When I was a young man, a friend of mine invited me to a foul shooting competition that was being held at a local gym. At the time, I didn't even know these things existed and I was fascinated by the amount of players that were there.
Some guys were not basketball players at all but were there for the competition. I immediately judged everyone based on appearances and picked my favorites.
I was completely wrong about who would win and who wouldn't. My friend was an incredible foul shooter and won the competition for his age group that day. The competition was a best of 25 free-throws with the highest scores winning prizes.
I studied the best shooters as some ended up going into over-time because nobody was missing.
Guys that were 70 pounds overweight were hitting 20-25 in a row and I was amazed. What I learned stayed with me a long time and helped me develop a set of guidelines that helped me maintain a tremendously high free-throw shooing percentage throughout high-school and college basketball.
Perfect Practice Makes Perfect
Great free-throw shooters usually have perfect form and have developed excellent releases. They got this way by practicing over and over. It isn't enough to be strong, have talent or about looking good in a uniform. It's all about technique, form and consistency. Focus on shooting correctly and repeat that over and over. It takes regular practice sessions of shooting hundreds of free-throws to become a stand-out foul shooter.
Develop a Routine
My routine is simple. I get the ball, spin it and dribble twice and immediately go into my shot. I don't stand there very long and think about what is taking place. I get the ball and shoot it. That is my routine and I like it, it works for me. Develop your own routine and repeat it over and over. Don't focus so much on the routine that you don't shoot the ball well but do make sure you consistently perform your routine so that you naturally feel like you are in a rhythm when you step up to the line.
As mentioned in the routine section, it is important to repeat the same thing over and over again. You want everything to become second nature for you. For me it is so habitual that it is just natural. The people who won the foul shooting challenge all shared this in common. There was not one person who didn't obey this rule of foul shooting.
Remember the Laws of Shooting
For me I have a couple laws of shooting that I've talked about in previous articles. First, make sure that your elbow is in. If I'm lined up center to the basket and my elbow is straight when I release the ball then the ball will travel in a straight line. Second, make sure that your lead foot is properly pointed at the basket. By lining up your front foot with your elbow you've all but guaranteed a straight shot.
The rest is what I call muscle memory. Larry Bird was an amazing foul shooter because of following all of these rules. His muscle memory was incredible. He made 90% of his foul shots and that is amazing considering the game that he played.
Find a spot on the basket and focus on it. I use the back of the rim as my guide and I keep my eye on it. Concentrate and don't watch the ball as you release it. Average foul shooters watch the ball in flight and it causes their head to move prematurely. Just focus on where the shot is supposed to go and maintain focus. Keep your body still and let the repetition and muscle memory take over. To this very day I still practice these steps.
The most I've ever made in a row was 178 and that is something I'm very proud of. When I do my shooting drills I will not settle for anything less than 90% from the foul line. If I fall short I'll run ladders or lines and keep shooting until I reach 90%. Goals and standards are important to live by and I believe that if you are willing to reap the rewards for shooting you better be able to punish yourself and hold yourself accountable when you don't meet your goals.
by Coach Brian Schofield