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Sharp shooters: As the men's game focuses on dunking, women are shooting free throws better

Published: Monday, Feb. 13 2012 9:01 p.m. MST

Here are some reasons why women might be a little better than men at shooting free throws, according to some local coaches and players.

Ball size

The official size of a men's basketball is 29.5 inches compared to 28.5 for women. That's a one-inch difference in the circumference, but only one-third of an inch difference in the diameter.

But does that one-third of an inch make much of a difference for a ball going through a hoop 18 inches in diameter?

Utah State coach Raegan Pebley, whose team is best among the women's teams in Utah and second-best overall, doesn't think it makes much of a difference.

"You're looking at math with the cylinder and the space, but I don't think so," she said. "Our hands are smaller and that's the main reason for the ball being smaller."

Judkins, however, says the slightly smaller ball is an advantage.

"You can miss it more and it will go in," he says.

Fundamentals

Like Judkins, Utah women's basketball coach Anthony Levrets has coached both men and women and he sees better technique among the women.

"Athleticism is not required to make a free throw," he says. "It is very much a technique thing and women shoot the ball every bit as good as the men do. There's no strength involved in shooting a free throw."

Weber State men's basketball coach Randy Rahe, who coaches the No. 1 free-throw-shooting team in the nation, believes women concentrate on fundamentals better than men.

"Maybe women are a little more fundamentally sound, especially at the collegiate level," said Rahe. "For men, it's turned into a 'get to the rim type of game,' so you don't see kids at a young age working on shooting. They've seen Michael Jordan and all the high flyers and everybody's trying to emulate them and do this fancy stuff.

"When I was growing up, I was watching Jerry West," he added. "Now it's Blake Griffin. I don't think fundamentals get taught like they used to."

Utah coach Larry Krystkowiak agrees, saying "Overall women are more fundamental when it comes to shooting if you watch a college basketball game. You go to a gym now and kids are spending a half an hour on dunks when they might only get two in their life."

Mental toughness

Rahe says he's always thought players who are excellent free-throw shooters are mentally tough.

"Free throws have a lot to do with being mentally tough and believing," Rahe said. "When your top free-throw shooters are making nearly every free throw, I think everybody else on the team gets confident."

Warburton agrees about the mental side of free-throw shooting.

"Really I think free throws are all mental," she said.

But when asked if women are more mentally tough than men, Warburton replied, "I don't want to say that."

Levrets says, "I think a ton of it is mental — it's like putting in golf. It's really a frame of mind of 'This is not that hard.' Obviously there's technique, but college basketball players should be able to make a 15-foot shot."

Pressure situations

Judkins believes pressure is less on women with the smaller crowds they generally play in front of.

"Players don't shoot it as well with fans yelling at you on the road," he said.

But Levrets disagrees.

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