Starter Practice Plans

Welcome to the Starter Level practice plans. At the Starter Level, the fundamental skills will be honed and expanded upon while the players develop an understanding of what it means to be a part of a team.

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Starter Practice Plan 8

Cultivating Values & Developing Wellness


Respect: Parents

  • In many cases, our parents are the most important, influential people in our lives. We owe them thanks for the good they provide and the love they show. One way to help players mind the importance of respecting their parents is to remind them their jerseys may have their parents’ names on the back; anyone watching the game will watch the players’ behavior and understand who raised them.

Warm Up


Run to That Line

(1 x 5 lines)
  • Walk around the court with the players and identify spaces on the
    court (half court, 3-point line, sideline, and more).
  •  Have the players repeat the names of each area you identify.
  • Coach calls out a movement and a line or space on the court for
    the players. Example: “High Knees to the baseline!”
  • Movements: Forward/Backward/Lateral March, Forward/
    Backward/Lateral Skip, High Knees, Quick Feet. Incorporate
    movements from other sports: swimming arms, skating action,
    long jump, cricket or baseball swing or soccer ball dribble.

Key Points

Teach the players about the court while incorporating fundamental movement skills.

Forward/Backward/Lateral March

  • Marches are fundamental movements that teach the players about proper running mechanics. Players will march by walking with high knees pulling their toes and arms up at a 90 degree angle.
  • Adding backward and lateral movements is essential as it transfers to how movements occur in a basketball game.

High Knees

  • High knees replicates acceleration techniques by syncing the arm and leg actions. Encourage arm actions, a 90 degree elbow angle and promote shoulder movement. Actively drive the knee upward keeping the foot flexed. Players will move forward quickly by bringing their knees high towards their chest alternating legs.

Quick Feet

  • Players are in an athletic stance and move laterally by pushing off their back foot. For example to move right a player pushes off their left foot. It is important to emphasize pushing instead of stepping or pulling. The side push works hips, feet and balance.

Side Push

  • Players are in an athletic stance and move laterally by pushing off their back foot. For example to move right a player pushes off their left foot. It is important to emphasize pushing instead of stepping or pulling. The side push works hips, feet and balance.

Building Skills


Ball Handling

Ball Slams

(2 x 10)
  • All players need a basketball (or share) and should stand on the sideline.
  • When the coach indicates, the players will start with the ball over their head in two hands.
  • They will then slam the ball off the floor with force and catch the ball as it comes up quickly.

Key Points

The players are warming up their arms and hands while also working on catching the ball as it comes off the ground quickly. Ensure the players do this at their own comfort while also challenging themselves.

Finger Dribble Drill

(1 x 30 seconds each hand)
  • All players need a basketball (or share) and should stand on the sideline.
  • Players should be in a stance with their legs bent.
  • The players will dribble the basketball with each finger on their hand. Each dribble will be with a different finger focus.
  • The first dribble will focused on using their thumb and will then progress to using their pinky finger and back for 30 seconds.

Key Points

This drill works on good control dribbles using fingertips.

Side to Side Dribble Low, Middle, High

(3 sets each hand)
  • Have the players get a ball and stand in an open space facing the coach.
  • The players will start with the ball in their right hand and dribble the ball low from right to left back and forth only using their right hand for 15 seconds.
  • Next the players will do the same thing at the middle level for 15 seconds and finally they will do the same at the high level for 15 seconds.
  • This completes 1 set with the right hand.

Key Points

This drill forces the players to have good control of the ball and quick hands.

Dribble Balance Push

(2 x down and back)
  • Line the players up on the sideline in even groups and each player with a ball.
  • The first player will stand only on their right leg with the knee slightly bent and dribble the ball with their right hand until the coach says go.
  • The players will then push forward while changing the ball to dribble with their left hand to the foul line area.
  • When the players get to the foul line area they will all stop on their left foot and dribble with their left hand again until the coach says go.
  • Now the players will push forward and dribble with their right hand and continue this pattern.
  • As the first group gets to the foul line the next group will begin on the baseline.
  • Each group will go to the foul line, half court, the opposite foul line and the opposite baseline.

Key Points

Work on ball-handling while maintaining good balance and stability. Then work on pushing off that outside foot to move forward slightly to the opposite side.



Dribble & Pass to Target Drill

(2 minutes each side)
  • Have the players start on the baseline on the right side of the court in one line.
  • Each player can have a basketball or the first 5-6 players.
  • Set up a cone at the opposite wing on the other side of half court.
  • Have the players take 2 jogging dribbles forward and then make a running pass ahead trying to hit the cone.
  • The coach should stand behind the cone and give the ball to the players after their pass.
  • Players will get the ball back and go to the back of the line.
  • Players receive one point each time they hit the cone.

Key Points

Have fun while emphasizing a good long pass and being detailed and precise in hitting a target.

Slide & Pass Drill

(2 sets of each pass)
  • Have players partner up with one ball and stand on the baseline about 6 feet apart.
  • The players will sit in a good stance and slide to half court while making a chest or bounce pass to each other.
  • Once all the groups have gone, they will repeat the same thing coming back for 1 rep.
  • Be sure to make both the chest and bounce.

Key Points

Emphasize good low slides, showing a target, hitting the target and working together.

Partner Running Pass Drill

(2 x down & back)
  • Have the players partner up and get 1 ball.
  • The players will line up on the baseline next to their partner.
  • The first partner pair will run very close (inside the lane line extended) and pass the ball back and forth all the way down the court to each other.
  • They will shoot a lay-up when they get to the other end.
  • The next group will go immediately behind them.
  • After all groups have gone, the groups will repeat coming back.
  • This time they will take one step further apart from each other so the passes are a further distance as they run.
  • Continue this process and have the players run and pass further from each other every trip to build on running and passing.

Key Points

Try to not drop any passes! Call each others name and lead the player with the pass.

Open & Decide Drill

(3 minutes)
  • Three players start in a line across the key. One player starts on each block and one player starts in the middle standing under the basket with a basketball. Add a defender behind the player with the basketball.
  • When the coach says go, the player with the ball will dribble up to the free throw line, jump-stop, and pivot to face the basket.
  • The defender will pick one of the other two players on either block to guard. The player that dribbled to the free throw line will have to make a quick decision to pass to the open player for a shot.
  • After a shot, the passer will take the place of the shooter. The shooter will take the place of the defender and the defender will go to the back of the line.
  • Keep a tally of how many made baskets the team scores in 3 minutes so you can compete against this number in later practices.

Key Points

Make sure the defender clearly guards one player and does not leave that player until the pass is made! Have the player make a quick decision and a good pass to their teammate. Next, make sure the receiver of the pass works on finishing the shots with a defender contesting. Since the team is trying to make the most shots possible, ensure that the defense contests hard.


Form Shooting – 2 Hands

(3 x 8)
  • Have the players partner up with a basketball at a basket.
  • The players should stand within a few feet of the basket and put the ball in their dominant hand in front of them.
  • Have the players hold the ball with their elbow underneath it, and their palm facing the sky.
  • The player will then add their off hand as support.
  • When the player is ready, they should extend their knees and arm at the same time to shoot for the basket.
  • Have the players hold their follow-through until the shot goes through the basket or misses.
  • Have more than 1 partner per at a basket to maximize reps, space and time.

Key Points

Have the players start with their knees bent, elbow in and extend their follow-through with their elbow high and wrist flipped so that the ball has good arc and rotation.

Partner Step-In Shooting Drill

(10 makes each)
  • Have 1 player stand inside the 3 point line facing the basket in a good stance ready to catch the ball.
  • Have the 2nd player standing under the basket with the ball.
  • The player under the basket will pass the ball to their partner.
  • On the catch, the shooter will take a 1-2 step into the shot and shoot the ball.
  • The passer will grab the rebound and pass again until the shooter has made 10 shots.
  • After 10 makes, the players will change positions and repeat the process.

Chase Lay-Ups

(3 minutes)
  • Have players partner up and get one ball for the two.
  • The first player will start with the ball on the right wing at the 3-point line and the other player will start about 2 strides behind them designated by a cone.
  • When the coach indicates, the player with the ball will dribble in for a lay-up while the other player will try to run from behind to contest the lay-up.
  • The next pair will start immediately behind them and each group will switch positions each time.
  • Change spots on the court as the players get more comfortable.

Key Points

This drill emphasizes having the players finish layups at game speed with a real defender behind them which forces them to have further concentration.

Block to Block Shooting Drill

(30 seconds each player)
  • Have the players partner up with a basketball at a basket.
  • 1 player will start with the ball on the block.
  • When it’s time to start that player will shoot and quickly run to the other block.
  • The player or the partner will rebound the ball and pass to the shooter on the other block quickly.
  • The shooter will continue going back and forth after every shot and the rebounder will continue to help rebound and pass the ball if needed.
  • After 30 seconds switch and let the players change roles.

jrnba_rookie_pp6_blocktoblockshooting-drill_diagram1of3 jrnba_rookie_pp6_blocktoblockshooting-drill_diagram2of3 jrnba_rookie_pp6_blocktoblockshooting-drill_diagram3of3


  • Partners count how many makes the shooter has so they can try to beat their previous score.


  • Players can move back or up the free throw line and adjust their shooting angle on the backboard.
  • Rebounders can put a hand up as a distraction when the shooter is shooting. If the defense is too close to shoot, the shooter leaves the ball and cuts to the other block to receive a new pass.

Key Points

Have the players work on using the backboard and hitting the square. Also have the partners count how many makes the shooter has so that they can try to beat their previous best score.


Footwork and Conditioning

Change of Speed Drill

(3 x down and back)
  • Have all players with a ball and divided into balanced lines on the baseline.
  • The first person in each line will start by jogging and dribbling to the free throw line. At the free throw line, the players will change speeds and explode out to half court.
  • At half court the players will change speeds back to a jog until the opposite free throw line and then again explode out to the baseline.
  • The first set should be down and back with the right hand, the second set with the left hand and the 3rd set with crossovers at the change of speed.

Key Points

This drill works on developing rhythm and timing with the dribble. Being able to change speeds well, will help the players be harder to guard.

Team Concepts


Post Pass & Screen Drill

(3 minutes)
  • Start with a line of players near the top of the key with a ball.
  • Put another player on the wing and another player on the block.
  • The first player in line will pass the ball to the wing, the wing will then make a post entry pass.
  • After the post entry pass, the wing player will screen for the player at the top of the key who will come off towards the wing.
  • After a quick screen, the player setting the screen will slip to the basket.
  • The post player will pass to the player coming off the screen who will catch and shoot.
  • The post player will get the rebound and move to the back of the line, the player who set the screen will become the post player, and the player who shot the ball will become the wing player.
  • The next player in line will pass the ball to the wing and the sequence will repeat until the allotted number of shots have been made.
  • If you have enough players, do the same thing on the other side of the basket and have the teams compete.
  • Also if preferred, have the post player make the pass to the screener cutting to the basket.

jrnba_starter_pp8_postpassandscreendrill_diagram1of4 jrnba_starter_pp8_postpassandscreendrill_diagram2of4 jrnba_starter_pp8_postpassandscreendrill_diagram3of4 jrnba_starter_pp8_postpassandscreendrill_diagram4of4


Follow the Leader Slides

(10 seconds each player)
  • Have the players spread out on the court all facing the same direction.
  • Have 1 player become the leader at the front by turning and facing the rest of the team.
  • For roughly 10 seconds the leader will energetically complete defensive movements by saying and doing the action while the team tries to mirror the leader. The leader can do foot fire, slides,
    jumps, loose ball, charges etc.
  • After around 10 seconds have the full group clap and bring energy as the leader goes into the group and gives a high-five to another player. That player will now become the leader for a new round.

Fundamentals of Turning the Dribbler

  • Turning the dribbler means the defensive player sliding their body in front of a dribbler so they can no longer go in the direction they are going and they must turn and go in a different direction.

Zig-Zag Defensive Slide Drill

(3 times down and back)
  • Have half the players line up on the corner of the baseline and sideline and the other half line up on the opposite corner of the baseline and sideline.
  • The first player in line will start in a stance with his back to the court and slide back at angles touching their foot to the sideline and the lane line extended all the way down the court.
  • Once the player in front of them gets to the free throw line, the next player will begin.

Key Points

The players will work on pushing off their back foot, staying low having their hands out and moving quickly down the court as a defender.



Back 1 on 1 Drill

(games to 5)
  • Have the players partner up and get one ball.
  • There will be groups at each wing and at the top.
  • One partner will stand just inside the 3-point line and face the basket in a stance. The other partner will stand behind them with the ball and touch the ball to the back of the player in front.
  • When the player in the back with the ball pulls the ball off of the players back, they will begin playing one on one.
  • The player in front will have to turn around and quickly try to locate the offensive player and play defense.
  • The offensive player gets 3 dribbles to take 1 shot.
  • Alternate possessions regardless of make or miss and play to 5. After 5 baskets, the players can change spots on the floor.

Key Points

The offensive player must make a quick and efficient move to score a basket while the defensive player must have quick reactions to make a good defensive play.

5 on 5

(games to 3)
  • Divide the players into teams (have substitutes if needed).
  • Play 5 on 5 until a team makes 3 shots.
  • Encourage the players to cut, move the ball and work on all the basketball concepts they have learned.

Compliment Session


Gather the players together. Players group with 1-2 players next to them and share answers to the prompted questions.

  • Ask players to share something they did well, what enjoyed about today’s practice or something positive about another player’s actions.
  • Have players switch groups and ask some players to share their groups answers. Coach can build onto the player responses.

Key Points

All compliments should be natural. Not every player has to give or receive a compliment.

Skills Checklist

At the conclusion of the Starter Level, Jr. NBA players should be proficient at each of the following skills. Judging proficiency at this level is the responsibility of the coach.

Ball Handling



        Footwork & Conditioning