A Coach's Plea to Officials: Allow the Gather Step

While scouting an upcoming opponent this past winter, I caught a video clip that I jokingly referred to as “High School Basketball in a Nutshell.”

A player dribbled into a crisp Euro Step, driving off his right foot and up off his left to the rim to score. As the camera panned back towards center court, a group of fans threw their hands in the air and did the travel dance, waving their arms around in a circle vigorously to show how the official clearly missed an obvious travel.

Except it wasn’t a travel, obviously.

But the current conversation about the gather step in the NBA Playoffs brought me back to moments like that. Over the past decade, we’ve seen the Euro Step become a universally legal move. Over time, officials realized that it was the same as a traditional, "one-two" layup, just with different timing and direction.

I believe that it’s time that high school officials allow the gather step (or zero step) on all plays where a player is on the move as he or she gathers the ball.

Why? Because many officials have been allowing the gather step for years without knowing it. If you slow down a traditional layup, you see that most players gather the ball with a foot on the floor before taking two steps to the goal.

However, the NFHS rulebook states that the first foot to touch the floor when a player gathers the ball is the pivot foot. The only time the pivot foot can legally leave the floor is to release the ball. By this logic, every “Gather, 1-2” would be a travel. Here’s an instructional video from the early 2000s that displays how the rulebook views a foot on the ground on the catch.

If it is true that officials have been allowing a "zero step" or a "gather step" on traditional layups for generations, why is it not allowed in other circumstances? Step back jumpers are a complete hit-or-miss at the high school level. Even in the same game, some officials will allow it, some won't. Here's how an NBA official views James Harden's step back.

As a Bucks fan, I've seen Giannis display mastery of zero/gather step in his wide-open attacks to the rim. This clip may be the most famous as he only took one dribble from half-court into a dunk. Of course, it looks like a travel because it defies logic. But was it a travel? How is this any different from the traditional layup where the player has a foot on the floor as he gathers and takes two more? It isn't. It's just more spectacular.

As much as I'd love to see a shot clock in high school basketball to eliminate late-game stalling, universally allowing the gather step would be the best thing for our game going forward. Players work on these moves. Having an official subjectively call those moves illegal with a game on the line is not good for anyone.

Officials, here's my plea. Make it easier on high school players by being consistent about what is a travel and what is not. As written, the travel rule actually punishes the ball-handler when he catches or gathers the ball with a foot on the ground. If we went by the NFHS rulebook, we'd have a travel call on every same-side layup. Let the player gather before he dictates a pivot foot.

If it's on the gather, the step doesn't matter. 

What do you think? Tweet at me at @coacheinerson


  1. For something as fundamental to the game as travelling the rules need to be the same in HS, College, Pro etc. Otherwise what happens is the HS officials end up watching lots of NBA games and calling things like the NBA that aren't actually legal in HS as you mention. That handicaps the HS player that actually has footwork that stays within the rules. It makes it tough for coaches to decide how to teach. This is most true for step backs, spins, euro's which all all big parts of the game and have no consistency in how they are officiated at moth HS and below levels. I haven't followed this for the last few years but it was certainly true a few years back. I was hoping HS, College would fix it by now because the NBA isn't going back.

    1. Thats BS!!! Learn and play the game based on the fundamental rules of the game. If one is blessed to have the talent to play for FIBA or the NBA, then you play by those rules.

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