Ball Handling Drills: How to Manipulate the Basketball

by Jefferson Mason, on Mar 9, 2018 4:12:36 PM

jefferson ball handling.jpg

Every competitive basketball player dreams of playing at the highest level and on a NBA or WNBA floor. The dream is what drives players and the desire to become legendary can help motivate them. Along the journey there are many steps and goals that need to be accomplished at many levels for players and coaches. Every player starts at the beginning and their desire to learn and work harder then the rest will determine how far they go.

To become a great basketball player at any level, several skills need to be mastered. One of the most important skills is ball-handling. Players often ask me how they can become a great ball-handler like Kyrie Irving. This can lead players to try new basketball moves and push themselves to the limit with unique ball-handling moves. However, sometimes this process can limit players because there is a teaching point and lack of knowledge skills wise. Trying new ball-handling moves is great, but understanding how to use them and why to use them is even more important.

Of course the only way to get better is by putting in the work, but sometimes it's important to walk before you run. As I always say, you must also train smart and train with a purpose.

Below I'll go over 3 different ways to manipulate the basketball and why it's important to learn these skills!


One of the most important skills a player can learn is how to control the basketball with their hands. Now I understand everyone doesn't have huge hands like Kawhi Leonard or Michael Jordan, but every player can learn how to control their hand on the ball. Hand control can mean palming the basketball, hand placement on the ball, dribbling with fingertips, and also palms in the right situations. When you have great hand control this allows you to manipulate the basketball in tight areas and also be more fluid with the ball. Players like Kyrie Irving and James Harden have very good hand control over the basketball which allows them to handle the ball in many different situations.

If you find yourself dribbling only with your fingertips on top of the basketball, you must look to diversify your ball handling skill set. Very rarely in the game will you have the space, angles, and opportunity to dribble the basketball with your fingertips. Allowing the basketball to slide across your palms and fingertips before regaining grip to change direction is key to becoming an excellent ball-handler. It takes a ton of practice and patience but get into the gym and work on these skills daily to achieve your goals.


Ball hesitation and wrist/shoulder give action is another key ingredient to becoming a better ball-handler and also being able to manipulate the basketball. Ball hesitation is different then body hesitation and is ultimately very similar to carrying the basketball. The difference is carrying the basketball includes getting your dribbling hand under the basketball and lifting upwards to change directions. Referees will call this most of the time in games and this is definitely a habit you want to avoid.

Ball hesitation is the time between dribbling the basketball and allowing the body to catch up. It may sound funny but if you watch the best ball-handlers dribble, you can see every subtle hesitation going laterally or forward including the player pushing the ball out and chasing it. When the player catches up to the ball you'll notice a "give" in the wrist, elbow and shoulder which almost acts like a spring or trampoline. This gives the basketball the opportunity to stay in a float stage before exploding in another direction. When you maximize your hand control, it will allow you to make these changes more dramatically and deceptively. In turn, this will allow you to make quick decisions based on what your defender is doing. For younger players this can be difficult, but with practice and development over time it can be achieved. 


The ability to dribble the basketball at the lowest and highest point is another skill needed to properly manipulate the basketball. Now, this is not simply working on your below the knee and above the knee dribble. This is every single level from your waist down. Also adding in a rhythm to the high low and distance is key when working on this skill. The high low dribble will also allow the offensive player to get the ball under and over defender's hands when making a move.

The game of basketball is almost like your favorite song. When you feel the beat and catch the rhythm, the game becomes so much easier. Everything is about timing and flow with basketball and ball-handling is a huge piece of that. When you're dribbling the basketball make sure to find your rhythm and flow and be comfortable with it in your hands. This will help you become a masterful ball-handler and also have success on the court!


Did you know that you can utilize Dr. Dish machines for ball handling as well?

First, with Skill Builder, you can choose or create complete workouts with multiple drills included. We have many expert ball handling drills from trainers like Drew Hanlen in our Training Management System for you to use. Check out this example from Drew here.

Also, for more advanced ball handling drills you can swivel the net on our Dr. Dish All-Star. Check out this great example of triple move ball handling from our partner Jordan Lawley. 

Coaches: make sure to subscribe to our YouTube channel for more great content or check out this page for more basketball drills. Remember, it's never to late to learn and retool! And lastly, make sure to always train hard, train smart, and train with a purpose!

Topics:Ball handlingBasketball CoachingDr. DishBasketball Shooting Machinebasketball drills


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