Golfers especially talk about “grooving” their swing, and in almost every sport a player strives for that feeling of “getting in the groove,” the feeling that everything is going just right. In basketball, there is one quick, specific way to practice shooting that is very effective for putting your shot-off-the-dribble in the groove.
Stand at the free-throw line. (From “head-on” the ball comes back to you faster, you don’t have to chase it from side to side. If you have a “feeder,” stand anywhere you like, about 15 feet out.) You want to be at a distance where you can shoot well, and you want to get a lot of shots in a short period of time. Tune your concentration onto just the thing you are doing. You want to practice getting off your shot with a quicker- than-normal release, not so fast that you throw it at the basket and fail to follow through but definitely faster than you normally shoot.
Stand there and put one hard dribble at your feet, move both feet slightly (a few inches each), and be impatient to get that ball off the floor, out of your hands, and into the basket. It might seem as though this hard-dribble-not-going-anywhere is unrealistic since you will never take tiny steps like this in a game. But what it does is groove your shot off the dribble so that wherever you dribble to, no matter how many dribbles you have taken to get there or how big your steps, your last dribble, and steps begin to feel like the grooved dribble-steps that you practice all the time, that one quick move and shot that you learn to make “in your sleep.”
It might be even better to practice 462 shots a day where you drive full speed from the mid-court line to the free-throw line, stop abruptly, go straight up and shoot. But who is going to do that? Who has energy? Or the time? There are too many things to learn, pickup games to play in, ball handling drills, one-on-one moves. No one is going to shoot 462 hard moving, abrupt stopping shots per day. But you can shoot 100 quick-release groove shots a day and not be at all tired or even use up much time. When you get a hard-driving chance from midcourt to the free-throw line in a game, it won’t feel like a new experience. It will seem as though you’ve practiced it thousands of times.
You definitely need to work on a quicker release. Most players take more time to shoot in basketball practice than they will get in a game. It is fine to practice shooting slowly, concentrating on the correct form so that you get confidence that you can shoot well. However, some of your practice must overdo it so that the shots you get in a game seem easier, not harder, than the ones you get in practice.
It is very easy to slow down a shot in a game when you have time to do that, but almost any shot sped up to get it off misses. Therefore, once you’ve practiced a quick release, there will be no such thing as speeding up your shot in a game. Either you get the groove shot that you work on all the time, or you get an easier shot, but certainly nothing faster.
One final note. If you can’t hit 8 or 9 or 10 from the free-throw line almost every time, you aren’t ready to practice quick-release-groove shots. First, you need to learn to shoot. Then, learn to shoot faster. It is difficult to imagine any basketball coach wanting a mediocre shooter to learn to get off more shots!
It is the very good shooter who needs work on the quick-release-groove shot so that his game percentage is at least comparable with his practice percentage. Being good at “H-O-R-S-E” does not assure you that you will be a good game shooter. But once the quick-releasers pop in from all over in practice, they will pop in from all over in games, too. A groove knows no distinctions!
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