Player Development Theory

The Rising Stars Basketball Player Development Theory

Rising Stars Basketball Player Development Theory

The Rising Stars Basketball Player Development Theory describes the road that we take in experiencing the game. The experiences that make up the pathway should be designed to promote “Basketball for Life”, which encourages everyone to continue on in the sport. Positive basketball experiences ensure that those who enjoy the game will continue to take part as players, and will also stay involved in the sport as coaches, trainers, administrators, fans, officials and referees.


Everyone starts the game in a different fashion. Some of us are first introduced to basketball in school, while some of us start as toddlers with a toy hoop in our home. In either case, this introduction sparks our interest in the sport.


With initial interest comes exploration. Often, we are entered into our local basketball league or registered for instructional lessons as children. Also, we begin to play the sport with friends in our neighborhood or in pick-up games at school. Exploring opportunities to play basketball are vital to our continued interest.


During the exploration phase and beyond, we learn a basic understanding of how to play. Basketball is often learned from parents or guardians, local coaches, and from those that we play with and against. Many players develop skills by emulating their peers or the athletes they watch at higher levels of play.


The next stage is participation, where players take part in the sport at all levels. This includes continued structured play on local recreation teams, travel teams, club programs and school teams. Participation also includes non-structured play without coaching, such as pick-up games, playing in the driveway, or perhaps at an outdoor court.


Some of us will find that we will advance into higher levels of basketball. Through hard work, dedication and natural talent, we may perform basketball well enough to become very good high school players or college athletes at both the scholarship and non-scholarship levels.


There are a small number of players that possess the attributes of talent, physical and mental ability, and extreme dedication who will go on to excel in the sport. These players move from the perform stage into the excel stage to play basketball professionally. An even smaller number of those players will be selected to play for their country’s National Team.


It is important to understand and accept that while some will advance to play basketball at higher levels, and some will simply continue to participate in the game, everyone will eventually enter the “Basketball for Life” stage. This stage includes continuing to play the game, but also includes those who continue to take part as coaches, trainers, administrators, fans, officials and referees.

The Rising Stars Basketball Player Development Theory is a road map to enjoying the sport forever. Great experiences along the path will ensure growth of the individual, growth of the game, and the future of the sport.

Let's Explore the Player Development Theory


Starting in basketball is as simple as picking up a ball and bouncing it. That's the most natural thing to do with a basketball is to roll it, bounce it, and eventually pass and catch. These are very simple motor functions at younger ages that help aspiring athletes become comfortable with the basketball in their hands.


Exploration starts with programs in Kindergarten, 1st and 2nd grades. Rising Stars created a program called Crossover Crew in 2014 which was an advancement from the Little Dribblers programs we see all over the country. Little Dribblers is essentially dribbling the ball with a series of stationary dills. Crossover Crew was more advanced in the sense that we took basic playground or gym class games and inserted a ball. We introduced the basic movements such as dribble stationary, tossing the ball in the air and catching, in addition to clapping our hands up to 5x before catching the ball. These are all meant to improve the basic motor functions of a young aspiring athlete.

Crossover Crew then inserted dribble knockout at an early age, whereas they need to dribble the basketball while "doing something else." That something else was dribbling around an area to knock out the ball of another person. Advancing the basic dribble into a moving drill while creating situational awareness. These are all essential for advancing the skill of ball handling, being aware of your surroundings while protecting the ball.

Another drill we incorporate is the "Around the World" game. This isn't the one you grew up with. This is a competition style drill whereas all of the baskets are lowered to 8 feet. The athletes must shoot from 8-10 feet away from the basket. If they make a basket, they must speed dribble to the next basket, stop on a dime and perform a game-speed shot. This drill continues for 15 minutes. The athletes should be able to make 30-40 shots with some athletes making upwards of 50-60.

Then, we move into Sharks and Minnows. Sharks and Minnows is where we allow the children (minnows) to line up on the end line, and at center court are the sharks (parents). On the "go" command, the minnows must dribble to the other end of the course successfully without losing the ball. The Sharks are assigned the task of stealing the ball for the minnows. If a minnow loses their ball, they become a shark. The progression is that it's 5 sharks to 30 minnows. As the game progresses, it becomes 30 sharks to 5 minnows. This requires an advanced skill level of handling the ball, changing directions, protecting the ball, and using a speed dribble. The athletes are now performing retreat dribbles, crossovers, change of direction, speed dribbles, and so on.

Finally, we incorporate freeze tag. The same concept; kids vs parents. The parents locate the young dribblers and tag to freeze them. The kids must dribble away from parents, as well as locate another young dribble and tag them to unfreeze them. This is an ongoing process until all of the athletes are frozen, then the parents win. Game over. The same principles apply. The athletes must change direction, use retreat dribbles, crossovers, speed dribbles, and tag their teammates to keep the game going. Subconsciously, the little athletes are developing their ball handling through this game.


Learning comes in the form of short-sided games with more touches. In this context it would seem like less players on the court would make more sense. This is where 2-on-2 or 3-on-3 would make the most sense. 2-on-2 guarantees more touches, however, you remove the element of an away screen or basket cut and a third option for filling the empty space on the floor. This is where 3-on-3 makes the most sense. 3-on-3 leagues, whether in-house or in a regional leagues are great options to learning the game. Learning to pass the ball, screen away, screen down, make an entry pass, or attack the defender are all important concepts in the next level of progression. You can empty the post and teach the athletes to use V-cuts or L-cuts to get open - or - you can fill the post and use pin downs to get the athletes open.

Let's look at the down screen, first.

Player A, screens down for Player B. Player B fills the wing where Player A started from Player A now occupies the post.

The ball is now on the wing. You have multiple options from this alignment. Just for the sake of an example, we'll set another down screen coming from the player on the top, opening up the player in the post for a shot near the free throw line and 3-point line.

These are all simple concepts you can implement to ensure that you're helping your athletes learn the game of basketball.


In Rising Stars Basketball, we utilize the 12U and 13U level teams to introduce the athletes to participating in the game of basketball with a 5-on-5 type of game play. The same principles apply from the 3-on-3 program as they do in the 5-on-5 play. We simply add 2 more players. 2 more players also means 2 more defenders, so this adjustment is difficult to make for these age levels, but it can be made.

We like to empty out both posts, and open up the floor to allow the athletes to utilize their skills to attack the basket going down hill. The 12U and 13U levels are not developed to have strong help defense, so we take advantage of that.

Our basic alignment is a 5-out setup, and we utilize a down screen, just like in 3-on-3 play.

This action immediately creates a 'Double Gap' for the ball handler to utilize for attacking the rim, or awaiting the bottom players to fill the wing positions for an entry into the offensive setup.

Another entry option is the 'Dribble Out' motion. This is where the ball handling dribbles to a teammate, creating an immediate backdoor cut. On the backside, we continue with the down screen. The goal is to occupy the backside of the help defense with action while opening up the look to the back door cut for a layup. This is a new wrinkle into learning the game - back door cuts.

Continuing this motion... The corner fills the top. The ball-side corner sets a down screen for the back-door cutter, for a corner three, or the ball handler can attack the rim.


Performance comes at the 14U and 15U levels were athletes start to form how they play the game in their own unique styles. These are when players start to craft and hone their skills. They can become the "3 and D" players whereas they play great defense and become a three-point threat. They can become slashers that attack the rim or get backdoor cuts for layups, they can become the floor generals, or 3-Level Scorers. This is the start, not the final destination, players can continue to develop and become high performers specializing in one aspect of the game over another. However, the skill development aspect is still important.

This age group is where we really start to explore the space of the floor, and allow players to make plays, utilize their teammates, and start identifying how to analyze defenses and how to use their skills to beat team defenses.

Athletes will see elaborate full court presses, zone defenses, trapping, and start to see strong one-on-one players.


Excel is the levels that include 16U and 17U which are varsity levels and typically run into college-bound athletes that specialize in various positions on the floor. They'll see point guards with tremendous skill that can handle the ball, and take apart defenses with their play. You'll find great shooters that can take over games with a couple of consecutive long balls. You'll find great rim protectors that can change the face of the game with blocks, rebounds, put backs, and great post moves.


Basketball for life is the level that happens once athletes have graduated and may not continue on with collegiate level play, but love the recreational aspect of the game. This is common in universities with Intramural play, or 18+ adult leagues across the country.

Rising Stars Basketball holds annual alumni games for these age groups, as well as recreational leagues, and open gym style play.

Coaching is also another option for the BASKETBALL FOR LIFE level of the Player Development Theory, whereas players pass on their knowledge, skills, and passion for the game. The lifecycle typically starts with teaching the EXPLORE age levels, and moving up the ranks to the 16U and 17U levels.


Whichever level you're at right now, you can always embrace the game of basketball whether you're 6 or 16, 7 or 17.


Rising Stars Basketball
10767 Nyman Ave
Hayward WI 54843