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January 14, 2013
By Troy Derengowski of Richmond High School


I have seen a lot of basketball this season and a lot of basketball without the proper fundamentals.  I don’t blame the coaches as much as I probably should but I can’t.  There is a good reason why.  There is so much more pressure to win these days that coaches’ have little time to practice the fundamentals.  Coaches are trying to squeeze everything they can into practice to get ready for the next opponent and that is leaving little time for the basics.  Two hours a day isn’t enough to get everything done.  Players are going to have to work more on their game outside their structured practices.  So with that in mind, I am going to talk about some of the fundamentals players should work on to make their game better and the coaches’ lives easier.  My first fundamental has to do with proper footwork.  This is especially big for female basketball players because this is where I see the most problems.

We know that quickness and balance are key fundamental skills in the game of basketball.  Balance is body control and readiness to make the necessary sudden movements.  If you don’t have the proper balance, you will never have the type of quickness necessary to play this game at a higher level.  It all starts with footwork.  The most important areas of offensive footwork are the proper stance, starts and stops, pivots and the change of pace and direction.

Your proper stance is the key to controlling the body.  You must be well balanced at all times.  This means getting low by bending the knees.  Your head must be positioned over the support base.  The knees are slightly bent with the back straight, arms and hands above the waist with your elbows flexed.  In this stance, your feet should be shoulder width apart and your weight evenly distributed on the balls of your feet.  A staggered stance allows a player to move quickly in any direction.  A parallel stance will allow and effective jump stop with or without the basketball.  Work on your stance to provide you the necessary balance to be a better player.

To be able to move with or without the basketball is essential to being a good offensive player.  Being able to start and stop are extremely important movements.  You must be able to shift your weight in the direction you intend to move and do it with quickness and balance.  You basically have two kinds of stops: the two-step and the jump stop.  How many times have you seen a player try a jump stop only to lose their balance?  Work on the two-step stop, going both directions.  Then try the jump stop without taking an extra step.  If done correctly, you won’t travel and will keep your balance.  Then you can use either foot as your pivot foot. 

One of the most important aspects of good footwork is pivoting.  I am talking about pivoting with and without the basketball.  When executed properly, a player’s weight is on the ball of the pivot foot, which is planted on the floor, and is the base for rotating up to 180 degrees, forward and backward.  Players need to work on the pivot every day in practice and especially work on the back pivot.  Stay low in your athletic stance and stay balanced with your head level.   Be strong on the pivot when you have the basketball in your possession.

Finally, changing of pace and direction.  If you plan on deceiving the defender, you must be able to change your pace and direction.  By changing your pace and direction, you make the defender work more to guard you.   When you change your pace the defender is kept guessing on what you are doing on offense.  Change your pace even when you don’t have the basketball.   Change in direction will be used in almost every basketball skill and is key to getting open for the basketball.   Make sharp cuts and use your screens effectively.   Make sure to maintain your balance and stay low when cutting and coming off screens.

These are just general fundamentals on footwork but they must be worked on during every practice if you are to be the best player you can be.

Next time we’ll discuss the very little used “triple threat”.

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