How much does the ball rotate out of a player’s hands during a shot? What is the high point of the shot’s arch for it to be a consistent swish in the net?

The old-school approaches still exist, but new technology allows coaches and staff to narrow their focus on how to improve a player’s game, thanks to the physics of equipment and the players themselves. Coaches at all levels can find the answers using technology that reveals the science behind shooting, passing and dribbling.

And it doesn’t stop there. Technology has evolved to measure distance, accelerations, jump height, total jumps, jump load and mechanical load for players — just by placing one tracker in a player’s shorts, one embedded within the ball and another in the facility's rafters.


Inside the gyms of the WVU Basketball Practice Facility, the men’s and women’s Mountaineer teams use ShotTracker, which measures the arc of the shot, the angle, the rotations, whether it was a make or a miss and the distance away from the basket, according to Nathan Stryker, a student manager for the men’s program.

“Using ShotTracker, we can optimize shooting for specific players, and we are able to see what type of shot works for them, and even where we need to emphasize training for them in terms of shooting location on the court,” Stryker said.

Kinexon is a GPS-based mobile player tracking system, placed in shorts to evaluate movement on the court, such as running, jumping and other physical acts. It is used by more than 75% of NBA teams and college teams including WVU.

Injury prevention is another important task Kinexon is used for. “We can alter practice and the drills depending on when we have a game based on distance,” Stryker said. “We can see when certain players are at a higher risk of injury based on their practice jump load. We can determine how many recoveries players should be doing based on their total workload.”

Stryker said Hawkin Dynamic Force Plates are the most physics-based tool the programs have. They are used to measure ground reaction forces during walking, jumping or any other type of movement, and are recorded by sensors on a device similar to a bathroom scale.

The plates measure force using a newton unit, which is the force needed to move one kilogram of mass at a rate of one meter per second squared.

“It tells us time to takeoff, jump height, momentum, right and left leg force, etc.,” Stryker said. “Time to takeoff is very valuable, as we can see who is able to get off the ground the fastest while jumping as high as they can. This is a great measure of athleticism. Being able to see momentum allows us to see who has the most force going into their jump and the most force coming down from their jump, which allows us to see who is at risk of an injury if they are putting too much force into either jumping or landing.”


The basketball basics that happen in every game have a deeper approach that players need to navigate, according to Kayla Scott, director of basketball for the WVU women’s team.

Scott, a 2013 graduate of Howard Payne University who played in 92 games during her career, explained the complex issues involved with dribbling, one of the most routine aspects of the sport.

“If a ball is not inflated to the proper psi or inflated over the proper psi, it can affect the ability of the ball to bounce in a manner that is easier for the player to handle,” she said. “The surface of the floor also can make a difference. At times, there are what we call ‘dead spots.’”

These are spots where directly under the wood playing surface is an air pocket of sorts. This does not allow the ball to have direct solid contact with the floor and will lead to a shorter bounce after contact. The quality and age of the basketball can also make a difference. Some basketballs have more cushion on the surface of the bladder of the ball, which can lead to less bounce, while other basketballs are ‘harder’ and more slick, which will cause the ball to bounce more.”

Shooting the ball is another basic aspect, and Scott believes there is no perfect way to teach or coach a player how to do it — it comes down to personal preferences and “what works for you.” However, certain techniques can help shooters have more success based on learned behaviors.

“The right amount of arc on the ball, the placement of hands, fingertips and elbows on the ball, force, power coming from the legs, arm strength and more all factor into the shooting process,” Scott said. “Many coaches will say the power needs to come from the legs rather than the arms. Some shooters shoot what we call ‘set shots,’ which require little jumping and where the shot is a fluid movement from the bending of the legs to the release of the ball through lengthening the arms. Others shoot more of a jump shot where the release of the ball does not happen until the shooter has reached the peak of their jump.”

layers of a basketball

NCAA basketballs have these main layers:

  1. An anti-ski/wear-resistant leather                                                                                         
  2. Nylon yarn to maintain elasticity and overall roundness 
  3. An airtight, rubber bladder to maintain the correct psi and overall roundness


An NCAA men's bssketball measures 29" in circumference and weighs 22 oz., while the women's ball is slightly smaller, measuring 28.5" in circumference, 20 oz. Both are inflated to ~8 psi. Although seemingly very different on the outside, the inside of the ball is the same.