What Makes a Good Basketball Player?

What Makes a Good Basketball Player?

There are three major areas of consideration to address when evaluating a basketball player.  Those areas are attitude, athletic ability, and basketball skills.


There are countless philosophies on basketball and the best qualities in a player.  No matter how diverse the philosophies and the styles of play, I think every coach wants players that enjoy playing hard.  Each of us has our own criteria by which we assess selflessness, aggressiveness, poise, and many other personality traits. Suffice it to say we’re all in pursuit of the player who best demonstrates a good attitude.

Athletic Ability

Athletic ability is the measure by which many players earn spots on a team and often fill complementary roles.  I look first for a player with an explosive first step.  Quickness can sometimes compensate for a lack of fundamentals and skills.  An especially high premium is placed on lateral quickness because it allows you to excel as a defensive player.  Anticipation can somewhat compensate for a lack of quickness, but, there is no real substitute for quickness.

Secondly, I try to determine how good the hands are.  Can he/she catch a bad pass and make their own next pass a good one?  Do they come down with the ball in traffic under the boards?  Are they able to pick the ball up off the floor and convert in a transition game?  It is especially important that you ascertain the quality of hands in a pivot prospect.  Being able to catch it in a stationary post situation should be a given.  But can the player catch the pass amid other players and on the move? A well-coached player is one who meets the ball and locates the defense before making a move.  He knows or looks for the defender and moves accordingly.

Body control is another facet I look for. That doesn’t necessarily include being able to make the circus shot.  Rather, it is a facet of play that can better be evaluated by watching for a player who pulls up in balance and squares to the hoop off an explosive dribble.  Or you can look for a guard who’s able to jump stop at the foul line on a 3 on 1 break.  It is most apparent when playing defense because a man without good body control has a tendency to commit fouls by “reaching in.”  When contesting shots, I’m particularly interested in seeing if the defender can rise vertically, arm(s) extended straight up, and not drift into the man taking the shot.

Last of all in my assessment of athletic ability, I look for a good jumper. A player with good jumping ability can jump off two feet in a crowd.  Some players need a step to jump and others a run, but the athlete who can go up “right now” is someone who really possesses talent.  Jumping endurance is also a good athletic quality. Can the player stay in the play by continuing to jump a second and third time? When they go airborne for a layup, can they absorb the force of contact and finish? I think a great athlete is best evaluated on a layup in traffic because if he’s quick, he’ll pull away from the pack, if he has good hands and jumping ability, he won’t lose the ball, and finally he will finish the play off strong even if there is contact. 

Basketball Skills: Passing

Passers that appeal to me are those who pass the ball away from the defense.  Outstanding passers can put a snap on the ball that you can’t coach.  They deliver it quickly and effortlessly by using their wrists.

Good passers can also dribble to improve their passing angle (a lost art and a hard to teach concept).  It is easy to find players that can pass in the open court, difficult to find players that can penetrate and pass effectively. A good passer takes the ball up to the defense and that’s a trait often overlooked by most.

Good passers have poise and patience above all else.  They anticipate, see the court and read the defense (not just the defender covering the receiver but the “off the ball” help as well.)

Finally, a really smart passer doesn’t put the ball in the corner unless that player has a shot. Never pass to a player who has begun to cut away from the hoop. 


Good ball handlers are easy to spot.  They are at least adequate with both hands.  A great dribbler is one who can go full speed up and down the length of the court with either hand and come to a stop under control.  A super dribbler is one who can change direction, and speed with the ball.


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