Quarantine Case Files #1: How do I improve my shot?
Day #24 in quarantine - I jumped in front of my roommate trying to take a charge. He didn't like it, and (even worse) insisted I was not in legal guarding position.
In light of the recent events, basketball may not be the first (or second) thing on your mind - and it probably shouldn't be. BUT if you're starting to think about next season and wondering what you can do in the meantime, look no further than the Quarantine Case Files!
Here's how this will work - fire in a question via email (firstname.lastname@example.org) or Instagram (@Glorify_Hoops), and I will do my best to answer here!
First question: "How do I improve my shot?"
(shout-out to Eli for asking!)
I think a good answer comes in a few parts:
First - are your shooting fundamentals and mechanics solid? Practicing poor shot form can be counter-productive in the long run, so take a good hard look at your form (better yet, have someone else look for you) before you start putting up hundreds of shots per day. What are good mechanics? So glad you asked!
Feet should be pointed at the basket, and roughly square. Most shooters like to have their dominant foot forward about half a foot-length, but it should be no more offset than this (if a full foot-length or more you will be off-balance!)
Firm, well-balanced base - feet are shoulder-width apart, knees are bent: a light bump should not throw you off-balance
Shooting motion starts above the waist - every shooter likes to start from a different place, but the entire ball should start (and stay) above your waist while you shoot. Starting too low makes you more prone to blocking and slows your speed.
Elbow in - your elbow should be tucked directly underneath the ball (note; when you first catch a pass or pick up your dribble your elbow won't be directly under the ball, but it should get there quickly: your shooting motion should always involve a tucked elbow!)
Consistent eyes - make sure you are always focused on the same spot. Some people prefer to look at the front of the rim, others look at the back. I've heard some people see a "tube" they shoot through but I've never met one of those people. Let me know if that's you! Whatever it is, always do the same thing - don't switch back and forth or just look at "the hoop".
Good arc - your shot should primarily be moving the ball upward, not outward. Again, all shooters are different here, but if the ball doesn't get at least 10 feet off the ground, you have zero chance of making it. Plus, the higher the arc the more likely it is to go in, and the less likely it is to get blocked. If your ball never gets more than a foot or two higher than the rim on a free throw, something is off.
Clean follow-through - your hand should finish with your fingers pointing at the basket (not sideways, and not pointing up)
Good rotation - the ball should be rotating (I use ~2.5 complete rotations for a 3-pointer), and it should be rotating end-over-end (not sideways)
Clean Landing - you should land on-balance as well; a good test here is to see if you can "bounce" on your toes when you land without losing your balance. Obviously this doesn't hold for fade-aways or some advanced pull-ups, but unless you've practiced ~10,000 shots with good form (not kidding) you should not be attempting these.
A quick note on range: players often shoot from further away than they have the strength for. This can absolutely wreck your form, as your body "cheats" to give you more strength. To test your range, shoot with one arm: use your legs, but do not jump (like a free throw). If you can reach the rim with good form, you are within range. If you cannot reach, you are out of range and in danger of messing up your form!
Unless your name is Klay Thompson, your shot form won't be perfect. If you look through this list and see 1-2 things to work on, keep continuing to practice (see progressions below). If there is a lot to work on, you might want to "re-do" your shot; rebuilding muscle memory from scratch to improve your form. Most players have to do this at least once (typically in early high school), myself included - I had a sideways follow-through, didn't tuck my elbow, and had no arc. It's a painful process but 100% worth it!
Alright, so now you've got good form! A great way to improve your shot is progressive shooting. That's a fancy way of saying start with easy shots and work your way out! For volume, I would start with at least 200 shots total for a good workout.
If you are just starting to learn or re-do your shot start with these to really nail down the mechanics. You are building muscle memory, so be patient - I would expect to take ~3,000 shots over 2 weeks. If you're more advanced, these should be at least your first ~25 shots of every shoot-around.
One-armed shots, no jump from within 3 feet of hoop (five stations: straightaway, baselines x2, wings x2)
Slow shots, no jump from within 10 feet of hoop
Once you have good mechanics and are ready to develop your shot try some jump-shots and increase your range (remember to test your range! this is probably another ~3,000 shots over 2 weeks):
Jump-shots from within 8 feet of hoop
Jump-shots from free throw line and elbows
Jump-shots from baseline
Once you have good range built up, you are ready to practice shooting from a pass, or from a dribble; make sure to practice from all different directions (left, right, straight). Start to experiment with a straight up-and-down pull-up, making sure you can "bounce" on your toes when you land.
Yes, there are more advanced shot-types - pull-ups, fade-aways, hook shots, floaters, and runners - but those for a different article.