How to Excel as a Basketball Center

With the sad passing of the Boston Celtics legend Bill Russell, we thought we’d pay our respects by writing an article with tips on how to dominate the center position in basketball. Russell was not only one of the best players of all time, but an athletic big man who revolutionised the game. Focused on team success, he won an amazing 11 NBA championships and 5 league MVP awards.

While the NBA has developed into a “small ball” league over the last couple of decades, a dominant big man is still crucial in most other leagues across the world, especially at the amateur level. Here are 4 important roles a big man needs to perfect in order to succeed.   

Inside Scoring

Most tall players get thrown into the middle, but height alone will not always mean success. A center needs to have an array of post moves and the ability to finish at the rim. Practicing footwork is crucial to becoming a solid center. Hakeem Olajuwon was the master of post moves and could score on his opponents with a variety of fakes, drop steps and spins. Watch his videos on YouTube to get some great ideas on what to practice.

Passing from the Post

Scoring inside is important but having the ability to find the open man when you’re double teamed can take your game to a whole new level. When the defence collapses, knowing where the open teammate is and being able to execute the pass will have opposition teams hating when they play you. Australia-born Andrew Bogut is a name that comes to mind when excelling at this skill. He won a championship with the Golden State Warriors by passing from the post when scoring wasn’t an option. Patience and protecting the ball is key when waiting for the right moment to make the pass.

Rebounding at both Ends

A center who controls the boards can dominate a game without scoring. More rebounds mean less opportunities for the opposition and more chances for your own team to score. Positioning is key when it comes to being a strong rebounder. Getting between your player and the basket gives you a much better chance of coming up with the ball. Also, knowing where the ball is most likely going to end up after a miss is a skill that can be developed with experience. Dennis Rodman and Charles Barkley were both players who lacked size but had an uncanny ability to find the ball and outmanoeuvre their opponents. Watching footage of them and continually noting where various missed shots go will give you a big advantage, no matter what your height!

Guarding the Opposition’s Big

If you want to excel as a basketball center, you also need to be able to stop the opposition big man. Height, strength and physicality all play an important role in this. But even if you’re undersized, there are ways to keep your opponent under control (see Rodman and Barkley again). Not allowing your opponent to catch the ball close to the basket will reduce the chance of them scoring. Use your knee to subtly push them off the block, so they have to beat you with an outside game. Staying on your feet and not falling for fakes (but keeping your arm up at all times) also goes a long way to success. Being in top condition is another great asset. If you can sprint up and down the court and beat your opponent to the key, you will be able to set the tone, and hopefully wear them out in the process.

While having a 3 point shot is something most youngsters desire, if you’re a center and can perfect all of the above, you’re going to have a lot of success on the basketball court. To work on your post moves, consider private basketball training with Tomorrows Stars.

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