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Old Tue Dec 03, 2019, 01:47pm
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2019-20 The Most Misunderstood NFHS Basketball Rules ...

New season. New Forum members. Here's my fifteenth annual The Most Misunderstood NFHS Basketball Rules list.

High school basketball rules are often misunderstood by coaches, players, parents, and fans. Officiate basketball games long enough and officials will hear dozens of erroneous comments from players, coaches, parents, and fans, and think to themselves, “I wish I could stop the game and explain the real rule to them".

For example. A player is dribbling the ball in the backcourt and a fan is yelling, "Three seconds". Or, a player is inbounding the ball and a parent yells, "He's stepping on the boundary line". Officials often want to sound the whistle, stop the game, and say, "There can't be a three second violation until the ball is in the frontcourt", or, "The player can step on the line, but not over the line onto the court".

Knowing these rule misconceptions in advance can help basketball officials understand where players, coaches, parents, and fans, are “coming from”. Rookie basketball officials can benefit from this article by clearing up any misconceptions that they might have had coming into basketball officiating after years of being a player, or a fan.

Here are the “real” rules often misunderstood by coaches, players, parents, and fans, and, yes, even basketball officials:

I developed this list over the past forty years, officiating thousands of basketball games. I first used this list back in 2005, for a presentation that I was making to a college level basketball coaching class after I was asked to give a lecture on the most misunderstood basketball rules. The list has evolved many times over the years.
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"For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life." (John 3:16)

I was in prison and you came to visit me. (Matthew 25:36)

Last edited by BillyMac; Tue Dec 03, 2019 at 01:53pm.
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Old Tue Dec 03, 2019, 01:47pm
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Part I ...

The Most Misunderstood NFHS Basketball Rules

It is important to know the intent and purpose of a rule so that it may be intelligently applied in each play situation. A player of a team should not be permitted an advantage which is not intended by a rule. Neither should play be permitted to develop which may lead to placing a player at a disadvantage not intended by a rule.

A player cannot touch the ball, ring, or net while the ball is on the ring or within the basket. A player cannot touch the ball if it is in the imaginary cylinder above the ring. These are examples of basket interference. It is legal to touch the ring or the net if the ball is above the ring and not touching the ring, even if the ball is in the imaginary cylinder above the ring. It is legal to hang on the ring if a player is avoiding an injury to himself or herself or another player.

The backboard has nothing to do with goaltending. Goaltending is when a player touches the ball during a try, or tap, while it is in its downward flight, entirely above the basket ring level, outside the imaginary cylinder above the ring, and has the possibility of entering the basket. On most layups, the ball is going up immediately after it contacts the backboard, and in this situation it is legal for a defender to touch the ball if it is not in the imaginary cylinder above the basket. Slapping or striking the backboard is neither basket interference, nor is it goaltending, and points cannot be awarded. A player who intentionally or deliberately slaps or strikes a backboard, during a tap, or a try, so forcefully that it cannot be ignored because it is an attempt to draw attention to the player, or a means of venting frustration, may be assessed a technical foul. When a player simply attempts to block a shot, and accidentally or incidentally slaps the backboard, regardless how much it causes the backboard to shake or vibrate, it is neither a violation, nor is it a technical foul.

The front, top, sides, and bottom of the backboard are all in play. The ball cannot legally pass over a rectangular backboard from either direction. The back of a backboard is out of bounds, as well as the supporting structures.

The traveling rule is one of the most misunderstood rules in basketball. To start a dribble, the ball must be released before the pivot foot is lifted. On a pass, or a shot, the pivot foot may be lifted, but may not return to the floor before the ball is released. A player may slide on the floor while trying to secure a loose ball until that player’s momentum stops. At that point that player cannot attempt to get up, or rollover. A player securing a ball while on the floor cannot attempt to stand up unless that player starts a dribble. A player in this situation may also pass, shoot, or request a timeout. If the player is flat on his, or her, back, that player may sit up without violating.

A player must be holding the ball (with rare exception) in order to travel. A player can't travel while dribbling, while tapping the ball, or while fumbling it. During a fumble the player is not in control of the ball, and therefore, cannot be called for a traveling violation. A fumble is the accidental loss of player control when the ball is unintentionally dropped, or slips from a player’s grasp. After a player has ended a dribble and fumbled the ball, that player may recover the ball without violating. Any steps taken during the recovery of a fumble are not traveling, regardless of how far the ball goes, and the amount of advantage that is gained. It is always legal to recover a fumble, even at the end of a dribble; however that player cannot begin a new dribble, which would be an illegal dribble violation. A player who fumbles the ball when receiving a pass may legally start a dribble

The shooter can retrieve his or her own airball, if the official considers it to be a shot attempt. The release ends team control. It is not a violation for that player to start another dribble at that point. When an airborne player keeps control of an attempted shot that is blocked, is unable to release the ball, and returns to the floor with it, that player has not traveled; it is a held ball. If, in a similar situation, the defender simply touches the ball, the airborne shooter maintains control of the ball, chooses not to release the ball, and returns to the floor holding the ball, it’s a traveling violation. If, in a similar situation, the shooter loses control of the ball because of the block, then this is simply a blocked shot, the release ends team control. It is not a violation for that player to start another dribble at that point. When an airborne player tries for goal, sees that the try will be blocked, purposely drops the ball, and touches the ball after it hits the floor, that player has traveled by starting a dribble with the pivot foot off the floor.

Palming, or carrying, is when the ball comes to rest in the player's hand, and the player either travels with the ball, or illegally dribbles a second time. There is no restriction as to how high a player may bounce the ball, provided the dribbler’s hand stays on top of the ball, and the ball does not come to rest in the dribbler’s hand. Steps taken during a dribble are not traveling, including several that are sometimes taken when a high dribble takes place. It is not possible for a player to travel during a dribble. It is not a dribble when a player stands still and holds the ball and touches it to the floor once or more than once.

After a violation, the ball is awarded to the opponents for a throwin from an out of bounds spot nearest the violation. This is especially true for a backcourt violation, where the ball may not necessarily be put in play at the division line, but, rather, is always put back in play at the spot nearest the violation.
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"For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life." (John 3:16)

I was in prison and you came to visit me. (Matthew 25:36)

Last edited by BillyMac; Wed Dec 04, 2019 at 12:21pm.
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Old Tue Dec 03, 2019, 01:48pm
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Part II ...

A player inbounding the ball may step on, but not over the line and onto the court. The “traveling rule” is not in effect during a throwin. During a designated spot throwin, the player inbounding the ball must keep one foot on, or over, the three foot wide designated spot. An inbounding player is allowed to jump, or move one or both feet. A player inbounding the ball may move backward as far as the five second time limit, or space allows. If player moves outside the three foot wide designated spot, it is a throwin violation, not traveling. In gymnasiums with limited space outside the sidelines, and endlines, a defensive player may be asked to step back no more than three feet. A player inbounding the ball may “dribble” the ball on the out of bounds area prior to making a throwin. The “illegal dribble rule” is not in effect during a throwin. After a goal, or awarded goal, the team not credited with the score shall make the throwin from any point outside the end line. A team retains this “run the endline” privilege if a timeout is called during the dead ball period after the goal. After a goal, or awarded goal, any player of the team may make a direct throwin, or may pass the ball along the end line to a teammate outside the boundary line.

The defender may not break the boundary plane during a throwin until the ball has been released on a throwin pass. If the defender breaks the boundary plane during a throwin before the ball has been released on a throwin pass, the defender’s team will receive a team delay warning, or if the team has already been warned for one of the four delay situations, this action would result in a team technical foul. If the defender contacts the ball after breaking the boundary plane, it is a player technical foul and a team delay warning will be recorded. If the defender breaks the boundary plane, and fouls the inbounding player, it is an intentional personal foul, and a team delay warning will be recorded. It is an intentional personal foul if the defender fouls the inbounding player, even without breaking the boundary plane, however, in this specific case, there is no delay of game warning because the defender did not break the boundary plane.

The inbounding player does not have a plane restriction, but has five seconds to release the ball, and it must come directly onto the court. The ball shall not enter the basket before it is touched by another player, nor may it become lodged between the backboard and ring or come to rest on the flange before it is touched by another player. Following throwin violations, the ball is awarded to the opponents for a throwin at the original throwin spot. The ball can always be passed into the backcourt during a throwin. This situation is not a backcourt violation.

If a player's momentum carries the player off the court, that player can be the first player to touch the ball after returning inbounds. That player must not have left the court voluntarily, and must immediately return inbounds. That player must have something in, and nothing out. It is not necessary to have both feet back inbounds. It is a violation for a player to intentionally leave the court for an unauthorized reason.

To be out of bounds, a player must touch the floor, or some object, on or outside a boundary line. A dribbler has committed a violation if they step on or outside a boundary, even though the dribbler is not touching the ball while they are out of bounds. People are not considered to be objects, so a player inadvertently touches someone who is out of bounds (another player, a photographer, a coach, an official, etc.), without gaining an advantage, is not considered an out of bounds violation.

A moving screen is not in and of itself a foul; illegal contact must occur for a foul to be called. If a blind screen is set on a stationary defender, the defender must be given one normal step to change direction, and attempt to avoid contact. If a screen is set on a moving defender, the defender gets a minimum of one step, and a maximum of two steps, depending on the speed, and distance of the defender. Players setting screens must have both feet inbounds.

It is legal use of hands to accidentally hit the hand of the opponent when it is in contact with the ball. This includes holding, dribbling, passing, or even during a shot attempt. Striking a ball handler, or a shooter, on that player's hand (in contact with the ball) that is incidental to an attempt to play the ball is not a foul.

Reaching in is not a foul. There must be illegal contact to have a foul. The mere act of reaching in is, by itself, nothing. If illegal contact does occur, it’s probably a holding foul, an illegal use of hands foul, or a hand check foul. When a player, in order to stop the clock, does not make a legitimate play for the ball, holds, pushes, or grabs away from the ball, or uses undue roughness, the foul is an intentional foul.

Over the back is not a foul. There must be illegal contact to have a foul. A taller player may often be able to get a rebound over a shorter player, even if the shorter player has good rebounding position. If the shorter player is displaced, then a pushing foul must be called. A rebounding player, with an inside position, while boxing out, is not allowed to push back, or displace, an opponent, which is a pushing foul.

A defensive player does not have to remain stationary to take a charge. A defender may turn away, or duck, to absorb contact, provided the defender has already established legal guarding position, which is both feet on the playing court, and facing the opponent. The defender can always move backwards, or sideways, to maintain a legal guarding position, and may even have one or both feet off the floor when contact occurs. That player may legally rise vertically. If the defender is moving forward, then the contact is caused by the defender, which is a blocking foul. If the opponent with the ball is airborne, the defender must have obtained legal position before the opponent left the floor.

The mere fact that contact occurs does not constitute a foul. Incidental contact is contact with an opponent which is permitted and does not constitute a foul. Contact, which occurs unintentionally in an effort by an opponent to reach a loose ball, or contact which may result when opponents are in equally favorable positions to perform normal defensive, or offensive moves, should not be considered illegal, even though the contact may be severe. Contact which does not hinder an opponent from participating in normal defensive, or offensive, movements should be considered incidental.

A ten second backcourt count continues when the defense (without gaining control) deflects, or bats, the ball in the backcourt. When a dribbler is advancing the ball into the frontcourt, the ball maintains backcourt status until both feet, and the ball, touch entirely in the frontcourt.

The four elements for having a backcourt violation are: there must be team control (and initial player control when coming from a throwin); the ball must have achieved frontcourt status; the team in team control must be the last to touch the ball before it goes into the backcourt; that same team must be the first to touch after the ball has been in the backcourt.
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"For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life." (John 3:16)

I was in prison and you came to visit me. (Matthew 25:36)

Last edited by BillyMac; Tue Dec 03, 2019 at 01:58pm.
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Old Tue Dec 03, 2019, 01:49pm
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Part III ...

During a throwin, even under a team’s own basket, if the throwin is deflected, tipped, or batted, by an offensive player in the frontcourt to an offensive player in the backcourt; or after a missed field goal attempt, or a missed foul shot attempt, if the ball is deflected, tipped, or batted, by an offensive player in the frontcourt to an offensive player in the backcourt; these are not a backcourt violations.

During a throwin, or jump ball, any player; or a defensive player, in making a steal; may legally jump from his, or her, frontcourt, secure control of the ball with both feet off the floor, and return to the floor with one, or both, feet in the backcourt. The player may make a normal landing, and it makes no difference whether the first foot down is in the frontcourt, or the backcourt. These three situations are not backcourt violations.

The closely guarded rule is in effect in frontcourt only, when a defender is within six feet of the ball handler. Up to three separate five second counts may occur on the same ball handler: holding, dribbling, and holding. The count continues even if defenders switch. The five second count ends when a dribbler gets his, or her, head, and shoulders, ahead of the defender.

The intent of the three second rule is to not allow an offensive player in the lane to gain an advantage. There is no three second count between the release of a shot, and the control of a rebound, at which time a new count starts. There is no three second count during a throwin. There is no three second count while the ball is in the backcourt. There is a three second count during an interrupted dribble. There is a three second count while an offensive player has one foot in the lane, and one foot outside of the lane, and the three second count continues if this player lifts the foot in the lane so that neither foot is touching inside the lane. To stop the count this player must have both feet touch the court outside of the lane. It’s a violation for a player to step out of bounds in an attempt to avoid a three second violation. Allowance shall be made for a player who, having been in the lane area for less than three seconds, dribbles, or moves immediately to try for goal.

The head coach may request, and be granted, a timeout if his, or her, player is holding, or dribbling, the ball; or during a dead ball period. A player saving the ball in the air can ask for, and be granted, a timeout even if that player is going out of bounds. The key is whether, or not, the player has control of the ball.

A player who has been injured such that the coach or any other bench personnel (trainer) is beckoned and comes onto the court shall be directed to leave the game, unless a timeout is requested by, and granted to, the team and the situation can be corrected by the end of the timeout. If an official stops the clock to check on an injured player, and the coach or bench personnel do not come onto the court, and if the player is ready to play immediately, that player may remain in the game and no timeouts need to be requested, and granted.

On free throws, there is a maximum of two offensive players, and four defensive players, in the six marked lane spaces. The defense must be in the first marked lane spaces, above the neutral zone marks, on all free throws. The offense must not occupy the first marked lane spaces, above the neutral zone marks. For free throws when there are no rebounders in the marked lane spaces (technical fouls, intentional fouls), the nine nonshooters shall remain behind the free throw line extended, and behind the three point arc.

Players in marked lane spaces must not move into the lane until the ball is released by the free throw shooter. The shooter, and the players behind the three point arc, must wait until the ball hits the ring, before entering the lane, or penetrating the three point arc. On release of the ball by the free thrower, the defender boxing out the free thrower shall not cross the free throw line until the ball contacts the ring. In addition, the free throw shooter must cause the ball to enter the basket, or touch the ring, before the free throw ends. During a free throw, no opponent, including bench personnel, may distract the free thrower.

A held ball occurs when opponents have their hands so firmly on the ball that control cannot be obtained without undue roughness. It is a violation for a player to excessively swing his, or her, arms, or elbows, even without contacting an opponent. Action of arms, and elbows, resulting from total body movements as in pivoting or moving to prevent a held ball, or loss of control, shall not be considered excessive.

Kicking the ball is intentionally striking it with any part of the leg, or foot. An unintentionally kicked ball is never illegal, regardless of how far the ball goes, and who recovers it.
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"For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life." (John 3:16)

I was in prison and you came to visit me. (Matthew 25:36)

Last edited by BillyMac; Tue Dec 03, 2019 at 02:02pm.
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Old Tue Dec 03, 2019, 01:50pm
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Part IV ...

A player who has been replaced, or directed to leave the game, shall not reenter (with rare exception) before the next opportunity to substitute after the clock has been started properly following his, or her, replacement. In other words, a player who has been replaced must sit a tick of the clock; however, a player doesnt have to play a tick of the clock.

Players may not participate or even warm up while wearing jewelry. Religious medals, or medical alert medals, are not considered jewelry. A religious medal must be taped, and worn under the uniform. A medical alert medal must be taped, and may be visible.

Undershirts must be similar in color to the uniform jersey, and shall not have frayed edges. Undershirt sleeves shall be the same length. Note that this rule does not require all players to wear the same length sleeves on their undershirts, but each individual player must have sleeves the same length on the undershirt when worn. Players are required to tuck in jerseys that are designed to be tucked inside the shorts.

Headbands, wristbands, arm sleeves, knee sleeves, lower leg sleeves, compression shorts, and tights, shall be the solid color black, white, beige, or the predominant color of the jersey. All of these items shall be the same color as worn by each player. Additionally, all of these items shall be the same color for all members of a team who choose to wear them. Anything worn on the arm, and/or the leg (except a knee brace), is defined as a sleeve, including knee pads, and elbow pads, and must be the solid color black, white, beige, or the predominant color of the uniform jersey. Only a single headband may be worn on the head, and headbands are not allowed to have extensions or tails. Only one moisture absorbing wristband is permitted on each wrist, and each wristband must be worn on the arm below the elbow.

Rubber, cloth, or elastic bands, of any color, may be used to control hair. Such soft hair control devices (e.g., ponytail holders) are under no color restrictions. Ribbons are considered decorations and are illegal if used as a hair control device. Hard hair control devices including, but not limited to, beads, barrettes, and bobby pins, of any color, are prohibited. Headbands go around the entire head (and must be the solid color black, white, beige, or the predominant color of the uniform jersey), while soft hair control devices only go around hair and are under no color restrictions.

Officials are not required to explain judgment calls, but they may explain some calls if approached by the head coach in a respectful manner. Officials have been instructed to call technical fouls for profanity, unsporting acts, excessive complaints, or verbal abuse.

Officials are on the court to be the only unbiased arbiters of the game. Officials are not concerned with who wins, or loses, but only fairness, and safety. Everyone else in that gym cares about winning, and therefore, cannot look at the game objectively. Players commit fouls, and violations; officials view those infractions, judge the action, and then apply the rules of the game to what they had observed. The rules then determine the penalty.

Revised 12/3/19
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"For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life." (John 3:16)

I was in prison and you came to visit me. (Matthew 25:36)
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