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Skill Development Practice Concepts

Updated: Nov 22, 2021

We are going to try and incorporate Skill Development into every single practice plan we make. Here are some of the practice concepts that we commonly use.

In this post, we are taking a look at offensive Skill Development and how we incorporate it into our practices. I am looking at Skill Development as the fundamentals that are going to help us succeed in the offensive system we are running. These are not going to be things that change year to year because these fundamental skills; ball-handling, finishing, shooting, & decision making are going to be necessary regardless of what system you are running. Perhaps we may lean more heavily on one particular skill if it is weak or if it is a bigger component of your offensive system, but for the most part, these are universal fundamental skills.

I wanted to make a few points about practice planning before we dive into the practice concepts. My first point is that from a practice design standpoint, we want to incorporate Skill Development into every practice plan. If we get lost in the schematic part of coaching and ignore the Skill Development aspect, then we won't see the improvement that is necessary for us to succeed. My second point was that we have to make sure that our practice concepts are evolving over the course of the season. We need to add appropriate layers of decision-making and complexity to our practice concepts as we move through the season.

Here are some other Skill Development Posts to Check out:

Passing & Ball Handling -

Passing & Ball Handling are two of the core fundamentals that we are going to incorporate into our practices. The ability to handle the basketball without turning it over is essential for the guards in our program. Creating space and finding ways to attack the rim from neutral situations are things we must work on. Being able to pass the basketball on time and on target is a skill that is essential to nearly any offense. We are going to make sure that we find ways to incorporate that in practice one way or another.

Five Spot Passing -


The main concept is that you make an on-target pass and then rotate to the line that you passed to.

In the top-left diagram, you can see the rotation that a player would make from spot to spot.


Coaches can demand any pass that they want, but we typically require every pass to be an on-target chest pass, except the last one.

The last pass from 4-5 should be a timed bounce pass for a layup.

1/1 Sideline -


Players are paired up with someone of a similar skill set. We are generally going to get 5 lines across the court to maximize the number of players involved.


We have two basic goals with this concept:

  • Work on Dribble Attack Moves

  • Work on Creating Space

How it Works:

One each trip down the court we want to get players to work on 1) The Dribble Move, and 2) Creating Space.

As you can see in the left-hand diagram we would like the move to be made about a third of the way down the court, and then again about 2/3 of the way down the court. After the second move we are asking the offensive player to create space from his defender using a pull-back dribble.

  • Make Sure to change Off to Def at each end of the Court

Four Square -


Players are going to get in four lines facing the half-court circle. We want to keep the groups small and only have about 3-4 players in each line.


The goal of this practice concept is to work on our Dribble Stops.

  • Passing

  • Stride Stops

  • Pivoting

  • Escape Plans

How it Works:

We want all four lines attacking at the same time, using the center circle line as our stopping point. Essentially we are working on various aspects of our ball handling, Dribble Stops, and Escape Plans. On almost every aspect we are conducting our move and then passing to the next person in our line.

  • This is Mostly an Early Season Practice Concept

Finishing -

The most efficient shot in the game is a layup, but realistically very few layups come uncontested. So if we want to maximize our offensive efficiency we need to make finishing a high-priority skill in our practices. The options to work on finishing in practice are virtually endless, but there are few things that I think coaches should take into consideration when choosing which concept to employ.

  • Where do the majority of your scoring drives come from?

  • How can we add Guided or Live Defense?

  • What finishing techniques will we teach?

Check Out our Finishing School Deep Dive Page:

1/0 Finishing -


Ideally, we want to use as many baskets as possible to increase reps. In most cases, we are using the four side hoops in groups of three.

From a spacing perspective we are going to be attacking from the most common scoring areas :

  • The Slot

  • The Wing


This is probably a concept that we are using early in the season as we are teaching guys the technique of the finishes.

Our Goals are:

  • Perfect Technique

  • Then Apply Decision-Making

How it Works:

We are simply creating small groups (2-3 Players) and working on attacking the rim with the intent to finish in a certain way. Once a player finishes at the rim, he returns to the end of the line, and the next player attacks the rim.

1/1 Russian -


Players get in two lines, each one starting on the baseline, near the three-point line.

If coaches want to reduce lines I recommend splitting into two groups and then using an Assistant Coach at the other end of the court.


The goal is to work on finishing at the rim with some form of resistance by the defense. We are typically going to use two phases to the concept:

  • Guided - Prescribed Defensive Action

  • Live - Player Determined Defensive Reaction

How it Works:

Essentially the player with the basketball conducts a DHO with the other player who is circling the three-point line. Once the handoff is conducted, the player with the ball attacks the rim, and the other scrambles to defend the drive.

  • Once the shot is taken the next two players go.

2/2 Russian -


Here we are building off of the previous concept by preloading the help defense.

Again, we are getting into two lines with a pair of players designated as either our interior help or perimeter help.


We are trying to work on two concepts that are seen in nearly every offense:

  • The Drop Pass

  • The Quick Pitch

How it Works:

Just as in the above concept we are conducting our DHO and then attacking the rim. This time we have some quick decisions to make with our help defense.

  • Drop Pass - vs Center Help do we Finish to Drop it Down

  • Quick Pitch - vs Perimeter Help do we Finish or Kick Out

Shooting -

Like most teams, we are placing a priority on getting shots up in our practices. As a general rule of thumb, we are trying to make these shots as game-like as possible. By "game-like" we are talking about getting guys' shots in the most common locations, as well providing a passer/driver in each scenario. Incorporating some form of decision-making into these concepts is something that we need to keep in mind as we progress the season as well.

Chair Drill -


Essentially we want a line at the point with two basketballs with the first two players.

Then we want a shooter ready on the wing. Players will ultimately rotate from passer to shooter to the end of the line.

Ideally, we want the team split in half using both ends of the court.


We are working on the most common type of perimeter shot, the Quick Pitch. We are simulating a defensive player helping on the drive and us getting a kick-out shot.

How it Works:

We are basically working on the most common two-man drive and kick actions. There are essentially three shows we are taking on each side of the floor. The three shots are:

  • Slot Drive & Kick

  • Wing Drive & Kick

  • Baseline Drive & Kick

Form Shooting -

There are certainly detractors of Form Shooting, but as a High School Coach, I think this is something worth investing in. Most years we are getting players with seriously flawed shooting strokes, and because of this, it makes sense to spend time on the basics. When you add in the limitations on offseason coaching in Massachusetts it makes it a no-brainer to make form shooting part of your routine.

Form Shooting Concepts -

Straight Line Warm-Up:

Players spread out all over the gym and find a straight line somewhere on the court.

  • Work on Elbow In

  • Follow Through

  • One Motion Shot

Paint Build Up:

Players get into small groups of 2-3 players. The goal is to make 3 clean makes from each spot in the paint.

  • Take 1 Shot

  • Rotate Through

One Dribble Free Throws:

Players get in pairs and take turns taking free throw line shots. Players can not go through a routine, they can only take one dribble, get into their one motion shot & follow through.

  • Coaches Set a Number of Makes and Establish a Time Frame (2 Minutes)

Olympic Shooting -


We are going to split the team in half and then ask that they split themselves into two groups.

We are typically setting a timer for 30 seconds and charting how many makes each group makes.


The goal is to get the groups to challenge each other to make the most shots in a prescribed time.

How it Works:

The first player takes his shot, as soon as he does the second player with the basketball takes his. After rebounding the ball the player who had shot the ball passes to the only player without the ball. After passing the player should sprint to one of the four designated spots on the floor (we choose the slots and corners).

  • We Really Emphasize Perfect Passes

  • Encourage Players to Shorten Passes

  • The Players Count Out Made Shots

Closeout Shooting -

Goal & Organization:

We're trying to get a shooting drill that includes a defender contesting the shot.

We are going to create two lines, with a shooter & and a line of closeout players.

How it Works:

The Closeout Player starts with the ball, makes a pass out to the shooter, and then closes out on the ball.

The Shooter is preparing to shot and needs to be ready to catch and shoot off the pass. One element we will work on is using the shot fake and attack sequence against the closeout.

Once the passer contests the shot he now becomes the shooter, and a new closeout player prepares to enter the concept.

Decision Making -

In this day and age, it is essential to incorporate some form of decision-making into your practices. One concept I have become a big believer in is taking your main create actions and blending them into your small-sided games. This presents us with an opportunity to let players play freely while also letting us teach our system. Regardless of what system we are running this is a method that we can employ to strengthen our offense.

2/2 Down Screen -


We are encouraging players to pair up and face one another. Players of equal skill should face up against each other in the slot and on the wing.


The goal here would be to work on the Down Screen Reads in a Motion Offense.

How it Works:

The concept starts with the slot to slot pass and ends with the correct read by the cutter. Based on the defense's decision the cutter can make a number of choices.

  • Trail - Curl

  • Fight Through - Back Door

  • Get Caught - Straight Cut

  • Go Under - Back

3/3 Double Gaps -


We are setting this up as a 3/3 Cut Throat game. We will split the teams up into 3-4 teams of 3 players.


The goal is to work on the concept of creating gaps and then attacking them.

  • Pass & Cut

  • Dribble Attacks

How it Works:

Two teams play live until there is a score. The team that scores will stay on offense, and a new defense steps on the court.

The two most common offensive concepts we are working on are:

  1. Pass Down, Cut Away

  2. Slot to Slot Pass = 45 Cut

Each offensive possession will start with one of those two actions, and if no shot emerges players are simply hunting a shot with our drive & space principles.

3/3 Snapback - is the same concept, except we are working on passing the ball down vs a crowded lane.

Concluding Thoughts -

Perhaps no subject is covered more frequently than skill development, so I appreciate readers even entertaining the practice concepts I have presented. I am someone who believes that we need to gear our entire practice towards the kind of actions that will take place during the course of a game, so I hope that was reflected in the concepts that I presented. I really don't think we should overthink the skill development portion of practice and simple put our players in the positions that they will be presented with most often.

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