Basketball Shooting Drills For Youth Players

The 1984-85 World Championship Los Angeles Lakers had the highest team shooting percentage in NBA history. Their .545 shooting percentage was excellent. The Lakers beat the Celtics in the finals four games to two.

Looking closely at this team, one can see why they shot at such a high rate.

Kareen Abdul-Jabbar, Magic Johnson, Bob McAdoo and James Worthy all high percentage shooters were on this team. Abdul-Jabbar shot close to the basket and had a .599 shooting percentage. Magic Johnson shot all around the court but was a master leading the fast break which always ended on a high percentage shot. McAdoo was something of an anomaly shooting at a high percentage mostly from the outside. James Worthy shot close to the basket as did Kurt Rambis. Other known players on that team, Byron Scott, Mike McGee and Mitch Kupchak all shot over 50%. If one looks at shooting, it is quite amazing how low shooting percentages were until the mid 1960’s. Hall of Famer Bob Cousy only had a lifetime shooting percentage of .375. Even big man George Mikan shooting close to the basket shot .404. Compare this to big man Shaquille O’Neal who has a career .580 shooting percentage. As the skill level and athleticism of players improved in the 1960’s, so did the shooting percentages. Today a shooting percentage of over .500 is considered good (this does not include three point shots). Big men, centers and forwards usually have higher shooting percentages than guards. The obvious reason is the distance they take their shots from. A huge change in the NBA is the three-point shot. This has revolutionized professional basketball (thanks to the old ABA) and if a player shoots over .400 on these shots, this is considered good. A funny thing about shooting is that sometimes when a player gets hot, so does the rest of his teammates. Shooting can be contagious and confidence will transcend a whole team including the bench players. Players at all levels must find their comfort zone and practice, practice, practice.

On the youth level can a help coach increase individual and team shooting percentages? A combination of shooting with the correct form, stimulating drills and practice can yield positive results. Of course talent trumps everything but let’s looks at few shooting drills that will benefit both individuals and the team.

1) Three Man Shoot

Three players are involved in this drill: a shooter, a passer and a rebounder. The drill starts with the passer around the foul line, passing to the shooter in the corner, After he shoots, he runs over and touches the wall or bleachers and runs back to his spot for his next shot. While the shooter is doing this, the rebounder gets the ball and passes it to the passer. This continues either for a specified time period, or for the number of shots made. The players then rotate positions. This drill helps with shooting techniques and conditioning. It also keeps the shooter moving instead of standing still, simulating game conditions. Passing and rebounding techniques are also used. This drill is recommended for all ages.

2) Hot Spots

This is an excellent shooting drill that focuses on the three highest percentage shooting spots that occur in a game.   The players form three lines on three spots on the court: the foul line, the right corner and the left corner. It is important in this drill that the coach not arbitrarily pick any 3 spots on the court. Three basketballs are used. The first player in each line shoots, gets his rebound and passes to the next player in line. Coaches can make this drill a competition between lines, and should rotate the lines after a certain amount of time.  This drill is recommended for all ages.  For younger players the shooting distance can be moved closer to the basket. 

3)  Sprint, Pass, Shoot 

As players’ skills progress, more drills should simulate game conditions.  This multi-skill passing and shooting drill is one of the best.  The players start under the basket in one line. They sprint to a line near half court and come back for a pass, show a target, receive the ball, shoot, get the rebound and pass to the next player.  The rebounder then becomes the shooter.  Coaches can move the shooting spot to different areas on the court and can increase or decrease the number of shooting spots depending on the age or skill of the players. You can adjust the distance for the younger players. This drill is recommended for all ages.

4) Shot Fake

Another excellent shooting drill is called Shot Fake.  This can be done from any spot on the court. One player passes the ball to the shooter who gives a head fake, dribbles around the defender and shoots. A key point in this drill is that the shooter should show the ball so it freezes the defender for a moment. The shooter then gives a head fake and goes around the defender and shoots. It is important for the shooter to dribble off the defender’s hip and not go wide around him which would give the defender a chance to recover.  This is another multi-skill drill, combining defensive shot blocking fundamentals with offensive skills.  Adjust the distance from which the shot will be taken, depending on your players’ age.  This drill is recommended for ages 10 and up. 

These drills are no guarantee that a team’s shooting percentage will increase. And as youth coaches, it is still better to take a higher percentage shot closer to the basket than further away. Basketball is still one of the few sports that players can improve by putting in endless hours by themselves. One doesn’t have to have a shooting percentage like Wilt Chamberlain did in 1972-73 with an astounding .727 percentage.  A ball and a hoop is all one needs to get better. It is up to us coaches and parents to find and create shooting drills that will keep players on the court practicing.

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