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Best One on One Basketball Drills for Skill Development

Compiled by Coach Brian Williams

Playing a lot of purposeful one on one during player development work is essential.  Here is what I view as “purposeful.”

  • The rules of the one-on-one games and drills need to develop skills that fit your offensive system.
  • Better to not shoot in one on one than take a bad shot.
  • Defensive must be engaged and working to improve controlling a dribbler.
  • Offense is working to develop moves that will benefit the team in a game, not to show off what a player can do with the ball.
These are some resources I wanted to share with you that I have collected over my 4 decades of coaching basketball.

Here are a couple of ways to play one on one in practice that improve both of those abilities.  We do not allow our players to take bad shots in one on one drills that they would not shoot in a game.  We always have a third player as an outlet that the offensive player can pass to and then cut to get the ball back to keep them from taking a bad shot.  If you play with a shot clock, you will need to decide if you want to have them go ahead and get a shot, even if it is not the shot you want, if they have to beat the shot clock.

We allow five dribbles on each possession before they must pass to the outlet teammate.  We have considered, but not implemented, allowing two back dribbles after the 5 attack dribbles to simulate backing out of trouble.  Might be something to experiment with in your one on one drills. 

Continuous One on One Drill

Continuous one on one is designed to make one on one games more like 5 on 5 games without the “checking it up top” after a basket.   It is a fast moving drill with no down time.


The player who will have the ball first starts at the free throw line with their back to the basket.  The defensive player can positions themselves anywhere they want.  The offensive player must toss the basketball beyond the three point arc and then go and retrieve it.  The defense can steal the ball as it is being tossed beyond the arc, so the offense must pass it away from the defensive pressure and move quickly to “meet the pass.”  If the defense steals the pass, they are now on offense.


Once the offensive player has the ball, they face the basket and play one on one with the five dribble limit and the outlet player available as described above.


Rules for play.


1)  As soon as there is a change of possession on a made basket, a defensive rebound, or a turnover, the player gaining possession always spins the ball out beyond the arc and retrieves it to start their possession.  The spin out is a live ball, so the other player can steal it if they are in a position to do so.


2) Play to 10 points with baskets scored like a game–3s and 2s.  Shoot free throws on shooting fouls. 


3) Common fouls are 1 free throw for the player who was fouled and that player retains possession of the basketball.


For another variation, you can play the drill with “make it take it” rules.  If a player scores, they retain possession to try to score again (after tossing the ball behind the arc) until they are stopped.


Louisville One on One Drill

 The NBA 3 point arc is used to illustrate where the players should cut to catch the basketball.


The drill begins with 2 players (one behind the other) starting underneath the basket.  The player in front is the offensive player (#1 in the diagram) and the player behind  (#2) is on defense.  There is a coach on each side of the floor at the free throw line extended.  Both coaches have a basketball.


#1 cuts to either “NBA slot” (the spot illustrated in the diagram by where the cut arrow ends).  2 trails to be ready to play defense.  When #1 arrives at the slot, the coach on that side of the floor passes that player the basketball and they play live one one one from that point.


Rules for Louisville One on One Drill


1) The players are only allowed three dribbles each time they have the basketball on offense.


2) The player on offense can pass to either coach and cut to get the ball back from that coach.  


3) Dribbles do not start over after a pass to a coach.  Example: if the player with the ball dribbles once, picks it up, passes to a coach and cuts.  They now have two dribbles remaining once the get the ball back from the coach.


4) The offense gets one point if they score, are fouled (either a common foul or a shooting foul), or get an offensive rebound.  If any of those things happen, the defense goes to the back of the line and the offense starts again with the next defender up.


5) The defense wins (and gets a point) on a stop where no foul occurred.


First player to five points wins the drill.


One on One Toughener Drill

Lane One on One Drill

Spanish 1 on 1

Contributed by Fabian McKenzie.


X1 starts with a ball on the baseline

1 starts at free throw line

X1 passes ball to 1.

1 must dribble around cone and attack the basket

X1 must sprint around their cone and attempt to stop 1

Vary the locations of the cones for each player to increase the level of difficulty

Beat the Helper 1 on 1

Contributed by Taylor Jannsen

Great drill to help teach players how to beat rotational help with a variety of finishes.

Editors Note: I like the concept of the drill, but don’t like to see the offensive player going away from the basket. I would try to play it more like turning the corner or coming off a ball screen. I would try it a couple of different ways and see which way you like best.


On the offensive player’s first move, the defense loops around a cone and simulates a help defender.

Player 1 pushes the dribble out in front and must touch the paint before attempting a shot.



1 on 1 Rollout


1. Offense rolls ball to opposite elbow; defense has to touch elbow but needs to get behind the roller

2. Offense gathers the ball at the elbow; defense touches the elbow

3. Offense attacks the rim looking to draw contact! There will be collisions!!! — Defense challenges at the rim.



There will be contact at the rim!

50 Point One on One Knockout Drill

Nate Oates Cincinnati Full Court One on One Drill

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