Coaching Aids in Basketball From Barry Hecker, former Memphis Grizzlies assistant coach

Coaching for the last 50 years I have seen many different coaching aids — weighted balls, oversized balls, machines that measure arc, smaller rims, rebound rims, dribbling gloves, dribbling glasses, hand placement balls, shooting straps, to name a few. Some have merit and some go to the trash pile. 

They say that necessity is the mother of invention.

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Photo: NBA.com

Adrian Dantley, Hall of Fame small forward and two-time NBA scoring leader, averaged 30 points per game and was one of the greatest players to play for Hall of Fame coach Morgan Wootten, from DeMatha (MD) High School. Dantley was at the shooting-offensive skill camps for college players I organized in the 90s in Las Vegas, Nevada. We limited the camp to 36 players so they could get lots of reps and coaching on the basic fundamentals like basketball footwork, passing, dribbling, layups, the Mikan Drill or hook shot drill, and, the most important, skill shooting.

Shane Battier, an All-American at Duke University, warmed up with forward and reverse Mikans before every practice when we were with the Memphis Grizzlies. Using your off-hand around the basket is imperative to success in basketball. In today’s game, 85 percent of the players go to their strong hand and don’t finish plays with their weak hand. Lebron James, for example, finishes a lot of plays with his left hand.

Coaching tidbit: many teams start most offenses and drills from the right side. We would start from the left so players developed their off-hand moves.       

We taught the fundamentals of shooting starting from the ground up with jump stops, forward and reverse pivots with both feet, how to get open, using screens, and reading the defender.

In the post, we were coaching on catching the ball, reading the defender, and keeping the ball off the floor until attacking the defender. Dantley mastered the use of his off-hand with a roll hook that enabled him to score over taller defenders or got fouled.

Our philosophy was to improve their skills and develop a well-rounded basketball player.

Digressing today, players and parents are hung up on specific positions. We had the forwards do the guard drills and the guards do the forward drills. It also taught the players about issues they each face in a game and a better understanding of how to play and execute the game.

Micheal Jordan, Kobe Bryant, Magic Johnson, LeBron James, Kevin Durrant, and Larry Bird all had the skills to play out on the floor, mid-range, or post their man up. They had the skills and mentality to play anywhere on offense.

Participating in that Las Vegas camp was Tim Thomas, a 6’10” forward from Villanova University. He is a very talented player who had a distinguished career in the NBA. However, he shot the ball very flat, with little to no arc. I explained to him that studies showed if you shoot with a 45-degree angle that will give you the highest percentage of making a basket. We worked on lifting his elbow higher to get more arch on the ball but he went back to his flat shot.

Successful coaches are good teachers and they figure out a way to improve their players’ skills and improving their skills which leads to success, confidence, and self-esteem. The next day I placed a chair 8 feet directly in front of the basket and had Tim stand in front of the chair. I got on the chair and held a hula hoop over his head. INSTANTLY he shot the ball over the front of the hoop with arc and swished the shot.

coachingReturning home, I started making a free-standing hoop that was adjustable from 5’6” to a 7’2” player and I named it “Get it Up Shooting Hoop.” If you go to a gym and listen to the coaches, you hear them instructing players all the time to get there shot up. I have used the hoop a lot over the years and what I really like about it is you can coach the player on shooting while emphasizing the fundamentals as they shoot. Proper stance, fingertips on the seams, shooting arm close to body, extension and follow-through, eyes on target — we could do it all. I was in charge of coaching college players at the Adidas Superstar Camp and Pete Newell, Hall of Fame coach thought it was a great teaching tool for shooting.

“Finish the play” is another statement you hear all the time in a high school, college, or NBA game. I think it’s really important to work on footwork and balance on layups and shots around the basket. A proper jump stop enables the player to lower the center of gravity and provide power and balance to finish the play. I teach hand-to-ball and really emphasize a power jump stop off of two feet versus one. With two feet you’re under control, can take a hit, and still finish the play or ball fake and draw a foul. With a one-foot take-off, if you drop your head, the ball results short, and there is no protection when you’re in the air. When I was an assistant coach with the Memphis Grizzlies, we used a layup drill called the Daily Dozen. We divided the team into two lines at half court and shot layups at different angles on the half-court.

As the players approached the basket I would hit them with a swimming noodle — it creates contact but doesn’t hurt them. You can slap at the ball or lift it up so it simulates a player and force you to shoot the ball over an outstretched hand, or just slap at them. 

I have always stressed using the weak hand. It’s imperative for players to improve so they can dribble, pass, and shoot around the basket with their off-hand. When I work with a player, guard or forward, if he misses a shot they must get the rebound and finish the shot with their off-hand to develop the skill.

In conclusion, I think the Get It Up Hoop hula hoop, and the noodle can definitely improve your player’s ability to score. Hopefully, we are going to have a basketball season this year, and everyone will be healthy. Any questions I can be reached at [email protected].

Check out the hoop here.





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