The Mikan Drill

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A few common mistakes made by poor free throw shooters

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It’s an understatement to say that free throw shooting is an integral part of the game. It is a chance to add 1-3 points for your team with no defense trying to stop you. Many players have trouble with this simple play and today I will show you some reasons for this. Often, it is a small mechanical issue that takes repetition and focus to correct.

First, let’s take a look at a great free throw shooter: JJ Redick. I am sure you know what a good free throw shooter looks like but let’s review some of the key points. A good free throw shooter bends their knees, has a fluid motion through their shot, keeps his elbows straight and follows through with his wrist.

That is really nice form from Redick. He hits all the fundamental points, from bending his knees to the perfect follow through. It looks easy but some players can really struggle with free throws.

Fans have been known to become irate when a player cannot consistently make free throws. Theoretically, it should be easy points every time someone steps to the line. Some players, however, struggle with mechanical issues that prevent them from being good free throw shooters. Let’s take a look at them.

Poor follow through

Notice where the fingers are pointing after this shot. On a good free throw, fingers will be pointing down at the target. On this shot, the wrist is hooked to the right and his fingers on not on line with the rim. This causes his shot to be off to the right and bounce off the rim.

Here is another example of this where the follow through is tilted to the left, causing the shot to miss to the left. It is key that you follow through at your target, or you rely on the rim too much to give you a generous roll.

Improper use of legs

Getting the ball to the rim on a free throw is more about bending your knees and using your legs to generate power than using your arms to throw the ball at the rim. Ekpe Udoh, in this shot, does not bend his knees and generates no power on his shot.

The ball ends up on the front of the rim and never had a chance to go in. His shot was at the rim, however, and would have gone in if he would have used his legs to generate power to get the ball over the front of the rim.

Hesitation in shot

The shot should be one fluid motion from start to finish. From the bending of the knees to the follow through, any hitch in the shot will throw off the timing and negatively affect the shot. Here, right before the release, watch as Dallas Lauderdale pauses before the release. This messes up his timing and causes him to miss the shot.

Falling away from the line

This to me is a confidence issue that says the player does not want to be at the free throw line and does not believe they are going to make the shot. Watch as JP Prince puts up the free throw and leans back off of the line. This throws any attempt of a fluid motion off and he clangs the shot off the back rim.

It is imperative that the shooter stay balanced on the line as the shot goes up and they follow through. Any extraneous motions can hinder the shot and any chance it has of going in the basket.

Some of these are mechanical issues while some are confidence issues. Some of these issues (lack of follow through, poor use of legs) can be fixed by a good coach who notices them and repetition in practice. The others are mental (non-fluid release, falling off the line) and are more difficult to fix, as it is up to the player to focus while he is at the line.

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