Saturday, February 21, 2009

Climbing the ladder to improve free-throw shooting

When it came to free throws, last season, the Washington Huskies were the worst-shooting team in the nation, making less than 59 percent from the line.

But look at UW's FT shooting this season. In a Valentine's Day win over Oregon, the Huskies connected on 36 of their 46 FTA. Two days earlier, Washington went 21-29 from the line in a win over Oregon State. And in a road win over Stanford on Feb. 8, UW hit 21-28 of their free throws.

For the season, Washington's FT percentage is up 10 points over last season, from 59% to 69% (503-725). That's a key reason for the team's 19-7 record heading into tonight's game at USC.

UW players credit a FT drill called "the ladder" for their improved shooting from the line.

As this article describes:

"At the end of every practice, all 13 players gather in a circle around the free-throw line, then take turns shooting free throws, each getting two at a time — either shooting a one-and-one, or a two-shot foul depending on the day (the team alternates by day.) The drill isn't complete until the players combine to make 19 of 26 on days when the situation is a one-and-one, or 20 out of 26 on days when it's a two-shot situation. The totals are kept on a scoreboard, and it's referred to as 'climbing the ladder' for the team to get to its requirement to pass the drill. Players who miss head to the sideline for extra conditioning."

The drill, which has taken as long as 45 minutes to complete, helped Oklahoma become one of the nation's top FT-shooting teams in the nation when UW assistant coach Jim Shaw was an assistant at OU on Kelvin Sampson's staff.

According to Coach Shaw, "the drill requires a seasonlong investment to really work," and the "requirements gradually increase as the season progresses and the team, in theory, gets better at free-throw shooting."