How to Standout as a Small Basketball Player

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Heart Over Height: Why Small Stature Shouldn’t Limit Your Basketball Potential

Written By Lamar Hull @ Google+

muggsy bogues

It is certainly no secret that in the game of basketball, height is seen as a primary factor in determining a player’s talent level. The odds of becoming a NBA player favors a taller player versus a shorter one. I know from personal experience because I grew to be 5’9″. This is a game in which 7-foot-tall players electrify the crowds with sensational blocks and dunks that every young player wishes to someday emulate.

Even in some high schools, you’d be hard pressed to find a starter under 6 feet, 5 inches tall and that includes both guard positions. Even most coaches pray for size on the court, in order to give their team a significant rebounding advantage and mismatches in the post that go in their favor. Despite all of these notions in favor of height, the fact is that short players absolutely have the opportunity to play basketball at the highest levels. Short players definitely have to be sensational to standout over a very talented 6’6″ above the rim type player. 

I loved being short because I was always much quicker and faster than everyone else, but I would be lying if I said I didn’t want to be taller. Since God didn’t bless me with the height, I used what I had to make it to the collegiate and professional levels.

For any short, aspiring NBA player, Tyrone “Muggsy” Bogues is a name that certainly rings a bell. The 5-foot, 3-inch tall point guard overcame his unusually short stature to become a fantastic NBA player. 5-foot, 5-inch tall combo guard Earl Boykin overcame his stature to become a well-respected NBA starter throughout his 14-year NBA career. 5-foot, 7-inch guard Anthony “Spud” Webb turned in a 14-year NBA career as well, and he even won the 1986 NBA Slam Dunk Contest, earning two perfect 50-point scores in the final round!

Even today, guards Nate Robinson (a three-time Slam Dunk Champion himself) and Isaiah Thomas (currently averaging over 20 points per game for the Boston Celtics), both of whom are only 5-feet, 9-inches tall, are electrifying the NBA with their slick ball-handling and sensational three-point shooting abilities. Now don’t get me wrong, there are not a lot of players under 6 feet tall in the NBA. There are a few in the D-league and tons who are playing professional overseas, so don’t let the numbers discourage you, working hard should be your focus!

Isaiah Thomas shows it doesn’t matter that he is short


As cliche as it sounds, the secret to success for a short basketball player or any basketball player, for that matter is this: you have to want it, and do whatever it takes to get it. The term “it” can be many different things, but all are derived from hard work and dedication.

Just as an example, let’s create a scenario of how you can overcome the “height obstacle”. You are entering high school at 5-feet, 6-inches tall, and love the game of basketball. You were a very good player for your middle school team, but you were facing less talented players who were much shorter than the typical high school player. You would love the opportunity to play for your high school team, but you fear that your height would prevent you from doing so. What do you do?

Talk to Your Coach

This requires the least amount of physical work and dedication, but is is quite possibly the most important. Don’t be scared, have some guts! Chances are, the coach has heard of you from your old middle school coach, and while he is impressed with your middle school performance, he is skeptical that you would fare well in high school. I say this with confidence because you are the type of middle schooler who eats, breathes, and sleeps basketball. Everyone in your town has heard of you, even your new high school coach!

If the coach has done his homework, he knows some of the young superstar players coming in to high school. If you were to have a meeting with the JV or Varsity coach, you would likely be able to discern exactly what needs the most improvement. Naturally, you should work on everything, but you could put the most emphasis on a particular area of your game, like your mid-range shooting or your ball handling. He or she will be very direct with you in all likelihood, but even if he’s negative, pay attention and take heed of his advice. That being said, here are some things that you should work on additionally to make you stand out.

Ball-Handling and Driving to the Basket

In order to make the team, you will have to establish yourself as a reliable guard, either a “1” or “2” guard. Therefore, you need to work on demanding the basketball, since you would control the flow of the game and create plays for your teammates. Even if you’re practicing by yourself, you can set up folding chairs to simulate opponents defending you. In particular, you should work on starting with a solid crossover from the top of the key, making a solid cut, and driving to the hoop. Every coach and every team needs players who have those abilities, no matter what height they are.

Every dribble, all of your movements, your lay-up should be hard, quick and strong! Nothing less! You should be able to handle the basketball better than anyone on the court! This will definitely help you standout amongst other players. Use your height and speed to be quick with the basketball around the basket. This will free you up to score or set your teammates up. As a small guard, work on your floater! This will help you to finish with finesse around the basket amongst the trees.

Mid-and-Long Range Shooting

While ball control and driving to the hoop are vital traits for a small guard, it is also important to have a respectable jump shot. If you watched that video of Isaiah Thomas you will notice he is unguardable with his handles and jump shot. When you establish your ability to drive to the basket, the defenders will likely start playing you in a “zone”, play off of you and giving you a little space to pull up for a jump shot, or play a box and 1.

If you can’t hit that shot, then they’ll stay in a zone and force you to get rid of the ball. However, if you show that you can hit that shot, defenders will become incredibly wary of you, and they’ll get confused, which in turn allows you to choose between driving for an easy lay-up or pulling up for a wide open jumper. Become a “volume shooter”; take 100 shots per spot per day, and add in 4 or 5 other spots; those 400 to 500 shots per day will make a huge difference over time!


Being short is okay, there are no excuses! All you can ask of yourself in life is to give it your all every second that you get and be okay with the results. If you truly work hard on your game every single day, you will be able to do some amazing things on the court no matter your height!

Overall, height does not solely determine whether someone can play or be good at basketball. Becoming a successful basketball player is simply the triumph of “heart over height”; if you can’t beat someone in height, outwork them! So what are you waiting for? The only thing standing between you and your dreams is your desire!


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How to Standout as a Small Basketball Player by

4 Responses to “How to Standout as a Small Basketball Player”

  1. naeem spivey


  2. Derek Brown

    I think smaller players have a great advantage if they use it correctly. Just like you said you were quicker and faster than everyone else not to mention smaller players often become the fan favorites. We love to see players like Isaiah Thomas flourish and Nate Robinson jump over heads they are exceptional. However, not everyone is blessed with that athleticism and it can often be discouraging for young guys but the tips you mentioned were perfect. If you are short you better have a great jumpshot to stretch the defense and you better have incredible ball handling skills. I wanted to add that a great step back is a huge part of every short-mans repertoire. Creating space with a step-back is something we see from every player you mentioned do. It is difficult to get your shot off the higher level you go because players are obviously bigger, faster and stronger but a perfected step-back creates a world of options from space to shoot to blow by counter-moves.

    Thought I would add seeing as I was a small player trying to make it as well, great article Lamar!

    • Lamar Hull

      Thanks Derek! Great points here. For us short players, we have to standout in a HUGE way because now there are players who are taller, long and just as quick, so shorter players have to be exceptional. When i say short, I mean 5’9″ and shorter.


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