What Traits Describe a Basketball Player?

Team of female teenage basketball players lined up against wall

Elite basketball players boast a combination of physical and mental skills that you don't find in many other sports. The good news for non-elite athletes is that you can probably develop a number of skills sufficiently to enjoy playing basketball at some level, if you're willing to do the work. The first step is to identify the characteristics you need to succeed.

Get Physical

Height gives a basketball player an obvious advantage, particularly when you rebound or shoot near the basket. But smaller players can succeed if they have superior jumping ability or skills in other areas, such as speed and quickness. Good overall strength helps you battle for rebounds and loose balls. Jumping ability lets you grab rebounds or get your shots off unmolested. Straight-ahead speed allows you to run down the court and score -- or prevent -- fast-break baskets. Quickness -- the ability to react faster than others -- can help you steal the ball or burst past a defender when you're on the attack.

Develop Your Skills

Some traits, such as height, are primarily genetic. But you can develop or at least improve your physical gifts in other areas. Agility is a key basketball skill, particularly in one-on-one situations in which a ballhandler makes quick moves while the defender tries to remain between the attacker and the basket. Hand-eye coordination is a key skill that helps you shoot the ball and make accurate passes. Muscular endurance lets you play hard down to the game's last minute. Working to stay in good physical shape year-round -- through a healthy diet and plenty of exercise -- is an advantageous trait that can give you an edge on better-skilled but out-of-shape opponents.

Play Smart

Good basketball players are also good learners. You should not only study the game's fundamentals, but you must learn your team's plays and your individual assignments so you can execute them without a conscious thought. Having good court sense, also known as a high basketball IQ, lets you move into the right position on the court so you're in sync with your teammates. Court sense lets you know when to help a teammate on defense and where to move on offense to get open. Smart players also recognize their mistakes and heed their coaches' advice, which can lead to continuous improvement.

Get to Work

The decision to work as hard as possible is one you make every time you step on the court. Hard-working players battle for every rebound and loose ball within their reach and always hustle into the correct position on the court. Basketball is a fast-paced, physical game and even the best conditioned players can get tired in the final minutes. But the most effective players push through the fatigue and continue to give their best efforts. Effective players also make the decision to put the team first. You should always be willing to pass the ball to an open teammate, for example.