Free Throws and the importance of making them

  • This last game Kansas shot a team percentage of 52% from the stripe, you don’t win many games shooting that horrific from there. It was worse in the win against Loyola at 46%, not as glaring in a win by 33 points. The best game of the season percentage wise for KU was at 85.7% against UCLA but then again KU was hot from anywhere on the court that game. It’s second highest percentage came against Michigan St at 80%, and a mark in the loss column.

    Are free throws important in winning? Yes they are, more so than their percentages as you can see above. Even though a higher percentage usually tilts the odds in your favor of winning. There is more to it than just makes and misses though. It’s how you get to the line as well. Are you driving the lane or taking it strong to the rim? If so then you are getting them in trouble and are able to get two shots guaranteed at the line.

    If you are getting fouled out top and are taking all 7 fouls to get to the line for a one and one then you are only prolonging the game due to inbounds and not guaranteed points. Making the front end of a one on one gives you one point and allows you the opportunity for a second. Missing that first one only hurts your percentage by al little instead of going 0 for 2 as it could be kept, and really killing percentages of teams and players a like.

    The free throw is almost the easiest shot in basketball, their are no shot blockers, body contact or changes in distance. It’s the same shot every time, 15 feet away three people to your left, three to the right.

    After talking to a High school coach this weekend about it he opened my eyes a bit about how the free-throw changes for each player in different parts of the game. Are they having a good or bad night from the field? If they are struggling to make a shot from the floor, then they begin to question their mechanics as they shoot FT’s. As he put it, “It should be muscle memory from the line, but way to much mental ilk.” How beat up are they when they get to the line? Did they get fouled going to the rim hard or was it a touch foul? If they got beat on a bit it can affect their ability to shoot straight, maybe they are getting sore? Are they tired? Easier to take that shot late in the first quarter than the 4th. Legs are fresh, arms are full of blood.

    This each said he has changed how he shoots FT’s in practice. 15 years ago he had them shoot FT’s at the beginning and end of practices. Now he has them do it throughout practice as many times as he can. Gives them a more game like feel to it, even during drills and not scrimmages. It also serves as a break in practice, much like a game you can use the free-throw as a break and resting period for your players without substitution or timeouts. You can even coach them up from the sideline during a game for two of them.

    In the past three seasons since implementing this way of practicing FT’s his teams average has went up by 7% and the past two years has been over 80% for the season. This season after two games as a team they are shooting 92% and he has three players at 100% with more than 6 attempts for each of those players.

    Another aspect of the free-throw is the “and one”. Are you able to finish strong when you are fouled and able to close the lead or extend your won lead? The old fashioned three point play can be a killer to the opposing team especially late in the game. You made your shot, added a fouls onto one of hitter players and you got a free point as well.

    Now the Free-throw itself is staying on your toes, using you legs, keeping your elbow in, reaching your fingers into the rim like a cookie jar on your follow through and watching the rim and not the ball as you release it. When you watch the ball you have taken your eye off the target, when you stay flat footed or fall back on a FT you are either going to leave it short or try and over compensate and use your arms more and shoot flat and long. Also by falling you back you make it easier for the defender the block you out.

    Is the Free throw tough shot? For Shaq it was, was it form and function or mental?

    My old HS coach used to tell me to clear my mind when I was stepping to the line. Not to worry about what just happened to get the foul or what the score was, just take the shot. If only it were that easy, I was always worried about the score especially if the game was close or if we were behind.

    A little story ab out FT’s and I will stop. We were in a tight game and it was a rough game. Went into over time. On an inbounds play down a point with less than 5 seconds to play, we were under our own basket, the ball came to me and before I could gather it I was knocked down and the ball went out of bounds, as it went off of a defenders foot. The refs didn’t call a foul and gave them the ball. I was pissed, even told a ref that he missed not one but two calls on that play.

    As we were walking back to the locker rooms that ref is in the hallway and he looks at me, and he had done a lot of our games that season so we knew each other. I reached out to shake his hand as a good sport and I had cooled down, and that’s when he said something that struck me in the heart and has stayed with me ever since and why I value FT’s so much. “Ryman I might have missed a call or two tonight, but if you would have hit the front end of three one and ones you guys would have won the game in regulation.” He then shook my had and said we were even and no hard feelings.

  • @JRyman my son said that a d-1 bb player should hit throws when someone wakes him up from a deep sleep. Should be automatic.

  • @JRyman You clanked three front ends? Not sure if you deserve membership in our group anymore!

  • @wissoxfan83 yes all late in the game too. After the first miss I was mad. After the second I was stressed. The third about killed me. I did make three out of four in OT but too little too late.

    My couch told me in film after I apologized to the team for my misses that it’s a team game and everyone missed something in that game. That no one has ever played the perfect game, coached it, or officiated it either.

    The older I get the more that rings true.

  • @JRyman

    I’ve never played organized basketball except in a church league and I found myself at the line in a tournament at 11:00 PM on a Friday night. We were losing by 1 and as the ref hands me the ball he says “you better hit both or miss both” Well I did neither and we won in OT and went on to win the tournament!

    I generally observe that teams that shoot poorly in FT’s early in the season carry on that trait throughout the season unfortunately. Doesn’t bode well for this season I think in terms of FT’s.

  • I had a coach once tell me…

    “Everyone on this planet should be able to shoot 70% from the line. That is the magic number that comes strictly from muscle memory and mind memory.”

    Anything below 70% and guys aren’t putting in enough reps. Everyone is different on muscle and mind memory. But… if you put in reps, you know when you have FTs “memorized.” From that point forward, you will be a legitimate FT shooter. Part of it is the confidence, too.

  • @drgnslayr agreed

    That’s why my coach friend practices them throughout practice and without notice.

    So players get it built into their minds and bodies the different types of FTs.

    Had another coach tell me years ago as a team you want to be over 70% on the year. 75% is great. 80% wins you games and anything over that is icing on the cake. Teams that shoot high percentages over 80% win a lot of games even if they are less talented cause all they have to do is keep it close.

    He added that a talented team will win because they win it on the floor and not the line. But look at more talented teams in close games and how the pressure at the line gets to them.

  • Didn’t we start out hitting pretty good?

Log in to reply