Players should be able to hit 70 percent of their foul shots

Foul shooting is the one basketball skill that has not changed since it was put in the game. It has survived all the rules and skills changes that have evolved.

It is the skill that many times determines the outcome of a game.

The distance from the backboard to the foul line is still 15 feet, the foul shooter has 10 seconds to shoot and there is no defense trying to prevent the shot.

It is the same shot for any player at any level, middle school through professional.

Yet, it is a skill that has not improved much over the years, as many players and teams do not shoot 70 percent from the line, which I think is an accurate measure of a good foul shooter.

Foul shooting is the one skill that can measure past and present players.

The reasons foul shooting has not improved, especially at the high school and middle school levels, are because players do not:

— Have proper shooting techniques and fundamentals,

— Have a shooting ritual,

— Practice under pressure,

— Shoot no more than two shots in a row in practice, and

— Take enough time on each foul shot

This is shown by the foul shooting percentage of 64.8 for the 42 Eastern Maine Tourney games at the Cross Insurance Center in Bangor this season.

Many coaches at all levels spend quantity time, not quality time on foul shooting. More is not better if not done under the correct conditions. If a player shoots 70-plus percent from the line, then leave them alone unless they ask for help to increase their percentage. Players who cannot shoot 70 percent probably need help.

Individual help should come from the coach or from a hired shooting specialist.

A drill that penalizes missed free throws also may help.

During the season, players should shoot only 1 and 1’s. With six hoops, you can easily have two shooters at each basket and they can rotate baskets every four minutes.

The players take turns shooting 1 and 1’s. If they make the first one, they get the second one. If they miss the first one, then they run to the farthest end line and back. If the shooter misses the second shot, the player runs to the center circle and back.

The partner gets the ball after a miss and shoots their first half of the 1 and 1. If the shooter makes both ends of the 1 and 1, the shooter does not run and stays to rebound.

This puts pressure on the foul shooter and also lets the coach know who is missing which end of the 1 and 1.

As the NCAA Tournament approaches, we will see many games won or lost at the foul line.

Watch the correct techniques of the players who shoot a high percentage at the line.

Their ritual will include both feet squared to the rim, no space between the ball and their palm, eyes on the middle of the rim, proper leg depth and releasing the ball when their legs are straight.

Players should be able to hit 70 percent of their foul shots if they practice the right techniques and drills.