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Take Your Best Shot: How To Stand Out at Basketball Tryouts (According to Top Coaches)

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You signed up for your local basketball program, you have the training uniform, and now you have make-or-break basketball tryouts lined up for a spot on the team. How do you make sure you ace them?

After all, there’s no point in going to tryouts if you feel:

  • Intensely nervous and afraid you’ll get the jitters
  • Intimidated by other players who you feel may be better prepared than you
  • Physically unready and unsure if you’ll pass the tryout’s fitness demands

The best way to deal with these doubts is to prepare yourself ahead of time, and following expert advice for basketball tryouts is an important part of this process.

Read on to find out how to do well during basketball tryouts, including the thoughts of top coaches on this matter and the best tips for basketball tryouts that professional players follow. 

Want to find out how pros prepare themselves for big basketball occasions? Get in touch with EuroProBasket today and find out how we can put you at the top of your game.

How do basketball tryouts work?

Basketball team tryouts are your gateway to organized hoops. 

They typically take place before the season starts and involve a series of basketball drills and scrimmages designed to assess your basketball skills, athleticism, and basketball IQ.

Unlike high school or middle school tryouts, these are open to student-athletes of all ages, but you may be placed into a tryout category based on your skill level and experience.

Don’t worry about replicating NYC (New York City) streetball moves; coaches prioritize good fundamentals and a positive attitude. 

So, if you want to find out how to make a basketball team, lace up your sneakers and read on!

How long are basketball tryouts?

The length of basketball tryouts varies according to the age of the player. Youth basketball tryouts (5th-8th grade) typically last one or two hours, focusing on basic skills like dribbling, shooting, and layups. 

High school varsity and adult tryouts may extend to two to three hours, adding scrimmages to assess teamwork and basketball IQ. 

The duration can also vary depending on the number of players and the program’s structure, so make sure you’re aware of this as you begin your preparation.

How to prepare for tryouts in basketball: 5 pro tips

The internet is full of tryout tips for basketball, but the people to listen to are those who give the tryouts: the best basketball coaches

Here’s how to be prepared for basketball tryouts, according to three coaching experts.

1. Hit the gym

Basketball is a demanding sport that requires players to be in peak condition, so the sooner you can get working out before tryouts the better. 

The key here is to focus on the right exercises: building core strength, leg power, and upper body endurance should take center stage. 

Remember, building a strong foundation translates to better ball handling, powerful shots, and a more confident presence on the court.

Also, don’t neglect agility drills – quick changes in direction are crucial for leaving defenders behind. 

2. Follow a sensible diet and get lots of sleep

A healthy basketball player diet is your secret weapon. 

Focus on eating high-quality complex carbohydrates – whole grains, fruits, and vegetables – in the run-up to the tryout so you get sustained energy. 

Don’t forget protein for muscle repair and growth, but avoid sugary drinks and processed foods that can lead to crashes in energy levels. 

Lots of sleep, too, is the ammo for this secret weapon. If you can get eight to 10 hours a night, then you’ll give your body time to process these nutrients, recover from the workouts, and rebuild. It’ll also mean your mind is sharp for in-game decision-making. 

3. Practice shooting at home

We all know how important shooting is, which means that we can never get enough basketball shooting tips or practice too much.

Many players wait for practice sessions to hone their shot, but NBA shooting coach Dave Love believes this is a big mistake. “Great shooters are the people that you can’t get out of the gym, that are always working on their shot”, says Love. “If shooting is something holding you back, then there needs to be more time put into developing that skill”. 

basketball tryouts

Investing in a basketball and a hoop is the best way to practise your shooting in your own time. 

If you can dedicate time each day to practicing proper form, footwork, and follow-through, then you’ll develop the muscle memory and the confidence that will see you through the pressure of tryouts.  

4. Prepare at home with chair drills

If you find that you struggle to translate solo practice into a competitive environment, then chair drills can be your savior. 

Stack a few chairs in your home court or local gym to simulate defenders and practice dribbling drills, shooting, and layups around them. It’s like having virtual teammates help you prepare for the real deal! 

Here you can refine your crossover dribbles, practice finishing at the rim, and get used to making plays in confined spaces.

Chair drills will improve your court awareness and ability to adjust to defenders during tryouts.

5. Eat a high-carb meal before the tryout

It’s not just what you eat that matters, it’s when you eat it

To optimize performance, a general rule of thumb is to eat one or two hours before a game of practice. This allows you to digest properly while also using the fuel for explosive moments and endurance.

Opt for complex carbs like pasta or whole-grain bread over simple carbs like sugary drinks, which cause energy spikes and crashes. Feeling comfortably full, not stuffed, is key.

You may also be asking yourself what to do the night before basketball tryouts. Well, Nutrition specialist and AAU coach Dr. James Gels recommends starting the carb intake 24 hours before your tryout. “Not eating enough carbs the day before a game could result in those glycogen stores running low, contributing to physical and mental fatigue”, he points out.

Examples of excellent pre-game fuel include cereals, vegetables, crackers with peanut butter, bananas, and bagels. Avoid fatty dairy products, but low-fat yogurt is acceptable. Hydration is also vital – water, sports drinks, and fruit juices are great choices.

How to stand out at basketball tryouts: 10 pro tips

So you’ve prepared like a pro and game day has arrived. What do coaches look for in basketball tryouts? And that all-important question: how do you not get cut from basketball tryouts?

Here are 10 pro tips for basketball tryouts that will stand you in good stead on game day. 

6. Arrive early 

Punctuality might be something we get taught at high school, but it really is important to not just roll up to tryouts just in time to dribble.

Getting there early shows the coaches your dedication and also gets you in the right mindset. 

Use the extra time to loosen up with some light stretches, get a feel for the court, and maybe even ask a coach a question or two. It demonstrates your seriousness, and initiative, and sets a positive tone for your performance.

7. Be vocal 

Silence isn’t golden on the basketball court, especially during tryouts. 

During scrimmages, use your voice to call out screens for teammates, alert them to open passing lanes, or announce defensive switches. 

Doing this shows two things: your understanding of the game and your ability to communicate effectively on the court. 

Being vocal shows coaches you’re a leader and a teammate who can think strategically, not just a ball hog focused on individual stats.

8. Support your teammates 

Basketball is a team sport, and coaches value players who contribute to a winning environment. 

During team practices, don’t just focus on your performance. Celebrate your teammates’ successes with high fives, hustle back on defense to help them rebound, and offer positive encouragement if they miss a shot. 

Coaches will quickly see that you’re a team player who prioritizes winning over personal glory.  

Plus, remember, even if you’re not the flashiest player, a positive attitude and a willingness to work together can go a long way.

9. Avoid taking two-handed shots 

We mentioned shooting drills earlier, now it’s time to get a little more technical.

Proper shooting is key and Coach Love has some ‘handy’ advice for how to do this during a tryout: avoid taking two-handed shots that look good on social media, but sacrifice accuracy for style.

The reason for this is simple: it shows that your shooting hand is wrong.

“Most people see that the guide hand is pushing the ball and attempt to get the guide hand off the side of the ball,” says Coach Love. “Unfortunately, all this does is expose that the shooting hand is out of position”.

The coach’s advice? “Working on the shooting hand first and getting it underneath the middle of the ball. Until the shooting hand is in a position to push the ball along the target line, the player will need to push with the guide hand.” 

Remember, coaches are looking for players who can reliably put points on the board, not highlight-reel wannabes!

10. Remember to sprint the floor 

Basketball isn’t a walk in the park. 

Coaches value players who give 100% effort, especially during fast breaks. When a teammate gets a steal or rebounds the ball, push the tempo! Sprint down the court to get open for a pass or create scoring opportunities. 

An eye for a killer attack and a will to win essential qualities for any basketball player. 

Remember, even if you’re not the most skilled player on the court, an optimistic character who never quits can go a long way in catching a coach’s eye.

11. Don’t overdribble 

Dribbling is a crucial skill, but aimless dribbling that stalls the offense won’t impress anyone. 

During scrimmages, focus on purposeful dribbling that creates scoring opportunities or breaks down the defense. Make sharp cuts, use hesitation moves, and attack the basket when openings appear. 

Coaches are looking for players who can make quick decisions and use their dribbling and handling skills to create scoring chances, not virtuosos who prioritize showboating over strategy and get caught dribbling in circles.

12. Talk directly to the coach for advice

Tryouts are nerve-wracking,  but don’t be afraid to approach a coach during breaks or after the session. 

Ask for constructive criticism or clarification on drills: not only will you learn more but you’ll show a desire to learn and improve, qualities coaches value. 

That said, also be respectful of their time and pick appropriate moments to ask questions. Coaches are busy evaluating many players, so keep your inquiries focused and concise.

13. Take set points from the front of your head

Another shooting tip: proper form is crucial.

Many players take shots from behind their heads, but this causes problems. “The issue becomes with the elbow,” Coach Love explains. “At the set point, a player hasn’t started the shooting motion yet. But if the set point is over the player’s head, the elbow will already be lifted. And so as they begin the actual shooting motion, there is nowhere for the elbow to go.”

The solution? Concentrate on taking balanced shots in front of your head, with a smooth follow-through. This demonstrates your dedication to good technique, which is essential for consistent scoring. 

14. Don’t dwell on your mistakes 

Everyone misses shots, throws bad passes, or makes mistakes on the court, but the difference makers are those who don’t let them go to their heads.

Coaches value players who can bounce back from setbacks and stay mentally focused throughout the session. Dwelling on mistakes will only hinder your performance, so keep your head up and show the coaches your mental toughness.

15. Keep tryout notes to improve next time! 

After tryouts are over, take some time to reflect. 

Jot down notes on your performance – what went well, what areas need improvement, or specific feedback from coaches. Did you struggle to finish at the rim? Were you hesitant to shoot open threes? 

Use these notes to develop a personalized training plan – you could even ask a coach to help you. 

Remember, the journey to becoming a great basketball player is a continuous learning process, a path that all the greats have trodden before you.

Ace your tryouts with Euro Pro Basket: Your gateway to pro basketball 

Imagine training at Europe’s most advanced basketball facilities, learning from NBA-caliber coaches, and building a network that propels you toward professional leagues. 

That’s the reality at EuroProBasket in Valencia, Spain.

We’ve helped top players like Israel Torres take the leap into competitive basketball. 

Our secret? Elite facilities at L’Alqueria del Basket, top-tier coaching at surprisingly affordable prices, and ongoing support. 

It’s this expert guidance that makes the difference for our players at professional tryouts. 

CEO and founder Brad Kanis explains: “We provide a professionally certified basketball coach for all players, including NBA/WNBA level trainers who know what it takes to succeed”.

basketball tryouts

From personalized training plans to connections with local teams and agents, we equip you with everything you need to succeed. 

Don’t settle for average training – take your best shot with EuroProBasket.

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