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How to sink a free throw

Free throws should be easy points in the bag, here's how to improve your shooting with precision technique

After a player is fouled on a basketball court while in the act of shooting, they head to the free throw line. The line is 15 feet from the basket and a scored shot is worth one point. Unmarked and uncontested, the shot can be practiced endlessly and should be straightforward for a professional player, but then the nerves come into play. Working on free throws alone is a great way to improve your feel for shooting, and iron out your shooting technique to help you to punish opponents for unnecessary fouls in games.

Technique

1 – Stand, feet shoulder-width apart, slightly to one side of the basket so that your arm is directly lined up with basket.

2 – Place your shooting hand behind the ball with your wrist cocked at 90 degrees and your support hand on the side of the ball. You’ll use one hand to launch the ball towards the basket and the other one simply to help guide it.

– Keep your back straight and bend slightly at the knees – your legs will help you generate power in the shot.

4 – Relax, take a deep breath and straighten your knees.

5 – Extend your shooting arm so it straightens in a line towards the basket. Point your forefinger towards the basket to give the shot some backspin. Aim to get a nice arc on the shot so it loops up and down into the basket, rather than arrowing straight at the rim.

When you practise, develop a pre-shot routine. Some players bounce the ball a couple of times, others like to bounce the ball with some backspin so that it spins back to them. This routine will help you to establish some muscle memory before the ball is released.

Re-evaluate after every shot and adjust your technique accordingly. You should eventually aim for the perfect “swish”, where the ball hits nothing but the net. If the ball is dropping short of the basket, you’re probably not producing enough power from your legs. If the shot is going long and hitting the backboard, you could be generating too much power. Practice regularly and use the time to develop the correct amount of power.

Use free throws as part of your warm-up and warm-down before and after every session. The warm-up will help you re-familiarise yourself with the basketball, while in the warm-down, you’ll have to shoot with greater fatigue, which will replicate a game situation.

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