Building A Foundation For Handle Combinations

Are you trying to improve your ball handling? Want to get better at shifting your defender? Dribbling the basketball at an elite level requires a good foundation of different dribble moves. Adding every possible move to your bag allows you to pull off more dynamic combinations against your defender.

What should be in my move set for dribbling?

Every dribble move should be in your arsenal, the crossover, the behind the back, and the under the legs, and the in and out. The variations of these dribble moves and the nuances should be mastered. This article will give you that grasp through detailed description so you understand the nuance. 

But before anything, you should be able to dribble comfortably on both your left and right hands. Any weakness to one hand can inhibit your ability to do the moves. It also allows your defender to not be deceived when you only have one good hand. So, before anything, become effective with both hands at finishing and handling the ball.

Now let’s get into detail. 

The Crossover

The crossover is an effective way to switch ball side hands. From left to right or right to left, it can be a good way to attack your defender. However, the crossover is more than just a switch of hands. 

For one, the ball is more exposed to the defender than under the legs or behind the back switch. This is important because for purely switching hands, it is not the most effective variant of the move. 

To do a crossover correctly, hips matter. You must make the defender believe that you are going to drive on the side the ball is being handled. By means of a hip swivel and foot plant, your defender will commit to that ball side drive. This is when you switch to your other hand in quick fashion. This is the basics of the crossover.

The behind the back

behind the back move

The behind the back’s purpose is to switch hands just like the crossover, however, its situational usage is different. 

The behind the back can be used as a way to switch hands protectively, in the case of a standstill, in place, behind the back. The behind the back allows you to switch hands while still keeping your general speed.  It can be used to keep momentum downhill on a drive. 

The behind the back is most effective on a fast break, especially when a defender wants to stop your momentum or steal the ball. This is the basics of the behind the back.

The under the legs

The under the legs dribble moves’ purpose is to protect the ball while switching hands. It is the safest way to switch hands, as the ball is underneath you, and is nearly impossible to steal if done correctly. 

Its weakness is that it slows you down, so typically is not used in downhill situations. It is typically used in a half court setting when a defender is pressuring the ball. It is also used to size up. This is the basics of the under the legs.

under the legs size up

The in and out

The in and out consists of dribbling with one hand and simulating a switch of hands without actually doing so. This is a counter mostly to the crossover dribble move, or a variation called the push cross. It’s purpose is to keep the defender honest on the switching of hands.

It can be extremely dangerous if the deception is not there, as just like the crossover, the ball is right in front of the dribbler. This is the basics of the in and out.

in and out dribble move

The hesitation

Screenshot (55)

The hesitation relates to all four dribble moves, as the hang can be effectively used by all three. Hesitating is dribbling with a pause and slight stop while not losing your dribble and picking the ball up. This is most effective when you can shoot at a high percentage, because defenders are forced to step up. Defenders should believe the pause is the dribbler’s way of setting up a jump shot. 

However, because you never picked up your dribble, the defender is at your mercy. If the defender does not step up, that’s a wide open jumper. Defender does step up, attack him. It is a great way to get one step ahead of your defender.


By using the strengths of these dribble moves, everything should be reactionary and not scripted. Dribbling should be used solely for playmaking or scoring, not as a fancy eye candy. 

Reactionary dribblers know how to use dribble moves particularly on what the defender is doing. For example, let’s say the defender is reaching in, that’s a cue to utilize the under the legs move. Let’s say the defender is not coming up enough, utilize the hesitation.

Think of different combinations that will get the defender confused or deceived. A crossover, then a hard attack may make the defender fully commit to the hand you are dribbling with, that’s when you utilize the behind the back. This keeps your momentum, while also moving away from where the defender is committing. That is an example of a solid combo. 

Combinations have to be more complicated depending on how cerebral and good the defender is. You may give 3 or 4 solid moves in combination and the defender does not fall for any of it. In cases like this, it requires extreme reactionary skill and experience to work a good combination that may fool a good defender. 

But if the defender is not great, do not overcomplicate it. Most individuals will not require complex combinations.

Dribble with purpose

The final point, and perhaps the most important is to dribble with the intent of scoring. You should never dribble in place. If you are dribbling in place, there is one of two problems. One, you can’t shoot. Or two, your defender knows you are not a good reactionary defender, and that you are dribbling with no purpose. 

Learn to shoot at a high percentage from midrange and three point or you cannot implement any type of dribbling to your game. Lucky for you, I wrote an article on that specific topic. Check it out on my blogs page.

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