Technical articles

How to get better, more skilled and smarter players

by Luka Bassin (Player Development coach -Cedevita Olimpija Ljubljana-)


or me, PLAYER DEVELOPMENT is part of basketball training and a process making players better, more skilled, and smarter to make better decisions, and making players mentally tough. 

In this article for Sport Coach, I will break down some basic concepts and approaches to the process I found very beneficial and effective.


For me, PLAYER DEVELOPMENT is a workout based on an individual approach but is not necessarily individual practice. The number of players at the workout could be from 1 to 6 (even 8), depends on the goal of the practice.

Most of the time in player development practice we spend developing offensive skills but it is necessary to focus also on defensive skills. 


I divide the process into GUARD’s, FORWARD’s, and CENTER’s development but we can combine multiple positions in a single workout. 

Before we start with PLAYER DEVELOPMENT we must make an analysis and set goals. Then we build a plan ( time, place, goals, methodology) and monitor the process, analyze all the time and adjust and reset things if necessary. 

It is an absolute “MUST” to collaborate with the head coach, sport’s director, strength&conditioning coach, and physiotherapist. 

We must teach them that MENTAL TOUGHNESS separates!

Luka Bassin
Luka Bassin talk with a youth basketball player. How to get better, more skilled and smarter players
Luka Bassin


I divide PLAYER DEVELOPMENT into three basic groups: 

A) Youth players from 12 – 16 years old

B) Young players from 17 – 22 years old, which are the most important group, since these are the age where players build their status and make a foundation for their careers

C) Older professional players (23+ years old) who still need to develop and get better, adding technical and tactical things to their game.


Another question is WHEN we do PLAYER DEVELOPMENT. Most of the time we do it in OFF – SEASON but for young players, we must find the time to develop also during the regular season/competition period. We must sacrifice some time, especially in morning workouts, but also in team practices (team player development drills during warm-up) where we can develop some skills and interaction between players. 

4 segments of player development:

The development of basketball skills is the foundation and basic to move on to decision making. The better skills we have, the easier and more effective decision-making will be. 

Word or two on decision making and building basketball IQ. We must give players options, offering them solutions to “solve” problems. We must teach them WHERE, WHEN, and HOW to attack to be successful. 

We can develop some skills and interaction between players during warm-up in team practices. 

Luka Bassin
Luka Bassin talk about How to get better, more skilled and smarter players
Luka Bassin


In general, coaches use three different methodologies to develop decision making:

  • – Drills without defense, but using players imagination.
  • – Drills with “dummy” defense and guided defense.
  • – “Live” game situations from 1v1 to 4v4.

My humble opinion (and the way I develop) is that drills with “dummy” defense (using players or coaches as “passive” defenders) and guided defenses (showing players vocal and hand signs) are not beneficial. I don’t believe in such methodology and don’t believe that you can make a progress and develop basketball IQ with such drills for a simple reason: watching coach showing you signs and vocal instruction (and players must react) is something not even close to things that happen in the real game. 

On contrary using, imagination and anticipation in 1:0 – 4:0 drills are closer to real game situations.

Nevertheless, I am a big believer in working 1:1 to 4:4 with “live” and aggressive defense while developing basketball IQ and decision making. Learning through mistakes is the best way to grow and once players recognize proper solutions/decisions against “live” defense, the basketball IQ grows. 

Let players make mistakes, let players create, let players find what is right and what is wrong. Your job as a coach is to give players options, to guide them through problems but players must face problems and issues, and see by themselves how it looks when something is right versus wrong.

I am a big believer in working 1:1 to 4:4 with “live” and aggressive defense while developing basketball IQ and decision making.

Luka Bassin


Another segment of PLAYER DEVELOPMENT is video analysis. Players must see their situations and situations of some high-level players. There is a very simple reason for that: players don’t believe when you tell them what they did wrong, but once you show them, they don’t have excuses anymore. Players admit the mistake and grow when they see the video, other than that they have alibis and excuses. And watching videos is also a big part of developing players’ imagination.

Luka Bassin talk with a basketball player. How to get better, more skilled and smarter players
Luka Bassin


Last but not least – even if we are successful in all three previous segments, we won’t be successful if we won’t develop mental toughness, especially with younger players. 

There are not many players so mentally tough and ready to play on the senior professional level as Luka Doncic, Ricky Rubio, etc. With most of the players, we must talk about problems and encourage them, teach them about the rules of life, and preparing them to live in the world of “hyenas”. 

We must teach them that MENTAL TOUGHNESS separates!

Teach them how to become a professional, have a healthy life, eat healthy food, taking care of their body, and the importance of hard work and discipline. 

We must work towards goals and have a vision for the future. 

We must teach them how to deal with problems and to be responsible. To focus on the important things that can be controlled…

But three most important things in PLAYER DEVELOPMENT (and also in life in general) are:

  • – To have NO FEAR OF FAILURE and

This is only my view on the player development process and things that I learned in years of working with players and watching them grow. 

Twitter: @LukaBassin

Thank you Coach Bassin and we hope to see you soon!

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