5 Ways To Improve Basketball IQ and Become a Smarter (and Better) Player

The most athletic and talented players aren’t always the ones playing big minutes. 

A lot of good basketball teams have players who don’t look the part. Perhaps they are undersized or even a little bit slow for the level they are playing at. Despite this, they are productive on the court!!

Why is that? What’s special about these players?

These players are almost always great teammates, hard working, and physically tough. Another tool they have is their intelligence on the court!!

Today I’m going to show you how improve your basketball IQ and reach your potential as a player. 

What is Basketball IQ?

Basketball IQ refers to a player’s intelligence on the court. While athleticism and skill are important, a strong basketball IQ is necessary for a player to reach their potential. 

Some examples of basketball IQ include: 

  • Are the right decisions being made at the right time? 
  • Is each shot being taken a good shot? 
  • Can the player identify another team’s offensive or defensive scheme, and then counter that scheme? 
  • Do you as a player understand what your coaches are asking for and can you execute it? 

5 Ways To Improve Your Basketball IQ

1) Watch your own game film

Often done at the high school and college levels, watching yourself play can have a lot of positive effects: 

  • Seeing yourself play a game and looking for ways to improve can be bizarre, but is also a great way to improve basketball IQ. 
  • A lot of gametime decisions that should have been made differently can be identified during this time, especially if you are watching with a trusted source of basketball knowledge such as your coach.
  • Details are important in sports, and watching yourself is a great way to give attention to details and improve your game by understanding your skillset, perfect your decision-making, and learning how to eliminate your turnovers in basketball.

Just be careful and don’t become too critical of yourself. 

We all want to improve and self-reflection is important, but there is a right way to do it. 

No player ever played a perfect game and made every single decision correctly!!

When watching game film the goal should be to improve as a player, not to seek out criticism and self-doubt. 

2) Watch other basketball games

Every team I have coached has been told throughout the year to watch basketball games in their free time. A lot can be gained from this, including knowledge of schematics on both sides of the ball as well as a better understanding of skills necessary to succeed. 

When doing this it is also a good idea to pay close attention to specific aspects of the game. 

  • Identify the defensive scheme of both teams: 
    • Are they playing zone? 
    • Are they forcing players baseline or to the middle? 
    • Are they in the gaps or packed into the lane off the ball?
    • How do they defend screens? 
    • How do they defend the post? 
  • On offense you should do the same thing: 
    • Are they running a motion or a patterned offense? 
    • Do they set screens, if so where? 
    • Do they have a tendency to play on one side of the court? 
    • Where do post entry passes come from? 
    • What do players do after passing the ball into the post? 

In our present-day technological world, a number of games can be watched after the fact on YouTube as well. You can even take advantage of watching specific teams to pay attention to specific parts of the game. I personally like to watch Villanova for motion offense tips and the likes of Virginia, Northern Iowa, and Texas (Because Chris Beard is now there) for defensive tips. 

Ultimately, watching basketball can always have some benefit, but pay attention to the right things when you do it. 

3) Talk about the game with others

Any successful person will tell you they learn a lot about what they do by talking about it with other people in that field. This is why coaches attend coaching clinics and businesses hire consultants. Talking to others and asking questions is not an admission of lack of knowledge or a weakness. Rather, it is a strength to make the effort to improve. 

  • Talk to your coaches about basketball. Ask them what you personally can be working on or doing better. Pick their brains on the schematics they use and fundamentals that are drilled in practice.
  • Talk with other players and coaches of other teams if you have the opportunity to. Find out their perspectives on the game, strategy, training, and how they do things differently or similarly. 

A lot can be learned in a short amount of time by asking the right questions and entering each conversation with an open mind. 

4) Read about the game

It’s not surprising to find out that many successful people in all walks of life are avid readers. 

Some of the names in basketball who have been known to be devoted readers include Lebron James, Kareem Abdul-Jabaar, and Bobby Knight. 

Here are a few recommended reading sources:

  • Read books written by coaches and players. These can either be specifically about basketball or about their life in general. There is something to always learn from voraciously consuming knowledge.
  • Read articles like this about the sport. Successful coaches and players have used the internet to publish a lot of their knowledge. On this website alone there is plenty of material that can help players include their basketball IQ. Take advantage of it.
  • Even reading articles about NBA and college games can be beneficial. These can be found in newspapers, sports related websites, and various social media handles. Breakdowns of specific plays and strategies are available as well from some resources.
  • Read anything and everything. We can all learn a few lessons from books like Fahrenheit 451 and To Kill a Mockingbird. 

5) Play basketball

The best players hone their skills outside of the gym by studying and learning. At the end of the day, however, there is no substitute for the skills learned on the court. 

  • Take advantage of your reps in practice and in games. None of the information here is valuable without the effort. This is why so many repetitions are taken by college and professional players everyday.

  • Play with your friends and at the local park and rec center when you get a chance. This is a different type of opportunity to hone skills and develop IQ and will allow a different perspective from a typical practice or game. 
  • Have fun, but view everything as a learning opportunity as well. This game is a part of our lives because we enjoy it. Like others, I have found I enjoy activities more when I am fully dedicated. Enjoy the hard work and the process associated with playing basketball and improvement will certainly follow.

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