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How Great Basketball Players Maximize Their Time at Practice

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I've always found it very interesting to watch and take notice how players prepare themselves while waiting for practice to officially start. All too often they will walk into the gym, sit on the sidelines and "stretch" while they talk to teammates. 

Eventually they might get up, grab a ball, take a shot, walk after it, talk to another teammate, take another shot, walk after it, and on and on. Before long everyone has arrived, practice starts, and the first several minutes are completely wasted because no one is warmed up or "into it" yet. 

Wouldn't it be much better for everyone on the team if players used those few minutes before practice to get thoroughly warmed up and focused while doing some skill work at the same time? 

Pre-practice Warm-up Routine 

Part 1: Simple Running This running segment is intended to get you warmed up, build some stamina, and prevent injury. Go down and back before going to the next option. If are running with a partner, the spacing is such as one partner gets to half court then the other one goes. 

1. Jog - Easy jog, with both hands up, down the length of court. Pause and jog back to starting baseline. 

2. Backpedal - Run to half court with hands up, turn and run backwards to baseline. Pause and repeat back to starting baseline. 

3. Carioca - Facing side of court, use crossover steps to run the length of the court with your hands up. Pause and facing same side of the court continue using cross over steps to return back to the original baseline. 

4. Skipping - Go length of floor while skipping as high as possible. Jump high with right knee coming up toward chest and right hand extending as high as possible. Land and repeat with left leg and left hand. Pause and continue back to starting baseline. Remember that you want jump as high as possible on each jump. 

5. Hopping - On one leg hop back and forth over the sideline while travelling the length of the court. At half court, change legs and continue to hop back and forth over the same line all the way down to the baseline. Pause and continue back to your original starting point. This is an exercise that many skiers use to increase the strength of their ankles. 

6. Sprints - Sprint to half court and then jog to the baseline. Pause and repeat back to the original baseline. 

7. Defensive Slides - Run to half court, turn and defensive slide to the baseline. Rest and repeat. 

Part 2: Shooting 

Although these shooting drills may seem simple and redundant, they are vital to becoming a good shooter. They also should be done any time you practice on your own: 

1. McHale's - Tip the ball one handed off the backboard (or wall) 10 consecutive times right handed, and then tip 10 consecutive times left handed. You may try to tip the tenth repetition into the basket. Be off the ground for each tip and learn to control the ball with your finger tips. (Repeat three times for a total 60 tips). 

2. Mikan's - Face the basket, take a step with your left foot toward the right side of the basket and shoot a right hand lay-up off the backboard. Rebound the ball and take a step with your right foot to the left side of the basket and shoot a left-handed lay-up. Keep the ball high and do not ever allow the ball to come below your outstretched arms. Continue until you make 12 shots. (Repeat 3 times for a total of 36 shots). 

3. Rodman's - On right side of the basket, toss the ball high off backboard. Jump up and rebound it, keeping arms straight. Without bending arms, quickly bounce off both feet and shoot the ball into the basket. Quickness is important on this shot. Repeat on left side of basket, shooting with left hand. Continue alternating right side and left side until you make 12 shots. (Repeat 3 times for a total of 36 shots). 

4. Daily Dozen - From the right elbow (corner of the free throw line) take one dribble to the basket and shoot a right-handed, over-hand lay-up off the glass. Rebound the ball and take two dribbles out to the opposite (left) elbow. Pivot without stopping the dribble and take one dribble to the basket shooting a left-handed, over-hand lay-up. Go hard to the basket and keep your head up and eyes on target. Dribble with your right hand on right side of basket and with left hand on left side of basket. Continue until you make 12 shots. (Repeat 3 times for a total of 36 shots). 

5. Game Shots - This is not a random "shoot and talk" segment. Concentrate on the areas and types of shots that you will be taking during an actual game. Be sure to include some free throws. Remember - game shots at game speed. 

By the time you finish this warm up you should have broken a sweat and be prepared both physically and mentally ready to make the most of official practice.

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