How To Get Better At Basketball

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Let me save you some time and just sum up exactly how to get better at basketball in one word…

arrow get better basketball


I often get the same questions from players (which is fine) where they ask,

"I'm really struggling with my shooting, how can I get a better shot?"

I wish I had some magical answer, but the truth is that it takes many repetitions, consistently, over a long period of time to show improvement.

But this article wouldn't be very helpful at all if it just ended right here.

So I'm going to go ahead and explain how to get better at basketball in a very detailed way that breaks down the game and guides you in the right direction.

Ready?...Lets-a-go (Mario voice)

1. Improve Your Basketball Skills

Your skill set is the most important aspect of your overall game.

This refers to being able to dribble, shoot, pass, make layups as well as a few other things.

ball handling drills

Basketball requires a high level of coordination.  In my opinion the best athletes in the world are basketball players.  In basketball you have to play offense and defense.  You have to be able to be strong and fast.  You need to play in the air as well as very low to the ground.  It requires alot of athleticism.

The good news for you and me is that the you can make up for your lack of athleticism with a good skill set.

Offensively, there are three main things you should spend the majority of your on-court training time to:

  • Ball Handling

  • Shooting

  • Finishing

The fundamentals of all those things must first be drilled over and over again and eventually mastered as those are going to be the foundation of you're entire game.

Once you have mastered those fundamentals it's time to start adding new, more challenging ways to use those fundamentals to gain an advantage over the defense.

But please don't mistake the fact that you ALWAYS need to be working on your fundamentals no matter what level you play at - even if you're in the NBA.

Remember, ELITE players are ELITE because their basic fundamentals are at an ELITE level.

And although you see Kyrie Irving make some complicated and spectacular play once a game, remember that 99% of the time he's making the fundamental, simple play.

Ok, lets talk a little bit more on how to get better at basketball on a skill basis.

How To Get Better Ball Handling

To be a good ball handler you have to be able to:

  • Dribble the basketball comfortably low: Anytime you're working on your ball handling emphasize a low dribble.  In time you will start to feel more comfortable.
  • Complete change-of-speed-change-of-direction moves: In my opinion the best kind of ball handling drills are ones where you are actually completing dribble moves, in a game situation, at a high rate.
  • Dribble the basketball quickly and precisely: In all ball handling drills you should be pounding the ball on each dribble.  This will in turn strengthen your dribble and give you the ability to dribble faster.

So there are different ball handling drills that you can use to achieve these things and some are focused on one aspect, while others focus on all.

Here is how a normal ball handling workout should be designed:

  • Stationary drills

  • Full court drills

  • Hard change of direction drills

Here is one of my favorite stationary ball handling drills you can use:

How To Shoot Better

Shooting, just like ball handling, comes down to getting more and more reps in to show improvement.

You want to get game shots, from game spots, in game situations...Dang it, I messed up the rhyme :).

So what does that mean?

It means you should be shooting shots that you are going to get in the game...and you should be shooting alot of them.

Normally 200-300 shots in a workout is plenty.

Every shot should have proper footwork, minimal wasted movement, and should be shot quickly as if you were in a game.

Here is a good drill that mimics a game situation.

How To Improve Your Finishing

The best advice I can give you about finishing is: be able to finish with both hands.

Like I talked about earlier you need to be able to execute the fundamentals at an elite level before your start over complicating things.

And when it comes to finishing...layups are the most important fundamental.

Once you are ready to take the next step you can do what I like to call "Over-challenge Drills."

That is where you design a drill that takes a basic fundamental such as a layup and puts rules on you (dribble limits) or uses cones to create certain obstacle that make the finish more difficult.

Here is an example of an Over-Challenge Finishing Drill that uses dribble limits:

The next step after you can finish layups in a more difficult situation is to start working on other ways to finish.

In basketball there are many different ways you can finish inside.

Here are a few more advanced ways:

  • Floaters

  • Runners

  • Hook shots

  • Pro hops

  • Euro steps

  • Slam dunks

I have complete breakdowns on my Youtube channel of each of those different ways to finish so if you want more info on that head on over there.

So here's just a quick summary of how to improve your finishing:

  1.  Master layups and reverse layups with both hands.
  2. Improve upon your ability to finish layups using "Over-Challenge-Training."
  3. Work on finishing in different ways with different types of shots.

Now remember that these three things (ball handling, shooting, and finishing) don't make up your entire skill set.  Passing is also a HUGE part of your skill set, but in my opinion it is more important to work on your scoring ability due to the fact that if you're not a threat to score the ball on offense you're a huge liability for your team and those opportunities to make a good pass will be much less as you won't draw defenders to you to open up passing opportunities.

In summary if you can't score the basketball the defense won't respect you and it will allow other teams to help off you making it harder on your teammates.

And if you want to become a better scorer you must improve on all 3 of those things.

The Scoring Academy is my best training resource and it's designed to do just that.  We focus on THE BIG 3 (shooting, ball handling, finishing) so that you can improve your ability to put the ball in the basket.

Click the green button below to see what it's all about:


2. Improve Your Athleticism

I like to break down athleticism into three main categories.

  1. Speed/Agility/Quickness
  2. Jumping ability
  3. Strength

How To Get Quicker

Out of all three of those categories I feel that your SAQ (Speed, agility, & quickness) is the most important.

If you can start and stop better than your defender then you have the ability to get to wherever you want on the court (assuming your skill set matches your SAQ).

I think that this is one of the most under-trained things in the basketball world.

So here is a drill you can do that is very basketball specific to improve you SAQ:

How To Jump Higher

If you want to improve your jumping ability the first thing that I normally recommend to players is to simply jump more.

Just make sure that these are maximum jumps.  That meaning that you are jumping as high as possible each time (not jump roping).

Improving your jumping ability is all about improving the speed that your muscles can fire as well as the amount of mass they can move (strength).  I don't want to get too technical in this post because it's already getting long, but the formula I believe in is:

Quickness x Strength = Power

Quickness refers to how fast your muscles can fire, strength refers to how much weight you can lift, and power is the output of those two things, which in referring to jumping, is how high you jump.

So with this in mind, your vertical leap will increase if you increase your power.

To get your muscles to fire faster (increase the quickness element) you should focus on exercises such as plyometrics which train your fast twitch muscle fibers.

Plyometrics are done with body weight and most exercises are simply different forms of jumping.

Here is a complete plyometric workout:

To increase the strength element you need to get in the weight room and strength train using such exercises as squats, and dead lifts using high weight and low reps.  Remember to always use proper form when in the weight room.

To summarize: a good combination of plyometrics and strength training will help you increase your vertical leap.  If you are already very strong in the weight room, but can't jump high you should focus on improving your fast twitch muscles with plyos.  If you are already very quick but struggle to jump high you should focus on improving your strength more.

How To Get Stronger

Although I don't like to put a huge emphasize on upper body weight training, in today's game you have to lift weights.  This is especially true for post players.  There is a standard level of strength that all players need to achieve and once you have that base level of strength you need to start focusing on turning that "weight room" strength into more on court applicable (functional) strength.

Anytime you're strength training make sure to also focus on strengthening your core.  A strong upper body with a weak core creates all kinds of problems for an athlete.

3. Improve Your Basketball I.Q.

The best way to do this is to simply play basketball.  There are certain reads and reactions you must instinctively make as a player and they are developed playing 5 on 5.

basketball brain

If you play on a team then remember to always be coachable.

Especially if you start playing at a young age on organized teams.  By the time you are a senior in high school you will have had many different coaches and your job as a player is to try and soak up as much knowledge from each coach as possible to become the best player you can be...and that there truly, is the secret on how to get better at basketball.

Another thing you can do to improve your basketball I.Q. is to watch basketball.

I recommend watching college basketball over NBA basketball because it's more of a team game.

While watching ask yourself questions like:

  • Why did that player take that shot at that time?

  • Why did the coach call that timeout?

  • Why did that player make that foul?

  • Why did the point guard not take that shot?

Also, do a good job listening to what the commentators say.  You can pick up some great advice from some great basketball minds doing that.

Finally, watch your position.  If you are a power forward then watch how and what the power forwards are doing in the game and what their main jobs are.

Basketball I.Q. is something that takes years to improve but could be the ultimate factor in your success in this game.

How To Get Better At Basketball Conclusion

If you want to improve at this game there are many different things you can do.

The important thing is that you do them consistently over a long period of time (years).

Nothing that I stated in this article will help you by implementing every once and a while.  It takes hard work and dedication.

When it's all broken down these are the things you need to focus on:

  • Improve your skills: shooting, ball handling, finishing
  • Improve your athleticism: SAQ, Jumping, Strength
  • Improve your I.Q

If you have any more questions on how to get better at basketball please leave your questions in the comments below and if you're really serious about taking your game to the next level I highly recommend you enroll in The Scoring Academy at the link below...



  • Richard Chen

    Reply Reply January 19, 2015

    Hey Augie,
    I’m trying to improve my shooting form and I don’t want to start getting in a lot of reps because I want to focus on making every shot the same every time I shoot. Is there any way I can work on my form, but also get in the reps I need without messing it up? cause I know in order to be a good shooter you have to shoot a lot of shots each day.


  • Dominic Zhou

    Reply Reply January 21, 2015

    This is sooo helpful and Will definitely make someone better, thanks.

  • Lee Jie

    Reply Reply January 28, 2015

    Hi, can you give suggest some weight training exercise that you done before to increase your vertical leap. I am planning to combine plyometric and weight training. for the plyometric part I will follow the video you uploaded, and now i need some idea for the weight training part. Thanks

  • Chad

    Reply Reply April 9, 2015

    Hey, Augie just wanted to know if you have a basketball player diet regime for off season? Thanks

    • Augie Johnston

      Reply Reply April 14, 2015

      I don’t at this time. I can start doing some Youtube stuff though. Good idea.

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