Basketball tryout ready training tips

Things you should be doing when working towards a basketball tryout

There’s plenty of literature out there about basketball training and a good starting point is YouTube. As of the writing of this book YouTube has around 200,000 basketball training videos. Sorting through them will be a task, but as a start here are some areas worth looking at. 

Ball handling

Ball handling is very important for all positions. Even centers! Yes, I said it; centers. I’d like to highlight at this point though. Doing ball-handling drills doesn’t mean that you are going to be running the point nor should you indulge on over dribbling the ball if you are a center. 

Ball handling will enable you to be confident under pressure. Most of the tryouts I have attended players have pressured the ball. Even centers that receive the ball mid range. It makes a world of difference to your confidence when the ball feels right in your hands. I recommend everyone put a lot of time into ball-handling skill work. Below are some basic drills.

  • Figure 8s and power dribbles at the start of every training session to warm up but also build muscle memory.
  • Cone speed dribbling. Going flat out at a cone and making a change of direction quickly. This will train your body to keep the dribble going during changes of direction.
  • Sprint dribbling. Running as fast as you can with the ball from base line to base line. This will train your body to dribble the ball at speed.
  • Simulated physical D with sparing pads. If you have access to sparing pads that martial arts trainer’s use to teach students to kick (long pads). Bring the ball up the floor while getting hit by pads. You will need a partner to do this so try getting a workout partner. You also don’t need pads; you can have your training partner hold you and lightly push you while you dribble.


In my experience trying out for various basketball teams I noticed when my agility was sharp, I always made the cut. For years I worked out with a trainer that specialised in athletic training. I never knew why I did the drills that I did when I trained with him but I did know that it all translated to agility used on the basketball court.

In early 2009 I was coming to the end of my agility work with my trainer. This was just before I left to Europe. I was fit, quick and my agility exactly where I needed it to be prior to my trip. After some time off to travel it was time for me to tryout for some basketball clubs. Due to the agility work I have been doing I was able to destroy training sessions. As a point guard I was quick, very good on defence and dunking on the odd occasion, which was a big thing as I am only 5’9”.  

Here are some of the workouts I did summarised. As stated before, the best place to find agility drills is on YouTube.

  • Run agility ladders – there’s a series of great ladder drills that you can do to help foot speed. A good starting point is
  • Jump program – there’s a wealth of jump programs out there some of them are programs that you have to pay for. But you don’t need to go spending your money. YouTube has a great collection of exercises that you can pick and chose. Remember; always do your jumping on a soft surface to reduce the shock on your joints. 
  • Cone running – this is basically running between cones set out in different directions. Like an obstacle course. These drills allow you to build your stop start speed. Great for defensive changes in direction. Here’s a clip from YouTube of a few drills.
  • Sprint work (40 yard dash) – with my trainer we did a lot of work correcting my running technique. As a result I shaved a few tenths of a second on my 40yard (36.5 meters) times. 40 yard dashes allows you to build flat out speed which on court translates to a fast break chase down. Here is a good start to getting the right sprint technique but also use YouTube to get other guides on sprinting technique and drills.

Weights room

My training routines in the weights room will probably be a lot different to a lot of people you speak to. When I was training with my trainer my weights program was similar to that of an NFL player. For most of my basketball career I have played heavy. In other words, I am a 5’9” point guard that played at a weight between 75-80kg of lean muscle. My last season of basketball was played at a weight of 90kg. For someone small as me I am very heavy which is attributed to my weights program.

My weights routine is centred on 4 compound exercises.
  1. Bench press – flat press, incline press, decline press
  2. Squat
  3. Deadlift
  4. Standing shoulder press

I never go to the gym more than 4 days a week and my sessions are limited to no more than an hour. Which means there’s no time for chatting about how hot that girl on the stair trainer is with your training partner.

Bench day
  • Chose flat press or incline press or decline press and you have to use the barbell NOT dumbbells. 
  • Do 4 sets with rep range between 8-10 increasing the weight every set. This will take the majority of your hour session.
  • For the rest of the session do your accessories work with dumbbells or machines targeting your chest. Eg. Cable chest fly.
Squat day
  • Standard back squat with barbell
  • Do 4 sets with rep range between 8-10 increasing the weight every set. This will take the majority of your hour session.
  • For the rest of the session do your accessories work such as leg extensions, lunges and split squats. 
Deadlift day
  • Deadlifts are not something to do if you haven’t been trained. Do not under any circumstances try and learn how to deadlift without a proper instructor. If you haven’t deadlifted before I highly recommend you find a trainer to help you with this. A couple of sessions will be enough to get the right form.
  • Do 4 sets with rep range between 8-10 increasing the weight every set. This will take the majority of your hour session.
  • For the rest of the session do accessories work such as lat pull-down, seated rows and bent over rows.
Shoulder press day
  • Standing shoulder press using barbell NOT dumbbells. Ensure that you are not going too heavy and throwing your form out. It is advised you have a trainer to go over the technique with you making sure there it’s too much curvature of your back when pressing.
  • Do 4 sets with rep range between 8-10 increasing the weight every set. This will take the majority of your hour session.
  • For the rest of the session do accessories work such as upright rows, dumbbell flys and dumbbell front raise.

With all the weight work if you experience pain stop straight away. 


I know I have said this a million times already but YouTube is an amazing resource. At the writing of this article there’s around 147,000 videos on basketball shooting drills. As this is the case I’m not going to go into depth on shooting drills instead share with you my shooting routine.

Morning (without training partner working out alone)
  • Warm up with Mikan drill – search Youtube if you don’t know what this is. 
  • Warm up 30 made shots in the paint.
  • 5 spots 10 made shots inside the 3 point line (mid range).
  • 5 spots 10 made shots outside the 3 point line.
  • 5 spots 10 made shots inside the 3 point line off the dribble. Maximum 3 dribbles with cross over(mid range).
  • 20 made free throws.

This usually takes me around an hour to complete, on a good day around 40 minutes. On a bad day it has taken me an hour and a half.

 Afternoon (with training partner using cones as a imaginary screen)
  • Warm up with Mikan drill – search Youtube if you don’t know what this is. 
  • Warm up 30 made shots in the paint.
  • Off the screen spot up shot at the top of the key. 2 sets of 10 made shots.
  • Baseline corner to corner shooting. Running along the baseline from one short corner to the other with a passer at the top of the key. Catch and shoot. 2 sets of 10 made shots.
  • Penetrate and pass to partner for a jump shot. Starting at the three-point line at the free throw line extended; one person on either side of free throw line extended. Person with ball penetrates to the elbow and makes a pass to partner waiting at 3 point lines. Jump shot. Each person to make 10 shots for 2 sets.
  • 10 free throw shots as a warm down. 

When I was younger my shooting partner and I was able to complete this in about 40 minutes. 

The shooting drills I used to when prepping for a tryout may not work for you. Definitely if you are a center or a power forward these drills are not what you should be doing. You’d want to focus in on midrange shooting and back to the basket drills. This is why a quick search on YouTube for your position will help.

Defensive drills

When it comes to defensive drills I have tried just about everything under the sun. Previous to me going to college my defence, or lack there of was my biggest weakness. I couldn’t stop a tree! 

I tried various defensive drills like full court defensive slides to wall seats. Nothing worked. However, after college in USA something changed. I became a better defensive player and later on in my career my defence was one of my biggest assets. What changed? Firstly, my mindset. Secondly, the fact I was playing a lot more one on one basketball. 

The best way I believe to practice your defence is to stay in front of a live opponent. It’s beneficial to also go against players that play different positions. When I was younger I regularly went up against tall power forwards and centers. That’s where playing one on one helps. 

Not convinced, that’s ok. If playing 1 on 1 isn’t your thing YouTube is a great resource with a lot of videos on basketball defensive drills. I know, I’m sounding like a broken record with the whole YouTube as a resource statement. 

A very important point with your training is to not peak too early. Ensure you have a confirmed tryout date. By having a confirmed tryout date you can schedule your training program to ensure you are ready, but refreshed by the time the tryouts come.

Please note that it is recommended that all the above exercise routines be conducted under the supervision of a trained professional instructor (Training Advice Disclaimer for more details). All links to training videos are not in any way affiliated to this article or No Borders Basketball. They were given as a resource for a good starting point.

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