Now’s the time to improve basketball shooting skills

Now that the middle school and high school basketball season is officially over many boys and girls are either playing AAU, travel basketball or getting ready for a spring sport.

However, it is also the time when players should really try to find time to work on their shooting skills especially now that the game is turning into a 3 point contest between teams.

Putting that round 9″ in diameter ball into the round 18″ in diameter rim is still the basic fundamental objective of the game. Always has been and always will be especially now with the advancement and use of the 3.

Regardless of what many middle school or high school coaches say, players can put that round object into that round target on a regular basis which is twice as big as the object will find a place to get playing time for their school teams even if they aren’t the better defensive players.

So because the one great advantage the game of hoops has over other team sports as you can practice this most important skill all by yourself. Just you, a ball and a hoop that is all you need. However, if you do not use the correct shooting skills the only way you will be able to put the ball in hoop will be if your ball doesn’t hit the rim.

I know from experience as when I played in high school and college not many of us so called good shooters hardly ever made baskets when the ball hit the rim as it would usually bounce away and I always called them “Brick Shots”. I know personally I hardly ever got what I call “Garbage Shots” which is when the ball hits the rim and then goes in.

With today’s breakaway rims compared to the bolted to the backboard rims of yesterday it is even more important to soften shots so as to take advantage to get the “Garbage” as the breakaway rims have much more give to them then the bolted one did..

In fact, I didn’t learn how to shoot correctly so I could improve my shooting by getting garbage was some years after I played in college when I was coaching in high school and working with some of my players on shooting and then I found the real secret to being a good shooter.

Bill Bradley, former Princeton College player and NBA New York Knicks star, stated that “YOU SHOOT WITH YOUR LEGS”. What he meant was that the secret to being an above average shooter at any level is getting enough and needed leg depth into your shot.

So here are some shooting tips that you can work on by yourself.

Start at the foul line.

1. Make sure your feet are square to the basket with the shooting foot lined up with the exact center of the front of the rim. The non-shooting foot should be lined up 6 inches back from the foul line even with the outside edge of the rim on the non-shooting foot side. Put two dots on the places on the floor or surface that your feet should be and put two dots one on each toe of your sneaker and then make sure you match the dots to the spots.

2. The ball should be held with the hands palms flat against the ball with no space between the palm or fingers and the ball. The index finger of the shooting hand should be on the needle hole on the ball and the non shooting hand should form the top of a “T” with their thumb over the thumb of the shooting hand.

3. Next aim for the correct target in the basket which is the very middle of the rim not just over the front or just is front of the back of the rim.

4. Now bend the legs so that the knees are pointed towards the 2 blocks on the foul lane line that are painted on the court and go as far down with your leg depth so that you cannot see your feet.

5. Go down as far so that the heals are off the floor and your are on your toes, then straighten your legs AND WHEN YOUR LEGS ARE COMPLETELY STRAIGHT (knees bent far enough down so the shooter cannot see their feet) THEN SNAP YOUR WRIST TO RELEASE THE BALL.


I never got enough legs into my shot until I was working with my players and once I did I started to get all kinds of “Garbage” because my shot was softer because it had a higher arc, and slower flight of the ball so if it hit the rim it would stay nearer the rim with a chance to go in, instead of being a “BRICK” and bouncing away with no chance to go in.

The best way to improve your shooting is at the foul line and then when you are successful there you can go to the jump shot, but remember use more legs the further away from the basket you are as you bend your legs getting more leg into your shot and then when your legs are straight snap release the ball from your shooting hand.

Best way to do this is to do the following:

Don’t forget to put the spots on each line you are going to shoot from so you can get in the habit of having your body squared to the hoop by matching the dots on your sneakers to the spots on the surface.

1. Power layup left side and right side
2. Then Power Jump shot in front of basket and then mark court 1 foot from front of rim until you get out to the 3 point line which will be a half a foot from the front of rim and then 19 feet to the top of the foul circle which would put you at the 3 point line. 19 shots after shooting the 3 pointer in a straight line in front of the basket plus the 2 power layups. Make the shot at each spot before moving on back a foot to the next shot.

Remember you should fall forward the width of your feet on all jump shots until you get to beyond the foul line then fall forward 2 sets of feet from there on.

Easy way to check falling forward correctly is to put non shooting foot behind shooting foot to check on jump shot to foul line and then take non shooting foot and shooting foot to check 2 foot follow through on shots beyond the foul line to the 3 point shot.

Remember the game will pay you back for what you put into the game, but you have to use the correct fundamentals, techniques and skills in order to make that happen so you can improve yourself as a shooter that can’t be kept out of the starting lineup.

I wish I would have known the above shooting skills when I played in high school and college as I could have shot 90% from the foul line instead of 76.8% in college which would
1. have been 2 more points a game by garbage on foul shots,
2. could have gotten at least 1 field goal basket by the garbage route for 2 points,
3. could have scored 2 3 pointers a game for 2 more points
4. an because the clock only stopped on fouls, timeouts and jump balls would have added 3 minutes a game and time for 1 more basket for 2 points

so add them up and could potentially have scored 8 more points a game based on the stats for FGA-FSM and FSA-FSM, because of using more legs to get garbage 4 points and the 2 rule changes 4 points also.

Hope this helps anyone who is serious about becoming a better shooter at any level middle school thru college as this is the season of the mpa sports season policy and is the best time to make the needed improvements because there is little time taken up with team basketball practices except once or twice a week if you are playing AAU or travel ball. If you aren’t playing a spring sport afternoons and evenings are free to work on your shooting.

If you remember anything from above remember these tips:

1. Feet and shoulders square to target…match the your dots to the spots
2. Hold ball flat on our palm and fingers
3. Aim for the middle of the basket
5. Release ball with snap release of your wrist exactly the same time your legs are straight