Players by Position
There are five players on the court at any given time for each team. Here are the players and their roles, and this is for any level, from amateur through college and professional.
Called the “one” spot, the point guard is usually the smallest and/or quickest player on the team. He also acts as the coach on the floor and the quarterback of the team, getting his teammates organized and deciding what to do with the ball. He must be an excellent ball handler and passer who plays with bounce and enthusiasm. Good point guards are usually tough and strong players who love to practice. More often than not, they are confident, competitive, poised, and fearless.
Point guards can be counted on to understand the coach's system and know that games are won on the inside, around the basket. They also realize that scoring is not their top priority. The point guard plays in front of his teammates on both ends of the floor. He is the take-charge person who encourages teammates and gets them to respond. He has great court vision and freely gives up the ball to the first open teammate. A point guard must be able to lead the team in assists each season and be able to come through in the clutch by handling the ball in the final moments of a close game. He must be able to make high-pressure free throws if he is fouled in the closing minutes of a tough game. Point guards are rarely the leading scorers on the team since they have other responsibilities, but they should average 10–12 points and at least five assists per game.
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Basketball shoes have become big business since the introduction of the Air Jordan, a shoe Michael Jordan introduced for Nike. You only need shoes that are comfortable and don't hurt your feet. It's cool to wear what the pros wear, but you'll play your best in shoes that feel good rather than ones that look good or have your favorite player's name on them.
Name That Position
There's a lot of skill involved in being a good basketball player. First, you have to know your position. Someone has forgotten the full names here. Can you fill in the blanks?
What's the difference between an elephant and a basketball?
One is big and round and charges through nets and the other is a basketball!
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Before he became an NBA coach, Scott Skiles was one of the best passing guards in the league. He played for the Orlando Magic in 1990 and set a record for most assists in a game. He had 30 against the Denver Nuggets on December 30, 1990.
The shooting guard, or “two,” must be a very versatile player. She is usually the biggest of the two guards and the best shooter on the team. She is a scorer who can both take the ball to the basket and make the outside shot with regularity. Shooting guards are expected to be excellent outside shooters to 20 feet. Also known as an off guard, she should be a very good ball handler, capable of rushing the ball up the court on a fast break or ready to take over for the point guard in breaking the opponent's defense and running the offense. The off guard should be the second best passer on the team and should be capable of playing great defense to stop the other team's shooting guard. A shooting guard must understand what shots the coach wants her to take. She must be willing to take and make a good percentage of the big shots late in the game.
The “three,” as it is known, is probably the most athletic position on the team because the small forward must be able to play inside the key area by the basket and shoot from the outside, too. Usually the smaller of the two forwards, the small forward must be capable of rebounding and scoring against taller players. He must be able to handle the ball outside on the perimeter against smaller players. This position is one of the more physically demanding, and the player needs to be both tough and aggressive in rebounding to compensate for lack of size. The ideal small forward should average five to seven rebounds per game and have an excellent jump shot, along with the ability to drive and score in traffic. The small forward requires a player who can run and fill the lane on a fast break — a fast break is when the team gets the ball near their basket and runs toward the other end of the court with the ball, also known as breaking fast up the court. A small forward must also help against presses, which is when a defensive team comes into their opponents' end of the floor to guard them all the way up the court into the offensive end rather than just running back and waiting for the team with the ball to come into their end of the court. The small forward must also be disciplined enough to rebound missed shots. Because of the versatility required to play this position, the small forward often becomes the leading scorer on the team.
Derrick Rose led Memphis to the NCAA championship game in 2008. The Chicago Bulls selected him as the first overall pick in the draft that year, and he snagged the NBA's Rookie of the Year award in 2009. In his first playoff game, he scored 36 points against the Boston Celtics — a record for a rookie in his first playoff game.
WORDS TO KNOW
This is a term used to describe a player who either sets up plays with smart passes that lead to baskets or takes the ball and scores after receiving it. The playmaker has the ability to put points on the board in situations where scoring a basket seems unlikely.
This is called the “four” position, usually the tallest or strongest of the two forwards. The power forward is usually a player who likes physical play and has a shooting range of 15 feet. They can be intimidating players and have to play with an attitude that they will out-work and out-hustle their opponents. A true power forward knows that the success of the team depends on his ability to become a dominant force and top rebounder. They should average seven to nine rebounds per game at the college or professional level; they should be one of the two leading rebounders on the team, along with the center. They are the best offensive rebounders on the team, scoring the majority of their points off the offensive board and in the lane, the area in the free throw box on either side of the basket. You will see players run through the lane with the ball to score or jump through the lane to get rebounds.
LeBron James is one of the most widely regarded small forwards in the NBA today. He was drafted by the Cleveland Cavaliers as the number one overall pick in the 2003 draft and was named the NBA's Most Valuable Player in the 2008–2009 season. LeBron is a versatile player who is one of the league's top scorers and free throw shooters.
Power forwards are the best outlet passers; an outlet pass is thrown by the player who gets the rebound after a missed shot. This outlet pass can result in a “fast break” where the players rush the ball up the court so that the defense on the other team does not have the time to set up properly. Depending on the fast break, they cover defensively on an inside post player. The post is the area on either side of the free throw line. It's where players who dunk usually get the ball because they are only five to eight feet from the hoop when someone passes them the ball. Power forwards are able to anticipate when a shot will be taken so they can start to the board early to rebound.
The Atlanta Dream selected Louisville forward Angel McCoughtry as the first overall pick in the 2009 WNBA draft. Angel helped lead the Cardinals to the NCAA championship game in 2009. In college, Angel was an All-American in 2008 and averaged 20 points, 9.1 rebounds, and 3.5 steals in four years at Louisville.
This is called the “five” spot. Many people believe that this is the most difficult position to play because of short reaction time caused by congestion in the lane and the fact that the player must perform offensively with her back to the basket. The center is normally the tallest player on the team and the most effective player with her back to the basket. Strength is a very important part of playing this position. The center needs to be able to muscle her way to a position where she can receive the ball and score even with several players around her.
Good teams try to pass the ball inside on about every fourth pass, so centers should also lead in the number of free-throw attempts. The center must be able to use her body to establish position so her teammates can collapse the defense by getting the ball inside. Shooting range is not particularly important to playing this position, but it's critical for the center to learn the basic post moves and be able to decide when to use each move. The center should rival the power forward for the most number of rebounds. The center is the last line of defense before the basket, and must be willing to help teammates defensively by blocking shots or taking a charge on opposing players when they attempt to drive to the basket. A charge is when a defensive player has both feet planted and an offensive player with the ball runs into her. If the defender's feet are not planted firmly in place, she will be called for a “block” or blocking the person with the ball. However, a fast defender can anticipate where the player with the ball is going, get to that place first, and draw the foul on the offensive player.
WORDS TO KNOW
A blocked shot is a ball that is swatted away or knocked down as the player is taking a shot. If the ball is already on its way down toward the hoop when it is blocked, it is called goaltending, and the basket counts even if it does not go in.
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You know you'll need to have strong arms and legs to be a good basketball player, but did you ever think about your eyes? Scientists think they can improve professional players' hand-eye coordination by having them do exercises to strengthen their eyes.