The most important part of learning how to play the game is learning the proper basketball fundamentals. What is a fundamental? They are the basic skills. There are team fundamentals and individual fundamentals. There are offensive fundamentals and there are defensive fundamentals.

In my career as a player all of my coaches, and I had many great ones, all stressed the basics. Today we will focus on the basic basketball fundamentals. If you cannot pass, shoot or dribble with consistency then you are not an asset to your team.

As a coach, no matter what level I coached at I always preached sticking to those tried and true basketball fundamentals. You hear the street ballers of today complaining that the “old school”, traditionalist coaches are holding them back because they won’t let them play with flair.

I feel there is an important distinction to be made about this. If you look at the best street ball players they all have very good fundamentals. They can pass, shoot, dribble, etc. What the “old school” coaches frown upon is when the fancy stuff gets in the way of making the simple play.

If a player wants to be creative and fancy that’s great but you better not be making all kinds of mistakes doing it. Make the easy play and be creative when you can. Basketball needs more creative players anyway.

When I was working in Australia with American born (but living in Australia for over 25 years) Brian Goorjian, the all time wins leader in the NBL and perhaps the greatest coach of all time in the Land of Oz, I asked him one day what he thought were the most important skills to teach young players.

His answer was “the basketball fundamentals of passing and catching, shooting and dribbling”. I never forgot that. A lot of coaches teach passing but don’t spend enough time on catching the ball and I think that is a huge mistake.

Obviously players like to work on shooting but do they really know how to practice it properly by themselves? I once watched a Bobby Knight clinic and he said he refused to let his players just free shoot or shoot around on their own before practice.

Why? Because kids develop too many bad habits this way. They do not work at game speed and they do not simulate game conditions. Players need to go hard when they are shooting so a good saying to remember is “game shots, from game spots, at game speed.”

Shooting Fundamentals-Swish

Ball handling and dribbling also require a lot of practice. What’s great about hoops is that you can work on these skills just about anywhere. All you need is a ball and a hard surface and you don’t even need that for most ball handling drills. One thing to try to do is spend at least 5-10 minutes every day practicing ball handling.

You can spend another 15 minutes or so dribbling. What do you do? There are a million drills and no real secrets. The drills made popular by Pete Maravich are super and most kids have probably seen these or a variation of these. Again, the key is to do them at game speed, go hard, keep your head up and get a feel for the ball. Take action and do the drills. Make it fun.

A lot of players today spend too much time on lifting weights, agility drills, plyometrics, etc. and not enough on thebasketball fundamentals. Yes these areas are important but not to the detriment of skill development. Spend more time on developing your individual fundamentals.

Work on your defensive footwork for example. How many players would actually go out on their own and work on this? Do it. Practice your passing and catching with a friend. There are so many poor passers out there and coaches are always looking for good passers who can make good decisions. Maybe this one area might be the difference between you making the squad or not. Do it!

The other thing to do is to play. Be a gym rat and compete against as many players who are better than you. There are countless examples of this and it benefits thousands if not hundreds of thousands of players every year. There is no substitute.

While you’re playing in these games pick one basketball fundamental that you are going to focus on in that game and work on improving it. Play indoors, play at the park, play wherever you can with the best competition possible.

Lastly and probably most importantly is to have a good time. Basketball is meant to be fun and when played properly it is. I cannot tell you how much fun I have had in my lifetime playing not only basketball but many other sports as well.

When you are playing hard or even just goofing around, basketball is a great workout and you’ll meet some great friends that you’ll have for life. That is a guarantee.

Hopefully you have gained some insight into basketball fundamentals and you are now ready to get out there with your new found skills and take on the World. Keep Hoopin’ and remember,

Hoop Hype is Contagious-Don’t Forget Your Shot!

More Basketball Fundamentals


Coach Bret Tovani

Head Coach of the San Rafael High School Bulldogs in San Rafael, California, with 33 years of experience on the court and in the classroom. Bret is now the Head Coach of the Dominican University Penguins in San Rafael.

While at the high school level his teams consistently finished at the top defensively allowing the fewest points per game. In his one year as assistant at Dominican University, not only did the school win the Championship but they finished number two in the nation in points allowed.

Coach Tovani believes in the oft used phrase “Defense wins Championships”. His teams earned the respect of their opponents as a result of their hard nosed approach especially at the defensive end. In this basketball article on basketball fundamentals, Bret discusses “Defending the Middle Third: An Approach to Defensive Basketball”.