One-On-One Basketball Games to Improve Skills

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one-on-one is beneficial for basketball development

Written By: Lamar Hull @ Inspirational Basketball AND Google+



Right off the bat, I can answer that question by saying it is fun for your child and it develops their creativity and one-on-one basketball acumen. Some players become unguardable because of their one-on-one abilities. We don’t want our kids to be ball hogs, we want them to be able to create shots for themselves, beat any defensive set and help their team win.

When learning to play basketball there are a lot of different strategies and techniques that a child needs to pick up. Obviously, one of the best ways to do this is through quality coaching, but simply listening to a coach and practicing with a team isn’t enough to help your child become a better basketball player. So as a parent, you might find yourself asking, “What does it take to make a great basketball player then?” The answer is quite simple, a step beyond team practice is playing one-on-one basketball with a friend or teammate and in a lot of cases it is an absolutely phenomenal way for a child to get much better at the game.

On the surface you might think that one-on-one basketball isn’t really a good teaching resource but if you step back and think about it you’ll start to see that it actually is quite similar to playing a real basketball game. In a regular basketball game there are 10 players on the court at any time, but in most cases players are essentially paired up with an opponent, so the game is very similar to a one-on-one match up. Letting kids play one-on-one basketball games in practice is a great way to help them develop the skills to deal with a single opponent, which will help them develop ball-handling skills and become better team players overall. One drill that I use in my youth basketball practices for one-on-one situations is “King of the Hill”. This is a fun one-on-one basketball drill that allows each player the opportunity to play on defense and offense in a one-on-one fashion. The one-on-one rules are very simple!

Here is how to implement King of the Hill:

one on one basketball

Step #1 You start with one player at the top of the key; the remaining players are in a single file line on the baseline. The offensive player is at the top of the key and the defenders are on the baseline.

Step #2 Have the first player throw a chest pass to the offensive player at the top of the key. The offensive player needs to be in a shooting position with his hands ready. The offensive player may have the opportunity to shoot the basketball right away if the defender doesn’t closeout fast enough.

Step #3 Once the offensive player catches the ball he decides what he wants to do, if the defender backs off, get your feet set, use your shooting mechanics and shoot the ball. If the defender closes out pretty good, read his feet. What do I mean by reading the defender’s feet? – If one foot is higher than the other, attack the top/higher foot, because the defender can’t position their body quick enough to cut you off. So, offensive players attack the top foot if you want to drive! If the defensive player’s hand is down, shoot the ball! Mark Jackson, the NBA analyst always says, “Hand down, man down!” Defensive players, force the offensive player to his weak hand in one-on-one basketball. Position your body and defensive stance where you are leading the offensive player to drive left or right depending on if they have a weak hand and then finish your defense with high hands.

Step #4 If the offensive player scores, he keeps the basketball and the next defender in the line takes his shot at stopping the offensive player.

Step #5 Typically, we allow both players 2 offensive tries, if neither scores, both of them move to the back of the line and 2 new players are playing one-on-one basketball. One final note, smart defense and boxing out is key to becoming the King of the Hill! Usually, the first to 7-10 points, with each basket counting as 1 point, wins.

One-on-one team practicing is also a great way to build a stronger team and more camaraderie because the players will be working to make each other better. There is no better motivation than competition and competing against friends and teammates. The best way to encourage players to really work hard to improve, learn new skills, and become better basketball players is having them play a little bit of one-on-one. No other practice or drills can accomplish that and your players will have fun while doing it.

As a whole, one-on-one basketball practice really is a great system that should be used by all basketball coaches. It encourages your players to work hard to become better players while at the same time developing better team relationships and individual skills. In addition, one-on-one basketball drills are very directly relevant to what your players will encounter in a real game. No other practice system or drills can teach everything that one-on-one basketball offers, so make sure it is something that is included in your basketball team’s practice or in your child’s training sessions.



I used to play a lot of one-on-one basketball with bigger kids. I started utilizing the techniques that I was learning in my training sessions against other players. I noticed that a lot of my moves became strategic and I also developed my basketball IQ in one-on-one situations. Once I became a great one-on-one player, I just translated that skill-set to the court with my team and I was able to make my team better by putting pressure on the defense with my one-on-one scoring abilities and find my open teammates after breaking the defense down.

All of this combined makes for an absolutely phenomenal team improvement and odds are you’ll start to see improvement fairly quickly in most cases. Give it a try at your next practice and see how well it works, players love one-on-one and they learn valuable basketball skills at the same time. One-on-one basketball is quickly becoming one of the best practice techniques, now is the time for your team or child to try it out too. Pistol Pete Maravich used to walk from block-to-block challenging different types of basketball players to a game of one-on-one basketball. He saw this as the opportunity to play different player styles and compare his skill-sets through one-on-one. Michael Jordan spent countless hours in the backyard playing one-on-one basketball with his older brother. Look what these two players became, legends! Don’t forget that drills are very important for developing skills and fundamentals in basketball. If you think this article is valuable, share it with others! I’m looking forward to hearing your thoughts!

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