Basic One-on-One Basketball Moves

Effective one-on-one offense can be the most exciting part of basketball, and it lets you apply your personal touch on the game. Believe it or not, developing your one-on-one game depends more on your mindset than your abilities.

Be an Offensive Threat

There are many keys to effective one-on-one basketball, but two fundamental steps must be taken if you want to regularly find the bottom of the twine.

Assume the Offensive Position

Being in offensive position means squaring up to face the basket as soon as you get the ball. Your feet should be shoulder-width apart, your knees should be slightly bent, and your shoulders should face the basket. Hold the ball on your dominant side (your right side if you’re right-handed). This position should become second-nature to you. If you’re a perimeter player, you should always avoid turning your back or side to the basket while you possess the ball.

Shoot or Drive, Right Now!

Being aggressive on offense opens up your one-on-one game. Defenders who know you can shoot will guard the shot, and defenders who know you can drive will guard against the drive. On the other hand, playing passively with the ball, even for a moment, tells the defensive man he can relax. That’s why you must always have an aggressive mindset when the ball’s in your hands. Be ready to shoot or drive every time you receive a pass.

Head to the Basket

There are two reasons to dribble: To get the ball closer to the basket, or to get to an area of the floor where you like to shoot. Aside from these two purposes, there’s no reason to dribble. The best offensive players penetrate to the basket or create an open shot every time they receive a pass.

When you dribble with a purpose, your defensive man will have to respect your ability to drive to the hole. Be aggressive and efficient with the ball and drive to the basket. Don’t over-dribble or wait around, though. Just go!

Dribble Penetration

Dribble penetration is the foundation of offensive basketball. If you can drive to the hole and create a basket, pass to a teammate, or draw a foul, you’ll open up the defense by forcing it to sag into the middle.

After establishing offensive position, effective penetration starts with a quick first step and a hard dribble. You must work on driving to either side of the hoop, whether it’s your dominant side or not. Developing your off-hand dribble penetration makes you a versatile threat going to the basket and prevents the defensive player from sliding over to guard your strong hand.

Your first step is the key to dribble penetration. A quick first step is necessary for driving the lane, and it should give you all the separation you’ll need from your defender. Follow these steps to become a more effective dribble penetrator:

  1. Give a head fake in the opposite direction to increase separation.
  2. Push off with your back foot and take a long first step toward the goal.
  3. Put the ball on the floor with a hard dribble before picking up your back foot.
  4. Put the dribble on your hip and keep your body between your man and the ball.

When you can quickly drive to the hole, your defensive man will back off a half-step and give you open shots. Be sure to receive the ball in areas of the court where you’re comfortable shooting. Read the defender and take what he gives you. If he’s playing a half-step back or has his eyes averted, rise up for a shot. If he’s playing aggressive man defense, take a quick first step and go.

Hot Tip: Balanced Attack

Dribble penetration is the key to opening up your jump shot, just as your jump shot is the key to opening up dribble penetration. This is the cornerstone of one-on-one basketball.

Jab Step and Pump Fake

Jab steps and pump fakes are the most important one-on-one fakes in the game. A quick jab step can shake your defender for just an instant, but that can be enough separation to drive to the basket or knock down a shot. The jab step should be short and return you to the threat position. After a quick jab step with your lead foot, pull it back and rise up for a jumper.

The shot fake depends on whether or not the defender respects your shot. After knocking down a few jumpers, fake a shot by going up with your hands, bringing the ball to forehead level. Glance at the basket to make it a genuine fake. A good one will draw your defender a half-step closer, giving you the space to drive around him.

The Crossover

The crossover dribble has become the most well-known dribble-separation move in the game, and many young perimeter players spend countless hours learning the technique. It’s a great way to create quick separation by lulling a defender into sliding one way before quickly stepping with a decisive dribble in the opposite direction. When practiced extensively against a defender, it can be a fundamental and effective way to create a shot or drive to the basket.

A crossover dribble starts with a solid fake to your dribble side (usually your dominant hand). The fake must be quick enough for the defender to respect. Here are some tips:

  1. Stay low and plant your dribble-side foot.
  2. Take a quick step with your opposite foot.
  3. At the same time, swing the ball quickly to your opposite side with a hard dribble.
  4. Push the ball past the defender’s hip to gain separation.

As a variation, practice the first dribble between your legs to keep it away from the defender.

Take your Game to the Next Level

In a typical basketball game, most defenders aren’t ready to guard a strong one-on-one move until they see it happen. The offensive player who’s aggressive with dribble penetration and in the threat position every time he catches the ball has a huge advantage. In fact, an aggressive, untalented offensive player poses a greater threat to the defense than a super-talented, but unaggressive, player.

It doesn’t take Olympic-level leaping ability or a lightning-quick first step to be a solid one-on-one player. Just remember the following steps and incorporate them into your game:

  • Be aggressive.
  • Work on individual one-on-one moves.
  • Get in the offensive threat position every time.

If you follow these steps, you can develop a highly-skilled offensive game in a short period of time.

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