Basketball Rules on Changing the Possession Arrow

Two street basketball players on the basketball court

College and high school basketball use a possession arrow to determine which team receives the ball after a held ball or other situations, such as when the ball gets stuck between the rim and the backboard or after a double foul in which neither team earns possession. Understanding the rules of the possession arrow helps players and coaches better understand alternating possession situations during the game.

Initial Setting of the Arrow

Before the game starts, the possession arrow is turned off. Once the ball is tipped, the team that did not win the tip is awarded the possession arrow and receives the ball if an alternating possession situation occurs. If two opposing players gain control of the ball at the same time before the arrow can be set to start the game, those two players do another jump to determine possession. If one team commits a violation during the jump ball, such as hitting the ball out of bounds or committing a foul, the other team is awarded the ball and the offending team receives the possession arrow.

Between Quarters and at Halftime

A high school basketball game is four eight-minute quarters and the possession arrow is used to determine who receives the ball at the start of each quarter after the first one. In college basketball, the game is two 20-minute halves and the possession arrow determines which team receives the ball after halftime. The arrow is switched after the ball is in-bounded in all of these situations. In both college and high school, another jump ball starts the overtime period.

When It's Not Switched

If the opposing team commits a foul or violation during a team's alternating possession throw-in, the arrow is not switched after the ball is in-bounded. For example, if the home team receives the ball for an alternating possession throw-in due to a held ball, and the visiting team commits a foul before the ball is in-bounded, the home team would receive the ball out of bounds again for a throw-in, but the arrow would not be switched once the ball is in-bounded because the throw-in is now a result of a violation.

Alternating Possession Procedure

The alternating possession procedure establishes a fair way to determine which team gets the ball in unusual situations when both or neither team has possession of the ball. The held ball is a frequent example of when the alternating possession arrow determines which team gets the ball. If two players simultaneously hit the ball out of bounds or if the officials cannot determine which team last touched the ball before it went out of bounds, the possession arrow determines which team gets the ball for the throw-in. The arrow is also used when two opponents commit simultaneous goaltending, or basket interference, violations.