A free throw shot should be easy, right? It’s free. No one is contesting you, it’s always from the same 15 foot distance, and you practice it all the time. Or do you?
While watching players workout on their own and within team practices, I noticed that most everyone shoots a lot more 3 point shots than free throws. Many players don’t even shoot one free throw during their personal workouts. And that goes for workouts with their paid trainers too. It stands to reason that if a player wants to become a good jump shooter and 3 point shooter, maybe he should learn to be a good standing shooter from 15 feet first. But for most players, free throws are something they do to “take a break” during a workout or as an afterthought because they “might shoot a couple” in an upcoming game.
I’ve always believed you need to become a good shooter in close before you can become a good shooter from behind the 3 point arc. If you can’t make a high percentage in close, how can you expect to be good from farther away? So free throw shooting should be the backbone of any type of shooting workout. But to become a good free throw shooter, a player needs good shooting mechanics and form. And that starts at a distance even closer than the 15 foot free throw. In this article, I will not be covering mechanics, because I have done that previously. Instead, I am going to outline how to use proper mechanics in a workout that leads to better shooting percentages.
Six Step Free Throw Program
- Start each workout with form shooting. Work on the proper mechanics while standing close to and shooting up on the side of the backboard or a wall. Check ball rotation, arc height, and your follow through. Do this at least 10 times.
2. Move to in front of the rim and now shoot over the rim while seeking to make two in a row. But don’t settle for two “makes.” Have them be “swishes” to prove you have perfection. No rim, two perfect swishes in a row, or start over till you get two swishes in a row.
3. Take a big step back and repeat. Swish two in a row before backing up another big step.
4. As you move further from the rim, you will notice that your “swishes” result in the ball bouncing back to you each time. You won’t even have to move to rebound your shots if they “swish.” Your rotation (ball spin) and perfect shot hitting the back of the net will cause the ball to hit the floor and backspin towards you each time.
5. When you finally get to the free throw line, “swish” two and then continue shooting to ten. See if you can get 10 in a row, (the last 8 don’t have to be swishes) or at least hit your personal best.
6. Challenge yourself to at least tie your personal best, or beat it, before moving on to other shooting areas. The idea is to become a 90%+ free throw shooter consistently. To do that, you want to be able to make 9 of 10 or 10 of 10 in this warmup.
Six Step Perimeter Work
After satisfying your free throw shooting goals, you are now ready to work on other areas and your perimeter game.
- Shoot some angle bank shots, from 5 feet to 15 feet away, both sides of the basket. Learn the spot to aim on the glass so you can use this shot from the angle when needed or under pressure. It’s an easier shot and helps with the inside game.
2. Continue now with 10-15 foot jumpers in an arc around the court, looking to swish two in a row from five different spots. Beginners or young players can just go for two makes in a row from each of the spots.
3. Next, head back to the free throw line and make two swishes in a row. Your goal is to do it in two shots, but continue shooting until you do hit two swishes in a row.
4. Now you can work on 3-point shooting, if you feel ready for the distance. Always start at the top of the key area, because it is an extension of the free throw shot that you just perfected with two swishes. This should always be the first 3-point shot you perfect because it is straight on to the basket and similar to a free throw.
5. As you advance in your shooting, make two in a row from the top of the key, then move around the arc a couple of steps at a time. Again, make two in a row before moving to a different spot.
6. If you are a younger player just developing your 3-point accuracy, or a veteran looking to become more consistent, you can stay in one spot and shoot 10 to test yourself before moving. The goal is to consistently make 7 of 10, 70%, to show you are indeed a good 3-point shooter.
Eventually, a nice test to end with is shooting 10 shots from five different spots, two shots from each spot, (both corners, both wings, and the top of the key). Note how many you make out of 10 and try for perfection or beating your personal best.
Don’t forget to walk up to the free throw line now and then during your workout to shoot two free throws or more. If you want to shoot like Steph Curry from “3”, then you need to shoot like Steph Curry from the free throw line first. That just happens to be over 90%. Master your free throws and you will have a better chance of becoming a great shooter all over the court. Using the “swish” method and making two in a row will challenge you and keep you concentrating during your personal workouts. Repetition and building confidence while using correct mechanics may not make you the next Steph Curry, but it will certainly make you a much better shooter.