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Rules of the Game

What Basket Rim Height Does Each Age Group Use?

For the Youth Program (1st/2nd grade), an 8 foot basket is used.

For all 3rd grade and older programs, a 10 foot basket is used.


What Size Basketball Do We Use?

  1. Ball Sizes for Boys
    • Divisions 1- 3           27.5 inch
    • Divisions 4-5            28.5 inch
    • Divisions 6+             29.5 inch
  2. Ball Sizes for Girls
    • Divisions 1- 4           27.5 inch
    • Divisions 5-8            28.5 inch

NFHS Points of Emphasis

  • It is a violation to intentionally contact the ball with any part of the leg or foot. Prior to this year, a "kick" was intentionally striking the ball with the knee, any part of the lower leg, or foot. Thus, a "kick" has expanded to include the thigh.

During A1's attempt to pass to A2, B1 (a) intentionally uses his/her thigh to deflect the pass; (b) intentionally kicks the ball with his/her foot; or (c) has the ball accidentally hit his/her lower leg. RULING: In (a) and (b), there is a kicking violation and Team A will receive the ball out of bounds nearest the violation. In (c), the ball remains live and there is no violation. (4-29)

  • The closely-guarded continues through a switch (see the NFHS Web Site).

A1 is closely guarded by B1 for two seconds in Team A's frontcourt. B2 then double-teams A1, and both B1 and B2 are closely guarding A1 for one second. B1 then drops off of A1 to cover another player. B2 continues to closely guard A1 for two more seconds. RULING: A1 has committed a violation since he/she was closely guarded continuously for a total of five seconds. (4-10; 9-10-1a)

  • Face guarding is defined as "purposely obstructing an opponent's vision by waving or placing hand(s) near his or her eyes". The penalty is a technical foul (10-3.7d). A new rule change calls for a technical foul for face guarding whether or not the offended player has the ball. Prior to this year, face guarding the person with the ball was allowed. This is no longer the case. (Point of Emphasis 4.A)
  • The defensive player or screener acting as though he or she has been charged by an opponent, when in fact he or she has not been, is often called "flopping". The rules are in place to deal with such activity and must be enforced. A technical foul for unsporting behavior should be charged to the "actor". (Point of Emphasis 4.B)
  • In order for a player to establish legal guarding position both feet must be touching the playing court (in bounds). In order to maintain legal guarding position, the guard must have in-bounds status - i.e. neither foot may be touching the out-of-bounds line or beyond. This is a rule change that occurred in 2003-04. Many coaches teach this incorrectly because they do not know that the rule changed. Consider the following case from the NFHS web site:

B1 obtains a legal guarding position on A1, who is dribbling the ball near the sideline. There is no contact by A1 while B1 has both feet on the playing court. B1 stays in the path of A1 but in doing so has (a) one foot touching the out-of-bounds boundary line, or (b) one foot in the air over the out-of-bounds boundary line when A1 contacts B1 in the torso. RULING: In (a), a blocking foul shall be called on B1. B1 may not be touching out of bounds. In (b), a player-control foul shall be called on A1; B1 had established and maintained a legal guarding position. (4-23-2,3; 4-35-1)

A Review of Some Basketball Rules

This section presents some basketball rules that are regular sources of confusion and conflict. These rules are commonly understood by coaches, players, parents, and fans -- in general. Unfortunately, they are even more commonly mis-understood in their details and their applications. The referees know the rules well, and so should we.

The section numbers presented relate the discussion to the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS) Basketball Rules Book (see www.nfhs.org). All high school basketball games in Minnesota, and all of our games are governed by these rules. These are our rules, and they may differ from the NCAA or the NBA.

Three Seconds (Section 9-7)

The frontcourt free-throw lane, from the baseline to the free-throw line, is a team's three second restricted area. This restricted area includes the lines, but not the hash marks or blocks painted along the sides of the free-throw lane.

It is a violation for a player to remain for three consecutive seconds in his/her team's restricted area while the ball is in the control of his/her team in his/her frontcourt.

The three second count is terminated on every shot. The ball does not have to hit the rim or the backboard for the try to be a shot. If, in the opinion of the referee, the try is a legitimate attempt at a shot then the three second count is stopped.

There is no three second count during rebounding action. After a shot, the three second count restarts if the offensive team regains control of the ball on an offensive rebound, and an offensive player is in the restricted area.

If an offensive player is standing with one foot inside and the other foot outside the restricted area, merely lifting the foot from the restricted area does not stop or reset the three second count; both feet need to come down outside of the restricted area to stop the three second count.

Guarding (Section 4-23)

To obtain an initial legal guarding position: (a) the defender must have both feet touching the floor; (b) the front of the defender's torso must be facing the opponent.

After the initial legal guarding position is obtained: (a) the defender is not required to have either or both feet on the floor or to continue facing the opponent; (b) the defender may move laterally or obliquely to maintain position, provided it is not toward the opponent when contact occurs; (c) the defender may raise hands and/or jump within his/her own vertical plane.

The defender does not have to be stationary to draw a charging foul. However, if the opponent is airborne, the defender must have obtained legal guarding position before the opponent left the floor.

A defender who extends an arm, shoulder, hip, or leg into the path of an opponent is not considered to have legal guarding position if contact occurs.

As a rule-of-thumb, if significant contact occurs between a defender and an opponent dribbling the ball then it is a foul. If the contact occurs on the front torso of the defender then it is an offensive foul (called a player control foul), otherwise it is a defensive foul (commonly called a blocking or reaching foul).

Closely Guarded (Section 9-10)

A player in control of the ball in their frontcourt is said to be closely guarded when their defender has established legal guarding position and is within 6 feet.

While closely guarded, a player may not hold the ball for 5 consecutive seconds. While closely guarded, a player may not dribble the ball for 5 consecutive seconds. Infraction of either of these rules is a violation by the offensive team and results in a turnover.

A closely guarded player could hold the ball for 4.9 seconds, then dribble the ball for 4.9 seconds, and then again hold the ball for 4.9 seconds without violating the rule.

There is no requirement for the defensive player to remain the same during the closely guarded count as long as the offensive player is closely guarded throughout. For example, while dribbling in team A's frontcourt, player A1 is closely guarded by player B1. After two seconds, player B2 also assumes a closely guarded position on A1, and then B1 leaves to guard player A2. The closely guarded count continues, it does not restart.

Screens (Section 4-39)

A screen is legal action by a player who, without causing contact, delays or prevents an opponent from reaching a desired position.

To establish legal screening position: (a) the screener may face any direction; (b) the screener must be stationary, except when both are moving in the same path and the same direction.

When screening a stationary opponent from the front or side, the screener may be anywhere short of contact.

When screening a stationary opponent from behind, the screener must allow the opponent one normal step backward without contact.

When screening a moving opponent, the screener must allow the opponent time and distance to avoid contact. The distance need not be more than two normal strides.

When screening an opponent who is moving in the same path and direction as the screener, the opponent is responsible for contact if the screener slows up or stops.

Hands, Arms, and Contact (Sections 4-24)

It is not legal to use hands on an opponent which in any way inhibits the freedom of movement of the opponent, or acts as an aid to a player in starting or stopping.

It is not legal to extend the arms fully or partially in a position, other than vertical, so that the freedom of movement of an opponent is hindered when contact with the arms occurs.

The extension of the elbows when the hands are on the hips or held near the chest, or when the arms are held more or less horizontally are examples of illegal positions used.

It is not legal to use the hand or forearm to prevent an opponent from attacking the ball during a dribble or a shot.

Traveling (Section 4-43)

A player may legally rebound his/her own shot without traveling, even if the shot is an air-ball, as long as the release is a legitimate shot attempt in the opinion of the officials. (Case Book 4.42B).

A player, who catches the ball while moving or dribbling, may stop, and establish a pivot foot as follows:

1. If both feet are off the floor and the player lands:
1. Simultaneously on both feet, either foot may be the pivot.
2. On one foot followed by the other, the first foot to touch is the pivot.
3. On one foot, the player may jump off that foot and simultaneously land on both. Neither foot can be a pivot in this case.
2. If one foot is on the floor:
1. It is the pivot when the other foot touches in a step.
2. The player may jump off that foot and simultaneously land on both. Neither foot can be a pivot in this case.

Intentional, Flagrant, and Technical Fouls

When a player is fouled and the opponent is clearly not playing the ball, an intentional foul must be called. For example, an intentional foul has occurred when a team is obviously committing a foul late in the game to stop the clock. Intentional fouls can occur earlier in the game, as well. Excessive contact is not required for a foul to be an intentional foul. An intentional foul is not a technical foul.

An "intentional foul" is different from a "fragrant foul". An intentional foul results in two free throws and the ball. (4-19-3). A flagrant foul also results in the expulsion of the player. Know the difference between a "flagrant foul" (4-19-4) and an "intentional foul".

A flagrant foul may be a personal or technical foul of a violent or savage nature, or a technical non-contact foul which displays unacceptable conduct. It may or may not be intentional. If personal, it involves, but is not limited to violent contact such as: striking, kicking and kneeing. If technical, it involves dead-ball contact or non-contact at any time which is extreme or persistent, vulgar or abusive conduct. Fighting is a flagrant act.

The following is a direct quote from (10-4-1). "Bench personnel" includes coaches, assistant coaches, scorekeepers, and players on the bench. Specifically note items "b" and "e" below.

Bench personnel shall not commit an unsportsmanlike foul. This includes, but is not limited to, acts or conduct such as:

1. Disrespectfully addressing an official.
2. Attempting to influence an official's decision.
3. Using profane or inappropriate language or obscene gestures.
4. Disrespectfully addressing, baiting or taunting an opponent.
5. Objecting to an official's decision by rising from the bench or using gestures.
6. Inciting undesirable crowd reactions.

Penalty: Automatic two points plus the ball for a division-line throw in. The foul is charged to the offender and also charged indirectly to the head coach.

The first technical foul charged directly or indirectly to the head coach results in loss of the coaching-box privileges. (10-4). In this case, the head coach must remain seated on the bench. Note, assistant coaches never have coaching-box privileges and must always remain seated during play.

Miscellaneous

On both a rectangular backboard and a fan-shaped backboard the front, both sides, top, and bottom are all in-bounds. The back of the backboard and the supports are out-of-bounds. Thus, the ball can roll along the top of the backboard without going out of bounds, as long as it does not touch the supports. If the ball goes all the way over the top of a rectangular backboard, however, it is out of bounds. (Section 7-1-2).

It is a violation to intentionally strike the ball with the foot, or any part of the leg. This is called kicking the ball. Accidental contact between the ball and the foot or leg is not a violation. (Section 4-29).

During a free throw, the shooter and the rebounders may not have either foot beyond the vertical plane of the free throw lane, until the ball touches the rim or the backboard. (Section 9-1).

A jump ball (held ball) occurs when: (a) opponents have their hands so firmly on the ball that control cannot be obtained without undue roughness; (b) an opponent places his/her hand(s) on the ball and prevents an airborne player from throwing the ball or releasing it on a shot. (Section 4-25).

Understanding Backcourt Violations

There are four distinct criteria that must all be met for a backcourt violation (i.e. "over-and-back") to occur:

1. The offensive team must have team control.
2. The ball must have attained front court status.
3. A player from the offensive team must be the last player to touch the ball before it enters the backcourt.
4. A player from the offensive team must be the first player to touch the ball after it enters the backcourt.

If any one of these four criteria is not met, then it is not a backcourt violation. Armed with this knowledge, test yourself with the following ten examples. These were taken from past referee exams.

  • Play #1 - A1 is straddling the division line, with his right foot in the FC (frontcourt) and his left foot in the BC (backcourt). He receives a pass from A2 who is still in the BC. A1 catches the pass but them fumbles it to the floor in the FC. He bends over and picks the ball up while still straddling the division line. Is this a BC violation? Why or why not?

Answer: Yes, this is a backcourt violation. To determine if this is a backcourt violation, we must determine if all four criteria have been met.

1. Team A must have team control. Yes, Team A is in control. Although there is no player control during a fumble, team control exists until the ball becomes dead or B possesses it.
2. The ball must have attained front court status. Yes, when the ball hit the floor in the FC, FC status was attained. Remember that a fumble is not a dribble, so the "three points" rule does not apply.
3. A player from team A must be the last player to touch the ball before it enters the backcourt. Yes, A1 touched the ball last before it went into the BC.
4. A player from team A must be the first player to touch the ball after it enters the backcourt. Yes, A1 touched the ball while standing in the BC.

  • Play #2 - A1 is holding the ball and straddling the division line. Her left foot is in the BC and her right foot is in the FC. She has not established a pivot foot.

(A) A1 lifts her left foot, which is in the BC, establishing he right foot as her pivot foot. She then puts her left foot back down in the BC. Is this a BC violation? Why or why not?

(B) A1 lifts her right foot, which is in the FC, establishing he left foot as her pivot foot. She then puts her right foot down in the BC. Is this a BC violation? Why or why not?

Answer - In (A) the player has committed a BC violation. Since the pivot foot is in the FC, when the left foot is lifted, the player is now standing completely in the FC. If she puts her foot back down in the BC, it's a violation. Just the opposite is true in (B). Since the pivot foot is in the BC, she can pick up and move the right foot and put it down in either court legally. But the 10-second count continues.

  • Play #3 - A1 jumps from his frontcourt and catches an inbounds pass. (A) He lands in the backcourt. Is this a BC violation? Why or why not? (B) He passes the ball to A2 who is standing in the backcourt before he lands. Is this a BC violation? Why or why not?

Answer- In (A), this is a legal play. NF 9-9 Exception 1 The exception posted above allows a player to leave the FC, catch the ball and then land with one or both feet in the BC. In (B), this play is a BC violation. When A1 catches the ball, he has FC status, just as in (A). But, since he does not land in the BC, but instead passes it to a teammate in the BC, we have a violation.

  • Play #4 - A1 catches the throw-in pass with one foot on the floor in A's frontcourt and the other foot not touching the floor. The non-pivot foot then comes down in A's backcourt. Is this a BC violation? Why or why not?

Answer - When A1 caught the ball with a foot on the floor in the FC he established FC status. When the other foot came down in the BC, we have a violation. Exception 1 only applies to a ball caught while the player is airborne.

  • Play #5 - A1 is dribbling the ball in his BC, pushing the ball up the floor. He passes the ball toward A2 in the FC. But the ball hits the center official and bounces back into the BC where A1 retrieves it. Is this a BC violation? Why or why not?

Answer - This is a BC violation. (1) Team A had team control. (2) The ball attained FC status when it hit the official who was in the FC. (3) A1 threw the ball into the FC, so he was the last player to touch it before it left the FC. (4) A1 was the first player to touch the ball in BC.

  • Play #6 - A1 is straddling the division line, with his right foot in the FC and his left foot in the BC. He receives a pass from A2 who is still in the BC. A1 catches the pass but them fumbles it to the floor in the FC. He bends over and instead of picking the ball up, begins a dribble while still straddling the division line. Is this a backcourt violation? Why or why not?

Answer - This isn't a violation. After A2 fumbled, dropped the ball, he started a dribble. Since he started a dribble instead of picking the ball up, the "three points rule" applies. You can find this play on the NF website on the basketball rules page.

  • Play #7 - During a jump ball, A1 taps the ball. A2 takes off from Team A's frontcourt and catches the ball while in the air. A2 lands with one foot in backcourt and one in the frontcourt. Is this a BC violation? Why or why not?

Answer - Team control IS established when A2 catches the ball. But 9-9 Exception 1 allows him to leap from the FC and land in the BC. A2 can legally land in the BC but he cannot pass the ball to a teammate in the BC. That's why it's important to understand that A2's catch does establish team control.

  • Play #8 - A1 is dribbling near the division line. B1 bats the ball away. The ball hits B1's leg, and then hits A1's leg before going into the BC. A2 is the first player to the ball in the BC. Is this a violation? Why or why not?

Answer - This is a violation by A1. Although many fans and coaches don't understand it, A still has team control, is the last to touch the ball before it goes into the BC, and the first to touch it in the BC. Don't penalize a good defensive play by not calling this a violation!

  • Play #9 - During a jump ball, A1 taps the ball. A2 takes off from Team A's frontcourt and catches the ball while in the air. While still in the air, A2 passes the ball to A3, who is in the backcourt. Is this a BC violation? Why or why not?

Answer - This is a violation. When A2 caught the ball, he had FC status. By exception, he could land in the BC. But he cannot pass the ball to a teammate in BC.

  • Play #10 - B1 jumps from her frontcourt and while in the air, secures control of the ball. B1's momentum is such that she lands with the first foot clearly in her frontcourt. B1's other foot then comes down in B's backcourt after the first foot was down in the frontcourt. Is this a violation? Why or why not?

Answer - The rule allows (as a special case) a defender intercepting a pass, leaving the floor in the FC and landing in the BC. It also allows for a normal landing, no matter which foot comes down first. In this play, we would not have a BC violation.