7 Ways to Improve your Basketball IQ

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How to Improve your Basketball IQ


Written By Lamar Hull @ Google+

basketball iq

Being a complete basketball player is about more than just how high you can jump and how sweet your jump shot is. Sure, those attributes will help and probably make you incredibly valuable to your coach and teammates. However, there are plenty of players in the NBA who may not be the most talented in terms of skills or natural size, but they make up for it with an incredibly high basketball IQ. Take a look at guys like Steve Nash and Manu Ginobili, who both seem to always know the right play to make when the time calls for it. Or aging superstars like Kobe Bryant and Tim Duncan, who are able to still dominate, even though they are fighting against time. It’s players like this who prove that your basketball IQ is equally as important as any other part of your basketball game. Here are 7 tips for how to increase your basketball IQ, so that you can be a general on the floor and always know the best move to help your team.

# 1 Develop A High Level Of Attention

One of the most helpful parts for gaining more of a basketball IQ is going to be how much attention you can pay to the details on the court. To the average fan, a basketball game might just be five guys on two different teams, running up and down trying to put the ball in the other’s basket. But to a knowledgeably basketball player, the game is like a chess match. Each move, every play and all of the elements that go into each possession are a chance to take advantage of your opponent.

How to develop a higher basketball IQ by being Attentive

  • Familiarize yourself with the game
  • In your trainings and practice pay attention to the details
  • Work on your basketball fundamentals
  • Have a love for the sport
  • Strive to learn as much as you possibly can

When learning about something you love is a passion, it certainly seems much less like work and more like pleasure. Enjoy the game! If you enjoy it, you will pay close attention to the things that will make you better in practice and the game.

#2 Improve Your Skills

If you are incredibly knowledgeable about the game of basketball, but you lack the general skills that it takes to play, you have to get in the gym and work on your fundamentals. Therefore, it’s important that you build on your skills in order to utilize them on the court. Improving your skills will also allow you to think less about what your hands are doing or where your legs are going, but instead it will all just become muscle memory that automatically takes over. When you can focus less on your actions and more on the game, you’ll be able to improve your basketball IQ.

#3 Be Aware Of Game Situations

There is one-minute on the clock, the other team is up by two and your team is in the penalty. What do you do? These are the type of game situations that you’ll be sure to come across while on the court. However, the difference that sets apart those that get in the game in the final minutes and those that are cheering on the bench is the ability to know what to do in this situation. To improve your understanding of game situations, study what the greats do. Learn when it’s time to pass or when to take the ball to the cup. Understand how if you are having an off-night, dishing the rock to a teammate will help out the entire team. The more aware of game situations you are, the more your coach will trust you on the floor when it matters.

#4 Build Off Your Experience

No matter how many videos you watch online or games you watch live, it’s important that you have the in-game knowledge. The best way to gain this knowledge isn’t to watch it happen, but instead to get on the court and be stuck in those situations. It’s important that you get out there and practice, play pickup games and do whatever else you have to in order to learn in-game scenarios and how to deal with them. These are the opportunities that will allow you to practice and learn from your mistakes, so that you don’t make them when they count even more. Have you ever heard the saying, practice makes perfect?!
develop basketball iq

#5 Be A Floor General

The last two points come together to culminate what it means to be a floor general. Sure, there is a coach that you’ll have yelling commands from the bench. However, being the leader on the court will allow you to gain the attention and confidence of your teammates when they can’t hear coach over 20,000 screaming fans. Being a good floor general and teammate will also demonstrate your passion and love for the game, which is just as much about basketball IQ, because getting your teammates to up their game is equally as important as your own game.

#6 Have A Good Work Ethic

Speaking of getting the most from your teammate, having a good basketball IQ means that you are always able to go hard. Whether it’s practice, pre-game shoot around or the game itself, lead by example and demonstrate to your teammates that you are wiling to work hard. Keep in mind that learning the game and working hard to learn as much as you can isn’t just important for skills, but also for the intelligence that you’ll build in the process.

#7 Know How To Handle Adversity

Last but not least, basketball players that have high IQs don’t let the situation determine how they react. When your team is down by two and there is just seconds left on the clock, you have to be able to rally your team and demonstrate that there is still hope and that you can pull it out. The moment you quit believing in your team, your team will see that. Remember, a high basketball IQ is equally about what you can get out of your team, as it is what you can do while on the court.

Even the players out there that aren’t the fastest or highest jumpers, or those that can’t shoot 90% from downtown or dunk a ball, there is always a chance to make an impact on the court. The best way to do it is to have a high basketball IQ that will put you above your competition. In doing so, you’ll always have the advantage over your opponent, who simply thinks they can win with pure athleticism.


Be attentive on and off the court. Focus on the details while practicing and playing the game. Improve your fundamentals! Once you trust your game and your skills are up to par, you will be able to make quick decisions. Be aware of game situations. Analyze the game and understand what you need to do to make sure you maximize the situation. Learn from your experiences. Did you have a fast-break and the trailing defender blocked your shot? How can you adjust and score the basket on the next fast-break attempt? Be the floor general and lead your team. You can be the floor general by having an amazing work ethic. Are you working hard everyday to improve your game? Lastly, bounce back from adversity. Look at how many times Michael Jordan was able to overcome adversity. Yes, he is the greatest player ever, but because of his basketball IQ, he was able to look adversity in its eyes and overcome it.

My good friend, Stephen Curry has such a high basketball IQ because he is a student of the game. He doesn’t just play the game, he analyzes his movements, position and abilities on the court. With all that said, how are you developing your basketball IQ? You can increase your basketball IQ by following the 7 steps in this article.

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6 Responses to “7 Ways to Improve your Basketball IQ”


    Lamar I enjoy you comments greatly for 57 years I have been involved as a player and a coach and this IQ thing goes back to Henry Iba years ago . I have always felt the best way to develope iQ I first to recruit it. My last 4 years in college coaching we had a GPA of 3.57…6 academic all Americans. These kids were engaged in our sport and every day out learned something new. Our play book was vast and every day we quizzed on the why’s and when’s to run different sets. This allowed us to run 5 different zone types. Our practices were classrooms with questions and different right and wrong answers. Kids were taught that being wrong was not bad but a learning experience.since 1986 we did these same things with AAU. They had to buy in ! 29 are still playing pro. 6 will play in the Worlds and 423 others are engaged in successful professions. It is all related to keeping one engaged in a process and also the study of the game.

  2. Lamar Hull

    Buddy – that’s truly Amazing! First off, thanks for reading my article! Secondly, it is great to see certain people invest in a player’s skills beyond the court. In my opinion, the way you are doing it, definitely helps players fall in love with the game and have the opportunity to be successful outside of the game of basketball. Thanks for sharing! I would love to do an interview with you and share some of your teachings with Inspirational Basketball readers!

  3. Don Martinez

    This was a great read and oh so true. I coach 8th graders and it is so hard to teach IQ. I really wish I was better at it. I have played for years but I have yet to teach it so they understand it.

    • Lamar Hull

      Thanks Don for reading! I’m glad that you found the article insightful! You are correct! Teaching basketball IQ is tough and some players gain the knowledge better than others. A lot of basketball IQ is situational. I learned how to play the game with a high basketball IQ by playing with other really good players and being put in a lot of tough basketball situations. Also, I played a lot of basketball. From a coach’s perspective, teaching the fundamentals is a good way to develop a player’s basketball IQ. Adding the fundamentals with the repetition will definitely help young players gain the a solid basketball IQ! Thanks again for reading, that means a lot!

      • Don Martinez

        Thanks for the prompt reply and the great insight.

        • Lamar Hull

          No problem. Let me know if there is some information that you don’t see on my website that I can add for your benefit. Thanks again for reading!


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