Free Throw Coverage

Move to Improve on Free Throws

By Billy Martin

Tips to maintain a credible calling angle.


Movement should be to IMPROVE your position and MAINTAIN a credible calling angle.


In a scholastic contest there are a couple of tricks to remember what your PCA and lane space responsibilities are using the numbers 12 and 13.


LEAD:  When you are in the lead think UNLUCKY 13.  You have the nearest 1st lane space and the 3 opposite lane spaces as your primary responsibility.  Get it … 13.


 First nearest and 3 opposite.TRAIL (2 Person Crew) or CENTER (3 Person Crew): Think DOZEN.  You have the 1 free thrower and the 2 opposite lane spaces as your PCA.  Same idea but 12.  Thrower (which is 1) and the 2 opposite lane spaces.


As the official opposite the table your visual angle should be to make sure you see clearly the thrower and the players in the opposite two lane spaces.


 Now since players can be entering the lane on release you will need to STEP DOWN as the ball is released to maintain this optimal viewing angle.  Think about taking your single step down toward the basket as these players fill the lane.


The lead official (typically table side) will also step toward the basket line while still maintaining their depth and angle on the nearest lane space and the opposite three spaces.  (Remember 13 ?)

Movement should be SMOOTH and NOT PRIOR to the release of the free throw.

Both officials should come to a complete STOP as the ball nears the basket area and prepare to whistle any violations or fouls.


Additionally the TRAIL (or CENTER) Official opposite the table should be cognizant of not only the free thrower but also the players outside the 3 point arc and not in marked lane spaces.  The restrictions remain in effect until the free throw touches the ring / backboard or the free throw ends.


A few best practices to remember include:


Signal a delayed-dead ball if the opponent of the free throwing team violates first and let the play finish before sounding your whistle if missed.


Use a sharp / quick whistle when the free thrower (or teammate) violates first.The outside official (trail in a 2 person crew / center in a 3 person crew) will provide a “small” visible count when the ball is at the disposal of the free thrower – watching for 10 second violations, then raise this same arm (closest to the division line) to signal the starting (chop) of the clock, when appropriate.


Lead officials should rarely (if ever) rule on a free throw violation involving the ring or backboard.  That’s primarily the outside official — but if missed, any official can get the play right.


On a made free throw and the ball will now be inbounded — the outside official will merely drop their arm (not chop – just lower slowly) and the lead official will raise their arm to hold the clock as the team retains the ability to run the endline for the throw-in.In a two person crew – the Trail should also keep a look-out for substitutions.


 It’s much easier in a three person crew as the table side official will handle substitutions coming from the table.


These tips should allow officials to better monitor violations and fouls as they occur during free throw attempts.  Just keep in mind — move to improve as the action gets underway and the ball is released.  You will enjoy the new perspective in the game.

NFHS Rule Reference: 9-1-3g

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