety of finishing drills. In addition to that, you will find drills that improve ball handling, footwork, shooting, and much more... (more info)

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


Most Likes First   Oldest First   Newest First

Avery says:
2/5/2024 at 9:27:03 PM

I play basketball, but when I first started this helped me alot, now Imma good player and ik all the rules, tysm!


Bunny says:
2/5/2021 at 2:23:06 PM

i think this so helpful and good for me.


Divine Majaha says:
11/10/2020 at 7:14:40 AM

this is all i have been looking for, for quite sometime


rico suave says:
5/12/2020 at 3:47:50 AM



Jen says:
12/12/2017 at 10:28:49 PM

Is it considered excessive force (charge) when the offensive player is driving to the basket, and they drive their knees into the defenders abdomen during a layup?


clinton brown says:
10/5/2017 at 10:14:23 AM

what effect does flexibility have on a lay up


Coach Carter says:
3/14/2016 at 2:18:40 PM

I call it Progressive approach - I''m not alone in using that term. I also have a book in progress called - Break It Down - which focuses on progressive style coaching for youth basketball.
Cheers - MCarter


Kevin Smith says:
8/11/2015 at 12:03:49 PM

I coach 2nd and 4th graders. For the 2nd graders, it is their first year playing organized ball. The 4th graders have already played 2 years of AAU. In drills, how much should I stress proper form on left hand layups? (they are all right handed) Should I have them jump off their right foot? Should I have them actually shoot it left handed? The 2nd graders can barely shoot it right handed.

  1 reply  

Jeff says:
8/11/2015 at 1:47:40 PM

In second grade I just has them do various things to develop strength and coordination in their left hand. Just a few minutes a day goes a long ways. We did left hand dribble, push passes, and form shooting. In most cases the form shooting was away from the basket because they just can't make those shots. So we'd just try to shoot and hit a spot on the floor or the wall. With out 5th graders we still do left hand form shooting but now we're at the basket and do left hand lay ups. I started left hand lay ups in 3rd grade but it depends on your group. To start, just have them close to the basket, right foot ahead, drive your left knee to your nose and shoot with your left. Remove the dribble and the steps to simplify things.


Guinness Rider says:
12/29/2014 at 11:36:03 PM

I love this progression. Even my 7 year olds get it.

Tweaked the wording a bit, like a lot of others. We use "Out-In-Up" when we have kids who have some sort of shooting form. They start with the ''out'' foot, then the ''in'' foot, and ''up'' they go. I am over-simplifying, but it helps the kids not to worry about left and right - it doesn''t matter which side of the basket they are on.


simone says:
10/31/2014 at 9:57:54 PM

i am a rookie player if you can teach its good


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