What is Basketball IQ?

Generally speaking, basketball IQ refers to the ability to just instinctively play the game and adapt to any situation that comes up. Knowing how to put the right play into motion at the right time is a skill that many players don’t instinctively possess. It combines a blend of technical skill, game awareness and understanding, plus experience. Basketball IQ is something that may not put points on the scoreboard or improve individual on-paper stats – unless you really dig deep. It does directly affect the game and can help your team win.


Characteristics of players with high basketball IQ include:

  • Plays with efficiency: doesn’t expend energy running across the court unnecessarily

  • Instinctively knows which play to make and when

  • Keeps his eyes on the court and seems to know what’s happening in all corners

  • Adapts to changes

  • Recognizes when it’s time to pass and when it’s time to keep the ball and move

  • Knows what to do when they have and don’t have the ball

  • Gets creative with plays, with ball handling and with on court moves

Now that you know what basketball IQ is, how do you fare?


How to improve your basketball IQ


Watch to Learn

Any basketball player will naturally enjoy watching games. But are you watching for enjoyment or to learn? Record games and re-watch them with a focus on different plays being used, new moves you haven’t mastered and whatever details sets the teams apart and makes individuals and teams successful. Pick a few players that you know have specific basketball IQ traits that you’d like to learn and spend time studying them.


Get Curious

Spend time online studying some of the greats that you’d like to emulate. Learn about how they got started, where they picked up their skills, and what their skill building routine looks like. Find players, coaches, trainers and analysts on social media and use them as a resource. Don’t be afraid to ask questions, whether it’s to your coaches and trainers or to those you follow online. Asking questions just helps you further your knowledge, so that when it comes time to get onto the court, you can put your knowledge into action and improve your technical skills.


Learn from other players

There are always going to be players out there that can do something better than you can. No player is perfect in all areas. A good learning tool is to pick out a few of those players whose basketball IQ is something you admire, and study their game. Whether it’s the more experienced players you play ball with in the park, a pro you follow on TV or a teammate you look up to, watching how these players play the game and make moves that show their high basketball IQ will help you improve your game.


Analysts often talk of players with great basketball IQ as being “Students of the Game”. This is true as they watch and analyze game footage more than others. They practice on the court, they work out in the gym (because they know they need strength and conditioning), and they watch highlights and study film. They pay attention to detail and learn at every opportunity.


Basketball IQ isn’t just about scoring points

Elite basketball players are generally great in all areas of the game, not just getting the ball through the hoop. It’s an instinctive quality that some players just possess naturally, but that doesn’t mean it’s not a trait you can’t improve with hard work and dedication. A player with a high basketball IQ that helps the make the most of their skills is going to excel on the court!

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