A Commonly Misunderstood, Yet Important Ball Handling Rule

In the video below, Breakthrough Elite Guard Camp instructor Matt Keeley takes you through a commonly misunderstood rule by players.

As Matt said, you actually have approximately 12 seconds to hold on to the ball when closely guarded... not 5 seconds.

You have 4 seconds when you first catch the ball.

You have 4 seconds when you start to dribble.

You have 4 seconds after you pick up your dribble.

If you're serious about becoming a better guard, check out the Elite Guard camp schedule.

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


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Sue Negrillo says:
2/13/2015 at 4:25:09 PM

You don't have enough camps in Cali. Only one shooting. I want the Grard camp. Please consider more in so cal area.

  1 reply  

Joe Haefner says:
2/14/2015 at 10:44:44 AM

We appreciate the feedback, Sue! We will certainly look into it for next year's planning.


John Echols says:
2/13/2015 at 1:38:41 PM

As a referee, this is a great point! I am very cognizant of this on the court. Many coaches and fans and referees don't know this or see it. Great rules tip!


Bryan says:
2/12/2015 at 3:31:42 PM

I like the idea to give kids more confidence, poise, etc., however, we are assuming that in the middle of all of the 4 seconds that we dis-engage the defender and the official starts a new count. I think it should be more of a focus on how (and maybe when) to dis-engage the defender. Just a thought.


shoe says:
2/12/2015 at 1:43:46 PM

I'm still unsure on the dribbling timelimit but would like to understand this one. when you say closely guarded do you mean your dribbling but not moving your feet at all. probably rarely happens, and that's why people are not aware of it.

  1 reply  

Ken says:
2/16/2015 at 7:32:34 PM

Shoe - to be closely guarded the defender must be within 6 feet - this is the radius of the circle at centre court.


Aaron says:
2/12/2015 at 12:24:02 PM

Can someone clarify the dribbling for 4 seconds for me? Can't you dribble as long as you want?

  2 replies  

Joe Haefner says:
2/12/2015 at 12:29:59 PM

Aaron, you can dribble as long as you want when you are NOT closely guarded.

However, if you are closely guarded by a defender, on the 5th second, it's a violation.

I updated the article above to clarify.

NBA does not have this rule.

  1 reply  

PlaymakerMo says:
2/12/2015 at 7:18:05 PM

FIBA also doesn't have this rule, only the other two.

I'd imagine that this rule would be best-suited for younger players learning to make quick decisions and moves, but it's not a simple concept for them to grasp or for referees to enforce.

It shouldn't be difficult for coaches to teach over time, but I suspect (living in Australia, I wouldn't know for certain) that they struggle with teaching the concept effectively beyond calling out from the sidelines: "PASS THE BALL".


Eric says:
2/12/2015 at 8:49:06 PM

Aaron, the reason they can dribble for 4 seconds means that they are being closely guarded and must either pass, shoot or pick up their dribble and get the next 4 seconds counted before it is considered a violation.


Coach Bob says:
2/12/2015 at 10:10:18 AM

Excellent teaching point to get your players to stay poised..


Coach Matt says:
2/12/2015 at 8:26:35 AM

Great to teach the kids that. Who is going to teach the referrees?


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