Craig Remsburg column: Is free throw shooting getting worse?

When I was a teenager, back when Gordie Howe was still a major force in his late 30s, Motown was cranking out hit-after-hit and the minimum wage was $1, I played some organized basketball.

Nothing higher in high school than junior varsity ball, but some church league play after that for a couple of seasons.

A small forward, I could rebound with the best of them, play good defense, make a crisp pass and occasionally, score a basket.

But one thing I couldn’t do was sink a free throw. No matter how hard I tried, or practiced the shot, I was horrible at the charity stripe.

Once in a while, I’d get lucky. The ball would bounce off the backboard or on the rim just right for the ball to go through the hoop.

It wasn’t often, though. I was as bad – or worse – than Shaq was or the Pistons’ Andre Drummond is now.

I was reminded of my inadequacy at the FT line a week or so ago when I saw the charity stripe stats for a Gwinn High School girls basketball game vs. Norway.

Gwinn’s 7 of 20 (35 percent) from the line was bad enough. But Norway sank just 4 of 25 attempts (16 percent).

OK, a team can have a bad FT shooting game once in a while, but it seems to be more common among local teams this season.

A little research showed Munising girls sank just 5 of 16 (31.2 percent) in a game against Rapid River and Ishpeming went 7 of 20 (35 percent) vs. Manistique.

If that’s not bad enough, colleague Steve Brownlee pointed out a game he covered this season that saw Gwinn and Munising combine to make just 1 of 14 FTs (15 percent) in the third quarter.


Not all games have been as bad on the line, of course.

Westwood’s girls sank 11 of 12 (91.6 percent) against Bark River-Harris; Westwood’s boys canned 14 of 16 (87.5 percent) against Escanaba; and the Superior Central girls drained 13 of 16 attempts (81.2 percent) against BR-H.

But free throw shooting this season just seems to be bad and not getting any better.

I attribute that to not enough FT practice and poor fundamentals developed at a young age that go uncorrected later on.

It’s not very exciting practicing free throws. In fact, it can be downright boring. It’s all about repetition and that can be as exciting as watching paint dry.

It’s more fun to move around the basket and beyond the arc, launching jump shot after jump shot.

Besides, with basketball court time limited at some schools with the boys and girls playing at the same time, some coaches might be skimping on FT practice in favor of perfecting offensive and defensive sets.

Yet, free throws can be crucial at the end of games. A team that has a couple or three players who can shine at the line is often able to take a close win at the wire.

But I’m afraid accurate free throw shooting might become a thing of the past. Youths just don’t want to put the time or effort into sparkling at the line.

It’s just not as glamorous as sinking a triple.