basketball training drillThink back to the first time you played organized basketball. You probably started with some dribbling, then some passing, and then if you were lucky somebody’s father decided it was time to teach everybody how to do a proper layup. That went something like this:

“Start at the 3-point line. Take as many dribbles as you need, and have your last dribble match with you stepping with your left foot. Take two more steps, one with your right, one with your left, and then jump off of your left foot. Use your right hand, or two hands if you need to. Try to hit the top right corner or the white box on the backboard.”

Good times, right? Well its time for your basketball training drills to get a little bit better. Its time to learn how to finish contested layups so that you can be relied on to be a primary scorer for your team.

Remember how when you were being taught how to play defense, your youth coaches used to tell you to stay between your man and the basket? Finishing through contact is not much different. The most important part of finishing contested shots is to keep your body between the ball and the defender. “Ball-You-Man” is what we’re going to call this. The days of simple one-foot, one-hand layups in your basketball training drills are over.

Lets examine “ball-you-man” for a moment. Literally it means keep your body between the ball and your defender, wherever that defender is coming from.

If you are challenging a shot blocker at the rim, this means turning your inside shoulder (and initiating contact so that you can get to the foul line for an extra point) while keeping the ball on your outside hip/shoulder slightly behind you. Jump off of two feet. This will allow you to jump into the defender, absorb contact, stay balanced, and then release the shot after the defender has no chance to block it. Grab a tall friend and have them stand just in front of the rim so that you can simulate this in your basketball training drills.

If the defender is trailing you, the most embarrassing thing that you can do is go up normal and have the defender pin your shot off of the backboard. The defender has an advantage since they can time their jump based on your steps, while you can’t see them and therefore can’t go through them or avoid them. Instead, you need to get crafty. Instead of taking normal steps, you can jump off the wrong foot, shoot with the wrong hand, take off from further than normal, or any other variety of finish that throws off the defenders timing. Just make sure that you keep the ball out in front of you and get it to the rim as quickly as possible. You don’t need a partner to simulate this in your basketball training drills, just experiment with finishes off of different feet/hands/angles coming from in front of the rim.

If the defender is coming from the outside, you need to get the ball to the inside, and do whatever you can to protect it with your outside shoulder. Keep it in tight to your body and grip it tight to protect against a defender trying to strip the ball from you instead of going for the block. If you can finish on the other side of the rim, even better, because the defender will get stuck trying to go through the net. To test this out in your basketball training drills, grab an athletic partner and have them vary going for the block and going for the strip.

If you can get creative and finish from different angles through/around defenders, you are sure to get more playing time and see your scoring average go through the roof!