Brian McCormick, Director
High Five Hoop School

Generic lay-up lines have always been one of my least favorite basketball activities, especially as a tool at practice. I believe this “drill”violates John Wooden’s creed: “ Do not mistake activity with achievement.” Players and coaches believe that these exercises, undefended lay-ups at three-quarter speed while taking four dribbles from the hast mark, will actually improve their game. THEY WON’T!
Instead, I believe coaches should utilize a variety of lay-up drills that focus on different things, such as speed lay-ups, contested lay-ups, bad angle lay-ups, etc., because lay-ups determine the outcome of many games, especially at the youth levels. The following is a half-court lay-up drill that focuses on footwork, finishing with both hands and utilizing a good first step to minimize dribbles and maximize offensive efficiency.

The drill itself is fairly simple. Each player makes two of each kind of lay-up before switching to the left side (a total of 20 lay-ups in the entire drill:. Every lay-up starts on the wing at the 3-point line, free-throw line extended (high school and college players should space to the NBA 3-point line) with the player in triple threat position. Players should spin the ball to themselves and practice catching the ball on a one count or jump stop in triple-threat position, with knees bent and butt low. Each move requires only one dribble to get to the basket. Players must concentrate on their first step to enable them to get to the basket in one dribble and learn to extend with the dribble. The drill illustrates the difference between using a pivot foot and drive step to gain an advantage to the basket versus simply dribbling the ball in place.


Crossover step (right-foot pivot) extension right-hand lay-up: Step to the basket with the left foot. Utilize a big first step and extend with a right-hand dribble. Finish with a right-hand lay-up, jumping off the left foot.

Crossover step (right-foot pivot) extension right-hand reverse lay-up on left-hand side of rim: Step to the basket with the left foot. Utilize a big first step and extend with a right-hand dribble. On the final step, with the left foot, extend into the middle of the key, allowing for a reverse lay-up with the right hand, jumping off the left foot.

Direct Drive (left-foot pivot) left-hand lay-up on the right side: Step directly to the basket with that right foot first. Push off with the left foot. Dribble with the right (outside) hand and finish with the left hand, jumping off the right foot. The footwork will feel awkward for most right-hand dominated players, as they are used to squeezing in an extra step to jump off the left foot for a right-hand lay-up on the right side. Have players vocalize their steps, saying Right, left, right, lay-up,: if they really struggle.

Direct Drive (left-foot pivot) reverse lay-up with the left hand on the left side of rim: Step directly to the basket with the right foot. Push off with the left foot and dribble with the right hand. Finish with a reverse lay-up with the left hand, jumping off the right foot.

Cross-over Step (left-foot pivot) left-hand lay-up at the front of the rim: Step with the right foot across the body to beat the defender to the middle. Dribble the ball with the left (outside) hand. Finish at the front of the rim with a left-handed lay-up, jumping off the right foot.

The most basic reasons for teaching this drill is to show that it is not always necessary or beneficial to finish with the outside hand on a lay-up. For example, if there is a shot blocker, finishing with the “wrong” hand is often a step quicker than taking the extra step and finishing with the outside hand. Also, the ability to step-through and finish on the other side of the rim with either hand is important. This drill forces players to think about their footwork and emphasizes taking the lay-up in stride, as opposed to shortening the steps to get to the “correct” foot. It also works on different types of finishes at the rim, as opposed to only working on a lay-up shot with a hand behind the ball at the proper angle.

Beyond the actual lay-ups, this drill teaches a proper drive step or first step to the basket. Players will not believe it is possible for them to reach the basket in one dribble from the 3-point line until they actually force themselves to try. Initially, most players, especially young players, will be unable to get to the basket because they will dribble before taking their drive step. It is important to illustrate a big first step and to extend with the dribble, as it will put the player at least six feet closer to the basket on the first dribble as compared to a player who dribbles the ball while still in triple-threat position and does not go anywhere with the first dribble. The utilization of the drive step makes for a more dynamic offensive player.

When teaching the drive step, there are five things to teach (for younger players, I combine it into three things for them to think about):

1. Stay low and long with the first step. The knees must
be bent and the butt must be low.

2. Have the nose over the toes, and the chest over the
knee with the drive step.

3. Focus the eyes to the rim.

4. Extend with the dribble.

5. Body up, body in: the offensive player puts his shoulder on the defensive player’s hip. Do not belly-out.

I typically focus the younger players on 2, 3 and 4 and explain 5 once they fully comprehend the other three.

These five components will help create a more dynamic player with the ball in his hands. Too many players need six dribbles to create their own shot; in the flow of an offense, a player does not have six dribbles, and if he does, his teammates will be standing around watching him, no longer involved in the action. Once a player has mastered a low and long first step, he will be a quicker player attacking the basket, as this will enable him to cover more ground with the first, most important dribble, and it will cut the angle of the defender, creating a greater opening. By stepping past the defender, and not bellying out, and then extending with the first dribble, an offensive player will be open in one or two dribbles for a shot, a lay-up at the basket, or if help rotates quickly, a dish to an open teammate.

Thanks to BASKETBALL SENSE, the Magazine for Winning Coaches, for permission to use this article. Information about BASKETBALL SENSE can be obtained from www.basketballsense.c