Herb Magee: How to Shoot the Perfect Shot

Herb Magee - How to Shoot the Perfect Shot

2015 NABC Clinic Notes – Herb Magee: How to Shoot the Perfect Shot

By Wes Kosel


Herb Magee is the Head Coach at Philadelphia University (NCAA Division II). The 2014-2015 season completed Magee’s 48th season as head coach of the Philadelphia Rams. He has compiled a 1008-399 record and has only had 3 losing seasons. Magee moved into the 1,000 win club this season joining only 3 other coaches (Harry Statham – McKendree, Danny Miles – Oregon Tech, and Mike Krzyzewski). Magee is known as a shooting expert and has worked with many current and former NBA players. Also a free-throw expert, his Rams ranked 34th in Division II this season shooting 74.7%. Magee conducts shooting camps throughout the summer for all ages and skill levels.

How can you tell if someone can shoot? – The only way to tell if someone can shoot is to analyze the free-throw and 3-point shot.

Teaching & Learning – A player has to be convinced that he needs help. Without this, you have no chance as a coach. Magee said that former NBA player Mario Elie was one of the best examples of a player understanding that he needed help on his shot. Magee will not let his players use the gun until he shows them exactly what he wants them to work on.

4 Points of Shooting

  1. Shooting Hand
  2. Guide Hand
  3. Legs
  4. Target

Dealing with a poor free-throw shooter – Magee typically does not say anything to his team when they are in a shooting slump. Magee told the story of one poor shooter in a game who could not hit a free-throw. He told the player to miss the shot, but make sure that it hit the back of the rim. The player was confused, but listened to his coach. In focusing on the back of the rim, the player went 7/8 from the free-throw line that game.

The Shooting Hand

  • The ball cannot hit the palm – When working his outdoor camps, Magee shows the campers how dirt collects on his fingers but not on his palms.
  • Spanning the ball – span can be measured from thumb to pinky
  • The ball should not be in the palm, but the fingers should also span the ball so that the maximum amount of surface area is covered by the fingers

The Noises of Shooting

  • There is a different noise made when the ball shoots off of the fingers instead of the palm
  • He has his players shoot the ball into the air with one hand and catch with the same hand
    • When players are shooting correctly, they will not juggle the ball on the catch


  • Moving from shooting the ball into the air, Magee puts his players through partner shooting
    • Players shoot to the other player working on the delivery and hand position
    • As they players get more comfortable, he then has them hold up their hands for a target (above the head)


  • Players will often drop their hands after shooting the basketball
  • Players are often coached to “follow the shot”
    • Magee believes this is bad advice. In following the shot, a player is compromising his form and therefore reducing his shooting percentage
  • Magee does not believe in “straight up and straight down” shooting either
    • Prefers players to land slightly ahead of where the shot was taken
  • Believes that knockout encourages poor shooting habits – does not allow knockout at camp

Why aren’t there more shooters?

  • AAU
  • No time spent on practice
  • Practicing bad habits
  • No time spent on developing skills

What you can control – If you make shots, you will win games. You can control this in how you teach your players to shoot.

Elbow Positioning

  • The elbow must be straight and under the basketball
  • The forearm and upper arm should create an “L” shape rather than a “V”

Is shooting hard? – Magee said, “Golf is hard, shooting is easy”.

Most important element of shooting? – THE GUIDE HAND!

Hand Position

  • On the shooting hand, you should not see your pinky on the side of the ball
  • If you see your pinky, your elbow is sticking out and is not straight
  • On the guide hand, the thumb should point straight to the basket
  • This placement will force the hand to be on the side of the basketball
  • Shoot “through” the guide hand
  • Practice the perfect shot. Although you may not reach perfection, you will become excellent along the way

The Follow Through

  • The only way to tell what you have done wrong with a shot is to analyze the follow through
  • In doing this, players will become good at eliminating left and right misses
  • The goal is to only miss short or long

Importance of Shooting

  • According to Magee, shooting is the 1st, 2nd, and possibly 3rd most important skill in basketball

The Target

  • Look at the front of the rim
  • Focus on a specific point
  • Shoot straight
  • No right/left misses
  • Ensure straightness with the index and middle fingers
  • Most free-throws are missed by hitting the front of the rim
  • When dealing with young children, Magee advises them to shoot at the back of the rim
  • The end of your shot should look the same even when on the move or off the dribble
    • “Make your move, set your hands”

Tracking Your Shots

  • Instead of counting misses and makes, Magee uses a shot chart that shows if the shot was long, short, right, or left
  • If possible, film the players shooting to show the individuals how the shot looks from all angles

“You have to shoot every single day if you want to become a good shooter”

Click here to download the PDF! 2015 NABC Clinic Notes: Herb Magee – How to Shoot the Perfect Shot

Herb Magee - How to Shoot the Perfect Shot

Click here to download the PDF! 2015 NABC Clinic Notes: Herb Magee – How to Shoot the Perfect Shot

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s