Basketball Drills Free Throw Situations

submitted by Coach John Kimble

(Formerly of) Crestview (FL) High School

Published in Basketball Sense Magazine & Athletic Journal

Every basketball coach must design a set of drills to meet his or her particular team’s need for every phase of the game. To have time efficiency for practice, the best drills incorporate several facets of the game at the same time. As the name indicates, this particular drill is not solely a free throw shooting drill—but very much more than that. This drill has been used for over 20 years at various levels of play from 7th Grade AAU teams to varsity high school to Junior College teams. This drill is teach and practice executing the proper offensive and defensive techniques in specific free throw situations with as much game realism as possible.

For the last 20 plus years, we have tried to incorporate the many repetitions of the art of free throw shooting in the most ‘game like conditions’ possible. We incorporate as much as 10-12 % of each and every practice with this drill. We can afford to do this because we incorporate many other offensive and defensive facets of the game during this free throw shooting time.

Obviously, this drill is very much a free throw shooting drill. But the drill offers much more than that, such as a maximum in game-realistic conditions and factors as well as efficiently using valuable practice time. Some of the most important factors incorporated are that there is pressure on individual players in the groups or the team as a whole to perform important offensive and defensive techniques in high level competitive and pressure-packed situations. This drill demands specific important techniques and skills to be emphasized and practiced for all three players involved in each group. The drill provides the setting and opportunity for the coaching staff to be able to carefully observe, critique, correct, teach and praise all three players in each group at their own basket.

The activity we use before we actually begin this drill is some form of full court or live activity that incorporates a great deal of physical activity and running. This is to make the ‘FT Situation’ drill even more game realistic—and that is to make sure all players are fatigued (like they will be in an actual game) as the free throws are actually shot. We work on this drill three times a day at determined times in practice to break up the actual practice. During those designated times in the practice, every team breaks down into the pre-set three man work-groups that are changed daily. Each three man work group has a “FT Shooter” position, an “Offensive Rebounder,” position and a “Defensive Rebounder” position.

The drill gives each ‘Free Throw Shooter,’ while being fatigues, an opportunity to shoot five pairs of free throws, an opportunity for each shooter to take between five and ten jump shots after the free throw attempts. For each ‘Defensive Rebounder,’ the drill provides a maximum number of ten opportunities to align himself in the proper defensive rebounding position and stance, to box out the nearest ‘Offensive Rebounder,’ to then get the defensive rebound and then make an outlet pass to a teammate. For each ‘Offensive Rebounder,’ the drill provides a maximum of ten opportunities to align himself in the proper offensive rebounding position, to overcome and defeat the defensive box-out, to get the offensive rebound and then quickly “power” the inside shot back up (against defensive pressure) until he scores.

The ‘FT SHOOTER’ works on the techniques the coaching staff wants to emphasize as he shoots the pairs of free throws. We want each player to develop his/her own routine that is consistently followed in practice and ultimately during each game that includes fundamentally sound techniques. Some of the shooter’s most important techniques to be emphasized are: A) develop a method of countering fatigue and calming the breathing down before shooting the free throws, B) to approach the free throw line and perform his own routine in preparing to align himself for his shots and to have full concentration on his shooting techniques (such as the follow-through of the shot, getting the legs involved in the shot, focus on the target, C) a quick and immediate reaction to the ‘made’ or ‘missed’ free throw to then receive a pass and take a mid-range jump shot (with the proper jump-shooting techniques) and D) practice handling the individual and team pressures of making shots.

The ‘DEFENSIVE REBOUNDER’ aligns on the inside position on the predetermined side of the lane. His responsibilities and techniques emphasized are to: A) keep both hands up and stack the feet together as close to the nearest opponent as possible, B) have quick feet and step in the lane directly towards the shooter with the ‘contact’ foot first, C) use the proper box-out techniques that have been already taught in half court defenses, D) jump for the rebound and ‘chin the ball,’ E) pivot away from the ‘Offensive Rebounder’ that is applying pressure on the ball, F) make a two-hand overhead pass to the FT Shooter that is rotating to the nearest elbow area.

The ‘OFFENSIVE REBOUNDER’ aligns on the same side of the lane immediately next to the ‘Defensive Rebounder.’ His responsibilities and techniques that should be emphasized are: A) Keep both hands up, B) stack both feet together on the high side of the rebounding spot (to stay as far away from the defenses as possible,) C) step into the middles of the lane as quickly as possible with his own ‘contact’ foot first, D) offensive rebound the ball and ‘power up’ strong with the ‘stick-back,’ E) apply hard pressure on the ball if the ‘Defensive Rebounder’ gets the rebounds and looks to outlet the ball.

After the planned full court or highly strenuous drill is completed, the FT Situation is announced and all of the 3-man groups quickly sprint to an open basket. The players quickly fill the three positions and the drill begins. Each ‘FT Shooter’ performs his routine and shoots a pair of free throws with one player being an ‘Offensive Rebounder’ and the other player being the ‘Defensive Rebounder’. The ‘Defensive Rebounder’ establishes his position on the typical (defensive) position and the ‘Offensive Rebounder’ ‘stacks his feet’ next to the ‘Defensive Rebounder’ on a pre-determined side of the lane. The next time this drill is used (later in the same practice), the two rebounders can ‘stack up’ on the opposite side of the lane.

If the first free throw is made, the ball is passed back to the free throw shooter for the second shot. When the first free throw is missed, the ‘Free Throw Shooter’ should always rotate immediately to the elbow area nearest the stack side. If the designated ‘Offensive Rebounder’ beats the defensive box-out and gets the offensive rebound; he then should practice what he would do in an actual game. That is—he quickly looks to take an offensive rebound “stick-back.” The designated ‘Defensive Rebounder’ that gets the defensive rebound pivots away from the opposition and makes a two-hand over-head outlet pass to the current (rotating) ‘Free Throw Shooter’. The ‘Free Throw Shooter’ rotates quickly and ‘gets his feet and hands ready’ to receive the outlet pass and quickly take the jump shot. Once the jump shot is taken, all three players quickly reposition themselves for the second free throw shot attempt. If the first free throw shot is made, there is no missed shot, no rebound and therefore, no jump shot. All three players quickly return to their initial locations.

Regardless of whether the second free throw is made or missed, the FT shot is treated as a missed shot. Therefore, the ‘Offensive Rebounder’ that gets the ball immediately works on his stick-back shot. If the ‘Defensive Rebounder’ gets possession of the ball, he then makes the same type of outlet pass to the ‘Free Throw Shooter’ (who has rotated to the stack side’s elbow area. The ‘FT shooter’ takes the jump shot, regardless of whether the second free throw shot was made or missed.

After the one pair of free throws are shot, all three individuals rotate the three positions. The ‘FT Shooter’ becomes the next ‘Offensive Rebounder’ and the initial “Offensive Rebounder’ becomes the next ‘Defensive Rebounder.’ The initial ‘Defensive Rebounder’ becomes the next ‘FT Shooter.’ All three players shoot five pairs of free throws, with the individual statistics recorded on a daily free throw practice chart. Penalty sprints (for not making individual or team predetermined numbers of made free throws) cold be run at this time; followed by a quick drink of water. The entire drill (with each player in the three man group shooting five pairs of free throws, anywhere from 5 to 10 jump shots, each player getting 10 opportunities to box out defensively, 10 possible defensive rebounds and a possible 10 potential offensive rebound opportunities), along with reporting the scores and running the penalty sprints as well as getting a quick drink of water can and should take no more than 7 to 8 minutes. We would use this drill three times a practice on the half-hour. Also, at the end of the practice, we would then have one or two players randomly picked to shoot ‘one and ones’ to determine if the entire team would run sprints, as an additional way to shoot free throws.

Another strong point of the drill is that each player is given the pressure to achieve his/her own specific goals that pertain to only his own skill levels in the various skills that must be performed in this drill. In addition, these goals can be modified to fit each player as they progress. There can be goals set for each individual group and they also can be modified from practice to practice (especially when the group members are changed.) To add additional game realism to the drill, there can be penalties not only for failing to meet individual goals but also for each group’s goals.

Group goals could be a set number of free throws that must be made by the group in addition to competing each team against the other groups. A ‘grading system’ could also be developed for the two types of rebounders where individual players could receive a plus grade for offensive rebounds and a negative grade for their opponent getting an offensive rebound (against them and their defensive box-out effort.) Positive and negative grades could also possibly be implemented for the jump shot portion of the drill. Light penalties could be attached for failures to meet individual, team goals and for groups losing in the various forms of the shooting competition against other groups.

As previously mentioned, a good portion of time is committed to this drill. But with techniques such as defensive boxing out, practicing techniques of beating box-outs, working on outlet passing, offensive rebounding and ‘inside shot’ practice, perimeter jump shooting; the time is well spent. The penalties and competition make this drill as game realistic as it possibly be, making it invaluable and worthwhile.

About the Author

Coach Kimble was the Head Basketball Coaching position at Deland-Weldon (IL) High School for five years (91-43) that included 2 Regional Championships, 2 Regional Runner-Ups and 1 Sectional Tournament Runner-up. He then moved to Dunlap (IL) High School (90-45) with 2 Regional Runners-up, 1 Regional, 1 Sectional and 1 Super-Sectional Championship and a final 2nd Place Finish in the Illinois Class A State Tournament. He was an Assistant Basketball Coach at Central Florida Community College in Ocala, FL for 4 years, followed with 10 years as the Head Basketball Coach at Crestview (FL) High School, averaging over 16 wins per season.

He also has had articles published in the following publications such as: The Basketball Bulletin of the National Association of Basketball Coaches, the Scholastic Coach and Athletic Journal, Winning Hoops, Basketball Sense, and Coaching Basketball. He has also written and has had five books published along with over 25 different DVDs by Coaches Choice and Fever River Sports Production.

See him on Twitter @CoachJohnKimble and his Web Page “

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