Spotting the hardwood player who has the courage to demand the ball in clutch situations—then sink the game-winner with ease and composure—is easy to do. Though it’s difficult to teach or practice the “clutch knack,” Mark McKown, Utah Jazz strength and conditioning coach, offers a drill to help ice your blood, enhance your court vision and bolster your body control.
“If you practice in-game situations, where the ball is in your hands and you have to create a shot with the clock winding down,” says McKown, “then come gametime, you’ll have poise and any situation will slow down for you.”
Before every game and practice, Jazz players perform the Blind Toss Drill five times in a row to prep for pressure situations.
Blind Toss Drill
• Stand in middle of lane with back to basket. Partner stands arm’s length away from you, facing your back
• Partner rolls or tosses ball to your left or right, out in front of you
• As soon as partner releases ball, you have five seconds to retrieve ball, then create best shot possible before time expires. Partner will serve as defender and counter
McKown’s Advice: Partner needs to make a sensible toss or roll, somewhere along the three-point arc, no further than half court // Don’t anticipate where the ball is heading; just quickly retrieve it, get your body under control, then make an explosive move to the basket // Avoid throwing up a silly shot. Some of the NBA players who are best at this drill, such as Deron Williams, can take the ball to the hoop strongly for a lay-up or short J // If teammates are around, turn this into a loud, competitive atmosphere, like the one you’ll encounter during games
Benefits: Improves peripheral vision // Triggers response time // Works an explosive first step and ability to change direction as you make your move to the hoop // Stimulates motor control and the ability to play within yourself as you beat the defender and clock