Displacing the Free Thrower

When is the “unhindered” line crossed?

By NFHS definition a free throw is an opportunity given a player to score one point by an UNHINDERED try for goal from within the free-throw semicircle and behind the free-throw line.

The key word here is “unhindered.”

The scholastic rules have been modified to allow players in marked lane spaces to move into the restricted area on the release of the free-throw try.

However, should a defensive player cross the free-throw line before the ball

  • contacts the ring or
  • contacts the backboard or
  • before the free-throw ends

… they have committed a violation.  Watch the video below.


Note: This video was taken a few years ago. Under current rules this was not administered properly by the official (me).  Read on for the current interpretations and mechanics on how this play should be ruled.

Not only was there a violation on this play, but the free-thrower was DISPLACED which results in a foul charged to the defender.

Here’s a couple things to consider on this play.

  • This is a delayed free-throw violation which results in a using delayed dead-ball mechanics.
  • If the free-throw is successful, the violation is ignored.
  • If the free-throw is unsuccessful, as substitute free-throw is awarded.

If a violation is followed by a personal foul for displacing the free-thrower follow this procedure:

  • If the free-throw is successful — the violation is ignored per delayed dead-ball mechanics.
  • Report the foul for displacing the free-thrower.
  • Any remaining free throw(s) would be administered with the free-throw lane spaces unoccupied.
  • If the free-throw attempt is missed — the free-thrower is awarded a substitute free throw. The substitute free-throw and any remaining free-throw(s) would be administered with the free-throw lane spaces unoccupied.
  • Following the remaining free throw(s) the team is either awarded the ball (on the endline, nearest the spot of the foul) or the player fouled is awarded additional free-throws under the bonus — depending on the situation.
  • If in the bonus the players are permitted to occupy the marked lane spaces to resume play.

Just remember this:

The common foul for displacement will be enforced regardless of whether the free-throw is made or missed.

Don’t forget the free-thrower is restricted from entering the lane area until ball touches the ring or backboard – or the free-throw ends.

Talk about this potential situation of displacement in your pre-game conference with your partner(s).  Be ready for this type of foul as the Trail (in crews of two) and Center official (in crews of three) – and rule accordingly.

NFHS Rule References
4-19-2,4-20-1,9-1-3g (Penalties)

About Billy Martin

Co-creator of "60 Seconds on Officiating" and co-author of Beyond the Rules (book series) for Basketball Officials. Billy is a 35+ year basketball official with IAABO (Camden Board 34 and Cum-Cape 196, in Southern NJ). He also is a collegiate softball umpire with the Eastern Collegiate Softball Umpires (ECSU), and created the best selling "Bluebook 60" for fastpitch umpires, and coaches. He is considered one of the nations top authors and instructors on basketball officiating for over two decades. He lives in Wildwood, New Jersey - just a few steps away from the sand and surf. Contact: Website | Facebook | Twitter | More Posts

1 Comment on Displacing the Free Thrower

  1. Displacing the free thrower.
    “Don’t forget the free-thrower is restricted from entering the lane area until ball touches the ring or backboard – or the free-throw ends.”

    Are you sure about including contact to the backboard? In Rule 9-1-Art 3a,e,f, Page 55. There is no mention of the word backboard in regards to any of these free throw violations or restrictions.

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