Basketball Class Tests Free Throw Techniques

FIT Basketball student Julia Megaro attempts a free throw using the underhand method, also known as the “granny shot”. Photo Credit / Tom Ducatte
FIT Basketball student Julia Megaro attempts a free throw using the underhand method.
Photo Credit / Tom Ducatte

ESU PEC Instructor

In addition to playing basketball, students in ESU’s Physical Education FIT Basketball class learned about unique playing styles and historical aspects of the game, and they incorporated this information into their class.

In the 3rd quarter of the Spring 2013 semester, East Stroudsburg Physical Education FIT students in a basketball class participated in a non-scientific shooting experiment in the class.

Professor Tom Ducatte initially assigned students to view a recent Rick Barry instructional film before they began their experiment.

Barry was an ABA and NBA star in the 1960’s and 1970’s, and most notably played for the Golden State Warriors. In addition to being voted one of the NBA’s top fifty players of all time, Barry ended his ABA career as the number one free throw shooter ever, and number three overall in the NBA.

He was known for his unique free throw style of shooting underhanded with two hands, sometimes called the “granny shot.”

In the film Barry maintains that no one shoots underhand because of ego. Barry also commented that when a player starts the shot with the underhand method, the arms are straight down and relaxed as opposed to the regular free throw style.

While Barry found success with the underhand throw, basketball great, Wilt Chamberlain tried the underhand style for a few years, but then went back to the overhand.

“I felt silly, like a sissy” Chamberlain wrote. Chamberlain ended up being a 51% free throw shooter throughout his career.

A case for either shooting style could not be made in a 2010 study. Dr. Robert Schneider and Dr. Chris Williams at the State University of New York at Brockport (SUNY) completed a study on the two methods of free-throw shooting.

Fifteen males and fourteen females with no prior basketball shooting experience shot 25 shots with both styles. The rates of success were equal for both styles, and Schneider and Williams concluded that free throw shooting success was more dependent on repetition than on style.

With this new information, each of the 27 students (23 males and four females), in the ESU class experiment had to shoot 20 free throw shots overhand, the regular way, and then 20 free throw shots underhand.

The results of the experiment showed 348 shots made of the 540 shots the regular way, which resulted in a 64% conversion rate. Underhand, the students made 262 of the 540 shots, which resulted in a 47% conversion rate.

Each student was asked to make a remark after they perform the experiment. Julia Megaro said she thought the underhand method gave her the opportunity to shoot without forcing the ball.

Drew Yuhas did not miss his last 8 underhand shots once he got his correct form down. John Schnaars made 15 out of 20 shots underhand and he thought, because the underhand was a softer shot, he got a “shooter’s roll” because of better back spin on the ball.

Students in the class also learned some of the history of the game of basketball, including a game called Iowa Women’s six on six basketball.

The game was played to packed gymnasiums for most of the twentieth century by rural school girls in small towns throughout Iowa.

Six on six lasted until the 1990’s when the Iowa state court ruled in favor of a lawsuit brought forth by some of the girls and their parents who claimed that the six on six game did not allow players to showcase their full court talents.

The six on six game allows for three offensive players to stay on one side of the court, while the three other stay on the other side of the court as defenders.

The six on six style developed out of the idea that females were not thought to be physically capable to play the full court game.

The Iowa girls and women have played regulations basketball since the court case.  In Iowa, however, some women over the age of fifty still play six on six in what is called “Granny Basketball Leagues.”  After viewing the film, “More Than a Game,” students played it themselves and many remarked that it added to their knowledge of the game.

Most students, having played basketball, come into this type of class fairly confident in their knowledge. Most appeared appreciative of learning different aspects of a game they thought they knew.

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