During my many years as a college coach, high school coach, and Big Man Trainer, I have worked with all kinds of taller players. Some thin, some thick, some very tough, and many not so tough. In several cases, those “not so tough” had a hard time making shots in the highly congested and physically challenging area around the basket. To overcome this problem, I had to come up with some drills that would toughen them up and build confidence at the same time.
Having a small time-block to work with the Bigs every day is a key to making better and tougher inside players. I usually had a 10-15 minute block in every practice to accomplish these goals, while an assistant worked with the perimeter players at the other end of the court. Besides the normal footwork drills, post moves, and offensive breakdowns, I also included at least one toughness drill in every practice to help with finishing around the basket. Rotating drills throughout the week challenged players and also kept them motivated. There is no doubt in my mind that these drills helped my teams have effective inside attacks. Give the following drills a try and see what they can do for your team.
Inside Toughness Drills
- Push the Rebounder Drill – First, we work on proper rebounding form. Then a defender is added and his job is to put a hand or two on the rebounder’s back so he feels some contact as he rebounds the ball. Only a slight “push” is used. The rebounder than pivots and makes a crisp outlet pass to a coach or another player. We also do this as an Offensive Rebounding Drill with put-backs. A football blocking pad instead of a hand push can be added to make this a more advanced contact experience.
2. Lean On or Pad the Post Move Drill – To simulate the contact at the low post, we lean on the offensive player or use the pad on him as he goes through his Post Move Series. In the beginning, start with just a light push or padding, but increase the contact as the player becomes stronger and more confident.
3. One/Two Pump Fake Drill – A player’s best friend under the basket is a pump fake. First, teach a good fake – eyes to the rim, ball lifted to slightly above the forehead, knees bent and butt low, then take it to the rim after the defender leaves his feet. Next, use the One/Two Pump Fake Drill to simulate a real game situation. An offensive player and defender are involved. The ball is tossed up on the backboard and ripped down by the offensive player. Then he pump fakes the defender. If the defender jumps, the offensive player scores. If he doesn’t, the offensive man should pump fake again and then score. The defender must jump on either the first or second pump fake. The offensive man doesn’t know which the defender will choose so he must read the situation and react appropriately. Besides teaching the offensive man to read the jump of the defender, this drills teaches players that a second pump fake can be very effective too.
4. Block Shot Post Moves / Offensive Rebounds – As the players get tougher and have learned to handle more contact with confidence, add this part to both the Rebounding and Post Move Drills above. It is a 1 on 1 drill where the defender can push a little or lean on the offensive man and he can also try to block any shot attempts. The offensive player is expected to wisely use his pump fakes and his toughness in finishing. The defender is trying hard to block the shot, but he is instructed to NOT FOUL in his attempts. This helps the offense but also helps to discipline the defense into avoiding fouls.
5. War – A favorite drill of mine since my early days of coaching. I credit George Raveling for showing me this one. Three players are stationed in the key area. The coach has the ball and tosses it up onto the rim area. All three players get after it as they would in a game. The player that comes up with the ball should take it to the rim, wisely using a fake when he feels it is needed. The two players who do not rebound the ball become defenders. Their rule is to double the ball with both hands straight up and high. They are told not to foul the shooter. If a shot is missed, whoever gets the rebound can take it back up and score. Again, the other two players must double and not foul. If a player fouls, he sits out the next play and it becomes 1 on 1. When a shot is made, the drill starts over and one player has scored a point. You play to 3 points and the losers can have some simple penalty like an “up and back” on the court.
A constant application and rotation of these drills will make your players more comfortable and confident in the low post area. Pick one or two of these drills to do every practice. Remember, if you do something everyday, you eventually get better at it. Work on toughness daily and soon your Bigs will be finishing around the basket with confidence and efficiency.
A Final Suggestion
Clean Up the Mess is a rule I had on all drills involving no defense. If you miss a shot, someone needs to follow up and make a shot whether it’s 5 on 0 or 3 on 0. Even when a Big is involved in a drill by himself, he always “cleans up his own mess” too. I would say, “Don’t hang your head after a miss; just go get it and put it in the basket.” I like relentless players. If a shooter misses around the basket, he should go get the rebound and score on a second chance.