Skip to Content

Basketball Passing Cues

Basketball Passing Cues

Many basketball games are both won and lost by the team with the better defense.  And while defense against an offensive player can come in many forms, one of the best forms of defense is the interception and steal of a pass mid-way through the air. 

However, understanding the differing types of passes and anticipating a basketball pass will help you to not only increase your overall team defense but will also help you to intercept a pass, potentially leading to a fast break situation. 

Understanding these basketball passing cues will also help you and your team prepare for a subsequent offensive play.  Intercepting a pass, while notable, can be a wasted opportunity if a proper offensive scheme is not developed and executed.

Below, we’re going to discuss differing basketball passing techniques and the basketball passing cues that many players utilize before making a pass.  This article is meant to help both offensive and defensive players in both anticipating an upcoming pass and learning how to avoid a potential steal.

In addition to basketball passing cues, you might also be interested in basketball rebounding cues, which can help you recognize where a rebound will land and give you a better chance of securing it.

The Bounce Pass

The bounce pass is one of the most effective passes and is typically used at the end of a fast break, when a player passes the ball to a player making a cut to the basket or to a player in the post.  This pass is most effective when a defender has their hands up in the air, however, it is one of the slower passes and should be used with caution.

Executing a bounce pass is relatively simple.  Simply aim to bounce the ball about 2/3rds of the distance between yourself and the receiver. The receiver of the ball should aim to receive the ball at their waist. 

When executing a bounce pass, the passer should look to push the ball towards the receiver and not at the ground.  When making a bounce pass, you should also aim to begin the pass from the waist and not from the chest or head as that will lead the ball to bounce too high.

As this article is a discussion on basketball passing cues, we would be remiss to not discuss the cues on both receiving and attempting to intercept the bounce pass.

In order to understand the cues of a bounce pass, it is important to understand the motion which occurs before the pass is released. 

Typically, many bounce passes are completed with an offensive player’s dominant hand alone.  Understanding that, if you see a player abruptly stop mid-dribble and begin to bring the ball to their dominant hand, then it is typically safe to assume that a bounce pass is about to be initiated.

The Chest Pass

The chest pass is the most effective and efficient pass in the game.  It is also a quick pass, wherein it would take an offensive player more time to dribble down the court then to simply pass the ball to a teammate further ahead.

Making a chest pass is relatively simple and definitely easier than a bounce pass. 

To begin a chest pass, simply bring the ball up to your chest.  With both hands, push the ball forward to the receiving player.  The receiving player should receive the ball at their chest and aim to catch it with both hands.

When making a chest pass, look to make the pass with little to no arc in the air.  The ball should zip through the air, quickly and efficiently.

Typically, the cues on a chest pass are straightforward and obvious.  However, since the motion is quick, it can be difficult to intercept the pass.  As the offensive player will need to bring the ball to their chest, you can anticipate a pass as soon as this motion is begun.

The Overhead Pass

The overhead pass is not as widely used as either the chest pass or the bounce pass.  However, this pass can be useful when you are looking to get the ball past a defender with their hands down or a defender who is squatted low.

Completing the overhead pass, though, is relatively simple.  Grab the ball and place it, with both hands, over the back of your head.  Utilizing your arm strength, throw the ball to a receiving teammate.  Aim to throw the ball near the recipient’s chest, making it easy for them to catch.

The cues for intercepting an overhead pass are typically more obvious than either the bounce pass or the chest pass.  This is because the overhead pass forces the offensive player to stop their dribble and bring the ball over their head.

When intercepting the overhead pass, you must both anticipate the pass to the recipient and move quickly as overhead passes are typically fast in motion. 

Taking the cue that the pass is about to be launched, follow the passers eyes to see where the pass will be made and begin moving towards the passing zone to intercept the ball.

The Baseball Pass

The baseball pass is one of the most difficult passes to make and execute.  It is also the fastest pass and one that is difficult to control efficiently.  Baseball passes are usually used in a full-court pass, when you are trying to get the ball to an open offensive player on the other end of the court.

To complete the baseball pass, simply throw the basketball with your dominant hand behind your head.  Heaving the ball to the receiving player, utilize your body weight and arm strength to give the ball additional force and motion.

However, the baseball pass is one of the easiest passes to intercept and steal.  Because the pass is typically made within a longer distance, defensive players can receive the cue that the pass is about to be made and can begin swarming on the receiving player to intercept the ball.

When completing a baseball pass, always ensure that the receiving player is open, with no defenders near them. In addition, practice your accuracy on the court before attempting this pass in the game.  This pass can get tricky, and many times may lead to a turnover if executed incorrectly.


When it comes to understanding basketball passing cues, it is important to fully understand the differing types of basketball passes available.  Once you understand the different types of passes available, you will be able to practice intercepting those passes based on the cues that an offensive player may drop before the pass is made.