I promise, this will be my last post on shooting for a while. It's the end of the school year and I was sitting in the gym and watching a coaching friend running practices with his club team getting ready to go down to Seattle next week for a summer tournament. He was doing some shooting drills and he came upon a player that was struggling with her shot. He looked at her hand position and the first thing he said was, "keep that thumb pointed sideways".

After the practice, I asked my coaching friend about this idea of extending the thumb. His logic was that the thumb of the shooting hand needed to be extended further out so that the ball would sit more naturally on the fingertips instead of in the palm.

This got me thinking when I got home. The past couple of weeks, I was helping running a shooter's clinic/camp for the team I will coach with next year, and the coach there said the number one tip for better shooting was to not hyper-extend the thumb. The logic was that if you extend your thumb out, it can drastically affect the way the ball leaves your hand which consequently can lead to a side rotation of the ball. So, I set out to see what I could find online regarding this idea of the thumb position of the shooting hand.

And like my real life experience, 2 veteran coaches both of whom I have great respect for, with completely contrary philosophies on something so fundamental, turns out to be the same when I did my search. I found this article on Basketball BC, a recent one, that talks about extending the thumb, they talk about extending the thumb out far enough so that you can insert a finger in the hole that forms between the thumb and index finger and the ball.

After a little more research, I found this article on BasketballShootingSecret.com which taught exactly the opposite. The separation between the thumb and index finger must not be greater than the separation between the index and middle fingers,

My own personal opinion?? I lean towards not hyper-extending the thumb. My reasoning is a little complex and convoluted but try to follow me. For me it has a lot to do with how I teach throwing a football. When I teach a QB how to throw a tight spiral, I teach the opposite, I teach the throwing hand with a hyper-extended thumb. The reason why I teach that for throwing the football is, by hyper-extending the thumb, when you release the ball, the thumb will naturally close down to your palm and the index finger will pronate downward which gives the football its natural spiral.

So if you translate that spiral motion to a basketball, with the thumb closed down into the palm, and the finger pronated downward, the rotation of the ball will be a sideways spin (think of a football spiral) as opposed to an end over end backwards rotation that we desire in a basketball shot.

I am sure there are plenty of players using both methods, the old adage holds, there are many ways to skin a cat, and indeed there are many ways to shoot a basketball. That is why I love the game, so many nuances, so many different ways that a skill can be taught, and still arrive at the same end goal. I would love to hear thoughts from other coaches out there and what they teach and the justifications of why they teach it that way.

Anyways, have a great long weekend (Canada Day here in Canada, 4th of July for all the Americans out there).

We here it all the time, coaches that will say "that shot is out of your range, shoot within your range." The problem is, most players haven't the slightest clue what their shooting range is. They think that just because their shots can hit the rim, then that is their range.

Most people agree on the following basic statistical thresholds for shooting:

- 50% on 2-pt FG's made is good, anything under 44% is below average
- 33% on 3-pt FG's made is good
- 70% on FT's made is good, anything under 60% is below average

At the shooter's camp I was at this past weekend, we did a drill which helps players determine what their shooting range is. The use of a pilon or cone is optional, but helps to mark where the range is.

Players should start from the baseline block. They take 10 shots total. If they make a basket, they move the pilon back approxiamately 1 step and shoot again. If they miss a basket, they move the pilon forward. You cannot go anymore forward than the block. After 10 shots, leave the pilon there and repeat with the next 4 spots going around the basket to the other baseline block.

Since a player's shooting range will vary as they practice their shot and get better, player's should continually evaluate their range. The purpose for finding out their shooting range is so that in games they know where they can accurately shoot the ball. There is no point to shoot the ball if you are in a spot outside of your range.

For you coaches out there looking for more practice ideas, check out All-Access DeMatha Practice DVDs with head coach Mike Jones and S+C guru Alan Stein.

I think we would all agree that players need both a stride step (also known as a 1-2 step) and a jump stop (also known as a hop step) to get into your shot depending on the situation. For example, for any catch and shoot, you want to use a jump stop. Coming off a ball-screen, you want to dribble off the hip of the defender and step into your shot using a stride step.

But what I'd like to know is what do you all teach to the first time basketball player? What do you want players to use as their default way of getting into their shot, a stride step or a jump stop?

Personally, I've always used a jump stop as my default method of getting into the shot. I've always been a fast dribbler so I've found that getting into a jump stop helps me keep my balance and set my feet before shooting. But I can see how a stride step would be faster than a jump stop, allowing the shooter the get the ball off quicker before the defender can get up and strip the ball or challenge the shot.

Got All My Stuff Back Online

Well, I kept putting it off and putting it off, but with so much going on with teaching and coaching, I really didn't have time until this past weekend to get all my stuff back online. I took at a few different options, but ended up going with Google Docs because it was the easiest and most flexible.

In the end, all my stuff that was on this website ended up being just about 1GB worth, just under Google's space limit for the free version. I have about another 600MB of new stuff that I've downloaded in the past year or 2 but I just haven't processed them all yet. I will upload them later. All the files are arranged in the following links:

Google Docs: All My Basketball Files

Direct Link: FIBA Assist articles

Mediafire: Xavier Newsletters (2005-2010)

The downloads page has also been updated with the same info as above.

Please take some time to talk hoops and contribute to the X's and O's of Basketball Forum. It's been in existence now for almost 5 years and there are some great coaches talking hoops there. A lot of regular contributors who upload notes and files on a regular basis.

Finally, if you are looking for Alan Stein stuff, go ahead and visit his website and email him. Coach Stein is always willing to help out a fellow coach, just ask him.

I will be posting some stuff in the next few days and on the weekend after I work the shooter's clinic. In the meantime, enjoy the notes, and hopefully the sunshine wherever you are...

I know it's been forever since I last posted but the summer break is finally coming and I've finally had more time to reflect professionally on this past season, but also look ahead at what's to come, and I'm absolutely ecstatic to say the least.

I will be helping a Varsity head coach (a legend around these parts) with a shooter's clinic this weekend and next weekend. Shooting is such an important skill at each position that I think it's a great idea to grab all of your players (and players from your area) and spend 2 days just working on technique, which is what we will be doing.

We got talking as we started planning for the weekend and naturally the topic drifted to the NBA finals and the shot form of Dirk Nowitzki,

We talked about some of the good things he does on his shot like his starting position and shooting hand follow-through, and some of his not so good things like his tendency to shoot off one foot and finish off-balance and the finish of his guide-hand.

Obviously, the mechanics are important, getting the ball in the shot pocket, flicking the wrist, ten toes pointed to the basket, proper knee bend, etc... all that good stuff that you and I all teach. It doesn't matter how good your mechanics are, what matters most is what happens to the ball after it leaves your hands. And those 2 fundamentals are:

1. The ball must have the proper arc
2. The ball must have the proper rotation

The reason why the ball must have proper arc is simply a matter of physics. Balls that are shot with a flat trajectory have less surface area with which to get into the rim, and when flat balls do hit the rim they tend to bounce straight off the front, or off the back, as opposed to hitting the rim and falling into the basket.

The reason why the ball must have proper backspin rotation is simple. A ball that has no rotation will not have a consistent arc and is susceptible to change direction mid-flight, much like a knuckle-ball which sinks hard and goes in all kinds of directions. Rotation limits the ability for wind or air resistance to affect the balls natural parabolic trajectory. Backspin is the correct kind of rotation because it creates a soft bounce. You can always tell when a shooter has good rotation because when the ball goes in without touching the rim, it makes that loud "swoosh" sound and the net almost flies back up the rim. It's almost like the basket is a vacuum and sucks the ball down it.

Everything else is just not that important in my opinion. Now, mechanics will dictate for the most part how those 2 fundamentals get accomplished, but I've seen players shoot from the side of their head (ala John Stockton), or from their chest (ala Shawn Marion), and still be very consistent and successful shooters. So long as the ball has the proper arc and rotation, nothing else really matters.

Hope you all had a great time watching the NBA playoffs, I know I did. It was great to see Dirk, J Kidd, and Coach Rick Carlisle win it because they've paid their dues. Patience and sticking with the plan certainly did pay off for Mark Cuban.

I will try to keep updating the blog throughout the summer, I will try to use a more analytical approach, discussing the craft of coaching and what people are doing these days.

For more shooting drills you can use in your practice, take a look at Steve Alford's Shooting Drills DVD. Coach Alford is the head coach at University of New Mexico.