The 7 Biggest Keys To Instantly Improve Your Handles

One of the biggest questions I get from players is how to improve their ball-handling ability.

Many players just don’t feel confident in real games with the ball in their hands and they struggle with handling the basketball in real game situations against good defense.

Whether they don’t have the ability to get past defenders, create space, and/or don’t have the confidence to be comfortable with the ball – there are a 7 quick fixes they can make right now to instantly improve their ball-handling.

I call these 7 quick fixes, the 7 KEYS needed to unlocking your handles. 

But today not only am I going to give you the 7 keys to improve your ball-handling ability instantly but also stick around until the end of this post as I have a special gift for you that’s going to help you even more

Key #1 – Dribble With Your Fingerpads

The first thing we are going to cover is the part of your hand should you be dribbling with. 

This is our most basic key, but it can't be forgotten. 

To have the best ball control while you dribble, you must dribble the ball with your finger pads.

You don’t want to dribble with your fingertips or the palm of your hand.

In fact, the way the ball is placed in your hands while you dribble should be similar to your hand placement when shooting the basketball.

You don’t want to dribble with your fingertips or the palm of your hand.

In fact, the way the ball is placed in your hands while you dribble should be similar to your hand placement when shooting the basketball.

So, instead of smacking at the ball with your palm or jabbing at the ball with your fingertips, you want a smooth push with your finger pads.

Last but not least, with every dribble you should be snapping your wrist, kind of like you are following through on a jump shot with. 

This will ensure that the basketball hits the ground in the right spot and comes right back to your hand. 

So here’s a quick summary of hand placement while dribbling:

  • Dribble with finger pads
  • Don’t dribble with fingertips or the palms of your hand.
  • Follow through on every dribble.

Key #2 – Pound The Basketball Harder

The second key to improving your handles is to pound the basketball harder.

The longer the basketball is out of your hands, the easier it is for the defender to steal it.

The harder you dribble the ball, the faster it hits the ground and returns to your hand. 

The less time the ball is out of your hands the more control you have. 

Training your muscle memory to pound the basketball hard – starts in your training.

No matter what type of ball-handling drills you are doing, you should be dribbling the ball as hard as possible.

This will condition you to display the same type of force and control in your handles when you step in real game situations.

Key #3 – Get Low And Stay Low

The third key to improving your ball-handling sounds much simpler than it is and that key is to get low. 

Gary Payton said it best, “the lower player wins”. As an offensive player you want to beat your man with your shoulder at his hip.

This is not going to be easy. 

You must train your strength, stability, and mobility to be able to make moves and play an entire game in a lower stance but this is vital when it comes to being a great ball-handler. 

As I mentioned earlier, the longer the ball is in your hand – the harder it is to steal. 

Well if you get lower and still pound the basketball, the ball is out of your hands for an even shorter period of time, giving you even better control.

Key #4 – Protecting The Basketball

The next key we are going to cover is actually protecting the ball. 

The way you should protect the ball is probably different than the way you’re protecting the ball right now. 

When I tell most players protect the ball they turn into a stance like this.

There are a few problems when you turn your body like this. 

The first thing that you will notice immediately is that you don’t have the same court vision. 

You can’t see every player on your team nor can you see all of the defenders. 

The next issue with this stance is that you aren’t in an attacking position. 

There’s no way you can beat a good defender from this position. 

When you are in this position for too longer it makes it extremely easy for a defender to be able to control you. 

So players that want to improve their court vision, handles, and become a threat on the court should open their stance up a little more.

This still gives you the ability to protect the ball but it also keeps you in a prime position for attacking.

Now I understand sometimes you're going to have to turn your body to quickly protect the ball by executing a retreat or glide dribble.

This is which is 100% correct, just don’t get into the habit of playing with your back to an entire half of the court.

Key #5 – Dorisflexion

If you're not familiar with the term dorsiflexion, it's the backward flexion of your foot so that you are running and jumping off the ball of your foot (the most powerful part of your foot).

Dorsiflexion is something that we talk a lot about in vertical jump and sprinting. 

It can be difficult to grasp for young players, but it’s basically running and making moves on the balls of your feet rather than your toe. 

This is going to make you a much more of an explosive player. 

In fact, by using dorsiflexion, you can instantly increase your vertical jump as well as your first step speed.

Key #6 – Mastering Footwork

Key #6 is my favorite. 

It’s all about mastering footwork, changing speeds, and changing directions. 

Footwork is very unique as many trainers and coaches don’t even know how to teach it. 

Because of that, it continues to get over-looked by players, coaches, and trainers. 

What do I mean by footwork? 

I'm talking about using different moves such as scissors moves, crab dribbles, and hesitations to keep your defender on his heels.

I always say this, “I prefer a player that can go from 20 to 50, to 30 to 70 miles per hour than a player that can only go a 100 miles per hour.” 

Guys like Steve Nash made himself into a 2x MVP because he was a master with his footwork. 

He wasn’t the quickest or most athletic… 

But he still got wherever he wanted on the court because of his ability to change speeds and keep defenders guessing.

Key #7 – Being Able To Read Your Defender

The last key we are going to cover today has to do with being able to read your defender. 

Even if you don’t have a defender to guard you, you can still use cones to simulate a defenders stance and how you want to attack. 

Your job as an offensive player is to get a defender to play you to a side but putting a foot above the other, similar to how I am here next to the cones.

Your goal is to attack that lead leg because it’s harder for a defender to stay with you if he has to drop that leg and rotate his body. 

But this isn’t what you’re going to do all the time. 

If a defender gives you an entire lane then you take that lane. 

What if your defender doesn’t have a lead leg while guarding you? 

Make him drop a foot so that he ends up having a lead leg by using things moves such as jab dribbles and in & outs. 

After training players for a few sessions making “reading the lead leg” a point of focus, you’ll be amazed at how fast they can big it up in real game situations. 

So start practicing attacking different lead legs from different spots on the court. 

After you master that then begin working on counter moves so if the defender recovers you can still create space for yourself and teammates with moves such as step-backs and pull backs.


Now that you have the keys to improving your handles, it's time to get out and use them. 

Attack each key at a time, until you master it, and then move to the next one. 

If you're looking to take your game to the next level, CLICK HERE to get your FREE Undersized Guard Skills Package that will help you take your game to the next level!

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