Start Your Game on the Right Track

Start Your Game on the Right Track

A smooth start sets a good tone.

Photo Credit: Dale Garvey

Starting the game on the right track helps everyone get off to a smooth start. Starting on a bad note can set the tone for a long night. The jump-ball rules are fairly simple, but when something strange happens, it can take you by surprise, which leaves you open to making a mistake.

One of the plays discussed during a recent meeting involved a team that has a play. To start the game, two players at halfcourt — one on each sideline — break toward the basket as the official tosses the ball. The team scored on the play the first six of eight games it played. The reason it didn’t on the other two games? Officials called a violation on the players for moving on the tip.

Starting on a bad note can set the tone for a long night.

We know jumpers should be positioned facing the basket farthest from their bench to start the game. Teammates may not occupy adjacent positions around the center restraining circle if an opponent wishes to be in one of those positions. If the opponents do not want the space, it is legal to occupy adjacent positions.

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When the official is ready and until the ball is tossed, non-jumpers shall not move onto the center restraining circle or change positions on the restraining circle. Until the tossed ball is touched, non-jumpers shall not have either foot break the plane of the center restraining circle and shall not take a position in any occupied space.

Most any other movement by non-jumpers is legal. For example, a non-jumper can release from the restraining circle after the ball is tossed as long as he or she does not impede an opponent.

Each jumper must have both feet in the half of the circle farthest from his or her basket. Neither jumper shall touch the ball before it reaches its highest point nor leave the restraining circle until the ball has been touched. Jumpers may not catch the ball or touch the ball more than twice.

Jumpers may control the ball if, after the tip, it touches any of the eight non-jumpers.

As for the toss itself, it should be tossed just higher than the players can jump. NFHS rules state that if neither jumper touches the toss the ball “will drop between them.” It should not be touched until it reaches its highest point — not on the way up. If the players swing on the way up and miss it, that is fine; they can still tip the ball on the way down. Don’t blow it dead because they missed the ball on the way up. But quite often, a player will try to tip the ball on its way up to win the tip and that’s a violation.

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However, if the ball touches the floor without being touched by at least one of the jumpers, it shall be blown dead and retossed.

The ball becomes live when the ball leaves the official’s hand and the clock starts on the first legal touch or tip.

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Non-jumpers may legally leave the restraining circle, break toward the basket and move. That doesn’t always happen, so just because it looks odd doesn’t mean it is illegal.

The jump ball and restrictions end when the touched ball contacts one of the eight non-jumpers, an official, the floor, basket or backboard. That also means the ball is up for grabs by either of the two jumpers as long as the ball touches the floor outside of the restraining circle.

If the ball is touched and goes out of bounds and the officials can’t determine who touched the ball, the official shall re-toss with the original jumpers.

If there is simultaneous control by opponents off the tip, those two opponents shall jump, not the original jumpers.

To keep it simple, remember these three points once you are ready to begin the game with the toss:

Non-jumpers, before the ball is tossed

Non-jumpers can’t do two things: move onto the center circle or change positions on the circle.

Non-jumpers until the ball is touched

Once the ball is tossed, non-jumpers may not do two things: break the plane of the center restraining circle or move into an occupied space.


They must be completely in the circle, not touch the ball on the way up, may not leave the circle, may not touch more than twice or catch the ball unless touched by a non-jumper.

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All other activity, including odd-looking plays, is legal.

One last tip. After you blow your whistle to alert the players and scorer’s table, remove it from your mouth before the toss. Officials have lost teeth due to being inadvertently hit during the jump ball.

Keep all of the above in mind and discuss in your pregame to get your games off to a smooth start. You don’t want a coach with a special play on your back the entire night because the coach knew the rule better than you.

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Sports-Basketball Interrupter – Major Changes

Note: This article is archival in nature. Rules, interpretations, mechanics, philosophies and other information may or may not be correct for the current year.

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