Basketball Systems, Skills & Drills


Fast breaks
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Skills & Drills

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1 on 1


clear.gifFundamentals - Try-outs

Overview, Attitude, Size and Athleticism, Positional Skill Set, Competing, Drills, Resources


The try-out (or sort-out) process can be difficult and stressful, here are some suggestions to help in making the tough decisions (and see the three example try-outs).

A team usually has 12 players, you may want more if you expect high practice absenteeism (you need at least 10 players at practice), or to develop players for the future, but you will probably have to manage playing-time expectations. You need to fill all the positions on the floor, they could be interchangeable, or inside and outside positions, or specific positions such as point guard, shooting guard, small forward, power forward, and centre, with team balance.

Selection criteria should be attitude, size and athleticism, and positional skill set. Focus first on the automatic picks and non-picks, then spend the majority of your time on the players in the middle. Use an evaluation chart, it can show general selection criteria (Example 1), skill areas (Example 2). or skill areas and drills (Kris Treat chart, player-specific). Decide on a scoring system (e.g. 1 to 4) and how to weight the results by position for an overall score. With demanding parents and/or players, use quantitative testing (e.g., timed sprints and dribbling, speed layups, 10 free throws, three stations).

Use stations with many players and enough coaches (up to about 10 players per station). Players rotate, coaches stay at their stations. Skills and drills can be changed for a next session.

  1. Ladder - order the stations from top to bottom, do the same drill at each station (optionally add more progressions at the top station), after a few minutes each coach moves the strongest player(s) up (except at the top station) and the weakest player(s) down (except at the bottom station), continue and repeat, change drills. At the end of the session the strongest players should be in the top group. Coaches do not need to learn names or score players during the session. For a sort-out, use the resulting groups to create balanced teams (factor in size and athleticism). Camp Olympia uses a ladder approach to create unbalanced groups for skill sessions, and balanced teams for scrimmage.
  2. Skill stations - do a different skill at each station (e.g., shooting, defence, physical, 1 on 1, 3 on 3), players are in groups, rotate groups after 15-20 minutes, coaches score players in the group they just had.

Avoid posting a list of final selections, inform each player personally, and provide players who are cut with an evaluation of skills to be improved.

See Tryouts - Kris Treat, plus Mike MacKay - Choosing a team, and Breakthrough Basketball - Try-out drills (external link).up


Look for commitment, coachability, respect, leadership, maturity, competitiveness. These can be tested for or at least revealed during tryouts (Kris Treat has drills for leadership and hustle). Including plenty of hard work and defensive drills can show early warning signs of poor attitude or lack of coachability. Watch for good competitors.up

Size and Athleticism

Evaluate size and speed at a minimum, plus quickness/agility, vertical jump, and strength if time permits. Speed and agility courses can also be used to assess dribbling (and vice versa, see Speed race, Team chase).

See NBA Combine Test, Physical testing, Kris Treat - Physical evaluation, Three stations.up

Positional Skill Set

See the Coaches Handbook and Skills Checklists. Evaluate fundamental skills of dribbling, passing, and shooting, including layups. Two-line layups can also be used for shooting off a pass (give and go) and off the dribble. Keep score to make it competitive, individual (e.g. 50, Alternates, Florida) or group (e.g. team shooting, which can be used for layups, spot shooting, triple threat, and pull-ups), look for footwork. Other good multi-skill drills include Cross the lane, Tom Crean fill cut, Hurley fullcourt, 5ball, Lokar transition, DeMatha 4-corner jumpers, DeMatha transition shooting, and Beat the closeout, which can be used for closeouts, triple-threat, step-up shooting, pull-ups, and 1-on-1.

Defence can assessed in 1 on 1, small-sided play, and scrimmage, but defensive drills such as slides and close-outs reveal skills plus attitude.up


For some coaches, a try-out doesn't really get going until players start competing, e.g. 1-on-1 up to 5-on-5, often halfcourt then fullcourt, including transition drills. While athleticism and skills matter, it also comes down to who can play basketball. In 5 on 5, consider using rules, e.g., no dribbling, no shot until a paint touch, etc. (see Mike MacKay, also 5 on 5 transition).up


The following drills can be used to assess key skill areas and competing, generally they are simple (no long explanations), and coaches are not passers, so they can focus on observing. For other options see Go-To Drills, and Favourite Drills for Kids (with younger players). Also see the example try-outs.

Tryouts - Examples
Tryouts - Kris Treat
Tryouts - Physical testing, NBA Combine
Mike MacKay - Choosing a team, Offensive skill tests
Hoop Tactics - Try-outs, Player Evaluations & Squad Selection
Breakthrough Basketball - Try-out drills
Evaluation charts (.xls)
General selection criteria
Skill areas
Player-specific - Skill areas and drills, Hoop Tactics, Performance evaluationup

2007-20 Eric Johannsen coacheric53@gmail.com