Do you understand the difference between ball-handling and passing abilities? Good ball-handling teams, including passing, are hard to beat; therefore, no coach should ever slight this aspect of the game. Use specific drills to emphasize this important fundamental.
Most coaches in the past looked for ball-handing ability in picking their players. The only other fundamental than ran a close second was shooting ability. The true test of any basketball offense is the ability to control the ball while looking for that high-percentage shot. Generally this is close-in to the basket; however, with the advent of the three-point shot, things have changed a bit. More and more, we see teams living and dying with the three-pointer. Still, the team possessing the best ball-handling ability will be the most successful team. The single tool primarily responsible for this type of game is passing and ball handling.
Catching the basketball is the first step in ball-handling. Every player should be taught how to catch the ball. Every player, even though he has more natural ability than others, will improve with drills stressing good form. It's interesting to notice how the youngest child improves in catching a ball after being coached a little in the correct form.
Teach them to keep their eye on the ball, watching the ball into their hands. Oh, yes, there will be times during a basketball game, due to the type of pass and play situation, that a player will be required to catch the ball without directly looking at it. This is where peripheral vision enables him to get ready for the next play.
Hand and foot position is of great importance. The receiver should jump toward the ball with both hands extended to meet the pass. For all passes above the waist, the thumbs should be together with the fingers pointing upward forming a pocket for the ball.
For passes below the waist, the little fingers should be together with the others pointed downward. Outstretched arms to meet the ball makes it much easier to develop the receding movement of the hands upon receiving the pass.
Ball-handling drills should be stressed much more during the first half of the season. Your players will improve with good ball handling in the same proportion the coach stresses ball handling in his fundamental drills. The Old Circle Drill, as diagramed here, is an excellent drill for practicing fingertip control. In this drill you keep two or three balls going around the circle of players. Stress accuracy in placing the ball to a teammate at the right place.
Diagram 3 shows a close-quarter ball handling. This drill requires players, about 6 feet apart, in two parallel rows, and facing one another. A player starts the drill by handing the ball to a player opposite and exchanging positions. Handling the ball at close quarters encourages relaxation, suppleness, and timing.
Tip-in practice is also an excellent drill for ball handling. Have two or three players play around the basket, tipping in one-another's shots. I don't show a diagram for this, but I think you get the picture
The Indiana drill, illustrated in Diagram 4, is another excellent passing and catching drill, with the added feature of peripheral vision technique. One player stands about twelve feet away and faces a line of five players standing side by side. Use two balls in this drill. The single player has one and a player inline has the other. The single player should always pass to the opposite end of the line from which the other pass comes. This contributes to good peripheral vision practice. Rapid passing is a great developer in strengthening of the muscles in the fingers, wrists, and arms. Once the lone player makes an error, he is replaced by another in the line.
Passing is the greater part of ball handling. Most basketball games will have between two or three hundred passes. Poor shooting teams, by necessity must be good passing teams in order to get shots closer to the basket; therefore, if you are a coaching a team of poor shooters, it might be better to spend more time on your passing attack and less time on shooting practice.