By: Kaustubh Garimella. Kaustubhis a sophomore at Northwestern University and has previously volunteered in India helping students learn basketball.

Basketball is just as much a mental exercise as it is physical one. Coaches often talk about basketball IQ as an important factor in a player’s development. Whether it’s knowing where to be on a defensive rotation or knowing how to orchestrate the pick and roll, every player has to be a student of the game to be successful. There’s a reason why Duke has always been a successful college program, even though they often don’t have NBA talent. But that begs the question, how do you refine your basketball IQ?

Crossover Students with Coaches – Summer 2012

Basketball is a team sport at its core, and that’s where most of the mental learning begins. Listening to your coaches and your teammates is the only way to all be on the same page come tipoff. Great teams will always cite communication as the number one reason why they win.
In addition, it’s important to study opponents as well. If you’re sitting on the bench, or watching game film – watch the opposing players, especially the ones who play your position. See if they favor their right hand or left, or have a favorite move in the post. Check if they aggressively go for the steal, or lay back into the paint. Understand their game so as to maximize yours against them.

Most importantly, basketball IQ affects how you perform in crunch time situations. When the game is on the line, even the slightest mental mistake has a huge impact on the game. When the clock is ticking, you as a player have to able to combine what you’ve learned in practice and what you learned by observation to execute the current play without hesitation. Shield the ball handler away from his strong hand, call a teammate over for a trap, get a steal and run the break.

Communication and teamwork all help build the pyramid of success both individually as a player and leader, and as a team. Let’s everyone have a great season and go get those W’s.

Edited with contributions by Shaun Jayachandran – Founder of Crossover Basketball and Scholars Academy

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