How to Be Small and Play Big in Basketball


You will often hear that basketball is a game for tall people. Although there are some advantages for tall players, a short player can be equally--if not more effective--as a player. This article provides a development guide for how a short player can be a big-time contributor to the team.

Things You'll Need

  • Strong work ethic
  • No fear
  • Develop great ball handling skills. This is an area where it is actually advantageous to be small. Because the ball will be lower to the ground, it is very difficult for a taller defender to take it away. Use this to your advantage by keeping the ball very low while dribbling through defenders.

  • Be an excellent passer. Beyond just developing the core passing skills (chest, bounce, overhead), become a deceptive passer by developing "no look" and wrap-around passes. With an arsenal of passes available, the defense will be off balance and not able to shut you down.

  • Develop court vision. Be able to see the whole court so that you can spot an open teammate in an instant and make the pass. For some players this is an innate skill, while for others it is learned through considerable court time. To practice this skill, try focusing on the bottom of the net while you have the ball. With this focus and good peripheral vision, you should be able to see all of the players on the court at one time. This will allow you to spot an open teammate in order to deliver a quick pass for a scoring opportunity.

  • Measure your offensive effectiveness by the number of points you create. You can create points through scoring yourself or creating the opportunity for a teammate to score (a.k.a. an assist). By getting the ball to a teammate in the right place at the right time, you are providing the most important aspect of the offense. It is also important that you exhibit the ability to score so the defense does not sag off you. You can measure your "Points Created" by adding your points scored plus points that teammates scored from your assists.

  • Develop a good outside shot. Every team needs good outside shooters. For younger players, develop that 15-foot to 17-foot shot and be able to make it consistently. For older players, in addition to the 15-foot to 17-foot shot, be able to knock down the 3-pointer. Your ability to make the outside shot will draw the offense out to guard you, which will allow for easier lane penetration.

  • Develop good rebounding box-out technique. Taller players have a rebounding advantage when there are poor box-outs. If you use good box-out skills, the taller players will have to come over you and commit a foul to get the ball. Get your body on your opponent and hold your ground--release only to get the ball.

  • Shoot 80 percent from the free throw line. If you are a good free throw shooter, you can provide an additional 2 to 3 points per game. Many games are decided by 2 to 3 points. In addition, the team will want you on the court at the end of a game if you are a good free throw shooter. There is no reason why every player can't make four out of five free throws--all it takes is practice and concentration.

  • Be a leader. Leadership knows no size--it only knows heart and intelligence. Be the leader of your team by encouraging team play, maximizing the effectiveness of each player and keeping players on task. The most effective leaders are those that guide, not divide.

Tips & Warnings

  • Be encouraged that some of the greatest players in basketball history were vertically challenged (Isiah Thomas, John Stockton, Bob Cousy, Scott Barbeau, Steve Nash).
  • Hit the weight room--you can make up for some height differential with strength. Being stronger than your opponent will allow you to create more space for yourself on the court.

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