Shooting the Offensive Foul Shot

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Whether you are in a situation where you have a poor foul shooter on the line or you are in one of the "miss – rebound" situations to tie a game, your opportunity to score does not have to end with a missed foul shot.


There is no more frustrating position to be in then when your best player, or your post player or the player who attempts the most free throws is a poor foul shooter. Your team works hard, gets the ball where it belongs, you get a good shot and the whistle blows. Your bad foul shooter steps to the line and clanks the shot off the rim. The good play is gone, your positive reinforcement is gone and your player's hard work effectively turns into a turnover.

There are two things you can do; put your hands over your eyes, bemoan your fate and pray, or you can prepare for the situation and turn it into another offensive opportunity.

Condition your players to always expect a miss and teach them that a missed foul shot will present, if played correctly, additional offensive opportunities. By running a foul line play, your rebounders will become more aggressive and your foul shooters will become better shooters because the shots will become depressurized by knowing your team can score, even on a miss.


You are down 3 point with 2 seconds to go. You are on the foul line for 2 shots. You make the first shot. What do you do now? The obvious answer is to try to miss the shot and tip in the rebound. I think that this is one of the most mismanaged situations in the game. It doesn't have to be. It really is an easy situation. It should be practiced, maybe for 2 minutes, twice per week.

Run the same plays you run for your poor foul shooter, but here is the key. Because teams don't practice this, you often see the foul shooter change his shot. You see him rush, very often you see a flat shot in an attempt to throw the ball off the rim and have it bounce back. I think you'll find that your best chance is to take a regular foul shot. This will keep your players in rhythm; give you more control over the situation and give you a better chance for success.

Just teach your shooter to take his regular foul shot; just change the target from the hole to the side of the rim.

Below are the 2 plays I have had success with on an offensive foul shot.



Set up normally on the foul line. The player at the top (O4) shades the weakside of the lane formation.

Keep in mind that players above the foul line must wait until the ball touches the rim.


On the shot, O2 cuts across the lane and puts a strong box out on the defensive player in the 1st spot on the opposite side.

3 cuts around the box out and goes to the rim.



 Set up normally on the foul line. The player at the top (O4) shades the weakside of the lane formation.

Keep in mind that players above the foul line must wait until the ball touches the rim.


On the shot O2 and O3 step back and around the defensive players and try to take a baseline route to the basket.

When the ball hits the rim, 4 comes straight down the middle to the rim.

Practice these plays 4 to 8 fouls shots per week and you might sneak a basket per game and change your season.



I thought I would share this with you. This singular moment changed my outlook on what it was to be a head coach. It was also a pretty coaching move.

I had been a head coach for 3 games, 39 minutes and 58 seconds. We were in the exact situation explained above. We were down 3 with 2 seconds to go and a one-and-one on the line. My player made the first shot. We were now down 2 with 1 shot. I knew we had it. After 3 games, 39 minutes and 58 seconds as ahead coach, I knew all there was to know about coaching. We had practiced this situation and I knew we were prepared. We ran "X" to perfection. We rebounded and scored to tie the game. Then the whistle blew. In my mind I say "We win." We're going back to the foul line with no time left. We make the shot, game over.

But, no! The referee called a lane violation, not on us, but on THEM! One of their players had stepped into the lane early. We took a deep breath and resigned ourselves that we would have to do it again. We had tipped our hand and would have to do something else. I called "O." After the ball was handed to our shooter, I watched as one of their players took 2 steps into the middle of the lane and then step out. We ran the play and sure enough, they were called for another lane violation. We tried again and sure enough, they did it again.

After the third attempt, the referee came over and instructed ME to tell my shooter to make the shot or he would give me a technical foul for making a "mockery of the game!" In those days a technical foul carried the penalty of a foul shot plus possession. We would have no chance of winning. We set up for the shot, their player stepped into the lane and then out, we made the shot. There is no violation on a made shot. They got possession, we lost by 1.

Why did the referee come to me? Well, we were on the road and the other coach had been a head coach for 38 years. After the game, the other coach came to me and told me he had been beaten the same way 30 years before. He vowed he would never lose like that again so he practiced that for 2 plays per week for 30 years.

I then figured I had a few more things to learn.

Don Kelbick

Coach Don Kelbick has had 27 years of coaching experience, 25 at the college level including 14 years as a head coach and 10 years as a Division I assistant including stops at Hofstra University, Marist College, Keene State College, and Florida International University. In 2 years as a high school coach, his teams produced 6 Division I players and was ranked #1 in Florida 28 out of a possible 34 weeks. In addition to coaching he has scouted for NBA teams, including the Knicks and the Hawks, and served as a general manager in the USBL.