I had a chance to check out the local high school play-offs this season and was horrified by the poor shooting. In four championship games, many featuring D-1 bound players, the best offense was “chuck and chase”: throw the ball towards the rim (hoping that goes in) and fight for the offensive rebound and any put-back opportunities. Granted, they were playing in an NBA arena and most of the teams over-relied on the three-point shot for their scoring opportunities, but the main reason for the poor shooting was the players’ poor hand positioning when shooting the ball and their failure to be ready to shoot when they catch the pass.
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 preferred ways to achieve this: first, split the player’s index and middle fingers with the ball’s nozzle (the ball’s center; where you place the needle to pump the ball up); or, align the player’s middle finger with the ball’s center; or, just put the index finger in the middle. All three work and make sense: if the goal is to shoot with the last two fingers (your index and middle finger), then both should be centered equally. There’s just one minor detail, centering the player’s middle finger spreads the hand equally over the ball; but yalla shoot when the player extends his hand towards the rim in a shooting motion, the index finger, not the middle finger, points straight to the rim. The player’s body physiology points the middle finger slightly to the right for a right handed players (or left for a left-handed player).
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 other hand issue is getting the hand properly pointed towards the target. Unfortunately, most coaches and trainers focus on getting the player’s shoulders squared and elbow straight; however, most players have their elbow in, but they have to twist their wrist to the target as part of the shooting motion. When the player has his hand under the ball properly, with a “wrinkle in the wrist,” you’ll also notice a small indentation at the base of the palm.
These two elements will instantly improve a players shooting technique and consistency. But to go from being a good shooter to a great shooter, it’s vital to improve the base of a player’s shot. The base is the shot’s foundation, and determines everything thereafter; your hip, elbow, and wrist positioning are all affected by the base of your shot. A poor foundation really leads to an inconsistent shot. The first issue to look at is how the player receives the pass when they are ready to shoot. Most poor shots are taken because the player takes too long to catch and shoot. They simply aren’t ready to shoot when they receive the ball, which allows the defense to close out and successfully contest the shot. To correct this, make sure that the player is ready to shoot as soon as the ball is in his hands; his feet are wide (about should width apart), knees bent, and hands up to catch the pass.
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.
Improving your hand position, preparing to catch the pass, and utilizing your leg drive will not automatically turn you into a great shooter over night. You’ll have to consistently work on these three areas if you want to develop into a consistent shooter. Let’s be honest, change is difficult, and players who have taken hundreds of thousands of shots have reinforced bad habits that are difficult to correct, especially if the player has had some success with his current shooting technique. But for a player to reach his full potential, it’s really important that he develops a consistent shot, as the game boils down to who can put the ball in basket the most. By fine-tuning the hand placement on the ball as the player lifts the ball to shoot, while focusing on receiving the pass ready to shoot, and utilizing a solid leg drive, a player’s shot will become more consistent with practice, making him a more effective player on the court.