Counting players may be the most important and the easiest administrative task that officials are charged to do. Officials need to count players before starting the game, before resuming play after there has been a dead ball and a substitution occurred and after resuming play following a timeout or an intermission.

If it is so easy, why do game officials put the ball in play so often with six or more players participating for at least one team? So far this season I have seen all or parts of 41 games and three times I have seen officials let the ball become live with too many players on the floor.

Never assume that a team will return to the floor following a timeout with five players or to start the next quarter for that matter.
Here is one scenario that I witnessed this season. During live ball action, A6 reports to the scorer to replace A5. Subsequently, Team A calls a time out. Team A huddles and after the warning buzzer A6 enters the floor knowing she is to replace A5. However, no one tells A5 that she is replaced, so she also returns to the floor. The officials either don’t count players or are mathematically challenged and they administer the throw-in and the ball becomes live and several seconds later the timer buzzes the horn and tells the officials that Team A has six players on the floor. Embarrassing, to say the least!

In the latest incident that I witnessed Team A came back to the floor to start the 4th quarter with six players. Again, no one counts and the throw-in is complete and after four or five seconds the Coach of Team A yells at her extra player to get off the floor. The officials then stop the clock and confer with each other, and then the referee approaches the coach of Team B and asks him that since he is 25-points ahead, can they forego the Technical on Team A and start the quarter over? Being the gentleman that he is, he agreed.

I don’t think this is the way you want to handle this situation. Call the technical and get on with the game. No do-overs.


Late in the second quarter, A1 who is driving toward the basket is accidently tripped by B2. A1 falls to the floor quite hard and bangs her shoulder pretty good. B2 is charged with a tripping foul. Team A is in the bonus.

The Team A trainer comes on to the floor to minister unto A1 and A1 is removed from the game.

The coach of Team A substitutes player A6 to shoot A1’s free throws, as per rule 8-2

Rule- 8-2 The free throw(s) awarded because of a personal foul shall be attempted by the offended player. If such player must withdraw because of an injury or disqualification, his/her substitute shall attempt the throw(s) unless no substitute is available, in which case any teammate may attempt the throw(s) as selected by the team captain or head coach.

So far, so good.

Then, to start the second half player A1 returns to the floor. The referee informs the coach that A1 can no longer participate in the game because A6 shot A1’s free throw in the second quarter. A1 is Team A’s best player and the coach is quite upset with this ruling. Team A which was leading at half time goes on to lose the game.

I cannot find that rule interpretation anywhere. Not in the rule book, not in the casebook either. The ruling official stated that it was just common sense, that if she was injured to the extent that she couldn’t shoot a free throw awarded to her, she shouldn’t be allowed back into the game.

It might be common sense, but I don’t think it is the rule.


Dribbler A1 in her own front court twists her ankle and falls to the floor and loses control of the ball. B3 immediately scoops up the ball and is headed down the court for a wide open layup when the covering official sounds his whistle.

The official’s whistle was in response to A1’s ankle sprain. The coach of Team B verbalizes his contempt for the official’s whistle and is assessed a Technical foul.

The official stated later that he stopped play for a safety concern. However, the video shows that A1 was not ever is harm’s way.

Review these guidelines found in Rule 5

NOTE: When a player is injured as in Art. 2(a), the official may suspend play after the ball is dead or is in control of the injured player’s team or when the opponents complete a play. A play is completed when a team loses control (including throwing for goal) or withholds the ball from play by ceasing to attempt to score or advance the ball to a scoring position. When necessary to protect an injured player, the official may immediately stop play.


With 4.5 seconds remaining in a tied game A1 is awarded a bonus free throw. The administering official bounces the ball to A1 who catches it, holds it for a second or two and then dribbles it once and then a second time. On the second dribble, the ball hits A1’s foot and rolls down the lane and out of bounds.

A look of panic is displayed on the administering official’s face and he grabs the ball and re-administers the free throw by again bouncing the ball to A1. This time, A1 does not bounce it and he proceeds to can both free throws and Team A goes on to win the game.

Read play 9.1.1 below.

9.1.1 Situation

A1, at the free-throw line to attempt a free throw: (a) muffs the pass from the official and it rolls forward; or (b) while performing his/her habitual dribbles prior to the release, accidentally allows the ball to deflect off his/her foot into the lane.

RULING: In (a), the official should sound the whistle to prevent any violations and then start the free throw procedure again. No free-throw violation should be called in this situation. In (b), a free-throw violation shall be called on A1. (9-1-3a, e)

Sometimes, we are our own worst enemy.

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