Improve Your Basketball Shooting in Two Simple Steps

By Brian McCormick

I love basketball. High school, college, pee-wee, it doesn't really matter to me. Just give me players with passion for the game, competing their hardest against each other, and I'm good to go. However, that slightly changed this past weekend. I went to check out the local high school play-offs and was shocked by the overall poor shooting. In the four championship games I watched, all of them featuring players that will play college basketball next year, the best offense was "chuck and chase": throw the ball in the general direction of the rim and fight like a crazed dog for the offensive rebound and put-back opportunities. I know the big arena and the reliance on the three-point shot were partly to blame for the poor shooting night, but it resulted primarily from players' poor hand positioning on the ball when they shot it and their failure to catch the ball ready to shoot.

The majority of coaches concentrate on the elbow and shoulders when correcting a player's shot. But that's usually the wrong place to start. In the majority of the cases, the player's shooting struggles originate from their shooting hand position negatively impacting their shot. This has nothing to do with the shoulders or elbow. So the first thing you should do is to make sure that the player correctly positions his hand on the ball. The easiest way to do this is to have the player center the ball directly under their shooting hand. Now when the player shoots, the middle and index fingers should be the last two fingers to leave the ball. That's why it makes sense to have these two fingers centered.

There are three popular ways to achieve this: first, split the index and middle fingers with the nozzle (the ball's center); align the middle finger with the ball's center; or, put the index finger in the middle. All three make sense: if the goal is to shoot with the last two fingers, then both should be equally centered; however, centering the middle finger spreads the hand equally over the ball; but, if you extend your fingers toward the rim in a shooting motion, it is the index finger, not the middle finger, that points straight to the rim, while the body's physiology points the middle finger slightly to the right for a right-handed shooter.

My main goal when working with a player is to make him feel comfortable and confident, so out of the three approaches, I go with the one that is most comfortable for the player. But the problem usually happens when the player has his hand on the side of the ball. You have to make sure that the shooting hand is centered using one of the approaches I explained above.

The next hand placement issue is pointing your hand at the target. Again, most coaches and trainers focus on getting the elbow straight or the shoulders squared to the basket first; but, many players already have their elbow in naturally, but must twist their wrist to the target as part of the shot. When the player's hand is properly under the ball, with a "wrinkle in the wrist," you'll notice a small indentation at the base of the palm when you're getting ready to shoot. As the player lifts the ball to shoot, the indentation should be directed toward the target. This ensures that the ball is shot straight towards the target. If the player twists their hand and wrist as they shoot, they add another variable, and decreases your shooting consistency.

These simple elements will improve a shooter's technique and turn them into a consistent shooter. But, to be a great shooter, players also have to improve the base of their shots. The base is the foundation for a successful shot, plain and simple. If a player has a poor foundation, his shot will be really inconsistent. In order to improve the foundation, teach him to be ready to shoot when he receives the pass. So many bad and poor shots are taken because the player takes too long to catch and shoot, and ends up letting the defense recover; when the player is receiving the pass, make sure that his feet are wide (about shoulder width apart), knees bent, and hands up and ready.

Also, players must use their legs to power their shot. A lot of players tend to shoot the ball on the way down of their jump shot, which eliminates the power generated by the leg drive when jumping. By shooting the ball on the way up, earlier in the jump, they player is able use the power generated by the leg drive and increase his power. Effectively using the increase in force created by using the leg drive will also help increase the arc on the ball when it's shot. Many streaky and inconsistent shooters shoot a very flat shot due to not using their leg drive properly. This allows little room for error, since your shooting a line drive directly at the rim instead of arcing into the hoop.

While the hand position, preparation to catch the pass and leg drive will not automatically create a shooter, improving these three areas will improve a player's ability to shoot consistently. Change is difficult, and players who have taken hundreds of thousands of shots have built bad habits that are difficult to change, especially if the player has had some measure of success. But, for a player to reach his potential, he must learn to shoot consistently, as the game boils down to the ability to put the ball in the hoop. By tweaking the hand placement on the ball as the player lifts the ball into the shot, while concentrating on receiving the pass prepared to shoot and then utilizing a solid leg drive, a player's consistency will increase, creating a better overall offensive player. - 31494

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