The Best Pass in the World

bent elbow defender.png
By Bill Winfrey

Learn to attack pressure, not retreat from it

Coaches can tell instanlty how well you handle pressure, and it often determines for them whether or not they can rely on you in big games and at crucial moments. Learning this pass can dramtically shift you from survival mode to attacking pressure with confidence.

The 'Best Pass in the World' attacks pressue.

The ‘Best Pass in the World’ (also called the 'Bent Elbow Pass' or the 'Over the Ear Pass') will help you in numerous situations to attack and beat pressure no matter how much more athletic your defender is.

I learned this pass from Dick DeVenzio (former Duke star PG and nationally known teacher and author), and I've never seen or heard of anyone else teaching it. He named it so because it enables a player to basically throw the ball right through the defender almost as if they’re not there and allows you to turn their superior reach and quickness into their disadvantage.

This pass attacks the defender at a very unnatural spot to guard… which also happens to be the most direct route right through the defender. This vulnerable and seldom unused spot on the defender is right past their ear, just over their shoulder.

A defender's arms may be out, up, or down... but they are never right beside their ears. To guard this spot is awkward and hard to get to. And just for this reason, it creates an excellent window to pass through. Because this spot is seldom (if ever!) used, you also have the surprise factor is on your side as well.

If you're willing to invest in developing a new skill... this pass can become a tremendous weapon and give you the confidence to attack any pressure head on, knowing you'll turn their pressure into their disadvantage.

The keys are…

  • Be close to the defender… within 1 or 2 steps from your defender (since it’s going right past their arm you don’t want to give them much time to react)

  • Pick a side… In other words, lean to a side to isolate one arm of the defender. You are either going to go below or above the arm you’ve isolated (If that arm is up, you simply bounce pass below. But in the next point, we’ll show you how to bring their arm down so that in most cases you can throw straight past their ear.)

  • Bent elbow ball fake… the key here is a short quick bounce pass fake (a strong jerk that draws down the arm you have isolated) but while keeping your passing arm cocked. Picture the ball tucked just under your arm pit with your elbow bent and pointing backwards. Your fake and pass are basically one motion, it’s a jerk downward, then an instant snap pass upward past their ear.

Common mistakes are...

  • Extending your arm too far in the fake so that you have to recoil your arm a bit before you can snap the pass. If you have to recoil at all, you’ve lost your advantage.

  • Too slow of fake… the fake and the pass are really to be one motion. The pass is snapped from the very spot that the fake ended. Even if you don’t recoil, you can still too slow by pausing in between the fake and the pass. Don’t pause. Instead, fake down and instantly snap the pass upward.

  • Being too far from the defender (more than 2 steps)

Practice tips:

  • If solo… practice against a wall

  • With a partner… Add defender, but pass against a wall

  • 3 person rotation… (2 passers and 1 defender in the middle after each pass the passer becomes the defender vs the one who just caught the last pass)

  • Vary defensive intensity allowing time to get the form right before increasing pressure

  • Work on both left and right hand passes!

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