Free Throw Shooting -“Handy” Versus “Army”
Some things happen by accident and great ideas crop up every day while inventions make life easier and more convenient. Thank God for the inquisitive mind dedication to a cause and the determination to see dreams become reality.
One such accident happened to me at a basketball shooting clinic while working with 2 separate individuals namely a varsity girl and a junior boy. Both happened to be working on the same free throw shooting principle which was ‘flawed’ and that happened to be a display of lateral movement of the wrist joint on the moment of ball release. A definite no-no.
As I have said over and over again, when shooting free throws any ‘lateral movement’ of any body part (especially the arm or wrist) or body in general is not recommended since it just adds more calculations to the mind at the moment of release. I understand that all players jump, hang, move sideways (laterally) during a shot to avoid possible offensive fouls and there is nothing wrong with a display of athleticism. I am just saying that the chances of desired accuracy are reduced.
Millions of players suffer from at least one or more technical shooting or mechanical dysfunctions relating to shooting free throws. Not only is it bad to have your wrist or arm move laterally during the release but it is also bad to raise or drop the wrist or arm once the ball has been released. Wrist movement is a very subtle move and hard to detect by the shooter, especially if they are not cognizant of the value of the wrist joint.
Common sense says that the forearm needs to be 90 degrees to the floor, and on the extension the wrist joint can drop down to the floor, up and back to towards the head, to the right and to the left with varying degrees. It only takes 1″ of movement of the wrist in any direction to cause distance and direction irregularities, especially the further you are from the basket. Another analogy is to imagine shooting a rifle and after you line the barrel with the target, try sneezing as you pull the trigger. Impossible to keep the barrel yalla shoot perfectly still. Same principle. Liken the peep sight or end of the gun barrel with the shooting wrist. In both instances a projectile is fired and it is imperative to shoot the ball straight, even though in basketball we do have a small margin of error to deal with.
While working on anybody’s free throw shooting, I always stress how important it is to have the forearm (from wrist to elbow) at ninety degrees to the floor and lock in at between 45 and 50 degrees to the floor after the release. Remember Newton’s law “For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. Or in other words, “the angle of release equals the angle of entry”. A flat shot is usually distinguished by the rattle of the ball within the rim. Any rattle means the shot arc was too flat. An acceptable entry is the ball only hitting the inside of the rim once.
This is a mental, spatial recognition and a physical awareness of where the wrist should be. Another point of reference is the inside of the wrist below the thumb, which should line up with the center of the rim, if your shooting pocket has the ball about 2 inches above the forehead and between the eyes. This way the front center of the rim, the inside of the shooting wrist and the eyes form a ‘straight line’. If your shooting pocket is near the chin, nose, shoulder etc or even on top or behind the head like Kevin Garnett then obviously you lose the ‘straight line’ sight of your gun barrel.
If your shot pocket is not on the ‘straight line’ concept (Rim,wrist, eye-line) then your shot tendency will be too “army” (verb) in other words, (too much or unnecessary arm movement). Also, an incorrect ‘shot pocket’ creates a longer shot as measured from the elbow joint from the beginning of the shot to the end of the shot. For example a junior high hoopster will inevitably shoot from the chest. While if you have ever watched Rasheed Wallace’s shot from the Detroit Pistons, you will notice that his shot pocket is about a foot or so above his head which makes his shot length very small as measured by the elbow ‘lock’ from beginning to end. My personal shot length is 6″, Rasheed’s is probably about 3″ and usually a younger, physically weaker player will have a much longer shot, which means more chance of error. (More on this topic in another article.)
Remember the portion of the shooting mechanism from the shoulder to the wrist is responsible for most of the power, lift, thrust, trajectory etc. The accuracy is generated from the wrist to the fingers, mostly fingers which control the flight direction by making each finger accountable. (More on this in another article.)
So, if your shot is too ‘army’ then you have to recognize this and become more “handy”. Just remember the value of a ‘handyman’. He is good with his hands on a lot of things. We want you to limit your blame for missing right down to the fingers and hand which is easier to correct. “Your world is in your hands” literally. My Smartball Shooting System teaches this. Basically, one simple method of improving free throw shooting and field goal shooting is by really concentrating on keeping the wrist joint ‘locked’ at the moment of release with no more than a quarter inch movement in any direction. It is almost impossible to avoid ‘100%’ movement, but you must force the issue for best results. If you lock and leave your arm up in the ‘follow through’ with fingers spread with no bent knuckles in a firm dictatorial fashion then you will have a solid well conditioned shot.
Another crazy thing I have learned is that if any part of your shot is ‘soft’ or ‘loose’ or too ‘army’ during or after the finish then the rebounds are fairly ‘bouncy’. If you learn to shoot with a firm or ‘handy’ but not stiff release your shots will be softer and truer and the rebounds, if any, will be gentler on the misses. This is a strange concept but so true.