Interior and Perimeter Footwork

Contributed by Brett Ayers. Email the author at

One of the reasons I have become such an ardent believer in the necessity of re-teaching these fundamentals day in and day out, depending upon which areas are lacking with your team, is that too many of these kids are no longer getting these things ingrained into them. It seems that part of the reason that such things as "need to have upper classmen" has become more of a mantra than ever, is that you need a couple of years with these kids to correct all the poor footwork and other things they bring to your program.

I look at Gary William's Maryland team and see a team that really won due to being two things; physically stronger and a bit wiser and older fundamentally. Gary William's offense per say was really not very conducive to his talent, but Coach Williams really has some kids who played hard for him and did some very small things well, especially kids like Baxter on the interior and Juan Dixon on the perimeter.

One of the things that really has gone the way of the Dodo, though, is the overall attention paid to footwork, just basic pivoting, jump stops, stepping into the jump shot, getting a wide base when posting and being aware of where you are on the court when down in the low block area.

Working on these things can be accomplished rather easily, but you have to start from day one and build upon these breakdown drills. And, of course, when a kid does something wrong with his footwork, no matter what the drill, you have to either stop it then and there and or speak with him about it right afterwards. Muscle memory and pure and simple mental memory are essential to this task of instilling good footwork.

One of the things I would put forward is that you need to do all of your drills, whether they incorporate interior or perimeter foot work, with all of your kids. When you break down to do things with the ball and work on a player's individual moves, then you specialize it a bit more. But, I think teaching kids how to approach the ball, catch it and take a two foot jump stop at the same time is essential. How many times do you see big men who find themselves with the ball on the perimeter after a turnover or long board, and then travel because they do not understand coming to a two foot jump stop, and then dribbling, chinning the ball and looking for that guard to outlet the ball to. More often than not, it seems, when you see big men out there with the ball, they turn the ball back over with either a travel or very poor pass.

You can get them acquainted with perimeter ball handling by forming your kids into three lines along the baseline, everyone with a ball, and all they do is have each line start going to their right and toss the ball four to five feet out in front of them, then take a step or two approaching the ball and, while grabbing the ball, chinning it they come to a two foot jump stop. Do that all the way up the court in groups of three. Now, I know that sounds easy and stupid, in a way, but trust me, when your big men get the ball in a game and they do just that and make a successful outlet pass and you get a nice 3 on 2 break and don't turn it over, you will be darn happy.

The next area of footwork I would make sure to have my kids work on is approaching the shot from the perimeter while on the move. I see, and I am sure you coaches do to, a lot of kids traveling as they move into their shot on the perimeter. There are two schools of thought on this one, I really think it comes down to what the player is comfortable with.

The first school of thought is utilizing the two foot jump stop while coming towards the ball and receiving the ball going backwards. In using this method, you leave the floor then come down on both feet, squaring your body to the basket. I think the two things that get shooters in trouble with this one is they do not get their center of gravity around enough to be square because they do not "sit down" with their arse. The second thing they do not do, and sort of lends itself to the first thing, and that is they do not get their feet far enough apart. This is a problem that Brian Morrison, who used this method often, had with it when his shooting was off. This can be a very effective and quick method of getting the ball off. Tom Coverdal from Indiana used this one well.

The next school of thought is that of stepping into the shot with the lead foot. As you catch the ball you are stepping with that lead foot and rotating properly to square yourself. Now this method is not as quick as the other, but you tend to be in a little bit better control and it gives you that half second to see if you need to pump fake or determine if the defender has closed out quicker than you thought he would. This is the method that garners a lot of travels with that extra step that kids put in there. I actually used to like to use this one when going to my left, and the two foot jump stop method when going to my right. Go figure.

I think these are things you spend ten minutes a practice working on in the first few weeks and once every week do it again. I also think you have your big men do these things. They can do nothing but benefit from practicing footwork.

Now, turning to the last area of footwork I will speak of, the posting footwork, I also think this is something you have your guards do as well.

The three sins I see most often committed by post players, regardless of their size are these; feet too close together, not aware of where they are on the court and standing too straight up and down.

One of my pet peeves, as many know, is not keeping a solid base, which means for almost everyone, having your feet a good two to six inches wider than shoulder width. Now, when posting up, that goes from 4 inches to 8 inches further than shoulder width and, of course, the most important thing is the concept of "sitting down" on the defender when you are posting up. Now, these two things will take care of posting up too straight up and down and will give you the base you want, but if you are posting up too low, or are not sure of where you are when you catch the ball, then you are going to have a very big problem. Everyone has seen a kid catch it down there and not be sure where he is, and then go up with some ugly half hook shot that misses badly. Most of the time that is because they turn around and realize they are either further away or closer to the hoop then they thought they were.

One of the things to really stress when working on kids coming across the lane, or down the lane to post up, is to have them find an initial target spot to post up on. They should, if they can, look to set themselves up on the post by first taking their man a step or two away from where they want to go, then look for that spot on the floor where they can either simply turn around or pivot and roll on their defender and finally establish that good low position. But in doing this, they need to occasionally look down to see that they have not posted up too low, and usually they should never be much lower than having their bottom foot right below the bottom of the lowest block on the key. (The biggest block on the key) This makes all angles available when a post man turns.

I think too, when running drills for these things and doing any individual work, that the best time for this is towards the latter part of a practice when kids are tired and really have to concentrate on using their legs to shoot or post up and make moves. A key is to really encourage your kids, if they can, to dunk everything going to the basket with these drills and do all of it off of two feet.