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How to Play a Game of 21

Andrew “Andy” Jordan is the principal of Donovan High School in Donovan, Illinois, a role that involves oversight of 175 students, as well as the school’s faculty and staff. He previously served as the principal of West Carroll Primary School in Savanna. When he is not working to improve the school’s test scores and overall academic performance, Andrew Jordan spends time pursuing a doctoral degree in education and staying active through golf and basketball.

Recreational basketball players who lack the numbers needed for a proper game can still enjoy a full-body workout through a basketball-related game like 21. In a sense, games of 21 are played as traditional half-court basketball games. The key exception is that players are competing as individuals, rather than as members of a team.

To start the game or reset play, an individual takes a shot from distance, usually around or beyond the three-point line. The shot must contact the rim but not pass through the basket. At this point, players on the court can fight for the rebound and go about scoring as normal. Baskets made from the field count as one point, while shots made from beyond the arc are worth two points.

Following a make, the shooter steps up to the free line and is given up to three free throws, assuming he or she makes each attempt. Each made free throw counts as one point. A player who makes all three baskets not only finishes the play with up to five points, but also starts the next play with the ball at the top of the key.

As one might assume, players win the game by scoring 21 points. However, they must score exactly 21 points. For example, if a player with 20 points makes a three-point shot attempt (earning two points), they reach 22 points and are penalized by dropping back down to 11 points.


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