Tuesday, July 24, 2012

There's Always a Place for Pure Shooters

Incoming KU freshman Andrew White (Rivals)
The first night University of Kansas incoming freshman Andrew White arrived on the KU campus in Lawrence, he went to the gym to shoot around. His idea of a shoot-around doesn’t mean practicing trick shots or his dunking, but instead making game-type shots. And he makes lots of shots. 

A story on KU Sports.com tells of White shooting 150 3-pointers that night in the gym, with 135 of them going in. For those counting at home, that’s 90 percent. White takes his shooting ability seriously and even created his own drill where he shoots from 10 designated spots on the floor - five of the spots from 3-range. He has to make 50 shots from each spot on the floor - 500 makes total - and two weeks ago he made his 500 shots in just 592 attempts. Again for those counting, that’s a staggering 84.5 percent. White said in an interview for that story that he breaks his goal of hitting the 80 percent mark roughly one-third of the time.

White follows a shooting philosophy that seems to be slipping away in the college and pro game. It is not about the number of shots, but about the number of makes. Any player can claim they shoot 500 shots every day, but making 500 shots is much more difficult and time-consuming. Those 500 makes will also make you a better player than 500-shot Guy.

White is one of the few who represents the great equalizer as a basketball player. He’s a pure shooter.

The growing phenomenon, especially in the NBA, is of players who use strength and speed to overpower their defender and get to the basket a.k.a. LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Dwight Howard, Carmelo Anthony, and the list goes on. These players minus Howard can still make shots, but it is not their strength.

But there will always be a place in the college and professional game for great shooters. Kevin Durant has the height, but not the size, to be a power forward in the NBA. He can, however, hit shots over anyone from every spot on the floor.

Stephen Curry was said to be too small to play in the NBA, but his electrifying shooting not only got him from a mid-major standout to a first-round draft pick, but now Curry is a successful professional player.

Stephen Curry showing his shooting touch at Davidson (Sports Illustrated)
Ray Allen has embodied what all pure shooters strive to accomplish. He’s the all-time 3-point leader in the NBA and a future hall of famer. Every ball he shoots looks like it is going in, and it is expected to. If players can learn enough of a complementary offensive game to still get open for shots, shooting ability can get them a long way in the league.

Ray Allen (Celticslife.com)
What makes people fans of shooters, of course, is they are fun to watch when they’re hot. Unless he’s playing against your team, you probably won’t complain about Ray Allen or Stephen Curry hitting 8-of-9 3’s to start the game and hope he starts dinging them off the backboard.

It is fun to watch great shooters work making defenses look around helplessly as another shot goes in just like it is fun to watch great dunkers or great quarterbacks who unmercifully pick apart defenses. Shooters are great to root for because what they’re doing isn’t due to natural athletic ability. It took thousands of hours in the gym, continuously perfecting the craft to get to what we see on TV.

Hopefully White and other current and upcoming college players take pride in the ability to shoot well, and allow us to continue in awe of all those hours in the gym paying off.

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