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Food for Thought – March 2015


Last Shot Guidelines
Last Shot Timing
Defending Last Shots
Comforting & Consoling Players

Coaching Strategies: Last Shot Guidelines

A last shot situation is not just a simple matter of drawing up a play. There are numerous last shot situations to address dependent on court location and time on the clock. When the outcome of the game comes down to a single shot, teams must maintain their poise and confidence. This confidence comes from being prepared.

  • Be sure to get the ball into the hands of your best player, and let them hit the open shot or teammate. Never allow your best player to take the ball out of bounds.
  • Players must read the defense and immediately take advantage of any defensive overplay. The type of defense being deploy will ultimately determine the last shot option. Normally, they will play soft if ahead and must pressure when behind.
  • Non-shooters should be well drilled to go to the offensive boards instead of watching the flight of the ball. Most last second games are won on putbacks not the shot.
  • Keep the play simple and execute. The more complex the action, the greater chance that a breakdown will occur.
  • Practice various last shot scenarios using the game clock. This not only develops proper play timing, spacing and execution, but it also builds players confidence that they can score with just seconds remaining.
  • Physical conditioning also plays a vital role late in a game. The team that is in better shape will definitely have the advantage in very tense games where players are physically tired, mentally beat, and emotionally drained. Note: normally, you can expect to win at least two games during the season by being in better shape that your opponents.

Last Shot Timing – Basic Rule

10 Seconds: Players need to be in position for play

8 Seconds: Initiate play

3-5 Seconds: Take the shot & go to offensive boards for second effort.

0-2 Seconds: If opponent does rebound they will not have enough time to advance ball down court for shot.

Maximum Number of Dribbles

At the end of a game or period players must know how many dribbles they can take.

3 Seconds = 1 Dribble

5 Seconds = 3 Dribbles

7 Seconds = 5 Dribbles

Required Fundamentals

Most last second shot plays require long passes. Therefore, players should practice and master the skill of making a skip pass (a crisp, accurate pass from sideline to sideline) along with a baseball or semi-hook pass from the backcourt endline to the opposite free throw line (“Elbow”). If players can not execute either of these passes, any last second shot play becomes worthless. Designated an inbounds passer. Make sure that your inbounds passer can successfully execute long passes and knows the rules.

Players should occasionally practice half court shots. This usually requires developing a two handed shot. With practice some players can become fairly accurate. Whenever possible, make the attempt from the center of the floor in line with the basket where a bank shot has the best percentage of being successful. A shoot around practice before game is a good time to practice half court shots. You can also end practices with a half court shot. Reward the first player to make one. Players love the challenge of trying to make half court shots.

Players should also practice tipping the basketball and re-directing a pass (less than second). The ability to tip the ball with both the right and left hand also plays an important role in offensive rebounding. Remember, most last shot games are won on the putback not the shot.

Printable Last Shot Guidelines Chart. Click Here >>>

Intentionally missing a free throw

NOTE: Chances are good during the season that an end of game situation will be encountered that requires the intentionally missing of a free throw; therefore, teams must be prepared for it. Intentional missing a free throw must be taught and practiced. Players must recognize and know what their assignments are on an “intentionally” missed free throw situation. Shooters must not only practice the intentional miss, they also need to be aware of the rule that the ball must hit the rim on the attempt.

Defending Against the Last Shot

Attack Rather Than React

Be aware of the team foul situation, and if you have a foul(s) to give. Be deceptive. Show man, but play zone on inbounds pass, or show zone and play man on inbounds pass.  Use a combination defense, especially against a star player.  Be disruptive. Double team to disrupt any set play.  Contest all shots, but do not foul. Switch all screens, and attack the passing lanes. Push ballhandlers to a sideline. This reduces the chance of a successful bank shot.

Rebound, Rebound & Rebound!

The vast majority of games that are decided by last shots are won on put backs — NOT the shots. Box out, especially on free throws.

You must eliminate any offensive rebound of a missed shot. This requires a team effort. Assume all shots are going to be missed. Do NOT watch the flight of the ball to see if it is going to be successful. Close out to spot up shooters on balance with both hands up. Be alert for a pump fake. Do not run at or past the shooter.

Note: Last year in the NCAA Men’s Final Four Tournament, four (4) games, along with any championship hopes, were lost by fouling shooters on last second three point shot attempts.

When you are unable to obtain actual ball possession on rebound, tip the ball away from the opponent or to a teammate.

 Importance of Comforting & Consoling Players

locker room lossIf not addressed, an end of game failure can become a devastating, life long, emotion injury. Be sure to immediately comfort, console, and restore the player’s confidence making sure that they realize that it was a good learning experience for things to come, not the end of the world. Basketball is a game, and it’s the effort that really counts, not the results. As long as they give their best effort, they will never lose a game – only run out of time.


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