Better Hands for the Big Man

Post Dunk - Blake

I’ve had Coaches tell me they just can’t play their tallest player because he can’t catch a ball.  I’ve had those kind of players myself in the past.  They have the size, they have the desire, they just can’t hang on to the basketball to save their lives.  Is it a “Hand Problem?”  A Vision Problem?”  “Or an Experience Problem?”  Before giving up on this taller player, a coach needs to find out what the real problem is and try to solve it.

Some Bigs can’t catch a ball because of vision problems.  The best way to find out if this is the problem is to have the player visit his doctor and see if his vision is good or not.  Maybe glasses or contacts will make all the difference and your Big will suddenly be functional.  Many young Bigs have “hand problems” because they haven’t spent much time catching balls in their lives.  Others have trouble due to a lack of confidence from not having much experience playing basketball.  These last two situations can be improved with specific coaching and a smart Coach needs to do just that.

So what are some specific drills you can do to help improve hand/eye coordination?  Besides the drills mentioned in an earlier blog post, (Let the Pigeons Come Home to Roost), you can also have your Bigs do these Specific Hand Development Drills to improve hand/eye coordination.

Drills for Better Hands:

  1.  Slam Hands – player takes a ball and slams it back and forth from one hand to another, making sure to catch only the pads of the fingers and not the palm of the hands.  (10 times, warmup drill.)

2.  Fingertip Pushups – up on fingers, do 10 pushups.  Strengthen the fingers and hands.  Can be done several times a day.  Encourage the player to do 10 before going to bed and when waking in the morning, plus, at the beginning of every practice.

3.  Weighted Ball Passing – using a weighted basketball, pass with another post and catch return passes cleanly on pads of fingers.  You can also Rip Rebounds and make outlet passes with this weighted ball too.

4.  Turn and Catch – put the player at the low block with his back to the coach/passer.  The Big should have his knees flexed, hands shoulder high, and ready to jump turn on command.  Coach says, “Go” and player jump turns and looks for the ball to catch and pull to chin area.  Vary the placement of the pass,  but never at the player’s face area.  If he misses it and gets it in the face, you might lose him for a long time.  As the passer, the Coach must experiment with when it’s the best time to throw the pass to challenge the receiver.  For me, it is usually 1 second after saying “Go.”  Start by giving the player extra time to get turned around and to locate the ball, but steadily shorten the reaction time.  The goal is for the player to learn to handle high or low passes without a drop.

5.  Rip and Score – to improve offensive rebounding and finishing, have you Big Man stand near the basket and throw a ball up on the glass.  He should then jump up as high as he can and rip the ball out of the air with two hands.  As soon as he hits the ground, he should take it back up strong and finish with a score.

Besides these five Special Hand Drills, players will also improve their hand/eye coordination with the entire team while doing full court, fast break drills and daily fundamental work.  Be sure Bigs are included in these and encouraged even if they are having trouble holding onto the ball.

A Major Help in Cutting Turnovers

Another concept I used with my players has to do with the placement of passes to the Bigs at the low post.  I taught them to fake a pass low and throw up high to tall players.  The idea was that it is much easier to catch a pass up around the eyes than low and toward the ground.  Taller players have trouble with low or bounce passes more than shorter players because their eyes are so much higher up.  I found that by eliminating bounce passes and low passes to the post, we had a lot fewer turnovers and much more success in attacking inside.  “Fake low and go high or don’t throw it inside,” was our rule.  Try it and see how it will cut your turnovers too.  It takes the pressure off the guards so they don’t try to “thread the needle” with their passes.  It takes the pressure off the posts because you can now train them to look for high passes and “go get them wherever they are.”

For more on Developing Big Men, check out my website: or purchase my book, Power Post Play


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