How to Play Center in Basketball: 5 Keys to Master the Position!

The best position in basketball! (Don’t tell the guards. You need them to get you the ball.)

I’m very excited to go over how to play center in basketball because that’s the position I played my entire career, from in-house to college basketball and every basketball team in between.

I may be a bit biased in my opinion, but who cares?

You may have been blessed with height or size, wondering what position you should play, or are curious about how to coach the bigs on your team. Either way, this is the ultimate for learning the center position and making a giant impact on any court you step on.

As the anchor of the defense and a key contributor to the offense, the center position demands a unique set of skills, knowledge, and strategy.

I’m going to go over the nuances of playing center and equip you with the tools to become a dominant force in the game.

So grab a pair of the best basketball shoes for centers, and let’s get started!

What is a Center in Basketball?

Also known as the “five” or the “pivot,” the center is one of the five positions in the game.

The center is typically the tallest player and the most physically imposing player. They play a crucial role in both offense and defense, serving as the defensive backbone and an important scoring option in the paint. They also need to know how to rebound in basketball.

In other words, we centers are responsible for quite a bit.

Reasons You Need to Know How to Play Center in Basketball

Being a good center isn’t just about being tall. It’s about embracing a unique position that carries tons of value and importance that not everyone can play.

The center position, unlike playing guard, is often regarded as the anchor of the team when playing defense.

You have to know how to play defense in basketball because you are the defensive backbone and focal point, using your size and strength to protect the paint as a shot blocker, contest shots, and secure rebounds at the defensive end.

Basketball players that play center also play a vital role on the offensive end. With your imposing presence in the low post, you become a scoring option that demands attention from the other team.

Your ability to establish position, execute effective post moves, and finish at the rim can contribute valuable points to your team’s overall score and keep the defense honest.

Additionally, your skills in setting screens and executing pick-and-rolls as an offensive player open up scoring opportunities for your teammates, making you an invaluable asset in offensive plays.

Step-by-Step Instructions on How to Play the Center Position in Basketball

Mastering the art of playing center in basketball requires a combination of physical skills, basketball IQ, and strategic thinking.

To guide you step-by-step, let’s explore the key instructions that can help you excel in this pivotal position.

Section 1: Understand the Role of a Center

At its core, the center position requires a blend of athleticism, size, good defense, and basketball IQ. It’s a big advantage for most teams to have a great center and post player down low.

Let’s explore the key responsibilities and attributes that define the role:

1.1 The Defensive Backbone

1.2 Offensive Force

  • Set solid screens to create scoring opportunities

  • Establish post position for low-post scoring

  • Execute effective pick-and-rolls

  • Get offensive rebounds

Section 2: Master the Fundamentals

To excel as a center, it’s essential to build a strong foundation of basketball fundamentals. Let’s break down some crucial aspects:

2.1 Footwork and Positioning

  • Develop quick and precise footwork for agility and balance

  • Utilize proper defensive stances for optimal positioning

  • Understand angles and leverage them to gain an advantage

2.2 Rebounding Techniques

  • Box-out fundamentals to secure rebounds

  • Time jumps for offensive and defensive rebounding

  • Outwork opponents through hustle and anticipation

Section 3: Skills Training and Development

To elevate your performance as a center, honing specific skills is crucial. Let’s dive into some key areas of focus:

3.1 Post Moves and Scoring

  • Master drop steps, a hook shot, and up-and-under moves

  • Exploit mismatches and use size to your advantage

  • Develop a reliable mid-range jump shot

3.2 Passing and Court Vision

  • Make accurate interior passes under pressure

  • Develop court awareness to find open teammates

  • Initiate fast breaks with outlet passes

With all this training, make sure you know how to make your shoes not smell so you can stay free from stinky feet!

Section 4: Mental Aspects and Game Strategy

Becoming a dominant center requires more than physical prowess. It demands mental strength and a strategic mindset:

4.1 Reading the Defense

  • Identify defensive schemes and adjust accordingly

  • Recognize double teams and make smart decisions

  • Exploit defensive weaknesses for scoring opportunities

4.2 Communication and Leadership

  • Direct teammates on defensive assignments

  • Call out screens and switches

  • Provide vocal support and encouragement

Section 5: Building Your Basketball IQ

To truly excel as a center, deepening your basketball knowledge is crucial:

5.1 Study the Greats

  • Analyze game footage of legendary centers

  • Observe their techniques, positioning, and decision-making

  • Incorporate their strategies into your own game

5.2 Continuous Learning and Adaptation

  • Keep up with basketball trends and evolving strategies

  • Attend camps, clinics, and workshops to enhance skills

  • Seek guidance from experienced coaches and mentors

Key Considerations for Successfully Playing Center in Basketball

  1. Embrace Physicality and Strength: The center position is often associated with size and strength. Embrace your physical advantages and develop your body to withstand the rigors of the game. Focus on strength training, conditioning, and building endurance to excel in the paint so you can dunk on smaller defenders.

  2. Master the Fundamentals: Strong fundamentals provide a solid foundation for success. Work on your footwork, positioning, and timing. Develop your ability to set screens, roll effectively, and establish post position. By mastering the basics, you’ll become a more complete and effective center.

  3. Understand Roles and Responsibilities: Playing center means understanding your roles and responsibilities both on offense and defense. Communicate with your teammates, direct defensive rotations, and be vocal on the court. Offensively, recognize when to score in the paint and when to pass to open teammates.

Taking it to the Next Level: How to Master the Pick and Roll as a Center

As the center, your role in the pick and roll is setting effective screens that can create shots fo you and your teammate handling the ball.

The timing between you and the ball handler is critical to the success of the pick and roll. You need to coordinate your movements so that the screen is set at the precise moment when your teammate is ready to use it.

The pick and roll presents multiple options for both the ball handler and the screen setter. As the center, you have two primary choices after setting the screen: rolling to the basket or popping out for a mid-range or three-point shot.

Being versatile and unpredictable in your decision-making keeps the defense guessing and maximizes scoring opportunities for your team.

Alternative Methods to Playing Center Position on Your Basketball Team

Develop your outside shooting skills and free throws. While centers are typically associated with scoring inside the paint, expanding your range to include mid-range jumpers at the free throw line, foul shot, or even three-point shots can catch defenses off guard.

Picture yourself as a “stretch center,” capable of stretching the floor and creating mismatches for opposing teams.

Hone your passing abilities. Instead of solely relying on scoring in the lane, work on becoming a playmaking center.

By improving your passing skills, you can become a facilitator for your team, finding open teammates for easy baskets or setting up effective pick-and-roll plays.

Imagine yourself as a “point center,” orchestrating the offense and creating opportunities for your teammates.


By embracing the valuable insights shared in this comprehensive guide, you are now equipped with the knowledge and tools needed to thrive in the center position.

Remember, mastering the art of playing center is an ongoing process that requires dedication, practice, and a growth mindset.

So step onto the court with confidence, dominate the paint, and leave an indelible mark on the game!

Remember, “In the realm of basketball, the center holds the key to unlocking victory, both with brawn and brains.”


How do I get better at playing center?

  1. Master the Fundamentals: Focus on developing a strong foundation of fundamental skills. Work on your footwork, positioning, rebounding, and post moves.

  2. Strength and Conditioning: As a center, physical strength is crucial. Incorporate weight training exercises to build your core strength, lower body power, and upper body stability.

  3. Study the Game: Watch professional games, study successful centers, and analyze their techniques. Pay attention to their positioning, defensive strategies, offensive moves, and decision-making.

  4. Develop Communication Skills: Effective communication with your teammates is essential. Be vocal on the court, call out defensive assignments, and communicate pick-and-roll actions.

  5. Work on Pick-and-Roll Situations: The pick-and-roll play is crucial for centers. Practice setting screens, rolling to the basket, and making the right decisions based on the defense’s reactions.

  6. Improve Defensive Skills: Centers play a significant role in defense. Enhance your defensive abilities by working on lateral quickness, shot-blocking techniques, and defensive positioning.

What does a center have to be good at in basketball?

  1. Rebounding: Rebounding is a vital skill for centers. They need to be strong on the boards, both offensively and defensively.

  2. Post Play: Centers should have a repertoire of post moves, including drop steps, hook shots, and fadeaways.

  3. Defense: Centers need to be solid defenders and protect the rim. Shot-blocking, altering shots, and challenging opponents in the paint are essential defensive skills.

  4. Pick-and-Roll Execution: Centers play a significant role in pick-and-roll plays. Setting effective screens and rolling to the basket or popping out for a jump shot are essential skills.

How do you dominate high school basketball?

  1. Develop Versatile Skills: Work on expanding your skill set. Become proficient in post moves, shooting, ball handling, and passing. The more versatile you are, the harder you’ll be to defend.

  2. Improve Physical Fitness: Focus on conditioning, strength training, and agility exercises. Being in top physical shape will give you an edge over your opponents and allow you to play at a high level throughout the game.

  3. Understand the Game: Study basketball strategies, watch games, and learn from experienced players. Develop a deep understanding of offensive and defensive concepts, and apply them on the court.

  4. Stand Out Defensively: Focus on playing solid defense. Be active, anticipate plays, and communicate with your teammates. Blocking shots, grabbing rebounds, and contesting shots can disrupt the opposing team’s offense.

  5. Show Leadership: Take charge on and off the court. Lead by example, support your teammates, and communicate effectively. Coaches and scouts value players who exhibit leadership qualities.

  6. Maintain a Positive Attitude: Stay confident, even when facing challenges. Basketball is a mental game, and having a positive mindset can help you overcome obstacles and perform at your best.

Can a center shoot in basketball?

Yes, absolutely! Centers in basketball can shoot the ball.

In fact, in modern basketball, having centers with shooting skills is becoming increasingly valuable. Centers who can stretch the floor by shooting from mid-range or even beyond the three-point line create spacing and open up opportunities for their teammates.

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