Basketball Rules and Signals


In order to understand the game of basketball, you must understand the rules and signals that help to define the game. Almost every time an official blows his whistle for a rules violation, he will give a signal to the scorer's table in order to communicate the nature of the violation.


  • Traveling is called by the official when the player with the ball takes too many steps without dribbling or takes a step after he has picked up his dribble. Traveling is a very common call in the game of basketball, always being called a few times per game. When an official signals traveling he will hold his hands out in front of his body, one hand a few inches above the other. Next, he will rotate his hands around each other in a circular fashion in order to call a travel.

Jump Ball

  • A jump ball may called when two players, one from each team, are possessing the ball at the same time. This scenario often occurs on rebound and loose ball situations. In the high school and college game, when a jump ball is called possession is granted to the team that has the arrow favoring them. The arrow is a way of keeping track of alternating possession. A jump ball is signaled by the official when they point the thumbs on both of their hands up in the air and move their hands upwards towards their face.


  • A player or coach may call a timeout if their team is in possession of the ball. If you try to call a timeout when the other team has the ball, it will not be granted. Each team has six timeouts per game in college and five in high school. In college, four of your timeouts will last for 60 seconds and two will last for 30 seconds. In high school, you have three 60-second timeouts and two 30-second timeouts. When a player or coach calls a timeout, she should put her hands in the shape of a T and say timeout. When the official blows his whistle, he will ask you if you want a 60-second timeout or a 30-second timeout. If you choose a 30-second timeout, the official will signal by simultaneously touching his shoulders with his fingers. If you want a 60-second timeout, the official will extend his arms out to the side to mimic the letter T.

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