Perimeter Player Development with Mike Dunlap

Perimeter player development is important for all players in today’s game. Coaches want guards and posts to be able to play effectively on the perimeter. In this summary of Coach Dunlap’s Perimeter Player Development clinic we highlight his ideas which have helped develop players in high school, college and the NBA.

Coach Dunlap prefers to look at player development as teaching decision making.

Philosophy of Teaching Perimeter Development

  • The most important things about perimeter players is to remember that the ball is the most important part of the game and that we can’t give it away.
  • The security of the ball is everything in the game, because if we turn the ball over we can’t win the game.
  • The simplicity of handling, passing and shooting the basketball has to be very basic. But what’s happening in the game is that there are too many tricks with the ball, and there is not enough teaching of how to make a great decision and on how to protect the basketball.
  • Americans are the worst in the world at more is better so we keep adding tricks to ball handling. Nothing to do with ball handling.
  • “One sound decision leads to another with the basketball. Make the pass that you see, don’t make the pass that you want”
  • The architecture of ball handling, passing and shooting has to be very fundamental and basic. Within those fundamentals becomes the discovery of how you can move to do some beautiful things.
  • In order to run, we must learn how to walk properly first.
  • Not enough time is spent on those basics anymore and so when the pressure comes in the game the ball gets turned over because we didn’t do our job at the beginning of the practice with the way we teach.

The ability to dribble the basketball hard is a talent.

  • He demonstrates a proper dribbling stance (5:44)
  • Chin to shoulder. Pound the ball hard.
  • Attack and move back to create space and cross the ball.
  • The key to protect the basketball is ball-you-man.

Full-Court Pull-Back Change Dribbles

Between the Legs (8:23)

Crossovers (11:21)

Spin Dribbles (14:32)

Two Emphasis

  1. Don’t cross the ball in front unless you have huge space. Pull the ball to your back laces.
  2. Eyes on the bottom of the net. If you put your eyes on the bottom of the net you can see either sideline, when you have your head down you can’t see what is happening on the weak side of the floor.

Concept of the Three Line System of Teaching

He teaches most often out of three lines. He feels you can do everything of three lines.


He wants to players to stay together (to stay in sync or in harmony) in these three line drills. The reason is that he feels timing is everything on the offensive side of the floor so players have to know what harmony looks and feels like.

He wants players to be aware of themselves as a ball handler but also aware of their teammates because in a game they have to move together.

That why we need to go back and teach properly, with the rise with the shift they only can happen if the fundamentals continues to improve (16:04).

Footwork Drill (19:42)

  • He suggests players should know how to move and pivot on both feet. You must teach the feet to be ambidextrous.
  • You have to have a left foot and right foot but too many coaches allow players to only use their strong foot.
  • Why are asking a player to be able shoot left handed layup and a right handed layup, but you don’t ask him to use both feet. It makes no sense.

Important Drill Note:

The strength of any player in this game offensively is the base of their feet. The width outside the shoulders is important as the wider might the feet get the lower a player’s butt gets so the better their balance is.

Teaching Non-Athletes How to Play Quicker Starts with Teaching them How to Play Slower and Lower

  • Your job is to teach a slow player how to play slower. If a player who is slow plays slow and low, when do they move quickly they have the ability to look quick.
  • For example he argues Larry Bird knew how to play slow to play quick.


Players must know how to jump stop and stride stop.

When a player plays too fast make them use the jump stop as it helps them slow down.

Dribble, Pivot, Pass Drill (29:23)

  • Passing a basketball is passing with your feet and your legs. Too many players pass with only their upper body. Passing is in your feet.
  • A pass has to have speed, back spin and it has to be away from the defense or it will get stolen.
  • Make speed passes a trademark of your team. Avoid loop passes unless it is a lob.

Dribble Out Reversal Attack Drill (33:27)

  • Running into your pass is what he calls the “education of your feet” or how to move after a pass.
  • He also wants them to understand spacing.

The problem is that players play too fast. They have play slow to set and use screens and to see if the basket cut is open.

3-on-3 Overload (44:02)

  • It’s nice to have great spacing but a lot of times we don’t.
  • We want to teach them how to operate in tight spaces.
  • He works out of miniature triangles to help his players learn how to help each other get open.
  • Any time they pass they have to rim cut and replace the space or screen the player without the ball. He teaches the players how to move 3-on-0 first (41:39).
  • The spacing for the drill is that players must play on one side of the half-court and below the free throw line.
  • They aren’t allowed to dribble (or one dribble as they progress)
  • There is a point per pass and need 10 passes to win the game.
  • Players keep their own score
  • They have to score to win.
  • If they score from a pass that is worth 2 points.
  • They have to validate the win with a made free throw. If they miss the free throw it goes back to their score at the beginning of the possession.
  • Pass the coach the ball if there is a violation. Coach will blow the whistle.
  • He wants the tempo to be fast.
  • Defense to offense as it is an offensive game.

Learn to respond to your mistakes as a player and run off the floor.

3-on-3 Wide Space (54:02)

Only one dribble and you can pass to the coach when the coach double claps or you are in trouble.

3-on-3 Regular Spaces (56:29)

10 passes. Trying to score. Each player is allowed 3 dribbles.


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