The term free throw is defined in the Merriam-Webster dictionary as “an unhindered shot in basketball made from behind a set line and awarded because of a foul by an opponent.” A pretty loose definition, in my opinion, because that one point that you receive for making that shot can make a huge difference in a game.
I’ve watched many high school, college and pro basketball games where a free throw made here and there wins a game or sends it into overtime. Heck, we’ve had two local games this week where a free throw or two made by the home team wins the game and sends their fans home happy.
The free throw, the most wide open look you’re going to see multiple times a game, comes 15-feet away from the basket. There are generally four players from the opposing team, and two from your own joining you on the lane. Hit the two free throws, or in some cases three, when you’re fouled on a 3-point shot, and it’s as good as making the basket. Miss it, and well, it could be a four point swing, if you miss both and the other team scores.
There are many different techniques and philosophies on shooting free throws. However, I was always taught, and taught my guys, whatever your technique, do it the same every time so that it almost becomes muscle memory. That way, you can step up in any situation and knock them down.
See, television highlights on your favorite sports network or nightly newscast, doesn’t show someone making one from the charity stripe to win the game, or how a miss costs their team the game very often. Instead, they’re focusing on the crowd pleasers, such as the long range three or the monster throw down. You see, I think the two “freebies”, as one of my coaches used to call them, is anything but free anymore.
Look at the NBA where Hack-a-Shaq or Hack-a-Dwight Howard became commonplace because of their ability to make the art of foul shooting look like a brick layers paradise. However, this year’s NBA stats tell a different story. The free throw percentage this season is on pace to become the best overall in the history of the league. They’re currently shooting .772 with the next highest occurring in 2008-2009 and 1973-1974 at .771. The lowest percentage occurred in the 1953-1954 season at .709.
The highest free throw percentage by a college player was Blake Ahearn of Missouri State’s, .9457, which occurred 10-years ago back in 2007. Out of the top-20 from 1992-present, only three have occurred in the last four years.
So, my message to young players, although chicks dig the three-point shot and the monster dunks, remember the team could always use a steady free throw shooter. One who’s not afraid to step up with the game, or the season, on the line and calmly knock them down. Oh, and it helps to be a good ball handler in that situation, as they’re going to try to go for the steal before they foul you. Until then, keep doing what you do, because it truly is a pleasure watching Montgomery County basketball.