Getting to the Rim – The Secrets to Scoring off the Dribble

Getting to the Rim – The Secrets to Scoring off the Dribble

Recently I received an email from a coach asking this question: Can you tell me what my guards should do before and during penetration and how they should finish at the rim? As I prepared to answer the question it made sense to me what this coach really wanted to know. Like any other skill in basketball there are a series of skills that proceed the end result. Let’s take a look at the secrets to scoring at the rim. In this article we will analyze what happens before and during penetration to the rim.

There are a lot of elements to consider as you break down this skill. There is an art to scoring off the dribble, as opposed to the coach who tells his players to simply “get to the rim”.


1. The number one thing is to clear your defender. Of course, there are a multitude of ways to do this. 2. Knowing that you are on a clear or open side plays into the players thinking also. He SEES that the drive to the basket is possible.


1. Once by the defender, the ball handler needs to quickly survey the floor. Good teams will not let you just go by and get to the trim. They will have levels of help in place. By survey, I mean visually check out the floor for a path the basket OR passing opportunities.

2. I have always taught the Stride Stop as a way for the dribbler to be in control but strong with the ball at the same time. This is where a lot of kids miss out. They are convinced they are driving it all the way to the hoop, eliminating any assist possibilities. Many players, at this time, jump in the air to make a play. The stride stop is a controlled jump stop & pivot at the deepest point of penetration. It allows for control, balance, good decision making, a shot possibility and a pass opportunity.

3. If there is a clear path to the rim, the ball should be taken to the rim in the strongest method possible. Some players can take it up strong off one foot. Others need to jump stop then go up and finish.

Finishing at the Rim

1. Strength is the key. Protecting the ball as they go up with the ball. Use the term, “Take the defender up with you.” In other words, they key is to not let the defenders contact to STOP your momentum to the rim.

2. Concentration is crucial. Most players concentrate on the impending contact rather than the rim. When this happens, the contact becomes the focus, not making the shot.

3. Use of a blocking dummy and mock defenders is good because it simulates contact at the rim.

4. Terms I have used over the years:

a. Finish at the rim–meaning they should release the ball as close to the rim as possible. Makes sense that the less the ball has to travel, the better chance you have to make it.

b. Play THROUGH the contact.

c. Take the defender up with you.

d. Expect contact–how many times have you seen a player get fouled or hit hard and act like they had NO IDEA there was going to be any contact around the basket. This is a mindset you can help your players develop. I use the term, “Take on the contact”.

A key in all of this is the ability for players to make DECISIONS—why? Because getting by the defender is not a licence to get all the way to the basket. It just means they beat the first line of defense. A lay up or power shot is possible, but so is a pass or pull up jumper (the mid-range game). This gives players three options after beating a defender, not just one.