Art of the Free Throw - Nick Van Exel

Nick Van Exel, San Antonio Spurs

The Shot:


The Free Throw:
A free throw is just what it sounds like. Free. A player gets fouled and heads to the line for some free throws. Nothing but the player, the bucket, and 15 feet of real estate. So why does Nick Van Exel, back-up point guard for the San Antonio Spurs, shoot his free throws from a couple feet behind the line? When so many already struggle from 15 feet, why make the shot any more difficult? “I’m more of a three-point shooter than a mid-range jump shooter,” Van Exel admits. “When I played for Denver, I would always hit the back of the rim when I missed. It just felt more comfortable for me when I moved a few steps back from the line, so I just stayed back and have been shooting that way ever since.”

The Ritual:
Many players have a ritual. However, Van Exel doesn’t adjust his socks or or wipe his sweat a certain way. He just shoots his free throws from about 17 feet instead of 15 feet. “I just tried it one day in practice and it seemed to go well, so I told the coaches I was going to try it in a game,” Van Exel recalls. “It went pretty well that game and it just kinda continued from there. Coaches preach repetition when going to the free throw line. No matter where you stand when you get to the line, it’s important to have the same routine because free throws are as much mental as they are physical. “I just spin the ball, give it three bounces, line it up, and hope it goes in!”