When practicing dribbling it is easy to get caught up in the actual drills themselves instead of the focus of why you are doing them. Purposeful training is the key to being successful in all aspects of the game. These 5 quick tips are something you can keep in mind when practicing to instantly bring improvement to your handles.
1. Dribble with strength
The more time you practice having the ball in your hand, the more control you are going to have of the ball. The stronger you pound your dribble, the quicker it gets back in your hand. In practice you have an opportunity to be able to lose the ball without any consequences - this is the perfect time to practice pounding the ball. When going to the extreme of dribbling with a lot of strength it will make dribbling in an actual game significantly easier.
2. Stay low to the ground
Players are already commonly told to stay low when practicing layups, rebounding, and other aspects of the game, this also stands true to dribbling. Forcing yourself to be low in practice allows you for greater explosiveness, ball protection, and opens up a variety of quick moves when you are in a game. Dribble with your knee's bent, chest straight, and head up/eyes fixed straight ahead of you off the ball so you cannot see it.
3. Shield the ball with your body
The greatest way to combat good defenders and prevent steals is to use your body as a shield in between the ball and your defender. The best players understand how to smartly do this to get prying defenders off them.
When practicing dribble moves, focus on retreating with your body shielding off the ball and also using your off hand to get separation from a reaching defender.
Utilizing your off hand when attempting moves or drives is key to getting the advantage while getting past a defender. Remember that referee's are always watching for shoves with the off arm so be careful that you are not over exaggerating it.
4. Master footwork for dribble moves
Without polished footwork, fancy dribbling moves can only do so much. Having quick feet helps get by any defender even off of basic moves. While practicing dribbling, use your feet as a springboard to simulate blowing by defenders. Great footwork also can be build a very deceptive dribbler. Be mindful of learning unorthodox/uncommon footwork and changes of pace to confuse defenders and make your moves infinitely more effective.
5. Mindfully experiment
Most importantly, be creative! Practice is a great time to try new things and break habits you already have. What makes a player hard to guard is unpredictable handles - a player that can go any direction and adapt on demand. Basketball is a reactive game and requires a number of quick decisions and counter-moves to be able to score.
Try mixing pieces from different moves and experimenting with new combos that you could use to catch a defender off guard. If you are always practicing the same old moves without any variation you are going to be caught off guard in game when your defender takes those moves away, practice creatively so you are always in control in game!