(Editor’s note: Marvin “Automatic” Johnson is a former University of New Mexico basketball star who now serves as camp director for Southwest Basketball Camps. This is the third in a series of articles Marvin wrote, offering tips to young players.)
So far in this series, we’ve talked about the triple-threat position, pivoting, dribbling and the importance of practice. Today, we’re going to cover passing.
There are only two ways to move the basketball from one part of the court to another — passing and dribbling. Passing is the most effective.
At Southwest Basketball Camps, we teach three basic passes: the bounce pass right hand, the bounce pass left hand, and the overhead pass.
I’m sure some of you are saying, “Marvin, what about the two-hand chest pass?” In my view, you should forget the two-hand chest pass, don’t waste practice time on it. It is too difficult to make the two-hand chest pass in a game situation without your opponents getting their hands on the pass or stealing it outright.
The reason for this is that, when you make a two-handed chest pass, you must step forward, and that’s usually where the defender is. Since you have two hands on the ball, you have no way to protect it.
When making a right- or left-handed bounce pass, hold the ball with both hands. If you’re making a right-handed bounce pass, the ball should be on the right side of your body and you should step with your right foot. You should step slightly to the right toward the person you are passing to. Do the reverse for the left-handed bounce pass.
While making the pass, push the ball toward the floor. The ball should bounce once and end up at waist level of the person you are passing to.
In a basketball game, the bounce pass should be used 80 percent of the time. It’s the best pass to make when you’re under pressure, and, in a game, you are under pressure most of the time.
The two-handed over-the-head pass is used to make an outlet pass, feed the post and on in-bound plays.
The ball should be held with one hand on each side of the ball. Your arms should be extended straight up and slightly in front of you. Don’t bend your elbows and get the ball behind your head. This is a mistake a lot of players make and is the cause of many turnovers because you end up throwing the ball with your arms. There’s little control when passing with your arms. And if you get the ball behind your head, it’s easy for a player behind you to steal it from you.
When releasing the ball, use both wrists, as though you’re shooting the basketball with two hands. The target area you are passing to is between the shoulders and the top of the head of the person you are passing to.
Always remember to take a step in the direction of the person you are passing to, as this will help you with accuracy and you will be able to get more force behind the pass. Every pass you make should be done forcefully, because the longer the basketball is in the air, the better chance a defender has to steal it.
Practice your passing, and keep practicing your dribbling. Next time, we’ll talk about shooting.