Preparing to shoot a basketball

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I came across this picture on the Internet by accident, and I’m not 100% who it is. The picture is a snapshot without context, which makes a true evaluation difficult. However, if, as it appears, he is preparing to shoot, he’s starting from a less than optimal position, based on the information available in the picture.

Last week, at the end of a youth practice, I watched player after player shoot a free throw. Without exception, the players missed before they got the ball over their heads. They started poorly.

Now, every player is different, and everyone does not have to shoot in the same exact way:

However, there are some things that have been found to increase success, and some individual differences that reduce success.

In the picture above, he does not appear well-organized. His body is going in several different directions. His gaze is focused in one direction, shoulders turned in another direction, and arms lined up in a third direction. His fingers do not appear to be aligned with his wrist and forearm, and he has four fingers to the right of the center of the ball. My guess, based on what I can see, is that the ball sits in his palm on his shot as well.

Are these things that he should change or are these individual differences? Without seeing the whole shot, it is hard to know. However, when I watched Texas A&M play Oklahoma in the NCAA Tournament, an A&M player continually missed free throws, and the misses derived from the start of his shot. As soon as he started his shooting motion, I knew he was going to miss. His entire approach at the line was flawed. He shot three-pointers more successfully than free throws. He looked uncomfortable and had his body moving in too many directions. These were individual differences that he should attempt to tweak or change to simplify his shooting motion.

With the young players at practice, many players rushed their shots. They did not look at the basket until they were nearly to their shooting pocket. Others had adopted the turn in their free throws, but their follow through followed the turn of their shoulders and the ball hit the side of the backboard. Another player shot with ten toes to the rim, and probably should have turned slightly. Other picked up the ball with a poor grip with fingers pointed eschew and forcing their elbow out, meaning that they had to curve the initial motion of their arms to get their elbow under the ball at the release. Again, these are mistakes that occurred before they began their shooting motions. Their struggles began with the start of the shot; simply picking up the ball in a different way or looking at the basket for a split second longer before starting one’s shooting motion (quiet eye) would have improved their free-throw shooting.

By Brian McCormick, PhD
Director of Coaching, Playmakers Basketball Development League
Author, The 21st Century Basketball Practice and Fake Fundamentals

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