When it comes to playing basketball there are many skills to learn and plays to master. While it can be pretty easy to track stats and take note on which skills need more work, there’s one aspect of a great ball player that is nearly impossible to measure and track: basketball IQ.

Though this skill isn’t really something you can work on during drills or at home on the driveway it is something that can be slowly honed and improved, with the right kind of work. A player’s basketball IQ isn’t just going to get better on its own and it’s often something that few players actually possess naturally.

So, you’ve heard the term being thrown around, but what does it actually even mean?

What is Basketball IQ?

The concept of basketball IQ is a general one. It basically refers to a player’s ability to read the game and recognize what is likely to happen before it does. Being able to almost see into the future and anticipate plays and moves that are about to happen, rather than having to react to them as they come, means that a team can play 3-4 moves ahead of their opponents.

As Wayne Gretzky once said: “I skate to where the puck is going to be, not where it has been.”

Ways a player can improve basketball IQ

Watch basketball to learn

Watching basketball for fun is something most players will do anyways without being told. But when watching to improve their game the way in which they watch usually changes. When watching ball games to learn from them rather than for entertainment, a player should focus on the plays being used, the moves being made by experienced players and how players seem to anticipate what is going to happen next.

During practice, a coach will often use recorded games to show players examples of great plays and moves from players that have a solid basketball IQ.

Get to know the game

In order to improve basketball IQ players should spend time really getting to know the game and some of the great players who have mastered it. By watching established ball players put their knowledge and natural basketball IQ into regular gameplay players can start to pick up some of the cues and technical skills that help that mindset thrive.

Learn from other players

Narrowing down a few specific players that display a serious grasp of their game and using taped games to really dig deep into their on-court game can help amateur and developing players to learn.

Play more ball

Regardless of how a player learns there really is no substitute for actually playing the game and learning through personal experience. All kinds of gameplay, whether a house league game after school or some one on one on your driveway hoop, are great ways to get some hands-on experience in developing basketball IQ.

Focus on the game

Many components of basketball IQ rely on knowing the game well and paying attention to things as they happen. If a player’s mind isn’t fully on the game at hand, he might miss certain cues that signal that something is about to happen. Knowing how much time is left in the game, which players are in danger of fouling out and which opponent specializes in certain plays are details that a player with a high basketball IQ will have noted.

Basketball IQ and scoring points

Though winning a game of basketball technically comes down to the points on the scoreboard, that’s not the only important part of a winning game. Players that have a high basketball IQ can help their team win through making quick decisions and smart plays, even if those don’t immediately translate into points.

Though a great basketball IQ can be taught over time, it’s also something some players just possess naturally, and those are some ball players to watch out for!